There are a lot of things that have become necessities of life for our team… A few of those are Panera Bread, toilet paper, caffeine, frequent flier miles and remote control helicopters. Another one of those “must haves” for us is a good viewfinder for our Canon DSLR cameras. Shooting outdoors, in the middle of the day creates some definite challenges in your ability to see what you are actually shooting. Before we started using viewfinders on all our cameras, we would often get back to the studio for the post-production process, only to find out that the exposure on the footage is off, or the subject is out of focus. These are all flaws due to the fact that we couldn’t see because of the blinding glare on our LCD screens while we were shooting. Just like toilet paper, there are so many different types of viewfinders out there, and you really can’t ever know what you type you like until you see how they feel to you.
We have been on the hunt for the perfect viewfinder. The following is our experience with two of the leading brands of viewfinders. We know that there are a lot more options out there, but we have decided to just review the two that we see as the industry leaders; the Z-Finder by Zacuto and the Cyclops by Cinevate.
Lets weigh the good with the bad; its time for Pros and Cons…
- Dual Eye Viewing: You can look into the viewfinder with both eyes.
- Magnification: They magnify the screen just enough to be able to see well without the LCD looking pixilated.
- No Facial Contact: We have heard a lot of buzz suggesting to have multiple points of contact with the camera, in order to create a more stable shot; however, we have actually noticed that with our forehead pressed to the viewfinder our shots are more unstable than if our hands were the only point of contact. Using the Cyclops you can still see your entire LCD clearly without having your head touch the viewfinder.
- Weight: Cyclops are heavy themselves, and when we use them on the Manfroto mono pod, it throws the balance off, making it front heavy and difficult to make the mono free standing for longer shots.
- Mount and Dismount: When you decide to use the Cyclops, you have to be committed. The process to mount and dismount the Cyclopes is a lengthy process involving allen wrenches and screwdrivers. (We know that there are other mounting options, but the cost on these mounting alternatives is extremely expensive.)
- Mobility: We noticed a reduction in our ability to get a good variety of shots. The Cyclops makes to really difficult to get low, high or moving shots (such as slider).
- Size: They are large and make us much more noticeable in live event situation.
- Durability: some of the parts have broken through normal usage.
- Weight: They are extremely lightweight and compact.
- Mount and Dismount: They are easily mounted and dismounted in seconds just by pushing it onto a mounting bracket.
- Mobility: Because of the easy mount and dismount, you are extremely mobile and versatile on the fly. This gives you the ability to move to any level and to use other stabilization such as sliders.
- Size: They are very compact and discrete, keeping our rig less noticeable in live event situations.
- Durable: Because they are so compact and easily removed, they don’t take as much wear and tear, and there are fewer parts to break.
- Magnification: The magnification is so intense that it makes the LCD look pixilated. This sometimes makes it difficult to know if you are in focus or not. (There are extenders and different magnifications to help with this, but they don’t make that large of a difference.)
- Burnt Screen: We learned from sad experience, that if you allow the sun to come through the Z-Finder and hit your screen, it will burn and kill the pixels in you LCD.
- Single Eye Viewing: Closing one eye is annoying and tiresome.
- Facial Contact: Your eye must be in the eye-cup for you to see any of your picture.
We wrap all of this up by saying this… We don’t recommend one over the other across the board. We think that both have there time and place. We use the Cyclops in interview situations, where we are locked down on a tripod and we don’t need to be too mobile. We use the Z-Finder in fast paced live event situations where mobility, and ease in mounting and dismounting are a must!
So in your search for the right viewfinder or toilet paper… try them out before you make your purchase. Rent or use someone else’s to make sure you know what you want. Viewfinders are a large investment, but in our minds a necessary one.
Hope this helps!
The STF Team