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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2011-02-20

PIMP MY RIG
Taking a look at LCD viewfinders

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter Newsletter

For all of the great things the DSLR HD video rage has given photographers there are drawbacks. To me the biggest is focus.

As a still camera, new DSLRs offer the best auto-focus money can buy. But in LiveView/video capture mode, Canon cameras currently cannot AF and Nikons are slow and tend to hunt, but it does work if you’re patient.

Photo by

Zacuto Z-finder
So what’s a runnin’ & gunnin’ “visual journalist” to do?

Just like photographers in a bygone era, it’s all in the fingers my friends!

Manual focus. What a concept!

Many love the DSLR video for “the look” … that shallow depth of field most of us have been using in our stills … well, forever. Shooting at 2.8 with a DSLR means focus is critical … much more than shooting with a true video camera.

When making the move to shooting video with your Canon D5 MII or Nikon D3s the first thing most recommended is getting a viewfinder to help focus using the camera’s LCD screen.

One thing that the DSLR video explosion has created are dozens of companies selling products to, well, pimp your rig. There are a number of LCD viewfinders out there --- think loupe for the camera’s LiveView screen.

A good viewfinder should give you maximum magnification, sharp view of the LCD, easy access to video capture controls and easy mounting (and removal).

I’ve looked at and tried a number of viewfinders. Here are a few I would recommend:

Zacuto Z-finder
This is the Cadillac of LCD viewfinders. The Z-finder has a tough, robust build, built-in diopter (plus extender plates) and different mounting options mean it can be incorporated into all rig configurations. Zacuto makes three models, do yourself a favor and buy one of the 3x models. At $400 it is the most expensive of my recommendations, but worth it if cost is not an issue.
http://www.zacuto.com/z-finder-dslr-viewfinder

Photo by

LCDVF
LCDVF
This LCD viewfinder has a unique mounting method (magnets secure it to a frame around the screen) and is moderately priced. At $179, it’s more than half the price of the Z-finder. But the savings comes at a cost: No diopter. The LCDV kit includes a couple of mounting frames, lanyard (which many discard but more on that later) and a large rubber eyecup. Many find the lanyard a nuisance but I don’t. The way I work, going back and forth from video capture to stills, it’s easy to just pull off the LCDVF and have it hang from the lanyard when I have to pop off some quick stills. The LCDVF is available at many retail outlets and currently on sale for $149 (regular $179).
http://www.lcdvf.com/

Light Craft Workshop BigEye LCD monitor loupe
The BigEye is unique in several ways. First the body of the viewfinder is rubber. Second it is a modular system. The kit comes with the BigEye Loupe (3x with a built-in diopter), rubber eyecup and mounting adapter (a frame that attaches to the LCD screen). Fears that the rubber construction of the body of the BigEye might not allow that “third point of contact” for handholding your rig steady during shooting are unfounded. The rubber build is stiff enough to allow you to press your eye to the viewfinder with no bending. The full-tilt boogie kit is $139.

Photo by

Light Craft Workshop BigEye LCD monitor loupe
Other Viewfinders To Check Out
Hoodman – HoodLoupe
http://www.hoodmanusa.com/products.asp?dept=1017

IDC Viewfinder
(IDC incorporates a HoodLoupe into their mounting bracket.)
http://www.idcphotography.com/kart/index.php?p=product&id=118&parent=30

Cavision LDC Viewfinder
http://www.cavision.com/viewfinders/MHE52RCM.htm

As I mentioned above, there are dozens of viewfinders out there --- and plenty of knockoff of the products I have listed here. You just have to balance the features with the money have to spend.


Pimp My Rig is a series of columns on how photographers are “accessorizing” their DSLR cameras to shoot video. If you have an interesting or cool set up for your rig and want to write about it, contact me at: bert@sportsshooter.com.


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