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Using a Loupe

As a still photographer, you’re probably used to squinting into the small viewfinder for hours on end. The proper use of a viewfinder lets you accurately compose a shot. Most viewfinders also offer useful overlays to judge exposure and provide other technical information about the shot you’re about to take.

Unfortunately, when shooting video on your DSLR, the viewfinder stops working because the camera’s mirror must stay up when capturing video. I discussed the importance of the camera’s LCD in Chapter 2, “Essential Equipment.” A good LCD can go a long way, but the addition of one critical piece of gear—a loupe—can dramatically improve your ability to judge focus and exposure.

Several manufacturers sell loupes that magnify the image on the back of the LCD panel. The loupes typically enlarge the image two to three times, making it much easier to see critical focus (Figure 4.13). A loupe helps you see just how much of your shot is (or is not) in focus. Some viewfinders attach using a series of bands, whereas some attach to a snap on the frame. Others attach to the bottom of your camera or to the hot shoe plate on top (where an external flash would go). Each manufacturer takes its own approach and offers several compelling reasons to explain why its loupe is the best.

Figure 4.13.

Figure 4.13. Here I’m using a Zacuto Z-Finder to better judge exposure and focus when shooting. The bright sun at the beach caused a lot of light pollution, which made seeing the camera’s LCD unassisted more difficult.

Here are a few additional benefits to using a loupe:

  • A loupe can block out light pollution, making it easier to judge exposure and contrast.
  • A loupe can make the camera more stable by creating an additional point of contact with your eye. This can lead to less camera shake, especially for handheld shooting.
  • Some viewfinders even contain a diopter, which can help adjust for minor vision issues or when an eyeglass wearing shooter takes off his glasses.

A good loupe costs between $100 and $400. The addition of a loupe can be thought of as investing in a lens for the back of your camera. Here are a few recommended manufacturers:

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