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Z-Finder Jr. – First Impressions

Z-Finder Jr. – First Impressions

ZfinderJr-1

I received my first Canon 7D film-making accessory today, the Zacuto Z-Finder Jr. I knew I needed a viewfinder but I found the original Z-Finder to be quite expensive, and I hated the idea of gluing something to my camera.  The LCDVF looked nice, for a good price, but again, I didn’t want to glue a frame to my camera (not to mention they were sold out everywhere I looked.)  The Hoodman with a Redrock loupe bracket seemed viable, but it didn’t have magnification.

EDIT: A few days after I pre-ordered the Jr., Hoodman released the HoodLoupe Mag 3.0 adding magnification to the standard Hoodman loupe.  If the Jr. is still too expensive for you,  a hoodman, the mag, and a Redrock plate can save you about $100 or so.

Then Zacuto announced the Z-finder Jr.  A lower cost viewfinder with their lifetime warranty, and Redrock-like baseplate.  Cool, no gluing!  So I pre-ordered one directly from Zacuto the day after they were announced, and it arrived today.  2 days after I could have been using it at the WalkMS event in Pasadena, but that’s life.

Please note, I purchased the Z-Finder Jr. with my own cash and I receive no compensation nor did I get a deal for writing this review.

My Impressions

The Jr. is built very well, living up to Zacuto’s name for quality.  It comes with the stainless steel mounting frame, two Extender Frames used in lieu of diopter adjustment, Z-finder mounting frame (for those who still prefer the glued on frame method), a lens cap for the magnifier, and a lanyard.

The stainless mounting frame has a  a Zacuto “Z” cut into it, and a rubber surface where it mounts to the camera, as well as on the prongs that hold the Jr. in position.

Z Finder Jr baseplate rubberZfinderJr-6

As you can see in the above picture however, the bracket will be completely captured once you screw in your tripod or other mounting plate.  While this keeps the bracket on, it also means you have to completely remove the tripod base-plate to remove the Z-finder.  This could be a deal breaker for those who need to be able to quickly put the Z-Finder on and off in order to switch to stills mode.  For this I would recommend either using the glued on Z-frame or spending the extra on the Pro model with the new mounting baseplate.

Mounting the Jr. was a bit of an adventure.  The product does not include any instructions whatsoever.

EDIT: see the comment from Mandy at Zacuto below,  they do come with instructions, but the first batch shipped without them.   You can view the instructions by clicking here.

You have to place the Jr. on the LCD, then slide on the bracket, and then attach the baseplate, while adjusting the Jr. to stay in the correct position, and adjusting the bracket for a tight fit.  I found that on my 7D I needed to add one of the extender frames to make the Jr. snug with the camera.  Without any frames it was quite loose, even when pushing the bracket to it’s furthest position.    Adding the frame did the trick.

The bracket appears to have been designed with a Manfrotto 501PL plate in mind.  You can see in the picture below it fits perfectly up to where the “Z” in the plate bows down and back up to the prongs.

ZfinderJr-4
ZfinderJr-3

Even with 1 extender attached, the prongs have enough play to allow small adjustments to the Jr. after mounting.  I also found it can slide left or right a bit off the screen in use, and of course the Jr. doesn’t have the anti-fog coating and I’ve already begun to see issues with that.  Zacuto sells a fog eliminator which will probably be smart to have on hand.

Looking into the viewfinder, I have to say the 2.5x magnification is just about perfect.  On pure white like the focusing rectangle I could begin to see the edges of the pixels on the screen, but I was able to see edge to edge of the screen clearly with a nice large display that makes focusing easy.  Having that extra point of contact also helps with stabilization.  I found myself wishing I had it over the weekend, again… ah well.

When not in use the Jr. also comes with a lens cap to protect the magnification lens, with the ever present Zacuto “Z”.  (Not counting the lanyard there are 5 “Z’s” on the product!)

ZfinderJr-2

The lens cap includes a rubber band to help prevent you from losing it, but the band is so tight  that it deforms the rubber eye-cup when in use.  Not the end of the world, but could cause wear over time.

So far I’m happy with the Jr.  I wish there were a better way to quickly attach and detach without gluing it or spending another $120 on a gorilla plate and frame, but those are the compromises you choose when you buy a product with a Jr. moniker.

