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Old September 24th, 2010, 08:06 PM   #1
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Tested out a new DSLR viewfinder

I recently had the opportunity to work with a pre-production version of the Cinevate Cyclops. Itís a new viewfinder about to be released. Granted there are already plenty of viewfinder offerings already on the market- and several of with excellent build quality and reviews from users.

While viewfinders offer an excellent way to magnify your screen, cut out external light, and even offer another point of contact with the camera. Regardless Iíve still never been comfortable using them. Maybe itís partially because I started videography with smaller hand-held cameras that had flip out LCDs. Another aspect that makes them uncomfortable to me is the fact that Iím left eye dominant. This causes me to tilt my head awkwardly to the right to align my left eye- at which point my right eye canít be used for peripheral vision as itís being blocked by the camera. Finally, yet another reason, is the fact that I wear glasses, which hinders the ability to create a seal around the rear of the viewfinder.

Cinevate seemed to taken a completely different direction with their Cyclops DSRL viewfinder. It has all the benefits of a standard viewfinder in that it effectively magnifies the screen, and cuts out ambient light reaching the LCD. However it doesnít require you to press a single eye up against the rear of the unit. In fact itís most comfortable to use when your face is several inches away from the rear of the unit. 

The unit itself is a bit larger than other conventional viewfinders on the market however it doesnít add an appreciable amount of weight to the camera. The rear of the Cyclops bows out and has a very wide open area in which to view your viewfinder though the macro glass. It actually resembles a submarine periscope in shape.


As I started using the Cyclops I immediately felt comfortable with using it. The macro glass effectively magnified the screen, and the image was crystal clear, plus it cut out all of the ambient light. I tested it outdoors in bright sunlight on my back and it still worked flawlessly.





I was sent a Cyclops unit attached to a small rig that consisted of two hand grips, and a short rail set and a follow focus. At first glance I thought I was going to hate it as Iím most comfortable with my hands ON the camera rather than on a rig that camera is mounted to. The first thing I did was remove the follow focus- as Iíve never been a fan of shooting handheld with one. After picking it up it confirmed my suspicions and felt very awkward and make it impossible to focus with one hand while keeping steady. I then put the rig on a monopod and it actually felt like it made shooting more stable with the handles. At that point I spent some more time with it handheld and tried to simply hold the camera like I prefer (right hand on the camera grip and left hand on the focus ring)- as soon as I did that I was shocked. It felt rock solid! At that point the handles were aligned with my forearms creating two more points of contact with the camera. I tried shooting around the house for several minutes knowing ergonomics can be deceiving when only handling the camera for a minute or two. I still felt quite comfortable handling it this way. Finally I added the rear shoulder mount from my Uno rig to add yet another point of contact with my body. Convinced I decided to bring it to my shoot the following day.







On my shoot with the Cyclops I never felt more confident with my focusing. Granted Iím near-sighted and usually can focus pretty well just using the LCD screen at low F-stops. Though Iíve seen some footage after uploading it to my computer in the office to find that some shots are a hair out of focus. During this shoot I could easily see when my focus was spot on, or if it was off that hair that is hard to distinguish on the bare high-res LCD. Additionally shooting outdoors in bright sunlight was very comfortable. The screen was always shielded from the sun and very easy to see regardless of what position it was in.

Itís hard to remark on the build quality of the Cyclops as it was indeed a pre-production model. I found the section that attaches between the optic and LCD screen popped off pretty easily, however Iím told this is one of the things being changed before it goes into production. The design is indeed a bit larger/longer than other viewfinders so it will make the rig your using a bit longer. I personally didnít have problems with it and enjoyed the ergonomics but my 5í2Ē wife felt the focus rings was a bit of a reach using the 24-70.

The rear of the cyclops is molded in a shape that is conducive to the shape of your face. So in other words you could press your face against the back if you wanted to and it would work just fine that way. However with itís design I actually felt more comfortable at a short distance from the rear of the viewfinder. I really enjoyed NOT having to press my face into it to use it. That coupled with the added ease of focusing made it a joy to work with- even in pre-production form.




