In my mentoring sessions and conversations with other photographers, I am often asked what tools I use to create my photos and films. So, I decided to create a series of blog posts telling you what equipment and products I use and why I find them useful. I’m kicking it off today with one of the newest additions to my bag. I've had the opportunity this year to review the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro and I’m so glad I did. Read on for my take and why it’s part of the family now...and don't miss the awesome discount code for my readers at the end if you are ready to purchase one for yourself!
It all started because I had been searching for a way to both reduce glare from the sun on my LCD screen when I film outside and to improve my general viewing of the screen both indoors and outdoors because it is sometimes difficult to see if I am nailing focus. In my research for tools that could help me, I came across a range of optical viewfinders and the Z-Finder Pro was both well-rated and well-reviewed for my specific purposes. Since I always pay attention to the brands that supply the products I like, I want to quickly mention what Zacuto’s brand is all about: Zacuto’s USA-made, production-grade, filmmaking camera accessories and rigs are designed by filmmakers for filmmakers. Their mission is to create products designed to make our lives as filmmakers easier and our long shooting days more comfortable and streamlined. In their own words, Zacuto’s original designs free filmmakers to focus on innovation, inspiration, and creativity. Sounds good to me!
My Z-Finder (my specific model is the Z-Finder Pro 2.5 for 3.2” Screens) arrived promptly and well-packaged. There were clear instructions with graphics and I had no confusion as I read through everything.
I attached the Z-Finder and took it for a spin outside. Looking through the viewfinder for the first time I was simply AMAZED at how well I could see the scene I was filming. The eyepiece blocked out the bright afternoon sun so that I did not need to pull my camera into a shadow at the correct angle to either film or preview my clips. I adjusted the diopter and the screen was perfectly magnified so that I could view even small details, and with enough general contrast to see defined edges within the focal plane quite well.
I was able to track movement well and render focus according to my screen quite easily, even with a long lens, which is usually tricky to handhold and focus quickly and accurately at a low aperture. I also appreciated that I had another point of contact (my face pressed against the eyecup) with which to stabilize and maintain control of my camera. I was so impressed. I also had a nice surprise when I went back to edit. I pulled my clips into Premiere Pro and saw that they were mostly exposed just right with nice rich shadows and preserved highlights, which is sometimes difficult to do when filming outside because I just can’t see clearly enough due to light and glare. I owe this to the Z-Finder because I was able to view my screen so well and consistently monitor my exposure and colors. My editing time was greatly reduced because my clips looked so great straight out of camera! I shot this little film of my kids using the Z-Finder on a Nikon D750 along with 35mm and 85mm lenses. Note the focus and stabilization.
There are a few things to note when considering the Z-Finder Pro optical viewfinder. The first is something that one may notice with any single-eye optical viewfinder and that is that the non-shooting eye may become fatigued from squinting after a while of near constant filming. For me, after subsequent uses it was not as noticeable as the first time. Another thing to consider is that when the Z-Finder Pro is attached, you are unable to shoot still images (unless in live view). So if you have a hybrid (film and photo) session this means you would need to either have two cameras or simply snap the Z-Finder Pro off and hang it while not in use on the handy neck lanyard provided by Zacuto. It’s a bit stiff to snap on and off the first few times, but then it loosens up a bit and is quick and easy.
Let’s take a look:
Advantages: Magnifies screen x2.5, blocks glare from indoor and outdoor light sources. Low profile, portable, and does not require batteries. Comfortable self-closing eyecup. Provides an extra point of contact to stabilize camera. Customizeable for different camera models. Excellent customer service and warranty. Built by filmmakers, for filmmakers.
Considerations: Screen does not swivel while Z-Finder Pro is attached. Possible eye fatigue of non-shooting eye. Unable to look through viewfinder to shoot stills without removing the Z-Finder Pro. This product is a higher-end optical viewfinder (solidly made with high quality materials) priced at $395.
In conclusion, the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro fills a distinct need for filmmakers wanting a premium optical viewfinder. It is made extremely well and comes with a lifetime guarantee. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for improved viewing of the LCD screen indoors or outdoors, to magnify the screen, and to monitor exposure and focus consistently and accurately, as well as to improve stabilization. You will definitely notice a difference. The more I use my Z-Finder Pro, the more I love it!
This is my personal experience with the Z-Finder Pro, but you can find out all the details about it and where to purchase here on the Zacuto website, along with all the other tools and accessories they create for professional filmmakers around the world.
And here comes the fun part for all of you who are now thinking the Z-Finder might be just what you need! Zacuto is kindly offering readers a $50 discount off their purchase of the Z-Finder through the end of the month! Just use the code ANGIE50 at https://store.zacuto.com/. One time use per customer. Cannot be combined with other offers. Ends at midnight CST July 31st, 2017.
Disclaimer: I was provided a Z-Finder Pro in exchange for an unbiased review of the product. The opinions expressed here are my own, are truthful, and are reflective of my actual experience using the product. Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will give my honest insight.