PROS:

  • Nice Build
  • Perfect magnification
  • Easy to focus
  • No gluing

 

CONS:

  • No quick-mount / detach
  • Doesn’t stay in place as well as glue mount or gorilla mount
  • no anti-fog coating

***UPDATE 10/20/10

After a few months of use and much consternation, I’ve abandoned the stainless bracket and glued the frame to my 7D.  The bracket is just too inconvenient, and simply not snug enough.  The glue on frame fits well and allows quick attachment and detachment without having to line up the Z-finder for every use.  So if you do pick up the Z-Finder Jr. (amidst a lot of newer, cheaper, alternatives) I no longer recommend using the bracket for anything more than a back scratcher.

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There are 10 comments on this post
  1. Mandy
    April 21, 2010, 8:47 am

    Nice review. One thing I would like to clarify as it does ship with instructions, the first batch missed out on instructions but I can email you the instructions. Sorry for the mix up!

    • April 21, 2010, 8:53 am

      Thanks Mandy. Sure please e-mail them to me, I’d be curious to see them. It’s pretty straight forward but maybe you have some tricks that would be helpful.

  2. Jack
    April 30, 2010, 1:19 pm

    Did you ever get the instructions?

    • April 30, 2010, 1:26 pm

      Yes they did. I’ve updated my post with a link to the instructions as well.

  3. Krista
    March 06, 2011, 5:56 pm

    Just wondering – did you ever try getting the gorilla plate and frame? I hate the braket but am still hesitant to put on the sticky frame on my camera. Also, there is a fog lens kit that works with the z-finder pro. Would that fit the jr too?

    • March 07, 2011, 10:55 am

      Krista, the bracket is terrible. I bit the bullet and put on the sticky frame. It works very well, and is so much more convenient than the bracket.

      I have not tried the gorilla plate and frame, mainly because adding the gorilla plate adds extra height and compatibility issues with my quick release plates and rod system. I’m currently using the Express35 adjustable rails system, and while they do allow height adjustment, I’ve found that I hit the end of my adjustability once I add the Manfrotto quick release. If you do use the Gorilla plate, then you may find that when you want to add a follow focus or other gear that you’ll need the height adjustable but expensive Zacuto baseplate or the JAG 35 gorilla stand, or a height adjustable follow focus and matte box to make everything play well together.

      I haven’t tried the anti-fog lenses yet but was considering trying them. Zacuto’s website says they are for the Pro and V2 Z-finders. I imagine they should work, but I would contact Zacuto to find out for sure. If I do try them, I will let you know.

  4. Ted
    April 22, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I find this an awful, awful awful piece of engineering for a very high price. The sticky frame unstuck the first time I tried to pull off the finer, even after the 24 hours of “curing” with the book on top, per instructions. The bracket is to thick that my Libec tripod-plate screw just barely engages, so I worry about stripping the thread on the camera. And even if I want to leave the bracket on, the tripod plate has to be removed to open the battery door. So every time I need to change or charge the battery I’ll be risking damaging the threads.
    The “frames” they use in place of diopter barely budge when you try to change them. So if I set it for my eyes, my assistant can’t easily change when he needs to use this camera.
    Junk, junk, junk. A $265 piece of plastic with a poorly executed system to connect it with the camera.
    I am cursing the name Zacuto right now. And Phillip Bloom for shilling this garbage.

    • April 22, 2011, 11:49 pm

      Ted, sorry you had such a bad experience with it. My experience with the sticky frame hasn’t been bad. I put it on and it’s staid on with no issue for the better part of a year. I haven’t had to use the extenders either. Unlike when I wrote this first impression review a year ago, there are a bunch of other viewfinder options out there now, so hopefully you’ll find something that better suits your needs, for a reasonable price.

  5. Jeff
    October 03, 2012, 11:17 pm

    So will the Z-Finder Mounting Frame and Gorilla Plate work with the JR model?

    • October 04, 2012, 9:58 am

      Yes it does work with the sticky frame, which is how I use it now. It should work with the Gorilla Plate, but I do not have a Gorilla Plate to test.

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