Review of new Zacuto Z-Finder V2

21
Aug
2009
Share Button

We all know I am a Zacuto fanboy. Why am I a Zacuto fanboy? Because the gear they make is always first class and incredibly well made. In the time since I spent my first $2000 with them over two years ago I have become friends with them. There are very few companies in the film business where the main people are so in touch with their customers. Steve is always directly emailing people and for some reason even thinks he should be in front of the camera sometimes, weird.

They are a great company who make specialist accessories for our cameras.  Often making things that make them far more usable. The Zacuto Z-finder is one of them.

IMG_0318I am a relatively late convert to the 5dMkII world. It was in fact Zacuto who inadvertently got me into them. They loaned me a 5d when I was in the US in April after NAB with their gunstock kit to take to Re:Frame in Austin and show people. It was whilst playing with it that I realised how much I liked the camera and how great the video was from it. This loan camera had the version 1 of the Z-Finder. I found it absolutely essential to get focus when handheld and it also gave me a nice point of contact for additional stability. My eye. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Who wants something to be mounted with Velcro? But despite this flaw it was still essential and I couldn’t shoot handheld without it. In fact I shot Sofia’s People with just the Z-Finder, no additional support and it turned out great!

Zacuto sold out pretty quickly of them and took to designing a version 2 to learn from the flaws of V1 and improve on them, in fact improve on everything.

IMG_0270First impressions are great. They have given it some nice packaging, oh and I forgot to mention shipping was super fast. It was sent out Weds night from Chicago and got to me at lunchtime Friday.

Upon opening it up you see there are three bits to it. The Z-Finder itself. Some instructions (don’t be a bloke, read them…THEY are important!) and a strap.IMG_0273The velcro is now gone, you attach the Z-Finder to the LCD screen via a small frame with strong glue on one side. Be careful when mounting this as it needs to be spot on. Turn the menu on as bright as possible as it’s easy to get it slightly off.

The frame still attached to the Z-Finder with the sticky protector

The frame still attached to the Z-Finder with the sticky protector

The frame taken on the z-Finder

The frame taken off the z-Finder

Frame mounted on LCD screen

Frame mounted on LCD screen

Next…don’t do what I did, which is stick the Z-Finder straight on, I did for the benefit of this review, to look though it and take photos. It’s VERY important to let the frame stick to the camera first. Leave it on for 24 hours with a weight on it like a book or a battery like I have done below.

IMG_0302

Once it has set then you can put the Z-Finder on and take it on and off easily without the frame coming off with it. I often have it off, the Z-Finder that is, and stick it back on again and that is where the strap comes in handy or the “lanyard” as Zacuto call it. What’s a lanyard? It’s a strap! let me look it up quickly…ok just looked it up. A lanyard is: A cord worn around the neck for carrying something, such as a knife or whistle. A strap to you and me :-)

This is very useful as any assistant who has worked on a 5d shoot with me will attest to. I am constantly saying take this as I pull off the Z-Finder and then demand it back. Now with my lanyard they can concentrate on getting me coffee! It attaches to a little hook type thing (is their a special word for that?) and is as simple as that!

THE STRAP!!

THE STRAP...attached

IMG_0312IMG_0314IMG_0316

You adjust the focus of the Z-Finder to your eye with the red dial diapoter, it has a 3x magnification making the image huge in your eye. Yes it is magnifying the pixels but it still improves focusing a hell of a lot.

Adjust red dial for your eye

Adjust red dial for your eye

I find that when the 5d and z-finder are mounted on a tripod I either need to remove the rubber eye piece or pull it back otherwise you have to press your eye too close to it to see the whole image.

Rubber pealed back for when using on tripod

Rubber pealed back for when using on tripod

The whole design is a lot chunkier, a lot meatier that the old design. The smooth silver lines have been replaced by more industrial looking design in black. It looks good and looks great on the 5dmkII.

IMG_0296

IMG_0300

News Vs Old

New Vs Old

Two 5dmkII with the V2 and V1 Z-Finders

Two 5dmkII with the V2 and V1 Z-Finders

IMG_0307

From my brief play with it I found the new V2 superb. Crystal clear sharpness! Have the optics been improved? I don’t know but it seemed sharper, but that could be because I am in the midst of man-flu (hopefully not swine flu) and I managed a brief moment of clarity whilst using it! :-)

Everything about the Z-Finder has been massively improved over V1 and nice touches like the strap are great and the ability to pull it off and on quickly is great especially when taking stills.

