Photography / Hands-on Review

See HDSLR Video Clearly with the Zacuto Z-Finder EVF


Shooting video with DSLRs, or HDSLRs to be specific, is gaining popularity with photographers and filmmakers. One reason is that HDSLRs can shoot some pretty amazing video. Many photographers buy an HDSLR to shoot stills and then fall in love with the camera’s video capabilities once they discover them.

On the flip side, one reason many professionals don’t use HDSLRs to shoot video is their ergonomics. Camcorders are designed to be gripped comfortably, and they quite often have pivoting viewfinders to make for easier viewing no matter how the camcorder is held, or for how long. HDSLRs, on the other hand, are designed primarily for shooting stills; the camera is held still in front of the photographer’s face for just a few seconds before the shutter is released. Shooting video with an HDSLR normally requires the photographer to hold the camera in front of their face for extended periods of time, which is definitely not comfortable, nor is it optimal ergonomically.

The solution to holding an HDSLR steadily and comfortably for extended periods of time is to mount it on a support system that allows the camera to be held in front of your chest or near your head with extra support provided by your shoulder, taking the strain from your back and your neck. Unfortunately, an HDSLR’s viewfinder becomes unusable when the camera is held in such unconventional positions. That’s why you need a second solution to allow easy viewfinder access when an HDSLR is mounted on a camera-support system.

Zacuto is a company that has been on the lookout for the situations in which photographic and videographic solutions have been sorely lacking. The Zacuto EVF Series of electronic viewfinders and camera support rod systems lets you position a camera in the best way possible for shooting video and keeping your eye on the subject comfortably.When shooting with an EVF, you have many different options on where to place it, depending on how you are shooting. If you are shooting handheld, you can mount the EVF on the hotshoe and look down into it. When shooting shoulder mounted, you should use an offset EVF with the camera mounted in-line with your rod system. When shooting with a tripod or dolly, you could use an extended viewfinder mount.

So at the heart of all of Zacuto’s electronic viewfinder systems is the Zacuto EVF, a 3.2-inch high-resolution LCD monitor that’s compatible with any camera that has an HDMI output. The 3.2-inch monitor features HDMI loop through, has a native resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and supports 16 million colors. It has horizontal and vertical viewing angles of 170 degrees. It can be powered by any 7.2-volt Canon LP-E6 or equivalent battery, as well as a 12-volt power adapter. An 1800mAH battery will provide 5.2 hours of run time.

The Zacuto EVF monitor can display 480i, 480p, 576p, 720p and 1080i HDMI signals, and it can be operated safely at temperatures ranging from minus-4 to 158 degrees F. So whether your video shoot takes place in Siberia or Nigeria, the EVF monitor won’t let you down. 

Professional features of the Zacuto EVF monitor include monochrome and blue-only modes, zoom, image flip, chroma, exposure zebra stripes, focus assist, anamorphic, auto scaling, brightness and contrast adjustments, battery-level indicator, three assignable function buttons and live menu preview.

The Z-EVF-1S EVF Snap is Zacuto’s base model LCD monitor that lets you see an HDSLR’s HDMI output no matter how the camera is positioned. The Z-EVF-1F EVF Flip is similar to the Snap, except that the Flip’s screen pivots open 180 degrees, or any angle in between, to provide even greater creative freedom. The Snap and the Flip both have frames that allow you to attach one of Zacuto’s Z-Finder optical viewfinder/eyecup units, including the Z-Finder Pro 2.5x, Z-Finder Pro 3x and Z-Finder Jr.

The monitors and viewfinders are also available in kits that include both items. The Z-Finder EVF is one such kit. It includes an EVF Snap LCD monitor and an optical viewfinder. The optical viewfinder contains high quality 2.5x optics with anti-fog shields, but does not include a diopter. The Z-Finder EVF Pro includes the EVF Flip LCD monitor and a 2.5x optical viewfinder with anti-fog shields and a diopter.

If you enjoy shooting video with an HDSLR but find it a bit awkward at times, then you should consider investing in one or more of Zacuto’s products. Then there’s always the cachet factor: When people see you with this fancy gear in tow, they will know how serious you are about shooting video with an HDSLR.