After reviewing the Zacuto Z-Finder V2 I enquired about getting hold of an LCDVF to do a comparison review with. Alastair Brown is now selling the LCDVF on his Glidetrack website and arranged for a review sample to be sent to me from the manufacturer in Estonia.
The LCDVF arrived earlier this week and when I opened the box I was immediately struck by how well thought out and packaged it was. Inside the box was not only the LCDVF itself but also a nice set of accessories in the form of a good quality neoprene soft case with a drawstring top, a lens cleaning cloth, a neck strap with a quick release connector, a micro fibre eye cushion from Bluestar and two adhesive camera mounting plates.
It’s only a small thing, but the fact that the soft case and the box both have LCDVF printed on them help make this look like a well thought out package. In terms of presentation and supplied accessories the LCDVF puts the Z-Finder to shame as that came in a rather cheap plastic bubble pack which includes just the Z-Finder, a strap and a single mounting plate.
The soft case is a really nice touch, these things seem to attract dust like crazy so being able to store it in a case when not in use makes a lot of sense. It’s a tight fit though, I found that I had to remove the eye cushion to be able to get the LCDVF in it’s case and tighten the draw string.
I’ve been using Bluestar eye cushions with my Z-Finder and they do make a big difference, not only do they help reduce fogging but they also feel very comfortable pressed to your face. It was a real pleasure to see that one is included with the LCDVF. On the Z-Finder I’ve been using the large-oval eye cushion, the LCDVF uses the small-oval.
The mounting frames that come with the LCDVF use a similar adhesive method to the Z-finder and are simply stuck to the LCD on the back of the camera. I fitted mine by first attaching the LCDVF to a frame and then slowly aligning it whilst looking through the viewfinder until contact was made. I then carefully removed the viewfinder and made sure the frame was stuck well to the LCD.
The LCDVF uses small magnets in the base of the viewfinder which make it attach to the metal mounting frame. The fit is fairly strong although not quite as positive as that simple snap on method used by the Z-Finder. I can’t see the LCDVF ever falling off of it’s own accord, but it would be less likely to stay attached if walking around with the camera at your side than the Z-Finder. If you like to keep removing the viewer whilst shooting then the magnet system would probably appeal to you though as it does feel nicer to use.
As you can see in the image above the LCDVF is a bit longer then the Z-Finder but nowhere near as bulky. Unlike the Z-Finder it doesn’t have any diopter adjustment and so it doesn’t have any metal moving parts and is a lot lighter.
The optics seem to be around the same size as those in the Z-finder but offer a lower magnification. Whereas the Z-Finder is 3x magnification, the LCDVF is reported to be 2x. I was looking forward to seeing if that made focussing any easier as I did struggle a bit when focussing using the Z-Finders 3x magnification of my 5D’s LCD.
I attached the LCDVF and immediately noticed how much easier it is to focus with. The 2x magnification is a lot nicer to use and I found I could immediately see if my subject was in focus. With the Z-Finder I had to push / pull focus a few times to find the sweet spot due to the pixels being enlarged so much, using the LCDVF seemed a lot more natural.
As with the Z-Finder the LCDVF is a big help in making your handheld shots more stable. Just having that extra point of contact on your face makes a huge difference in stabilising your shots.
After around ten minutes though I started suffering from quite bad eye strain, so much so that I found myself wanting to switch eyes so that I could rest each eye in turn. This soon resulted in me feeling quite tired and I had to stop using the camera for a while. To further investigate I held the LCDVF to my eye and tried to find out how far out it was from my relaxed eye focus point.
I found that if I held the base of the LCDVF around 1cm away from the camera it was a lot easier to use. I also set my Z-Finder to be fully extended to that might just be highlighting a problem with my eyes. To solve it I flattened the top of my Z-Finder mounting frame and attached the LCDVF frame on top of it which just pushed the LCDVF out enough to make it more comfortable to use.
Looking through the LCDVF the reflections on the inner sides do seem more apparent that the Z-Finders, I didn’t find it to be a problem, but it could be solved easily by adding a non-reflective surface if it bothers you.
Unlike the Z-Finder it’s possible see the whole LCD without having to adjust viewing angle, the Z-finder masks the corners of the LCD very slightly, which although not overly bothersome does highlight that it’s 3x magnification is a little bit too strong.
One thing you have to be extremely careful of with any loupe style viewfinder is focussing the suns rays on your LCD, even for a few seconds. There’s lots of horror stories online, check out this one at dvinfo.net!
Pointing the Z-Finder towards the sun is very much like using a magnifying glass against your LCD, it focusses all of the energy into a tiny spot which will burn LCD in no time at all.
In order to show how this happens I did a quick test using a piece of paper and an interior room light with two bulbs which results in two spots. You can clearly see that the Z-Finder is focussing the light where the LCD would be.
The LCDVF on the other hand doesn’t seem to focus the light at the point where the LCD is, instead it projects larger spots which are less likely to do any damage. I’m not sure if this is by design or not but it’s good to know.
I prefer the way the Z-Finder fits and with it’s diopter adjustment I find I can use it with less eye strain. The Z-Finder also comes with a lifetime warranty.
The LCDVF on the other hand makes it easier to focus, comes with a nice set of accessories, and is less likely to damage the LCD. Without a diopter adjustment though you’ll only be able to correct for eye condition by modifying it yourself.
I prefer using the LCDVF over the Z-Finder and have LCDVF mounting frames fitted to my DSLR’s as standard. It’s lighter weight and the fact that it’s less likely to ruin my cameras LCD when used in the Sun are the main factors for this choice.
One other difference between these units, and one which I haven’t mentioned yet is the price. At the time of writing this B&H Photo Video sells the Z-Finder V2 for $375 and the LCDVF for $169. In the UK you can buy the LCDVF from Glidetrack for £117.
That kind of price difference can’t be ignored, especially when it’s quite hard to choose between them.
To buy the LCDVF in the UK visit www.glidetrack.com
To buy the LCDVF in the US visit www.bhphotovideo.com