Overall Iím really excited for the production version to be released. Every time Iíve had a shot that was a hair out of focus or was shooting in blinding sun which made it hard to see the LCD, yet along check critical focus, I thought about breaking down and buying a traditional viewfinder even though I knew it would be awkward to use. Iím glad there is a product that has the benefits of a traditional viewfinder yet can be used in a more flexible, and in my case, comfortable to use.
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Old September 29th, 2010, 01:55 PM   #2
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Good review. But I must admit when I saw the size of that thingee, I was thinking that this must be a joke. Besides, that viewfinder doesn't solve the awkward vDSLR viewing angel (i.e., that you always have to bend down to the camera/lens position). So ever since I got a small external monitor, I almost never use the camera LCD anymore (not even with my Z-Finder) -- but now I'm looking forward to the release of this snazzy Zacuto contraption: http://www.zacuto.com/zfinderevf

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Old September 29th, 2010, 03:15 PM   #3
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That Zacuto EVF looks like a small monitor with a Z-Finder glued to the front of it.

Can someone explain to me why that's a desirable thing?
I honestly don't get it. How's it any different to sticking the Z-Finder to your LCD?

The Cyclops thing looks interesting but ungainly to me too. I guess it's a case of playing with it and seeing if it suits my/your particular way of working.
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Old September 29th, 2010, 03:39 PM   #4
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I honestly don't get it. How's it any different to sticking the Z-Finder to your LCD? Can someone explain to me why that's a desirable thing?
You are kidding, right..? If not, I must assume you haven't used a vDSLR for longer/comprehensive work, in particular handheld.

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Old September 30th, 2010, 03:37 AM   #5
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I have done extensive work with these cams, just not hand held, so if you can enlighten meÖ
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Old September 30th, 2010, 06:12 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Wayne Avanson View Post
I have done extensive work with these cams, just not hand held, so if you can enlighten me…
A couple of months ago I was shooting extensively out in the desert -- the camera angle was mostly between 2-4 feet from the ground. So how would you do that without a monitor on an articulating arm -- would you walk on your knees for two days?

It would also be interesting to see how you would shoot this silly snippet without a monitor -- would you pull focus lying on your chest on the ground..?


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Old October 2nd, 2010, 03:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by John Vincent View Post
Cyclops = me want. Bad.
As I alluded to in my previous post -- I bet anyone who has done extensive vDSLR work will shy away from this clunky loupe setup -- this because it completely limits your shooting to only eye/shoulder height filming. Hence, I believe an external monitor or the new Zacuto EVF is the way to go: Z-Finder EVF | Zacuto

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Old October 3rd, 2010, 02:13 AM   #9
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I just bought a really nice little 7" monitor with battery etc for about $250 delivered. It's bright enough to view in sunshine & sharp enough for focusing. At 800x480 the pixel resolution is the same as the Zacuto EVF & superior to the LCD on the 5DII. It's large enough for decent playback off the camera too.
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Old October 3rd, 2010, 09:41 AM   #10
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There is some ability to change the angle of the Cyclops to allow off axis viewing. I've been told there are some changes being made to the rear of the unit where it contact the back of the camera to allow it to be angled and still cut out any outside light.
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Old October 3rd, 2010, 11:04 AM   #11
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There is some ability to change the angle of the Cyclops to allow off axis viewing.
So how would you do a crab shoot with that loupe? Crawling on your belly...?

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Old October 3rd, 2010, 08:29 PM   #12
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Glenn, I was surprised reading this as you reminded me of exactly where Cyclops began, like many of our products, which was with a problem. As a glasses restricted guy who is also left eye dominant, viewfinders have always been an issue for me. The LCDs on the new HDSLR cams are far better than video LCDs of even two years ago, yet they still have the issue of being too small for me (even indoors) to really be sure of focus. I found myself hitting the + mag button quite frequently before shooting to make sure focus was correct. I also found the same when reviewing stills. Cyclops addresses these issues.

