Z-Finder Review

z-finder

As people are receiving their Z-Finder, reviews are popping everywhere on the net. The first one coming (that I am aware of) from M. Bloom and now there is one more from Mitch. As you could have guessed if you have been following my Gorilla rigs review, I am going to review it too. Actually, if it was not of some technical issues with the UPS custom broker department who evaluated my Z-finder at over 900$, I should have received mine first! So, to all of you who think that Z-gear is too expensive, know that the UPS guys think they worth more than twice as much!

Image quality

Contrary to many other viewfinders available, the Z-finder magnify the LCD to ease focusing. This is great until you realize the 5D Mark II or 7D LCD does not have a pixel density high enough to survive the enlargement without losing quality. Even focusing precision is limited by the ‘low’ pixel density. Dont get me wrong, my focus is 100% more precise with the Z-finder than without it, but it could have been even better if the camera LCD had more pixels. This is great because it means the Z-finder it is future proof: it’s performance is going to improve as LCDs get better!

BTW, the enlargement provided by the optic is about 3X, which translate into transforming the 3” LCD into a 52 inch TV with you sitting right in front of it (from the eye point of view). So yes, you see better what is going on.

Solidity

As others have pointed out, the Z-finder mount is quite solid. I have installed and removed the Z-finder a few times and the mount does not give any sign of weakening. I think the only way it could come off is if it was accidentally knocked off. That is why I suggest, as a safety measure, to attach the Z-finder to it’s strap and attach the strap to the rig (or your wrist) as seen in the picture below. As good as Zacuto warranty is, I dont think they would cover accidental drops on the concrete!

strap

Adjustments

There is a big red scroll wheel on the Z-finder to adjust the optic. Mine is a little bit rough to adjust but it doesn’t matter much since it is already set at the perfect distance. Some people have suggested a chamois replacement for the rubber eye piece and I think it would be a great idea and hope Zacuto catch it. Also, the eye piece can be turned around to be usable by either eye this is convenient for me since my left eye is better than the right one.

Focusing with the Z-Finder

As it as been outlined in other reviews, focusing with the viewfinder requires your eye to be directly in front of it. If this is a limiting factor, just pop off the Z-finder and use the normal LCD for the specific shot.

The Z-finder also make it easy to keep both eyes open while shooting. One eye is used to focus while the other look around at the environment to make sure you don’t fall, trip on something and keep the action within the frame. I use this technique a lot while shooting stills and I am happy to be able to do it now while shooting clips.

Z-finder and Gorilla rig

Consult the specific review of each rig (coming soon).

Carrying the Z-finder around

The Z-finder is nearly perfect, its only thumb down (if you can consider it one) is teh lack of ways to safely carry it around when it is off the camera. I would have liked to have a cap to close each end so they don’t accumulate dust and to protect the optic. My only solution so far has been to use the plastic box used to package it. My solution is probably to order another mounting frame and cover it up to protect at least one end. To protect the other one (the eye piece) I might use a cloth pouch.

Video sample

Here is a video sample of what can be seen from the view finder. Actually, since it was shot with my 100mm macro lens, the actual field of view is much larger but I wanted to show how visible the pixels are while trying to focus. I tried to play a bit with the focus but I did not had the presence of mind at the time to use my D-Focus to do some focus pulling so I had to focus using the second 5D LCD which was not easy at all.

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...
  • admin

    Kymri: I have not tried the hoodman yet (I think the guy I am going to shoot with tomorrow has one so I might be able to test it), but one thing I know is that it does not magnify the image. This is a huge difference from a focusing perspective. While the Z-Finder allows you more precise focusing, the Hoodman isolates the LCD image from the environment to make the video easier to see/focus in bright light.

  • http://www.disc-connect.com Mark Terry

    Hoodman claims that magnification doesn’t really help, since the pixels become visible, as you describe here, and that doesn’t really help with focussing. I hope you do get a chance to try it out tomorrow and let us know who’s right. (Please be Hoodman, as it is *so* much cheaper…)

  • http://www.disc-connect.com Mark Terry

    Did you get a chance to try out the Hoodman? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

  • admin

    Sorry, I was so busy trying to figure out what was wrong with the 5D that I haven’t had the time to compare them side by side.