So should you buy one? At the moment there is nothing that comes close to this, it is absolutely essential for video on the 5dmkII. I couldn’t shoot handheld without it that’s for sure. It’s not cheap like most Zacuto stuff but it comes with a lifetime warranty. How many products do you know have that?  Maybe Zacuto could explain to people here why it does cost $395 as I am sure there are many reasons. It’s a great product and a relief. It’s difficult reviewing friend’s products. I try to shy away from it as I don’t want to appear biased and I certainly don’t want to slag off a product from a friend, thankfully Zacuto have never let me down, everything I have of theirs is top notch. There is no point me recommending this product to people if it sucks, I will just get my butt kicked by you lot if I did!

Zacuto have come up trumps again, this is just the latest and greatest thing from them. Only problem is I need another one now for my second 5dmkiI. No way I am going back to V1 after using this V2!!

Oh, and if you don’t get why you need a viewfinder, just try shooting stable video by holding the 5dmkII out in front of you!!

I am also glad it came today have almost finished my  “5d cinematography training dvd” need to do a little but more shooting which is great as I have to include this too as it’s too good not too! Shame most of it has the V1 in it!
You can buy the Z-Finder V2 from the Zacuto store here. Let’s hope they don’t sell out of these like they did V1. Maybe I should buy a dozen and hang onto them for a month and then flog them on ebay for a nice tidy profit when Zacuto have run out :-)

CriticsRotatingPosterBanner

7

7

Want to learn how to create the film look and much much more? Click below.

logowhite

Share Button

Comments

  1. endeavour says:

    I am glad you like it as I have one on order along with a rapid fire kit. I am just hoping it all arrives in time for Dublin

    1. endeavour says:

      It all arrived today. I have just done the scary bit sticking the frame on :o

      I have used my Final Cut Studio software box to weight it down. If that doesn’t do it nothing will.

  2. Bill Faulkner says:

    Have you tried it on any smaller camera? Would it help with your little waterproof Lumix?

    Take care of yourself.

    Thanks.

    1. pbloom says:

      no point on a totally auto camera Bill. It probably will work on other cameras like the D90 though.

  3. Ben_B says:

    Being as cozy with Zacuto as you are do you know if there’s a chance of one of these for the GH1?

    I know we have an EVF already, but it’d be nice to have something mounted on the LCD, and swivelable, for easier use on a tripod.

    That said, I suppose the current design (with the frame) would make it so the LCD can’t close…hmmm…an interesting design challenge for them! Perhaps something like the hoodman’s sleeve for normal video camera LCDs….

    1. pbloom says:

      Let me just roll over to the other side of the bed and ask Steve Weiss :-)

      At the moment it doesn’t fit. Its the right width the the height is wrong. Will take a total redesign. Panasonic have been atrocious at getting them a camera to measure to make it, think they are getting one this week from a customer so it won’t be far off!

      1. Ben_B says:

        They’ve been atrocious at getting anyone a camera up until this week or so.

        Glad to hear they’re at work on it. Be interesting to see how they solve the problem of still allowing the LCD to close.

  4. […] Philip Bloom » Blog Archive » Review of new Zacuto Z-Finder V2 […]

  5. lhomel says:

    Hi Phil

    Thanks for your blog and all the details about your work.
    I’m very interesting in the new Zfinder.
    Do you have any discount coupon to get it?
    Phil/France

    1. pbloom says:

      sorry i don’t. they arent discounting them just yet as they are in such demand

  6. derekhillier says:

    Hello Phil
    I couldn’t stretch to the Zacuto loupe so went for the Hoodman and have just recieved the Redrock mounting clip to hold it in place, works really well. It even slides in between the 5d body and battery grip.

    cheers

    Derek

    1. pbloom says:

      its a shame the hoodman doesn’t magnify as i find that helps

  7. G Core says:

    Thanks Phillip,

    Although I don’t believe Lanyard is any more strange than you guys calling the letter Z Zed. :-)

  8. AlainP says:

    Received mine today after some troubles with custom. My initial comments are very much like yours. I will probably do a review too once I have let the holder dry. Only 22 more hours to go!