Peer, to answer your question directly (and you've addressed some really important issues!) the answer to a low angle dolly, or just low angle shooting is to use our articulating mount option shown in video 3 (thanks John for embedding them :-) which allows you to change Cyclops angle upward. We've tested this up to 45 degrees and it works surprisingly well. Glenn has correctly alluded to a soft rubber attachment for both front and rear which allows Cyclops use at these angles but with no light leaks. Because the optic we're using is a full 72mm, hence very wide field of view, you'll find in actual use that the finder is far more tolerant of off-angle use than any viewfinder simply because your eye doesn't have to be locked to it. You're also able to back off up to 36" and still critically visualize the LCD.

In your last post Peer you've mentioned EVFs. I think they are a great idea and indeed have been around for a long time in the world of professional video. I really like Zacuto's concept of an small external screen...and I'm glad to see it. Why? Well even with a high resolution screen like this rigged to an arm off-camera, guys like me have the same issue. How does one use it in bright sunlight, or indoors when you don't want to have your eye physically tied to an eye cup? Another hot HDSLR monitoring solution is the use of a USB/WIFI device mounted to the camera which streams HD video to an iPhone. The iPhone 4 has a great screen but in bright sunlight, what is the alternative to an eyecup? For a lot of folks Cyclops will help...and as we've added a whole lot of rig options, will also form the foundation for a simple rig.

There are a few more treats in store from Cinevate. One of them is a technical plate which will form the basis for an extremely light, simple and inexpensive rig. This includes a collection of what might be called lego for film-makers to turn a Cyclops sled (or viewer kit) into an incredibly compact/light rig. The stills folks have been really pushing for this type of gear and I'm happy to say we're about to debut it.

Thanks so much for your questions and comments.

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Old October 4th, 2010, 07:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dennis Wood View Post
Peer, to answer your question directly (and you've addressed some really important issues!) the answer to a low angle dolly, or just low angle shooting is to use our articulating mount option shown in video 3 (thanks John for embedding them :-) which allows you to change Cyclops angle upward. We've tested this up to 45 degrees and it works surprisingly well.
Obviously I didn't explain very well the shortcomings that I think those kind of loupes have -- that you are bound to your camera/lens position, i.e., the shooting is limited to only eye/shoulder height filming. And no, I can't see any example in your videos that addresses this issue, (or as you say, makes it possible to do a "low angle dolly" shoot with your loupe).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Wood View Post
Well even with a high resolution screen like this rigged to an arm off-camera, guys like me have the same issue. How does one use it in bright sunlight, or indoors when you don't want to have your eye physically tied to an eye cup?
For all my shoots, whether it's indoor or outside in the sun, nowadays I use an external monitor (a 5.6" V5600) with a sun hood (SH56), all attached to a versatile articulation arm -- works pretty well, even in scolding sunlight.

By the way, Dennis, kudos for replying -- always nice to hear directly from the manufacturers.

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Old October 5th, 2010, 12:00 AM   #14
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You're welcome Dennis - the gear just looks awesome.

I'd preorder now if'n I had the dough. Impressed by the flexibility and obvious toughness of the gear.

Believe it or not, I had never been to your site before I saw the Cyclops - lots of great looking stuff for sure. The follow focus looks to intergrate perfectly as well as being tough enough for the run-&-gun style I always end up using.

Good luck with it and you'll get some money from me jsut as soon as I have it (which hopefully will be soon as I'm about to start shooting my 5th feature - first with a DSLR, the T2).
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Old October 7th, 2010, 12:04 PM   #15
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This thing look to be (as all other big "loupes") EXTREMALLY dangerous for the Cameras LCD when used in sunlight. The magnification glass is focused precise to the polarisations foil in the LCD.
You are filming in this position with the sun from back:

A break for 5-10 seconds to communicate with the model or something else and if you look next time on the LCD - there are yellow spots in the picture becouse the polariser is irreparable temperature damaged.
It have not to be even a summer day. It can happen with every magnifier - but the biggest risk are such big open hoods - such a Cavision (very good for eyeglasses too) or this one.
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