The importance of an electronic viewfinder (EVF) can’t be overstated. Yes, monitors are great, but there are situations—like overly lit environments—when glare disrupts the image, and shooting scenarios when the placement of the camera dictates the use of an EVF.
There’s an intimacy inherent in assembling a shot using an eyepiece. Closing one eye and casting out all distraction to frame an image has always been the point of the viewfinder. Bringing the eyepiece into the digital age hasn’t changed that.
When you make an optical viewfinder digital, there’s room for error. Stick your eye into a quality optical viewfinder on a professional film camera and you see clarity, sharpness, gradation between light and dark, and color accuracy. Stick your eye into an electronic viewfinder and your experience may be something altogether different.
Many cameras ship with terrible quality built-in EVFs; a result of manufacturers choosing to spend more money on the monitor, assuming it will be the camera operator’s preferred tool.
The trouble with setting exposure, focus and white balance using an inaccurate tool becomes most apparent when viewing the image in post. For a person like myself who both shoots and edits, I’ve learned the majority of my lessons in the editing suite. Inaccurate monitors and EVFs lead to inaccurate choices that could end up ruining the shot. Why be surprised in post when the right tool could help you get the image you thought you were capturing in the first place?
The Z-Finder EVF Pro
So what makes a good EVF versus a great EVF? Dynamic range, resolution and accuracy.
When Zacuto came out with the Z-Finder EVF Pro they showed camera operators that electronic viewfinders could be accurate. The EVF Pro provided accurate color rendering, excellent built in features like false color, long battery life, camera profiles and assignable menu buttons; making switching between features a snap. There’s not a lot to fault about the Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro, besides the inability to accept a camera signal higher than 1080p at 30fps, lower resolution than some other present day EVFs on the market, and it missing some pro firmware features, like scopes.
So if the Zacuto EVF Pro was such a great EVF to begin with, why upgrade to the Gratical EVF?
Gratical EVF Advantages
With the Gratical HD, Zacuto took everything that was great about the EVF PRO and everything requiring improvement and created a product that simply excels.
HDMI & SDI with cross conversion and the ability to send a different LUT out to an additional monitor? The Gratical HD EVF has that. The ability to import, export and create LUTs and custom camera presets? This bad boy has that. A plethora of scopes, frame guides, customized peaking and zebra patterns? Yep, it has that. An ARRI rosette so you don’t have to fiddle with an ever-loosening ¼ 20 screw? It has that. There’s basically nothing the Zacuto Gratical HD doesn’t have—it’s so feature rich—but the main thing that sets it apart from its competitors is its OLED display.
LCD vs. OLED
Most EVFs on the market feature an LCD display. If you’ve ever considered buying a new TV or smartphone you’ve likely seen the obvious difference between LCD and OLED screens. With an OLED screen, organic light-emitting diode displays are made up of individual pixels that don’t emit light when they are turned off. This results in an exceptionally high contrast ratio, not replicable in LCD screens that dim the screen to achieve black levels. Deeper black levels and the ability to clearly see the brightest spot in an image is more obvious when shooting in dark situations—like a city setting at night—where the Gratical EVF is a dream to shoot with. There are no milky blacks in the Zacuto Gratical EVF image, making the reproduction of contrast more true to life.
The Gratical EVF 0.61” 5.4 million pixel screen produces accurate, punchy colour. The higher 1280×1024 resolution display is sharp and detailed. The 4x3 screen size allows you to see all your camera information and scopes above or below the image, so you can frame and compose the shot without distracting text overlays. I used the Gratical HD with four different cameras and it reproduced accurate colour with each.
The Gratical EVF became particularly handy on a video shoot I did for a new fitness series I’m developing with competitive body builder and personal trainer Ryan “Storm” Williams from Storm Fit Nation.
Shooting dynamic subject matter in tight quarters made the small footprint of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and Zacuto Gratical HD EVF a perfect fit. The Zacuto top handle made moving my rig around effortless. What was great about using this particular combo was the ability to use the EVF’s built in BMCC LUT. I shot the footage using the film profile built into the camera, so seeing a saturated image with contrast, instead of the flat image from the camera, assisted me with properly setting exposure. The glare from the fluorescent lights above the glinting workout equipment would have made using a monitor a nightmare, so I was really grateful for the eyepiece.
All in all, the Zacuto Gratical EVF has been a treat to use. If you’re considering either upgrading your current EVF or thinking about buying your first one, don’t overlook this important little tool.