Zacuto EVF Test Drive

Note: This article was originally published by J.J. Kim
and is reprinted here with his kind permission.

I am very happy that I got to beta test the new Zacuto EVF, and had opportunity to use it while I was shooting a wedding past weekend. I always wanted better options for using DSLR’s for shooting weddings. I bought a couple of different monitors, and have been using Z-Finder exclusively since Day One. Now with the Zacuto EVF, not only could I focus, set the exposure more accurately, it also allowed me to get some challenging angles that were not possible with my Canon 7D. With the purchase of the Canon 60D last year, I thought I would not need any monitors or EVF because of swivel LCD, but EVF takes beyond what swivel LCD on the camera can do, which I will share more later.

Here is what’s included in the box of the “Zacuto EVF Flip.” The box contains EVF unit with dust cover, LP-E6 Compatible Li-ion battery and a charger, swivel standard HDMI to mini-HDMI cable, ¼” 20 hotshoe mount, carrying pouch, lens cloth, and user manual. I just got the EVF Flip because I already own a Z-Finder. The price? $775. With Z-Finder EVF Pro, includes the flip EVF and Z-Finder 2.5x Pro),it’s listed at $1000. EVF Snap is listed at $675 ($805 with Z-Finder Jr.). Zacuto is known for its higher range on the price, but to be honest, I strongly believe these prices are very reasonable for the features and quality of the EVF. I won’t pick the specific model or make, but go ahead and research decent monitors (5”, 7”) with what Zacuto EVF offers, and how many options you have out there. After you read what this thing can do, you will understand where I am coming from.

First of all, as many of you saw the video, it can be dropped from twelve feet and survive the shock. Its design reminds me of the RED camera, rugged corners, muscle looking exterior, and sure enough, it’s built to last.

It has a 3.2” LCD screen that’s so clear and crisp. You can compare side to side with on-camera LCD and you will see the difference. You won’t be seeing those pixels through Z-finder. I am looking forward to calibrating the monitor via brightness, contrast, and chroma (saturation, red, green, and blue), so it looks closer to actual footage for the best results. It also has color bars for calibration with “blue only” display as well as monochrome.

Its resolution is 800×480 with image scaling. Now this is huge; No matter what your DSLR output you can manually scale them to meet your eyes’ pleasure via scaling up, down, position left, right, up and down, or position center. It will also show you the scaling like RV, AV, V scale, V pan, FL scale, and FL pan to be super accurate. It also has preset for 9 different DSLR cameras out there along with 4 manual preset that you can save for your own.I did preset 1 for 7D full screen, preset 2 for 7D with info, and preset 3 for 60D.

It has HDMI-loop through which is also a great feature and I can’t wait to put this in real test with my other monitor. HDMI outlets are screwed into the body, so it won’t wiggle around like other monitors.

One of the biggest features on the Zacuto EVF is focus assist via peaking (at three different levels) and exposure assist (at two different levels of zebra that can be set manually). With pixel to pixel enabled DURING the recording, this will help tremendously for achieving accurate focus. You can also flip the image for your shooting style.

There is also frame lines for 5 different frames (picture below) along with center cross and grid. Anamorphic correction is also available which will come handy for filmmakers. All those functions mentioned above can be set in a touch of button with 3 preset buttons (F1, F2, and F3). The EVF also has a USB port, so in case of any firmware updates from Zacuto- you will easily be able to stay current on the features.

So how does all things above help me make better product? I personally shoot a lot of weddings myself, and some non-profit events along with interviews. When I shoot weddings or other events, time for setup and adjustments is very limited (referred as “run-N-gun” style). When I was looking to add gear for better viewing options on DSLRs, here are the things that mattered the most to me:

  1. LCD quality
  2. Durability
  3. Reliability
  4. Price

Zacuto EVF meets all of those, and on top of that, the people at the Zacuto are just great to work with. They will listen to your needs and opinion about the product, and will do their best to improve the quality.

So back to my usage of this EVF during the wedding; I used it for a two day Indian wedding which included four hours of non-stop shooting in the evening, and 15 hours of shooting the next day with a Same-Day-Edit lined up for viewing during the reception. One of things that impressed me the most was battery life. To be fair, I only used the battery that came with EVF, and it lasted all day long. On the first night, I was using it the whole four hours, and the battery still had a full bar. Of course I recharged it overnight before using it the next day, and it still had three bars at the end of the night. I used it during the 1.5 hour ceremony, 45 minutes outside celebrations, and three hours of non-stop reception (plus one hour of open dance). I was very glad that I didn’t have to worry about the battery while I changed the camera batteries more than five times, and twice for my H4N sound recorder (full batteries both times). If you use a Canon EOS 5D, 7D or 60D, you have the same batteries anyway, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Booting time is very fast, too (a lot faster than my H4N) which is very important for me. With Z-Finder Pro 2.5x, the image was very clear to my eyes, when I was using 100mm 2.0 during some performance first night, I had no problem with having sharp focus under low light situation.

Swivel HDMI cable is another “small” thing with a big advantage. I usually have two wireless receivers hooked up to H4N along with headphones and a VideoMic attached to the camera on my cage during the wedding ceremony and reception. So you can imagine all the cables going around the camera, with the swivel HDMI cable, I can either tuck it in or run it around other cables to save the hassle of tangled cables.

I personally shoot in many different ways throughout a 10-12 hour wedding day; low angle with slider, higher angle during dance, small space in the limo, etc. With the EVF angling pretty much any directions and positions out there, I was able to do some creative shots. Some awkward positions, like sitting on the floor for 20 minutes (picture below), I was comfortable shooting handheld with focus right on moving subjects.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about the Zacuto EVF. As an event filmmaker, DSLR’shas given me so much more ways to create beautiful images for our wedding couples. However, as we all know, DSLR cameras has their disadvantages as a video camera, and products like Zacuto EVF can make things a lot easier around those critical disadvantages.

One more thing. People from Zacuto understand the industry. If you have unique project or setup for certain shoots, ask them for recommendation or suggestion. They will work with you and get you the best setup to accommodate with your need. Oh, and did I mention that most of their product have a lifetime guarantee?

To see more photos, please visit my Facebook Q&A Page here.

In 2011, J.J. Kim was voted one of the 25 hottest and most influential event filmmakers in the world. He was elected by the readers of EventDV magazine. J.J. lives in the Chicago area. His web site is http://www.orangeweddingfilm.com.


Note: This article was originally published by J.J. Kim
and is reprinted here with his kind permission.

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