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.
I 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.
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.The 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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