Zacuto Z-Finder And Rode Mic Installation On A Canon 7D

by Harlan Yee on January 26th, 2011

If you find it difficult to shoot video with a DSLR (aka HDSLR) straight out of the box, then I’ve got some accessories that will help out alot. DSLR camera bodies were designed for photo shooting so the ergonomics are far from ideal for video production. My experience with the Canon EOS 7D has been a challenge at times but I’m still learning new techniques with the camera.

I know many of you are considering switching to a DSLR, but if you’ve only shot with video cameras in the past, here are some of the things to consider before using a DSLR for video production:

  • There is no continuous auto-focus like on a video camera
  • Built-in microphone is mono and low quality
  • Camera is awkward and hard to hold steady even for short periods of time
  • Difficult to focus and see using the back panel LCD screen


Solutions For HDSLR Cameras

But leave it to video professionals who have experienced these issues and invent products that can solve the problems listed above. These products really work well together and will turn your DSLR into a functional video camera. There are lots of products on the market for HDSLR cameras but I believe the following are the basics, everything else is you’ll read or hear about is icing on the cake.

  1. Zacuto Z-Finder Pro
  2. Rode NTG-2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone
  3. Juiced Linked CX431 Microphone Pre-amp


I was surfing around the other day and I actually found some good deals with free shipping from Amazon for the Zacuto Z-Finder and the Rode NTG-2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone so you can save a little money on those.

Canon 7D with Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3x

But if I could only choose one of those items to add to my Canon 7D, it would most definitely be the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro. It not only helps you see what you’re shooting easier, it also helps stabilize your camera if you’re shooting handheld. Using the Z-Finder and holding the camera against your eye, your head becomes a 2nd point of stability.

Canon 7D with Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3x

The Zacuto Z-Finder also allows you to be able to see the image on the LCD viewfinder in bright sunlight. Even with overcast skies, I can barely see what’s on the LCD screen when shooting outdoors without the Z-Finder. Just an FYI for those of you who have never used a Canon 7D, the LCD screen on the back is the only way to see what the camera sees when you’re in video mode. The optical viewfinder doesn’t work. This is the case with the Canon 5D Mark IICanon Rebel T2i and Canon EOS 60D also. I haven’t done any work with Nikon HDSLRs so I can’t comment on those cameras.

Canon 7D with Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3x and Rode VideoMic

Here’s a short video to show you how I transformed a stock Canon EOS 7D into a high performance video camera using the products mentioned above. They’re really easy to attach. The only thing that will take more time and lead to a bit of frustration will be the Juiced Link microphone pre-amp. There’s quite a set-up procedure on that box depending on the camera you’re using it with.

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  1. CanonGirl permalink

    Keep in mind when buying some Zacuto view finder that were the first generation. It did not come with a cap, and if you are shooting in the Sunshine, it will scat like a microscope and quickly burn a white dot on your LCD screen. It happened twice to us. The first time, Canon did fix it (or it may have been Zacuto) and the second time we needed the camera to let go of it for 3 weeks to fix it. Hoping to go ahead and send it off during the slow season to repair and also get the cap for my original Zacuto so I don’t have to worry about it any long. Until then, when in doubt, put that cap on the glass as always with ALL glass that come with our cameras.

    Great Video!

  2. Harlan Yee permalink

    Thanks for the tip CanonGirl! I think I’ve heard warnings on keeping the cap on the Z-Finder or any other lens for that matter when in the sunlight. Did you happen to see what happened to my Canon 7D? I got a bent pin in the compact flash slot so the camera was unusable after that. I wrote about it a few posts back if you’re interested.

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