Extension View Finders For HD/Video


I have a question that I don't know if there is a real answer for, but I'll try.

Why are "extended" viewfinders on HDTV cameras necessary? (Or on video cameras for that matter).

I'm not questioning the need for viewing the image at the back of the camera, I'm questioning the need for a long optical extension tube for a display device that can be mounted anywhere, with an extension cable and a mounting bracket. In fact that would be more flexible, because then the vf could also be rotated right or left.

Why does it replicate MP Camera design, when there is no need for that tube, a function a simple multicable could perform? It just seems like we're doing bolt ons to a news camera to make it look filmic.

I'm wondering if I'm missing something here??

For studio operation is anyone using higher res 3 to 5" monochrome CRTs for monitoring? I wonder if that would be more useful for on camera judging of focus.

Steven Bradford
DP and Cinematography Instructor

It allows video people to make believe they are filmmakers and doesn't embarrass filmmakers when they cringe behind a video camera. :)

Walter Graff

I think you are discovering that the extended VF eyepiece is indeed largely an accommodation to familiarity. It has some benefits in that the practice of anchoring the eyepiece to a given altitude for the operator (just like film cameras) does make things a bit easier.

And, yes, you can do many other things that are perhaps unconventional at first, but equally valid. I sometimes use a "baseball hat" rig with a dropdown VF built into the bill. It's a custom gag that i fabricated for exteriors because the Sun drives it through the rear diffusion pane. Of course it also makes my life easier because I don't particularly care where the camera is pointing anymore.

Similarly, my little Sony still cam has a neat-o keen-o swivel VF on the back. Makes the body a bit bigger, but I can't guess at the number of times I've popped the camera way up over everyone else's head with the VF angled straight down to easily grab a great, properly framed shot - or when I put the camera at pet's eye level without tossing my back out to grab something interesting underfoot.
Same with all those Mini-DV cams with their swing out VF's.

If consumer product can get it right - what are we waiting for?

When I'm doing running shots with another operator I either fly a 6 foot coil cord to a little Radio Shack color monitor, and I run alongside. I also can tune into one of those little UHF cigarette pack sized transmitters.

Poke around in Radio Shack, and let your imagination wander. Take advantage of the fact that video is just that - video.

How do you bolster your career -

Trying to dress up a video camera to look like a film camera?
Taking advantage of new monitoring tools enabled by video?

In my earlier post I did mention that I also like having a good monochrome monitor around as well.

I think we are in agreement.


The main reason for an extended viewfinder (at least, with film cameras) is in order to operate a camera on a geared head, where the operator stands more directly behind the camera, not close along the side. There are also occasional shooting situations where it can be easier to look through an extended eyepiece due to the position of the camera (for example, I just had a shot where a 35mm Panaflex was sitting on a hi-hat on the front seat of a car and I was behind the seat looking through the long eyepiece, rather than sitting on the front seat looking through the short eyepiece. The other advantage to an optical extension viewfinder in film is that it often comes with a magnifier for critical focusing. And certain types of extreme pans or tilts can be easier to operate with a long eyepiece, although they can be done with a short eyepiece as well.

However, I must admit in the four 24P HD features I have shot, I have found no reason to use an extended viewfinder -- or, at least, I didn't regret not having one. In difficult camera positions, one can operate by looking at a separate monitor if necessary.

Using a 6" onboard color HD flatscreen monitor has some occasional uses too, but often more for the focus-puller than the operator. Sure, it's comforting to see the image in color, but then I miss seeing the zebra information while I'm shooting. And I don't think they are necessarily better for judging focus than the 1" b&w HD monitor in the viewfinder.

As for the reasons to operate on a geared head versus a fluid head, that's another discussion entirely.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.

This is something I've been meaning to try for a while but haven't gotten around to - I want to build a cable that will plug into the viewfinder output of the camera, and take that signal (complete with zebra) to an external monitor.

I was thinking of this mainly for Steadicam use with regular video cameras - I've occasionally operated Steadicam for television productions where, because it's wireless, I'm the only one who can adjust the iris...
(No camera assistants for TV mobiles!) And zebras sure would be helpful in that situation.

George Hupka
Director/DP, Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada

Sorry guys, there is a very practical reason for the extended V/F.

As I tilt the camera up or down the V/F stays in place, no gymnastics required to see the image.

This does not happen when the V/F is just moved from the front to the back of the camera.

There are other very good reasons for moving the V/F from the front to all kinds of other positions although at Cannes this week Storaro dismissed that idea with "I've never needed the V/F anywhere else". But what does he know :-)


Geoff Boyle FBKS

Director of Photography
EU based

I don't think this is necessarily incompatible with what the others have said.

The way I see it, there's no need for an *optical* extension on an *electronic* viewfinder. By all means, keep the concept of the extended VF, but why not try to improve it? Since there's no optics involved, it should be relatively simple to make an extended VF mechanism that can be adjusted in length, as well as height.... that can support either a "traditional" eyepiece or, say, a 6" flat panel.... Imagine how easy it would be to switch from right-eye to left-eye operation with this kind of system.

If it was designed in a modular way, you could remove the viewfinder completely and use it with a cable for unusual angles or in cramped locations. (Of course, this might not be a big selling point for Mr. Storaro!)

George Hupka
Director/DP, Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada

Zebras are available on the test output on the 790 and may be included in future upgrades to the 900 if Sony have been listening.

Top Teks in the UK built a box for me that enabled the use the 2 inch viewfinder on a (non Sony) high speed digital slomo camera. It worked well.

The connectors were readily available and the viewfinder wasn't temperamental apart from displaying the 4x3 input in 16x9.

Not sure what distance you could extend the viewfinder or if you could just take the video output from the connector.

Mike Brennan

Sony has an on-board LCD that plugs directly into the viewfinder port and gives you all the viewfinder info. It's as good as any other LCD display - only much more expensive.

Carlos Acosta


© copyright CML all rights reserved