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HD viewfinders: Sony announces answer to cameraman's prayers

Friday, September 18, 2015 1:00 PM

Sony HDVF-EL30 HD Viewfinder

A professional HD viewfinder has been top of the wish-list for most cameramen for quite some time now, so the launch at this month's IBC 2015 in Amsterdam of two Sony HD viewfinders – the HDVF-EL20 and the HDVF-EL30 – will be music to the ears of cameramen around the world.

Sony HDVF-EL30 HD Viewfinder

The new Sony HD viewfinders are compatible with the HDC, HSC, HDW and PDW series of cameras, as well as the PXW-X500 and the PXW-F65. So most Sony cameras with a 20-pin round HDVF connector can now be upgraded to have an OLED HD viewfinder, though the viewfinders are not compatible with the F5, F55, FS7 or newly announced FS5.

The new Sony HDVF-EL30 HD viewfinder on the Sony PXW-X500 HD ENG camera

In the case of the F5 and F55, cameramen have had the choice between an OLED or an LCD viewfinder since the cameras were launched. We've generally seen a preference for the OLED version, despite its bigger price tag version. It offers advantages in terms of higher contrast (HDR), being blur free – apparently close to the older discontinued CRT equivalent – and having less delay.

Shooting in 4K demands an HD viewfinder

The new Sony HDVF-EL20 HD OLED viewfinder on the Sony PMW-F65 4K cinema camera

Given we're shooting more and more footage in 4K, where focus is absolutely critical, it seems ridiculous that the first person in the filming process – the cameraman – has to work with so little assistance from viewfinders to help make sure that the shot is in focus.

The struggle to upgrade to HD viewfinders has been great and widespread across manufacturers, and cameramen have had a long and impatient wait to get their hands – or rather eyes – on something better.

Using third-party viewfinders via HDMI or HD-SDI doesn’t always give the best results, either – even if they are HD resolution, which often they are not.

Full HD viewfinder with improved optical system

Sony HDVF-EL30 viewfinder features

At last, the new HD OLED viewfinders from Sony are precisely that – full HD with a 0.7 inch diagonal. Coupled with a better optical system, it should mean that it's a lot easier to focus a 4K image in the new viewfinders compared to their predecessors.

As a bonus, both viewfinders (the HDVF-EL30 has the same features as the HDVF-EL20, with the addition of a 3.5-inch sub-LCD screen for monitoring) have three assignable buttons and a dial. One of the assignable buttons can be used for focus assist.

Sony HDVF-EL30 viewfinder features

Pricing for new Sony HD viewfinders

The price of the HDVF-EL20 is expected to be competitive with third party HD-quality models such as Zacuto’s Gratical, while the HDVF-EL30, with its added 3.5" LCD display and foldable hood, will be just under twice that price.

We hope to have demo models available soon so you can come to our Soho office and see the differences for yourself!

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