DigiFinder.pro Viewfinder for DSLRs – Review
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I was overwhelmed with response to my “Epic DSLR Viewfinder Review” and it seemed to be of great use for many who are still uncertain about the ever-growing selection of DSLR loupes available. As I said before, it’s certainly the most essential piece of gear you need to be able to use your DSLR for video shooting, especially handheld.
After the success of this initial review of all those viewfinders, I was contacted by several manufacturers of other viewfinders and asked why I didn’t test their product. The answer is simple: B&H Photo & Video supplied me with all the viewfinders they had for review. However of course, I want to make this guide as comprehensive as possible, that’s why I also asked these manufacturers to send me their products. Two of those are Letus with their new Hawk VF viewfinder and LCDVF with their new 3/2 version, specifically designed for the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D. I was promised review units by both manufacturers and expect to receive them shortly – I will immediately share my thoughts when I get my hands on them.
Another viewfinder I had never before heard of was the DigiFinder Pro (or DigiFinder.pro as it’s branded), a German product. It’s quite new on the market and several people asked me to review it. Thanks to Klaus Heinzmann from DigiFinder and Misa Garcia from Jag 35 I got a review unit and was able to use and test it in “real life conditions” on the shoot for a narrative short last week.
First, let’s look what’s inside the box. It comes with a lanyard, one sticky frame and very good and comprehensive instructions (something which I’ve been missing with many of the competitors’ products; they come in English and German).
The DigiFinder.pro itself can be telescopically collapsed and expanded, and there are versions for 2.7″, 3.0″ and for 3.0″ 3:2 screens (like needed with the T2i). The diopter adjustment is also made by pulling out the loupe part and locking it into place by turning the scope – a simple and effective solution, the distance to the LCD is simply changed and so no further glass parts are needed for diopter adjustment. The downside is that of course also the magnification factor changes when adjusting the diopter.
It attaches to the camera with a sticky frame, similar to what Zacuto used for its former Z-Finder (and what I still recommend over the baseplate simply due to efficiency – you can get a cheap sticky frame for the new Z-Finders as well). The sticky frame has little hooks that hold the DigiFinder in place, you can put it on and take it off by pushing the scope together a little, which works quite well.
Let me go through the ups and downs quickly:
• edge-to-edge sharpness
• different versions for different screen sizes
• diopter adjustment
• 2.75x magnification
• size: easy to transport as it’s very small when collapsed
• seems relatively rigid (keeping in mind its price and plasticky feel)
• well-written and easy-to-follow instructions
• eyepiece: it’s small and uncomfortable for longer shootings, and not comparable to the comfort and shielding (from light spill) of the Zacuto Z-Finder‘s or LCDVF’s eye pieces
• comes with only one sticky frame – you have to order replacement if it comes off or if you need one for an additional camera (it’s quite cheap though, but I think they could have included two like with the LCDVF)
• when you’re using it at its 0 diopter setting, the corners of the image cannot entirely be seen when looking through the viewfinder (at least with the 3.0″ 4:3 version that I tested)
• the diopter expands like a telescope and therefore the magnification factor changes when you adjust the diopter, which is a bit annoying for people who don’t have perfect vision (or contact lenses like me)
• no bag supplied
• of course no lifetime warranty like the Zacuto Z-Finder
I quite like the DigiFinder.pro for what it is, and at $60 / €50 nothing even comes close. But of course this comes with some downsides. I think the most important flaw is the fact that the eye piece doesn’t really shield you from the surroundings and that it is quite uncomfortable if you shoot longer than only a few minutes. They should have taken an example from Zacuto or especially the LCDVF, which has the most comfortable and efficient eye pouch I have ever used on any camera.
Anyway, it’s a solid viewfinder that does what it is supposed to do for casual hand-held shooting, and might be enough for many T2i/550D users who only casually shoot video and don’t want to spend more on the viewfinder. However, I also recommend them to take a look at the LCDVF 3/2, which was specifically designed for the T2i/550D and which I should receive for review shortly (like the Hawk VF as well).
Just got a reply from the manufacturer, here’s my translation (from German):
“Thanks for your great review! We have already recognized the problem with the missing eyepiece and are currently working on a tool that will contain an attachable eyepiece (similar to LCDVF). The tool will be ready in about 3 weeks.
The eyepiece will be really exceptionally good, as we will make it fit for right- and left-viewers. The turning will be done through a grid (?) and is therefore secured against accidental turning (similar to a volume knob on expensive hi-fi systems).
I will send you a sample immediately after we are done.”
The eyepiece will be available ONLY as an optional add-on and will be priced at EUR 19.90. The montage will be easy, while the original DigiFinder.pro will not be changed.”
They have shown me a mock-up 3D drawing of the eyepiece and it looks quite promising indeed.
UPDATE August 11, 2010:
Jared Abrams from Cinema5D.com has done a quick take on the DigiFinder.pro which gives you quite a good idea of what’s inside the box and how it is built:
UPDATE October 05, 2010:
An exclusive preview of the DigiViewer!
I was in contact with Mr. Wichmann from DigiFinder.de, who very kindly asked for my thoughts on their product during the last months to help them enhance it. Especially the upcoming eyepiece that will sell separately for €19.90 was the focus of our attention (it will be available in the US from Jag35.com, who also sell the DigiFinder.pro, for $25.90).
They really tried to get this right and so he sent me a pre-production unit of the eyepiece. It is very decent and attaches to the DigiFinder like a breeze – very easy to use and attach, and also very easy to take off if you want to put it into your pocket as two smaller pieces.
The size of the eyepiece is just right, it’s large enough to comfortably shield you from your surroundings when you’re monitoring the screen – that might seem self-explanatory, but in fact it’s a problem even several more expensive solutions suffer from. Upon my request, the final versions will also feature a softer rubber for the eyepiece, which to me is crucial to make a viewfinder usable for extended periods of time (that is, everything above 5 minutes). This is also something which some other manufacturers seem to have neglected, and the Zacuto Z-Finder is still king with regards to size and softness of the eyepiece.
For very little money, the DigiFinder.pro plus its separate eyepiece, the DigiViewer, are very good products for any DSLR filmmaker on a budget. For the full review, look above – for a close-up look at the final version of the DigiViewer eyepiece (which I should receive within the coming days), check back on my blog soon!
UPDATE October 17, 2010:
I received the final version of the DigiViewer eyepiece, and as I said in the previous update of this post (look above), the eye cup has been significantly enhanced from the prototype, using a softer rubber that will allow you to use if for much longer periods of time than without.
It’s really comfortable now, and while it is of course no match to much more expensive solutions like the Z-Finder Pro or a Letus Hawk VF, it is a very good piece of gear considering its low price tag. One of the major downsides of the DigiFinder.pro itself is the fact that the edges of the screen get cut off when looking through it in varying degrees, depending on how much you pull the diopter correction tube out. This of course is just a tiny little bit worse with the DigiViewer eye cup attached, but as this is a basic design flaw that is due to the unit’s small lens diameter, I wouldn’t worry too much about it – as I said, for the price, there really is no match.
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