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Old June 30th, 2010, 06:52 PM   #1
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DSLR viewfinder review & comparison

Hi guys,

I've just published my new blog, reviewing and comparing DSLR viewfinders.

I took a really close look at the Zacuto Z-Finder Jr, Z-Finder Pro 2.5x, LCDVF, Cavision, Hoodman HoodLoupe and an accessory by Redrock Micro when I was assisting Philip Bloom on the Lucasfilm Red Tails reshoots last month in Prague.

Epic DSLR Viewfinder ReviewPart 5: Essential DSLR accessories | Nino Film - Blog - Nino Leitner

I finally found the time to write it all up and publish my most extensive blog post so far!

Looking forward to your comments and feedback. Thanks!
Spreading the word is always appreciated.

Nino
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Old July 1st, 2010, 08:18 AM   #2
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"In fact, almost every single viewfinder on professional video camcorders nowadays is ‘only’ a magnification device on top of a LCD screen (and I’m talking about ‘real’ video camcorders, not DSLRs). This is most obvious on cameras such as my Sony EX3, which uses a viewfinder that can be flipped away when necessary to reveal the screen for shooting from angles where the viewfinder wouldn’t be feasible."
Even if EX3 is called a "pro" - its still a semipro equipment andt this viewfinder match not the quality of broadcast equipment. There are still used black/white and damn expensive CRT viewfinders.

"Cavision LCD.... The magnification factor seems to be comparable to the Z-Finder Jr."
Cavision has 6x magnification and Z Finder Jr. 2,5x.

We should remember, that all this things are extremally dangerous for the LCD in Sunlight! Its a magnifiing Glass and it can boundle the light and focus it directly to the LCD polariser. It burn yellow spots in LCD within some seconds.
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Old July 1st, 2010, 09:15 AM   #3
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GREAT roundup. I too feel the Cavision unit is basically useless -- I used it once and found I was better able to focus without it.
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Old July 1st, 2010, 04:33 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Ivan Mosny View Post
"In fact, almost every single viewfinder on professional video camcorders nowadays is ‘only’ a magnification device on top of a LCD screen (and I’m talking about ‘real’ video camcorders, not DSLRs). This is most obvious on cameras such as my Sony EX3, which uses a viewfinder that can be flipped away when necessary to reveal the screen for shooting from angles where the viewfinder wouldn’t be feasible."
Even if EX3 is called a "pro" - its still a semipro equipment andt this viewfinder match not the quality of broadcast equipment. There are still used black/white and damn expensive CRT viewfinders.

"Cavision LCD.... The magnification factor seems to be comparable to the Z-Finder Jr."
Cavision has 6x magnification and Z Finder Jr. 2,5x.

We should remember, that all this things are extremally dangerous for the LCD in Sunlight! Its a magnifiing Glass and it can boundle the light and focus it directly to the LCD polariser. It burn yellow spots in LCD within some seconds.
Yes, the EX3 can be considered "semi-pro" by some, but in comparison to ANY DSLR video workflow it is still a VERY professional working tool.

CRT and black/white viewfinders are increasingly outdated, they have been for years actually. The only reason why manufacturers used black/white viewfinders was that it is easier to focus, but ONLY if the resolution of the CRT/LCD is really bad - then it does indeed help you to have a non-coloured screen. And it just wasn't possible to make better CRTs back in the days of BetaSP or DigiBeta.

Cavision claims that they have a 6x magnification, but it is just not true. It is 3x at most, compare it yourself. There seems to be a lot of weird stuff going on with regards to information in that company.

