The Zacuto Z-Finder has a lot to offer filmmakers and videographers. Let’s take a look at the Z-Finder and what it can do for your filmmaking.
As regular readers know, I don’t usually write much about filmmaking gear here on Filmmaking Lifestyle. With a few exceptions around the site, I normally stick to writing about the business of filmmaking and video production.
However, I was recently given the opportunity to try out some of Zacuto’s filmmaking gear offerings. I took out the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro, as well as their The Enforcer run’n’gun stabilization rig, for a spin.
A Little Bit About Zacuto
Zacuto are USA based company that design, sell and rent gear for filmmaking and videography, serving by professional and amateur filmmakers.
Founded in 2000 in Chicago, Zacuto are heralded by lots of well-known filmmakers and videographers for their superior design and development of a number of rigs, stabilization setups and EVF attachments, especially for DSLR cameras.
Arguably their best known product is the Zacuto Z-Finder. Used by narrative filmmakers, as well as event videographers, this has become a filmmaking tool that easily crosses the boundaries between filmmaking styles and uses. The Z-Finder is a piece of kit recommended in DSLR filmmaking courses and classes the world over.
We all know that shooting on a DSLR camera has its drawbacks, as well as its positives. If you’ve been in this industry for any length of time, you know that the positives and negatives of shooting DSLR vs. camcorder have been debated and dissected ad nauseum by now.
One of the big drawbacks with shooting on a DSLR is the tiny LCD screen on the back on the camera. Even on Canon’s flagship offering, the premium 5D Mark iii, the LCD is small and cumbersome when it comes to correct focus and exposure. As Zacuto point out:
When shooting video on a DSLR camera, you must use the LCD screen and you must use manual focus. The combination of a very small screen, manual focus, and razor thin shallow depth-of-field makes it very challenging to focus. When shooting in both outdoor and indoor settings, the sunlight and glares make it nearly impossible to see the LCD screen.
Another big problem with DSLR cameras is the pure ergonomics. To get attractive shots, you often need to be moving with the camera, but viewing the LCD whilst holding it out in front of you greatly compromises stability. Also from Zacuto:
Holding the camera out in front of you so that you can focus on the screen makes the camera unstable and shaky. With any camera, you want to bring it close to the body for stability.
DSLR filmmaking pioneer Philip Bloom has long been a fan of the Z-Finder. Here’s a video of him talking about the Z-Finder:
The Zacuto Z-Finder Pro is the next generation in DSLR Optical Viewfinder. Solving all of those aforementioned issues, the Z-Finder Pro is a must-have piece of equipment for any serious DSLR filmmaker.
Admittedly, I struggled a little (only for a while) with getting everything setup right. But, also admittedly, I’m a bit of a ‘I don’t need no instructions booklet’ kinda guy. Once I got over this, and actually followed the instruction manual, things were pretty straight-forward to setup.
Zacuto makes a range of various attachments and mounting frames, so that whatever DSLR camera you have, there’s a solution for you.
Whether you’re working on a narrative film project, or shooting event video, the Z-Finder will be perfect for getting focus, improving stability, and creating awesome shots.
The first thing I noticed about The Enforcer, aside from the strong name, is that this thing is rock-solid. The interesting thing here is that The Enforcer is both rock-solid, but also flexible in places, allowing for lots of choice when it comes to positioning and angles for comfortable use.
The Enforcer is a great stabilization piece for those who shoot long days of event filmmaking. If you know you’re going to be walking around with your DSLR for long periods, this could be a great gear addition for you.
For a long time, I’ve used various monopods and shoulder rigs for event filmmaking. Monopods, especially, are brilliant for wedding videography, where you often have limited room for getting the shots you need. But there are times when you need something with a little more flow and natural range of movement than a monopod. This is where The Enforcer thrives!
The Enforcer offers sturdy stabilization by given you two solid points of contact, and more if used with other attachments. It tucks firmly into your chest and I was immediately struck by how natural the whole rig felt.
I was able to move freely and get shots from a range of angles and heights. If I wanted to get the same shots with a monopod, I’d be needing to constantly adjust its height. Like the name suggests, you really feel like you have a personal enforcer along for the ride with you on any project. He’s got your back ― or, should I say, chest!
The Enforcer makes for a superior piece of stabilization kit, that also doesn’t compromise creativity.
I’m sold on Zacuto gear, and especially the combination of the Z-Finder and The Enforcer together. Using them together helps even more with stability, as the use of the Z-Finder on the camera adds a further point of contact to the Enforcer rig itself.
As we know, good stabilization depends on having lots of points of contact with your body. The ergonomics are already great with the Enforcer rig, but adding the Z-Finder allows you to have that extra point of contact on your face. This helps even more with stabilization.
After using the Z-Finder for a while, it’s kinda hard to go back to regular non-EVF shooting. The Z-Finder makes hitting focus that much easier. And on a sunny day, the Z-Finder helps to block out the sun, which can be a really limiting factor. This is particularly helpful on event filmmaking shoots like weddings, where you only have one opportunity to nail a shot. If the sun dazzles your DSLR’s LCD viewfinder at the wrong moment, you could lose a critical shot and compromise your film.
All in all, I’m very happy with the results of both the Zacuto Z-Finder and The Enforcer rig. For focus and exposure assistance and stability options, these pieces of equipment are must-haves, especially for event videographers.