I needed an external viewfinder for my F3 rig. I could have got either a Zacuto or Cineroid HDMI viewfinder, but I felt that HDSDI would be more useful. As the HDSDI Zacuto is not available just yet, I picked up one of the new metal bodied Cineroid HDSDI EVF’s (EVF-4MSS).
The viewfinder has the same 800 x 480 pixel 3.2″ screen as the HDMI version but in a robust metal body. There are threaded 1/4″ mounting holes on the top and bottom of the viewfinder. It is supplied with a generic battery compatible with Sony’s L series batteries and a tiny little charger.
So what’s it like. Well for a start it’s very solidly made. The body and the slide on part of the eyepiece is made from metal (some kind of hard anodised aluminium I think). The diopter adjuster is made out of plastic. On the rear of the body mine was fitted with an adapter for a Sony L series battery which has a short flying lead going to a high quality lemo connector for power. The battery adapter can be removed by unscrewing two small screws if you intend to power the finder from an external supply. The supply can be anywhere from 6 to 17 volts. There is also a pair of BNC’s for the loop through HDSDI in and out connections.
The eyepiece on the EVF flips up like most pro viewfinders, this allows you to see the screen directly, as an alternative you can slide the entire eyepiece assembly off completely, which turns the EVF into a tiny monitor. I have a slight issue with the slide off function as there is some light leakage along the top edge of the screen as a result. On a bright sunny day this is distracting as you can see it inside the finder. It’s easily solved with a small strip of electrical tape over the tiny gap, but you shouldn’t really need to do this. All Cineroid need to do is add a small lip to the top of the slide off assembly to fix this.
On powering up and using the finder for the first time I was pleasantly pleased. The screen is bright and clear and there is only the smallest amount of lag. When I showed the EVF to some of the visitors to the Sony booth at IBC there were many comments that this version has less lag than the HDMI version. My guess is that the HDMI processing in the camera plus the HDMI processing in the EVF adds up to a fair bit of a delay. This would appear to be much reduced with the HDSDI version.
Some people have complained that they can see the pixel structure of the screen in both the Cineroid and Zacuto EVF’s. I could just about make out the pixels, the screen appearing to have a slight texture, but in operation this has not caused me any issues. This EVF is a vast improvement over the EVF fitted to the back of the F3. Using either the Cineroid’s Peaking or 1:1 pixel mapping I can focus very accurately. Higher resolution would be nicer, but it is adequate as is. You have to consider that even the Sony HDVF20A that costs £3,000 only has around 600 lines of resolution. As well as peaking there are a number of other useful tools including the usual zebras. Some of the more unusual functions include a coloured clipping indicator and various false colour modes. I have to say that I have not been through all the different modes and functions yet. I’ve just been using it with peaking and zebras. You can have a full range of safe area overlays and there is the ability to work with anamorphic camera outputs, flip or mirror the picture. The peaking is adjustable and can be either white or red, I prefer red. A couple of different colours would be nice for when your shooting scenes that already have a lot of red in them. When you have it enabled (single button press) the up and down arrow buttons on the side of the EVF will adjust the peaking sensitivity up and down, so no need to go into the menu system.
Overall I am pleased with my Cineroid viewfinder. It does the job that I purchased it for and the price was quite reasonable (£799 + VAT). It’s compact and well constructed and looks like it will survive the inevitable knocks and bumps of everyday use.
PS. I was reminded by respected DoP Jody Eldred that the LCD panel in these (and many other) viewfinders is easily damaged if the sun starts shining into the eyepiece. The eyepiece acts as a magnifier and will focus the sun onto the LCD and burn it. The large size of the loupe on the Cineroid means that it doesn’t even need to be pointed directly at the sun for this to happen. So, when not in use, point the eyepiece down towards the ground, if your mount won’t allow you to do that easily, flip open the eyepiece. This is good practice with all monocular viewfinders. I’ve seen many scorched LCD’s and melted plastic interiors over the years.