Good point about the danger in sunlight, forgot to mention that - I will update my blog post to include this piece of information.
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Old July 1st, 2010, 05:48 PM   #5
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"Yes, the EX3 can be considered "semi-pro" by some, but in comparison to ANY DSLR video workflow it is still a VERY professional working tool."
In comparise to professional braocast equipment its still a plastic toy.
HD Cam camcorders use still CRT wievfinders like Sony HDVF-20A (approx 5500USD) and the professional colour LCD solutions like HDVF-C35W or HDVF-C30WR cost up to 10 000USD. Not the whole camera only the wievfinder. Its not important for your comparison of DSLR equipment - but there are significant quality differences between the one on EX3 and professional wievfinders.
By the way - i like the Cavision Wievfinder for 5D, because its large and i can use it with my eyeglasses on.
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Old July 2nd, 2010, 11:09 AM   #6
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So for someone like me, who considers himself primarily a stills photographer of live events first, but someone who also wants to capture video as a secondary consideration, one of my core needs is to be able to easily attach/remove a viewfinder at will. I'm also on a budget. With those two factors in mind, the LCDVF seems like it might be the best fit for me personally (I don't use glasses)?

Do you all think that is a fair assessment?
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Old July 2nd, 2010, 02:14 PM   #7
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LCDVF is very good value for the money and you can make use of it by still photography too.
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Old July 8th, 2010, 02:09 AM   #8
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I tried all of them at NAB, and LCDVF was my favorite. Coincidentally, it was also the cheapest. That almost never happens, so I pounced like a cat. 'twas a great move, I love it.
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Old July 9th, 2010, 01:43 AM   #9
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I just picked up the Z Finder Jr. and I like it much better than the Z Finder Ver 2. that I was using. It came with the snap off frame (much better than the stupid metal mount). It also came with extensions that I can use in place of the diopter on the Ver 2 model. I find it much easier to focus my new 5D with the Z Finder Jr. than it is to focus the 7D with the Ver 2 Finder.

I almost bought the LCDVF, but I am glad that I went for the Z Finder Jr.
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Old July 9th, 2010, 03:04 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nino Leitner View Post

CRT and black/white viewfinders are increasingly outdated, they have been for years actually. The only reason why manufacturers used black/white viewfinders was that it is easier to focus, but ONLY if the resolution of the CRT/LCD is really bad - then it does indeed help you to have a non-coloured screen. And it just wasn't possible to make better CRTs back in the days of BetaSP or DigiBeta.
The broadcast CRT viewfinders also do have advantages, correctly set up you can use them to judge your exposure, for which any LCDs I've seen on lower priced cameras are pretty poor, This makes them extremely quick to use and you don't even need to use zebras (although perhaps recommended for quickly spotting the peak whites).
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Old August 30th, 2010, 12:48 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bill Binder View Post
So for someone like me, who considers himself primarily a stills photographer of live events first, but someone who also wants to capture video as a secondary consideration, one of my core needs is to be able to easily attach/remove a viewfinder at will. I'm also on a budget. With those two factors in mind, the LCDVF seems like it might be the best fit for me personally (I don't use glasses)?

Do you all think that is a fair assessment?
FWIW, I finally bought one of these (LCDVF), and for me and my usage, it's a dream come true. I'm primarily a stills photographer, so the ease at which I can put this on and take it off is incredibly useful to me. Plus the lower price combined with an incredibly comfortable eyepiece just cinch the deal. The thing is simply a joy to use.

Interestingly, I also shoot very quiet jazz, classical, and chamber music on occasion, and the viewfinder is letting me shoot (stills) in liveview mode, which gives me multiple advantages: (1) No mirror slap, so quieter operation which in these situations is incredibly helpful (not quite like a blimp, but way better than shooting normally), (2) effectively shooting in mirror lockup mode, which when down at near impossible hand holding speeds due to indoor available light situations, helps just that much more, especially when paired with a monopod, and (3) lets me use the viewfinder without disturbing patrons (the audience) with a bright and distracting LCD shining (it also let's me chimp if/when needed, but more importantly, let's me zoom in (using + button) and get perfect focus before shooting without bothering anyone, including use of a live histogram in Exposure Simulation mode (remember, I'm talking stills here). And I haven't even started talking about how much better it is for video and bright daylight situations. It's a very, very nice viewfinder, can't recommend enough.

But a couple of caveats of course, no diopter, no anti-fog, and some folks have had trouble with the connection to the camera (although after following the included instructions, mine feels rock solid). Also, for those who need a completely solid mount with no chance of being knocked off, this ain't it. I think the red rock or others that mount in a more secure way to the tripod socket might be better under those needs/conditions, but for me, I'm trying to avoid that type of rigid, and slow to remove/add, type of mount, and this thing is simply perfect on that front.