    1. pbloom says:

      Have fun with it Alain. I love it to bits!

  9. […] 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 […]

  10. Awada says:

    Hello,

    Can I use the Z-finder with Canon D7 ?

    I dont understand how to buy Z-finder from France on zacuto website ? Can you explain me ?

    Thank’s a lot for your help

    Emilien Awada

    1. pbloom says:

      yes it’s great with 7d. JUst go to zacuto and order from them. They are out of stock until the 15th

  11. greg poschman says:

    Phil- thanks for staying on the bleeding edge for all of us.
    How do you look through this viewfinder when it is down on the ground or at hip level? Will Zacuto or anyone else release a V 3.0 with a right angle finder? Sometimes this all feels like we are watching the wheel being reinvented.- but it is exciting to see you play with the latest in DSLR evolution. Where can I find the best 7D kit for documentary (ENG run n gun) shooting? Sounds like whip pans are out for the time being……
    What will it take to get you to Colorado to do a master class?- Say a small conference room 5 minutes from Aspen Mountain?

    1. pbloom says:

      would LOVE to see a right angle one. It’s not in the works though. I just take it off when I have to!

      Aspen sounds good. Will talk to my biz partner.

  12. I received my Zacuto Z-finder from US yesterday. I use it on
    Canon 7D. With one word Great!

  13. Steve says:

    How do deal with glasses? My astigmatism is too strong for contacts, I must wear glasses. Are there any similar devices that can be used while wearing glasses?

  14. Trevor says:

    Does the frame interfere with the use of the regular viewfinder for stills? It seems to extend out into the space where your cheekbone (or, in my case glasses) would go and I wonder if it prevents or interferes with getting a snug fit to the eyesocket.

    1. pbloom says:

      i doesn’t get in my way

  15. Tommy says:

    I need one.
    Where can I get it in Germany?
    Tommy

    1. pbloom says:

      try theflashcentre.com in uk. they are out of stock like most i expect though

  16. Corie says:

    what brand was the original viewfinder you used?

    1. pbloom says:

      the z finder v1!

  17. Excellent & thorough review: I ordered a Z-Finder and can’t wait to get it… it is a bit pricey, but I look at it as having turned my 5D Mark II into a real camcorder/video camera for only $400.

    I would love to take that D-SLR Cinematography workshop: any chance you will ever teach a similar workshop in the USA? Preferably in New York city :-)

    By the way I bought your Canon 5DII Cinematography DVD and absolutely loved it! I have a photography background and this really got me up to speed on shooting & editing video very quickly.

    Best Regards,

    -Michael

  18. According to Jim says:

    In the review the Wheel looks aluminum. Is it plastic or aluminum?

    Thanks in advance and I enjoy your work!
    Jim

    1. pbloom says:

      it’s metal jim, but not as we know it!

  19. […] the weekend I decided to buy myself a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens for myself. I think I might also buy a Zacuto Z-Finder as well. I can order the lens from a photographic supply store in New Zealand but might have to […]

  20. brad lechner says:

    The Z finder helps with focusing, I get that, due to the magnification…but do you still see the full frame? Or is it like the focus assist on the 7D – zoomed in?

    1. pbloom says:

      no, you see the whole frame Brad. Best P

  21. Pat says:

    Do you feel confident enough to use just the Z-finder for focusing, or do you also use the camera’s focus assist while looking through the viewfinder. For example, would you be able to use the Z-finder in a run and gun situation without having to take the time to zoom in with the focus assist button?

    1. pbloom says:

      yes i feel confident with the z-finder

  22. dp says:

    Just one question: z-finder or small lcd?I know that the diference is about 100-200 usd,but it seems to me that i would rather use Lcd.Please give me yours opignion.
    thanks

    1. pbloom says:

      different tools for different jobs…z-finder essential for any hand held.

  23. Hi Philip,

    After owning a 7D for a few weeks and making a few short films on my travels, I have the greatest admiration for your work. This is hard work, but SUPER great fun!

    Your review of the Zacuto is great, and I now have one on order – it’s been impossible to get any kind of focus, especially on sunny days. I went also for the Rode mic on your recommendation – top kit!

    Thanks for all your hard work and sharing Philip!

    Cheers!
    Richard.