Every year there’s one camera, lens or gadget that I come by which just makes my life as a photographer better. This year, there were plenty of great products to choose from, but in the end, nothing made the impression on me that the Zacuto Z-Finder did.
I realize this may be a controversial choice because the product is actually designed for use with DSLR’s that shoot video AND it’s expensive. But the truth is, you shouldn’t knock it until you try it. This little gadget is worth it’s weight in gold.
I originally reviewed the Z-Finder here – https://photofocus.com/2009/10/23/zacuto-z-finder-review/
You can read that review for the basics. But what caused this product to rise to Photo Product of the Year? Simple – I found myself using it every day. Now that’s a big deal. I have TWO different equipment rooms FULL of stuff. Very few pieces of gear get used daily around here, but the Z-Finder is one of them.
I’ve used the Z-Finder plenty with my Canon 7D when shooting video. And that’s not much of a surprise since that’s what most people would use it for. As far as I’m concerned, it’s literally indispensable if you shoot video or rely on Live View. It works so well that Canon should just work out a bundle deal with Zacuto and include a Z-Finder inside every 7D/5D MK II box.
Not only does it help stabilize the camera when you’re shooting video (that point of contact to the eye really makes a difference) it makes it possible to actually FOCUS. Have you tried manually focusing on an LCD screen? It isn’t easy, even for young people. If you’re over 40, and according to our research, a great many of you are, then you just NEED this to focus. The 3X magnification makes using the LCD to focus a breeze.
But it works for still cameras too.
Even though Zacuto pushes this as a filmmaker’s tool, in my opinion, it’s perfect for use with ANY still camera that has a 3-inch or smaller LCD screen and LiveView.
You can order additional Zacuto mounts for $6.00 each that you can apply to multiple cameras. Then you simply switch the Z-Finder from camera to camera, leaving the mounts in place. They remove easily if you need to take them off, but so far, I haven’t found any need to do that.
I’ve used the Z-Finder with the Nikon D3, the Canon 7D, the Canon G11, the Panasonic LX3 and the Olympus EP-1. In every single case, the Z-Finder has been invaluable at helping me focus easily, quickly and accurately. And even if you shoot autofocus, the Z-Finder acts as a loupe you can use to check your work in the field to make sure the autofocus worked as well as you hoped.
At just under $400, the Z-Finder is much more expensive than competition from products like the Hoodman. But I had a Hoodman and threw it away after looking through the Z-Finder. It’s THAT much better. And it looks like Zacuto doesn’t exactly have to worry about the price, since they sell out every batch they make. The Z-Finder is perpetually on back order.
My guess is that some will be skeptical about this choice. And I’d guarantee you all the skeptics are folks who haven’t tried a Z-Finder. It’s one of those products that you may not even know you need, until you try it. Once you do – you’ll be hooked. Every person I’ve shown it to in person has wanted one. Some have even cursed me for getting them addicted 🙂
Congrats to Zacuto for winning the 2009, Photofocus Photo Product of the Year award.