Zacuto is developing a line of smartphone-based filmmaking accessories, which uses iPhones and smartphones of similar sizes to rig out for shooting a project. The company sees smartphones surpassing DSLRs and mirrorless cameras in image quality, much like the DSLR surpassed film in the early 2000s, and has been working toward developing tools to support this evolution in the process. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen.
The Zacuto Smart Z-Finder is the first of these tools, which will house a smartphone and magnify the screen image while simultaneously blocking out ambient light to make it easier to frame and focus a scene. It's kind of like a director's viewfinder, but it's also your smartphone.
A smartphone viewfinder you can rig out Credit: Zacuto
The Smart Z-Finder is designed for professional filmmakers, prosumers, and enthusiasts, including YouTubers, event shooters, journalists, vloggers, corporate videographers, and influencers looking to outfit their smartphone cameras for more professional shoots.
The Smart Z-Finder housing also makes the smartphone look more like a rigged camera, eliminating any perception issues clients may have with content creators using their phones as their main cinematic tool.
Shown with optional grip handle Credit: Zacuto
“Your smartphone is now a camera first, and a phone second… but it’s still all about perception,” writes Zacuto. “With the Smart Z-Finder and accessories, clients will see your phone as a professional camera rig, and not just a phone.”
The Smart Z-Finder is adjustable for capturing content in vertical or horizontal aspect ratios and sports attachment points for more accessories, including a cold shoe mount, Arca Swiss, and 1/4-20 mounting points. There’s also a trap door that the creator can open when needing to make adjustments to the app being used.
Shoot in vertical or horizontal orientation Credit: Zacuto
Machined out of anodized 6061-T6 aluminum and high-strength ABS plastic, the Smart Z-Finder is compatible with iPhone X, 11, 12, 13, 13 Pro, and presumably iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, plus several Android phones, including Sony models. The magnifying eyepiece has a built-in diopter to adjust for eyesight, as well as add additional footer discs or an anti-fog disc to keep the eyepiece clear.
The Smart Z-Finder works as a basic smartphone cage with a height-adjustable quick-connect bridge clamp that securely holds onto a smartphone with or without its protective case. The Smart Z-Finder magnetically connects to the bridge instantly, and users can kit it out with accessories like a mic, handgrip, and more.
A camera that can also make calls Credit: Zacuto
Zacuto says that the Smart Z-Finder makes it not only easier to frame and focus a shot, but with a more immersive viewpoint, creators will be freed up to imagine even better camera angles and compositions that will improve their content. While Zacuto says that smartphones will supersede the DSLR and mirrorless cameras in picture quality by 2024, we'll have to see the proof in the pudding before we agree. Especially since it's hard to fit robust photography or cinema lenses into the small real estate of a smartphone.
Who knows, maybe we'll start to see cameras with cellphone antennae?
There’s no word on the retail price for the Zacuto Smart Z-Finder or when it will be available, but the company is planning a Kickstarter launch soon, offering early bird discounts of up to 40% off to those who back the campaign. Interested backers can reserve their own Z-Finder by signing up here.
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