Zacuto Z-Finder V2

zfindermain2

I’ve been trying pick one of these up for a few months, they are selling like hot cakes and have been back ordered at most dealers for ages. They are quite pricey, If your lucky enough to find one in the UK you’ll be spending around £285, B&H Photo Video sells them in the US for around $375.

The first thing you have to do with the Zacuto Z-Finder is glue the mounting plate to your camera and give it 24 hrs to dry. It takes a lot of patience to wait 24hrs before trying a new toy like this but I managed around 22hrs which is probably close enough.

z-finder

Mechanically it’s great, it looks well made, fits together well and even though the frame is just stuck to the camera the system seems to work well. The Z-Finder comes with a lanyard that allows you to hang it from your neck when not in use. The lanyard is a nice touch but the metal clasp rattles in the Z-Finder when fitted, you wouldn’t want to use it if recording sound on the camera.

The optics in the Z-Finder seem to be high quality, placing it against a backlit hi res source like a printed document results in crystal clear text. There is some pin-cushion distortion, but not enough to be troublesome. The corners of the image are also obscured slightly in a neutral viewing position but you can bring them into view by adjusting your eye position slightly.

In use I felt the Z-Finder magnified the 5D screen a little too much, the resulting image is so low in resolution it initially made focusing harder for me than I’m used to. The magnification is so high that every pixel and the gap around it is clearly visible.

Where as I can look at the LCD normally and have a pretty good idea if my subject is in focus, the only way I can do the same with the Z-finder is to push / pull focus past the subject a few times until the pixelated image looks it’s best. I think the Z-Finder probably makes the focus more accurate once you’ve played with the focus point a little but I felt I couldn’t look through and know without fiddling with the focus ring if I had good focus.

I took a photo through the Z-finder and have scaled it to try and simulate what I see of a small part of the image. The one on the left is showing the kind of detail that I can resolve through the Z-Finder, the one on the right is part of the image recorded by the 5D. You can see that even though rear bolt is in focus it’s quite difficult to tell by looking at the pixelated image.

To put the images into perspective I have also shown the whole image.

zfinder_t2 zfinder_t1

z-finder_t3

Please bare in mind that this is simply simulating what i see when I try and resolve the smallest details in the image, the shot taken through the Z-Finder will have lost some clarity. It would be interesting to hear from other Z-Finder users to find out if they think it’s an accurate description.

I don’t wear glasses and have my eyes checked regularly so I’m pretty sure I have close to standard vision, but when using the Z-finder I found I got some eye strain. I played around with the diopter adjustment but found it very difficult to make out any difference as it was adjusted. The image always seemed in best focus so maybe my eyes were adjusting accordingly, which might explain the eye strain. It’s probably just a case of trying a few diopter positions and seeing which one caused the least eye strain over time.

One area where the Z-Finder really helps is in stabilising the camera, just having that third point of contact on your face makes a massive difference to stability if hand holding the camera. If like me you want to be able to use the 5D on a shoulder mount a viewing loupe like the Z-Finder is essential as allows you to focus on the LCD with the camera body close to you on a rig.

In conclusion I think that focusing with the Z-Finder might be something I’ll get the hang of after playing with it a bit more. Maybe I’ve been spoilt, I’ve been using Hi-Res LCD’s for some time now and have got used to focussing on a high pixel density display. I removed the EVF from my EX1 as I found it pretty useless for focusing too so it really might just be a personal thing.

You can certainly focus on smaller details by pushing / pulling focus a few times and finding the focal point but I do miss being able to judge straight away what my shot looks like without all the pixelation. Lots of people love the Z-Finder V2 though so my best advice would be to try one for yourself, if you’re happy working with the magnified pixels I don’t think you’ll have any other problems, it’s a high quality bit of kit and really helps with stabilising the camera.

There’s a few alternatives on the market, one of the most popular being the LCDVF which uses less magnification and is considerably cheaper so I’ll see if I can get hold of one and do a side by side comparison over the next few weeks to see if the magnification factor makes a difference to my usage.

As with all Magnifying Loupes and viewfinders, you have to be really careful not to let the Sun shine through the Z-Finder on to your LCD, it’s just like taking a magnifying glass to your camera and the LCD can be damaged in quite a short time – be careful!

For more info on the Zacuto Z-Finder V2 visit their website at www.zacuto.com

To purchase I recommend B&H Photo Video

[update 28-01-2010]
I’ve just posted a review of the LCDVF, click here to read it.

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  1. Thank you Paul for providing a very reasoned and honest review for the Z-Finder. As you mention the tide of opinion out there is that ‘this is the viewfinder to have’. It’s a good reminder that not all equipment is suitable for everyone and that sometimes it’s worth taking a step back from the giddy equipment purchase precipice to really think about whether you actually need to have all the bells and whistles that you believe are required to make the film you want to make.

    Sometimes the gear head in all of us becomes a little intoxicated by all the hype, I’m going to read your review daily as an antidote to any future gear head impulsive buying!

    • Thanks Adrian. Without trying any similar products yet it’s really hard to say that the Z-Finder isn’t the best of the bunch, it very well could be. I’m looking forward to trying out the LCDVF to see how it stacks up.

    • Paul Frederick
    • January 14th, 2010 8:31pm

    Paul,

    Nice review! Glad to see such an honest opinion on new gear. I don’t have one of these but I’ve heard that the diopter takes many many turns to make much change in the image. Its geared so I read, for very minute changes.

    Thanks again, I await your LCDVF review as a comparison.

    Paul

  2. Mandy Rogers from Zacuto has just posted over at the DVXuser forum that they are going to be offering a 2.5x magnification variant of the Z-Finder in the near future. The current model is 3x so it will be interesting to see if that makes the Z-Finder more suited to the 5D.

    Mandy also mentioned that there will be an upgrade path for existing Z-Finder owners too.

    http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showpost.php?p=1865575&postcount=39

    • Nathan Foster
    • October 26th, 2012 5:44am

    Hey Pauls,

    Just curious what type of glue you used to glue the zacuto from the your lcd screen and since doing that has it stayed strongly on there and not caused any damage to your camera?

    Thanks,
    Nathan

    • Hi Nathan

      The mounting plate come with an adhesive already attached. I didn’t use the Z-finder much as I went with the LCDF in the end but I didn’t have any problems with the mounting frames falling off, they stick well.

      No they don’t damage the LCD, or at least they didn’t damage mine.

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