Jun 26, 2011

Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro: You need this!

Every once in a while a manufacturer brings a new product to market that's a hit out of the park.  Apple has done it several times (although FCP X is *not* one of them), but Zacuto has just released theirs:  The "Z-Finder EVF Pro", and if you're a camera operator of any kind, you need this in your toolkit.

Every successful director, producer, DP and camera OP knows that the best imagery for motion pictures can only occur when the camera itself is in motion.  Static camera = boring compositions and less than compelling imagery.

But moving the camera around, whether it's on a jib, dolly, articulated arm (steady-cam device), skater or even a hit-hat sitting on the ground means that the camera's viewfinder and even flip-out LCD is no longer viewable or easily accessible.  That means you need an external monitor of some sort connected to the camera in a remote location so the operator can see what's going on!  That problem is exacerbated by DSLR's which have no built-in articulated LCD forcing the user to be at eye-level with the LCD itself, which also means there are several camera angles and moves that just aren't possible because you can't view what you're doing or, make critical focus adjustments.

Traditionally adding an external monitor meant you'd need at a minimum a 7" to 9" inch monitor with it's own mounting, power source and if you're shooting on location in bright daylight a hood to keep distracting glare of the screen.  And high-quality monitors - especially those that are color-correct with professional features - are not cheap.  When you add up all the stuff you'd really need for the average external cam-monitor you can easily break the $5000 mark, or more if you're willing to go top-of-the-line.  And that may sound downright crazy for those who "just want to get my monitor off the camera!".  Zacuto has you covered.

The Z-Finder EVF Pro is a god-send to every camera with an HDMI out, which covers a great deal of the latest camera models produced today including many DSLR's.

Unlike traditional external monitors, the concept behind the Z-Finder EVF Pro is this:  Take a high-resoution LCD monitor that's color-correct, such as those used on something like the 5D MK II, and put it into a dedicated monitor-only form factor with it's own power source.  And add commonly used external monitor features to boot.  And that's exactly what Zacuto did.

This newly released mini monitor has everything you need from an external:

  • A color & gamma-correct screen
  • Focus assist (peaking)
  • Waveform scope
  • Brightness, contrast, gamma and other manual corrections
  • Two-level Zebras
  • Color Bars generator
  • Blue Only option
...and more.

The Z-Finder EVF Pro is actually a combination of two Zacuto products, the EVF Flip and the Z-Finder Pro.  That means you can either use the monitor alone or, snap on the Z-Finder Pro and look through a magnified, focusable loupe with eyecup.

The EVF Flip is self-powered by a battery similar in size to what the 5D Mk II uses.  I used it for a shoot all day and still had nearly a full charge available.  Not impossible when you think that battery only has to power an LCD screen, not an entire camera!

Mounting this mini monitor is a snap; the unit comes with a hot-shoe micro-ball for mounting directly on-top of a DSLR (although some video cameras also have hot-shoe mounts) or, you can use on of several mounting options also available from Zacuto, such as the Z-American Arm, Zud or literally a dozen or so combinations of arms and mounts.

And how about actual usage?  It's a dream come true.  Again, I used the EVF Fiip/Z-Finder Pro combination literally all day on a shoot and had it mounted to the Zacuto Red Plate system via extension arm and swivel mount.  That gave me the ability to rotate the mini monitor in any position I needed it to be.

Not only that, but the color, gamma and exposure was spot-on right from the factory, no adjustments were required.  While using the 5D Mk II I made all my exposure adjustments on-camera and what I saw on the EVF Pro is exactly what I got in post.

The EVF Flip also has built-in setup and aspect-ratio presets for popular cameras - like the 5D Mk II!

As I mentioned above, the Z-Finder EVF Pro is designed for and HDMI input, however there are small converters on the market that will take camera component (RGB) or HD-SDI and convert it into HDMI.

And price?  You'd think something of this nature that's been totally designed by and for professionals would at least be $1000 bucks, easy.  Right?  Wrong.  How about less than $400 dollars?  Huh?!  Yep, for less than 400 clams (that's US Dollars, boys) you can get everything you need and then some for an external monitor.

Highly Recommended

There's just no way to beat the cost-effectiveness, versatility and professional utility this mini monitor.  Get one, be happy - very, very happy.

1 comment:

  1. This review was originally published in 2011. Since then there have been competitive models that have come to market that are a better overall value than this offering from Zacuto. Take a look at the offerings from Small HD.