Friday, April 8, 2011

Canon EOS Rebel T3i and Zacuto Z-Finder Pro Video Test

Spring has sprung with the 10th annual Spring Jubilee at my children's school over the past weekend. Food, fun and festivities became all the talk of my son and daughter preceding this kickoff to the spring season. My kids anticipated "free rides" day while I looked forward to another Canon EOS Rebel T3i video test with my newly acquired Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x optical viewfinder from my friends at North Tampa Photography.

I had my first brush with the Zacuto Z-Finder during last year's Philip Bloom Florida Meetup. Surrounded by aspiring filmmakers with the latest HD DSLR gadgets became a fruitful and egg timer raising experience for me as well as for my friend at Getawaymoments. I was immediately impressed by the outstanding quality and build of the viewfinder until I found out how much they cost. A little sticker shocked, I moved on to more pressing issues like the dinner menu at The Hurricane Restaurant.

Almost a year later since my last encounter with the Zacuto Z-Finder, I took the plunge and acquired the latest version of the Zacuto Z-Finder with 2.5x magnification which includes the Anti-fog eyepiece, Gorilla plate with metal mounting frame and those Extender frames for farsighted eyeballs. The whole kit was very complete and included everything to get shooting HD DSLR video right out of the box. Little extras like a viewfinder lanyard and even a hex wrench are included.

Now to the Zacuto nitty gritty. The Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x does the job of achieving critical focus with fast lenses in low light conditions. Another caveat is the ability to focus in bright sunlight and maintain exposure with a Fader ND Mark II filter by Fader. All these critical elements converged in my latest Canon EOS Rebel T3i Video Test of Spring Jubilee using the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x optical viewfinder.

My skeptical bubble burst with ample use of this valuable cinematic tool. Speaking of tools, I paired the Canon Rebel T3i/600D with an EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens with a Fader ND Mark II filter by Fader to reduce the incoming light. For audio capture, I used a Sennheiser MKE400 shotgun microphone. This whole rig was mounted on a Manfrotto 701 HDV fluid head on Benro 3580 tripod legs. I edited this 1080p video test at 29.97fps with iMovie'11 and used Quicktime at best quality to compress a 800mb h264 video file.

To view more Canon EOS Rebel T3i videos like above and more ISO and quality comparisons, you can view my Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600d Gallery.

You can view more shattering images in my Spring Jubilee 2011 Gallery. Shot exclusively with a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV.

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  1. Hi Chad,

    I have a question for you if you don't mind. Is Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L Mark II USM good for portraits? We're having a birthday party pretty soon and I want to use this lens for the party. Is this lens good for portraits? Thank you very much for your time! God Bless!

  2. Yes, the version II of the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L with the 82mm filter thread is excellent for portraits, but only at 35mm focal length and on a 1.6x crop camera. I personally have the version I of that lens and the edges are horribly distorted and has to be corrected in post. Of course, on a crop camera the distorted edges are minimized but still there in my photographic eye. 35mm focal length on a crop camera is a 50mm equivalent and is almost ideal for wide open (f2.8) portraits. You should be fine capturing those birthday moments. Just remember keep the shutterspeed fast enough so you can freeze the action by maintaining a high enough ISO. You will probably have to keep a 1600 to 3200 ISO for low light indoor settings. Good Luck!

  3. I like the music for the spring jubilee video!

  4. Hi Chad,

    You said to use a 1600 to 3200 ISO for light indoor setting. What if I use a Speedlite 580 EX II, would you still recommend a high ISO? I only have a canon 60D and it doesn't handle high ISO's very well because of the grains it causes. What would you recommend kuya? Thanks for your time! Take care!

  5. John,
    I am not a big fan of external on camera flashes but a 580 EX II with a Stofen Omnibounce diffuser will make your shots better. I like my external lighting indirect on my subjects. It reduces that flash light/harsh shadows effect. If you point the flash up towards the ceiling of the room, set your camera to Av mode and crank up the ISO to 1600, your background will be properly exposed and the Stofen diffused 580ex will fill in the subject. You want to use external lighting in your pictures without it being obvious. The high ISO settings on a 60D is not that noisy if you remove the noise in RAW conversion.

  6. Chad, Thanks for the blog. It's been a great help. I've recently bought the EOS600D and I've been wondering about the compatibility with the flip screen, the Z-Finder pro and mounting on my 701HDV head. Obviously it works really well. You've convinced me to take the plunge and buy the Z-Finder Pro.
    Hopefully in time I'll be able to produce some videos as good as yours.
    Thanks again.

  7. @The Marshal,

    You are very welcome. I am glad I could help out in your video pursuits. You will not be disappointed with the Zacuto Z Finder.