    I have an article on this subject that should be done by Friday. I just need to put my hand on one tomorrow during lunch!

  • http://www.disc-connect.com Mark Terry

    I figured your troubles might have sidelined any interest you might have had in writing about the Hoodman. Completely understandable. Looking forward to the article!

  • Tomasz Biskup

    Hi, thanks for your review.
    Do you think I can get the same level of image stabilization using those 2 kits:
    – 7d with 35mm lens + Zacuto Z-Finder
    – 7d with 17-55 IS lens without finder.
    ???

    I would love to buy the 35mm 1.4 L but i’m affraid that the Z-Finder without any rig won’t stabilize it enough. What do you think, mate? Cheers, Tom

    • admin

      It depends of the kind of rig you are using. IS works well to nullify small movements (shake) while the z-finder is better at improving the overall image stability. With it, all your camera movements are going to be smoother, something the IS can’t do.

      Also, the zfinder works with all your lenses, improve framing and give a better idea of overall exposure. For these reasons, I would go with the zfinder.

      On the other hand, the 17-55IS is an incredible lens on a 7D and will probably contribute better to your film making. Especialy if you don’t have a lot of wide lenses. Think about it: it gives you IS at 2.8 at about 24mm EFL! I would love to have that on my 5D.

      As you can see, this is a very difficult choice! If you plan on using a lot of lenses, get the finder, if you want to glue the 17-55 to your camera and shoot everything with it, get it!

      What ever you pick, it is going to be a good choice but you will be wanting the other one eventually!

  • Tomasz Biskup

    Thanks for your reply. I know that the 17-55 IS is just perfect for video, it is very versatile, with superior Image Quality and has brilliant IS system + constant 2.8 = NICE.

    On the other hand I’m a large aperture freak and sigma 30mm or canon 35mm L would make a gr8 classic 50mm sharp @ 1.4.

    I think I’ll go for a Z-Finder. Z-Finder is a must-have because I won’t use this one lens all the time.

    It’s like the stabilization for every lens.

    This will be my travel kit and 17-55 is a bit bulky. I’ll like much more a compact 30 or 35mm prime with a 0.2 lbs finder around my neck as an option.

    Thanks for clearing my mind.

    Now – Sigma 30mm EX or Canon 35mm L to start a lens collection… That is the question :)

    Regards,
    Tom

  • charles

    i heard the lcdvf is better and much cheaper. looks like it’s a winner

    • admin

      The thing is that I never base reviews on what I hear but only on what I test. Unfortunately, I never received a sample of the LCDVF so I cant compare them.
      That being said, it is not that much cheaper and it is bigger. While the magnification might be the ‘sweet spot’ for the current screen resolution, the added magnification of the Z-Finder means it will keep improving as LCD get better.
      Which ever product you pick, I think you will be satisfied.
      Talking only about price to compare these products is a big mistake.

  • charles

    $395.00 Z finder
    $169 LCDVF
    Not trying to put the z-finder down or what.
    That’s quite a big price difference.
    Would be nice to see if it works instead of speculation.

    • admin

      I was sure the LCDVF was over 200$… Anyways, I until I can test one by myself I wont be able to compare it to the Z-Finder but from the various reviews on the net it seems to be a good product. I just dont like its shape/form factor but that is just cosmetic…

  • charles

    http://lcdvf.bigcartel.com/
    lol it says $159 +$22 for shipping worldwide.

  • Pingback: LCDVF LCD ViewFinder Review | Peter Miranda()

  • http://petermirandaphotography.com Peter Miranda

    My review on the LCDVF..
    Awesome product..
    Well worth the cash.

    http://petermirandaphotography.com/blog

    • admin

      I asked for a review LCDVF and never got one so I will have to trust your judgment on that one Peter! I am sure it is a good product and probably a better value than the Zfinder on the short term. But as pixel density increases, I think the Zfinder will prove to be better. At least, that is the bet I am willing to make!

      Which ever you use, these are both required items for anyone serious about shooting with a HDSLR and I think we all agree on that one!

  • http://www.johntoon.com John Toon

    Buy a fat pair of reading glasses, bifocals are best
    so you can get to focus close to the end of your nose. Works pretty well…

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