Zacuto Smart Z-Finder Explained – A Conversation About Smartphone Filmmaking

December 23rd, 2022 Jump to Comment Section 1

We recently sat down for a friendly chat with Steve Weiss from Zacuto to learn more about their latest smartphone accessory, the Smart Z-Finder. The interview was the perfect opportunity to further discuss the increasing popularity of smartphone filmmaking and its future developments.

Towards the beginning of the DSLR revolution, Zacuto’s mechanical viewfinder, the original Z-Finder, was greeted with suspicion from many well-established professionals in the industry. However, it soon became one of the most popular add-ons for DSLR shooters, thus proving many people wrong.

More recently, the company came up with a smartphone-oriented version of their legendary viewfinder, called Smart Z-Finder. First launched via Kickstarter, this mobile accessory will soon hit the shelves of dealers. Now Nino took the chance to ask Steve from Zacuto a few questions about this new product and, more generally, asked about his take on where smartphone filmmaking is going. Let’s take a closer look and see what he has to say!

Fully rigged iPhone with Zacuto Smart Z-Finder. Source: Zacuto

Is this the dawn of a new era?

While smartphone manufacturers are pushing innovation in every possible direction to overcome the limits of physics (if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out this article on research about miniature lenses), entry-level mirrorless camera models are almost lagging behind.

Zacuto Smart Z-Finder. Source: Zacuto

Year by year, Apple packs their iPhone with higher-resolution sensors, faster lenses, better codecs, enhanced image stabilization, and film-like creative effects, such as their Cinematic Mode. But they’re not alone in this never-ending race.

Leica Leitz Phone 2. Source: Leica

This year alone, we have assisted to incredible leaps in mobile imaging technology. For example, Leica packed a 1-inch image sensor in their newly-announced Leitz Phone 2, and so did tech giant Xiaomi with their 12S Ultra Concept, which also showcases an exposed sensor with an interchangeable lens mount.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept. Source: Xiaomi

Additionally, dedicated mobile filmmaking apps, such as FilmicPro, are constantly being updated as more and more professional tools are being added. And, needless to say, photo and video quality on smartphones already greatly benefit from state-of-the-art image processing algorithms, and this trend is only destined to grow.

Zacuto Smart Z-Finder. Source: Zacuto

According to Steve, the age we’re living in is easily comparable to the changes brought by the DSLR revolution over 10 years ago. As he points out, for those applications in which image quality is not a top priority, such as news gathering, smartphones can even be better “tools for the job” compared to traditional cameras. Indeed, they’re lighter and more intuitive to use, while still offering all the minimum required tools to shoot, edit, stream, and instantly upload videos on the fly.

Zacuto Smart Z-Finder: a smartphone viewfinder

However, the times are not ripe yet to show up on set with a naked phone. Indeed, Steve claims that if you want to look professional, then you need to rig your smartphone with the right accessories to enhance your shooting experience. And here’s where the Zacuto Smart Z-Finder comes in.

Zacuto Smart Z-Finder. Source: Zacuto

Essentially, like any other camera, a smartphone requires a viewfinder to properly see the image, but also mounting points for essential accessories, such as a microphone or on-camera light, as well as a solid handle that provides a firm grip. Zacuto’s Smart Z-Finder offers all this and more. You can find all details in our dedicated article here.

The accessory magnetically attaches to the smartphone. Source: Zacuto

Smartphone Filmmaking Course coming to MZed

If you backed up Zacuto’s Kickstarter campaign, then you already gained free access to Rob Kaczmark’s (founder of 1 Minute Film School) Smartphone Filmmaking Course, which will soon be released on our filmmaking education platform MZed.

If you missed this opportunity, then don’t worry! Indeed, Rob’s secret tricks and tips for creating content on a mobile phone will also be available to all MZed Pro members. You can find a full breakdown of the course’s content in this article.

Price and availability

Now that the Kickstarter campaign is over, the Zacuto Smart Z-Finder is finally available to pre-order from authorized dealers worldwide, including B&H and CVP. The company offers three different bundles with the following official retail prices:

  • Smart Z-Finder (B&H / CVP) – $395
  • Director’s Bundle (B&H / CVP) — $575
  • Cinematographer’s Bundle (B&H / CVP) – $695

According to Scott, the accessory should hit the shelves around late February/early March 2023.

For more information, please visit Zacuto’s website here.

Do you often use your phone to create professional content? What do you think about the Zacuto Smart Z-Finder? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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