That's all for my mini-review...
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Old August 31st, 2010, 01:55 AM   #12
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Of all of the physical compromises with the DSLR's today, in my mind the worst is the reliance on the fixed viewfinder on the back of the camera body. While this is perfectly adequate for shooting stills, where the camera build is generally small and light enough to be handheld (as designed), it became quickly apparent to all that the requirements of continuous (versus still) shooting necessitated a different shooting setup. By relying on the fixed viewfinder, this prompted the wide variety of handheld rigs that all aim to place the viewfinder near the eyeballs, aided by the myriad of loupes reviewed by Nino.

The resulting issue is that the camera must "float" in front of the face, which means that if it is to be shoulder mounted, there has to be an assembly that offsets the camera from the shoulder, and if properly counterweighted, the whole thing becames quite long, bulky and convoluted. Meanwhile, if a shot requires the camera to be held at anything other than eyeball height, the operator is immediately placed into a blind situation as the viewfinder cannot adjust in any way.

While I understand that for many the draw of these cameras is to spend as little as possible, for me the idea of working with a fixed (and minute) viewfinder was not going to cut it. We moved beyond that in the film world decades ago, and every high end video camera (and most of the consumer ones) utilize an articulating viewfinder. While this is a much more complicated design concept with a film camera due to the direct optical path, it's easy to achieve with video.

The EX3 was brought up a few times here, and I think it's a great example of where this is all going; a small, high resolution LCD with a flip up viewfinder (aka loupe), with a smart bracket that allows for flexible mounting possibilities. It can function as a heads-up monitor when in studio mode, or a closed system for handheld (especially day exterior). The great advantage with this is that the camera can now mount direcctly on the shoulder without an offset, and can easily be positioned so that the natural center of gravity is over the shoulder without having to have a massive amount of weight cantilevered off the back. The viewfinder can be positioned as far forward as necessary (except when it gets in front of the lens)! If one is able, the viewfinder can be used in monitor mode with the magnifying hood flipped up which allows for "heads up" style viewing (both eyes, which can be less fatiguing).

I built out the F35 this way on a series last year; if you look at the first picture you can see that the camera is pushed back so far that my head is actually adjacent to the lens. The system was perfectly balanced and only required fingertip control, rather than white-knuckling as is usually the case with front-heavy cameras. While the DSLR's are much lighter than this beast, after 5 minutes of manhandling even that degree of front-heaviness, the photography is surely affected. Incidentally, I have the viewfinder in heads-up mode as described above--the leveling arm is reversed to throw the viewfinder assembly far enough forward that my eyes could easily focus on it. We were shooting such long takes that I found it unpleasant to be buried in a traditional 'finder setup (hence the Easyrig, as well). And speaking of the EX3 viewfinder--I never had the chance to compare it, but the F35 viewfinder actually seems quite similar to the one found on the EX3 (some common DNA)!

So anyway: we are inches away from a much more elegant solution for viewfinding the DSLR's with loupes attached to the back. I myself use a 7" monitor with custom viewfinder hood, which is far too bulky and a tad silly looking, but gets the job done for now--and I can articulate the monitor as needed. The new smaller monitors coming from Marshall, SmallHD and Viewfactor are going to be much better suited for this treatment.
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Old September 3rd, 2010, 05:02 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bill Binder View Post
So for someone like me, who considers himself primarily a stills photographer of live events first, but someone who also wants to capture video as a secondary consideration, one of my core needs is to be able to easily attach/remove a viewfinder at will. I'm also on a budget. With those two factors in mind, the LCDVF seems like it might be the best fit for me personally (I don't use glasses)?

Do you all think that is a fair assessment?
I came to the same conclusion...
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Old June 8th, 2011, 09:14 AM   #14
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Re: DSLR viewfinder review & comparison

2 things since nino did this great review regarding the Letus Hawk VF -

it now has a quick release brakcet

the screws that hold the loupe body to the bracket strip out, here is the fix

DIY Quick Fixes For Your Busted Letus Hawk
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