First things first. What exactly is the Zacuto Z-Finder and what is it not? The Z-Finder Pro is essentially a 3x optical loupe that fits over your DSLR’s LCD screen with the function to:
- Enlarge the LCD display to help with manual focussing and rack focussing
- Block of stray light from the LCD
- Stabilize the camera with a third point of contact against the body (Through the eyepiece)
The Z-Finder is not a miracle piece of equipment and it can only do so much to help you. It can’t show you what the camera couldn’t show you in the beginning.
The operation is simple. Attach the bracket to your camera, and attach the Z-finder to the bracket. Switch your camera to LiveView… shoot. The Z-Finder will enlarge the view of your LCD 3X allowing you to better judge focus while moving around, or when rack focussing. It works very well once you get used to it.
The lens and design is not perfect, corners are distorted a bit and although there is a nice cover for the eyepiece, once you have taken it off, and want to store it, there is no way to close the other end so that it doesn’t fill up with dust. These are all minor issues though.
The design is pretty decent and the build quality is very good. Everything fits snugly to each other and feels very solid and robust. The previous version of the Z-Finder attached to the camera body via Elastic bands. The upgraded version (The one I have) still has the recesses for the rubber bands but now attaches to your camera via a bracket that mounts on your tripod mounting point at the bottom of your camera. A second mount attaches to that one and also fits pretty snugly over your LCD. A few screws in the right places allows you to attach the two mounts in various configurations so that the Z-Finder can work on various bodies. The footer mount also has a mounting point for a tripod Quick Release plate or another modular unit, like a shoulder harness, cage, etc.
You do get an optional bracket that extends the mounting bracket so that you can use it on cameras with a battery grip attached (something I would prefer because shooting footage tends to drain the batteries a bit) This part of the design could use some work though. The battery grip on my 5DmkII has just a little bit of play that allows the top frame of the Z-finder to move about a millimeter away from the LCD when a heavier lens is mounted on it, and the whole unit is mounted on a tripod. I am not sure how they would easily overcome this problem except with rubber bands again, but it’s there nonetheless.
It doesn’t make the unit useless though, it just means you need pay attention when you shoot.
I have noticed that the best results for sharp focus is to zoom my 5D2 in, in the LiveView Preview mode while setting up my initial focus. Although the Z-Finder helps, the LCD screen is just too pixelated to make out fine detail. It is definitely easier to guess a good focus lock while using the Z-finder on standard magnification, and after a day or two, I started getting pretty good at keeping a decent focus on moving subjects, or while moving around myself. If you are moving, it’s a good idea to learn to shoot with both eyes open, one checking composition and framing, the other where you are going (or employ a guide and spotter)
The Z-finder is a good solution for an annoying problem. It does what it says on the box, and will stay in my camera bag for the foreseeable future. It’s a pretty good alternative to an HDMI monitor screen!