BUILDING A BETTER EVA1 VIEWFINDER
What you'll need:
• basic mechanical skills
• any top plate for the EVA with 1/4"-20 threaded holes
• an EVF hood/loupe assembly for the Sony FS7 (which can be purchased as a spare part....generally they're available on Ebay for far less than the list price)
• a Cine Mounty 3 Cargo mounting plate from Upgrade Innovations (I have no affiliation with Upgrade Innovations; I simply think their product is a good one)
• a 100mm or longer NATO safety rail
• a NATO-to-15mm rod adapter clamp (where the rod runs perpendicular to the NATO rail, not parallel)
• a roll of Joe's Sticky Stuff adhesive (I advise this to test the setup first, before making it permanent)
• sharp, clean scissors - I recommend something with very thin blades, like surgical scissors.
• a seal pick (or dental pick or gasket pick)
• a Dremel-type tool with a small grinding bit suitable for plastic
• rubbing alcohol or similar degreaser
• very small phillips head screwdrivers
• container to hold loose parts and screws
• work lamp
• gaffers tape or black electrical tape
• small piece (less than a foot) of 3M Dual-Lock fastening system (if you want to test the setup first, before making it permanent)
• small piece of 3/16" (4mm) thick, self-adhesive, firm felt pad (the type sold in hardware stores)
• a US penny will be handy but not essential
• a mechanical pencil will be handy but not essential
• a magic marker
• about 2-3 hours
The single most common complaint about Panasonic's EVA1 camera is that it has no eyepiece/loupe for the EVF. The second most common complaint is that the LCD is so shiny and mirror-like that a hood/eyepiece is essential in most shooting conditions. And a third common complaint is that the on-screen data is so small that you need magnification to read it. Currently (mid-2018) there is only one third-party loupe available, and I think it's horribly designed and overpriced. This is an option to fix all those issues.
The Sony FS7 hood/loupe works extremely well with the EVA1 LCD screen with minor modifications. None of these modifications affect the EVA1 LCD, though they do permanently modify the FS7 hood/loupe. This technique results in a secure, solid, highly adjustable EVF that's mounted at what I feel is the proper position for shooting with a typical shoulder rig. If you've worked with an ENG camera, the end result feels very much like an ENG EVF. The technique is reversible, should you ever want to try another approach, though it would take a few minutes, a couple of tools, and reasonable care. (It's also a fraction of the cost of the only third-party loupe + a mounting arm.) Your mileage may vary. Perform this modification at your own risk. Read the entire instructions before beginning. Do not perform if you're unsure of your skills.
Purchase a Sony FS7 hood/loupe assembly. They're often available on Ebay for a reasonable price -- far less than the list price of $370 US.
Remove the Panasonic flip-out hood if you have not already.
Arrange the Panasonic LCD so the built-in pivoting mechanism is on the left (as you're looking at the screen) and the mirror switch is on the upper right-hand face of the LCD case. It is possible to mount it with the pivot on the right, but I prefer to have it on the left side because:
• Having the LCD pivot on the right side can make it harder to adjust your new rod clamp and some lens controls, or some camera body switches, depending on where you position the pivot and the EVF, and
• I like having the Mirror Function switch on the right side of the screen. I tend to grab the EVF from the left corners when I move it, which means my thumb accidentally moves the Mirror more often than I'd like. Having it on the upper right corner avoids that problem.
Press and hold the Sony hood flat against the EVA LCD screen. It will be off-center due to the bulge from the pivoting mechanism. Align the bottom of the hood with the bottom of the LCD case. On the left side of the Sony hood, carefully mark where the top and bottom of the protruding bulge are, using a pencil.
Remove the Sony hood, and use a US penny to trace an arc where the protruding bulge was. A penny is the proper diameter to match the bulge. Using a Dremel (or similar) grinder, carefully grind away the arc. If you are unsure, work slowly, removing a bit at a time, and test the Sony hood against the EVA LCD until you have removed enough plastic from the side of the hood.
Press the Sony hood against the LCD, and make sure it fits snugly.
Next, remove the metal clips from the Sony hood. They are easily removed by hand.
Cut a small piece of Joe's Sticky Stuff adhesive (truly, this is the best product in the world for what it does). Scissors cut the adhesive better than an Xacto blade. Stick a small piece on each of the clip tabs to keep them from flopping around. (Note: if you prefer, you can remove the clip tabs completely.)
Next, you're going to have to do some more minor surgery on the Sony hood. For reasons that I absolutely can't figure out, the Sony hood has a polarizing filter built-in. Normally a polarizing filter is exactly what you DON'T want to look at an LCD screen through, since LCDs work by polarizing the light passing through them. Clearly there's something going on here that I don't understand. But if you don't remove the filter, you'll see moiré-like hallucinogenic rainbow patterns on the EVA's screen.
There's the polarizing filter, with a second, clear layer of plastic behind it as a dust shield. We'll want to keep that layer intact.
As you disassemble the Sony loupe, pay attention to orientation of parts, so you can re-assemble it properly. It's pretty obvious, but a good look and careful staging of your work area helps.
Flip open the hood, and you'll see screws at each of the four corners (see red arrows). Unscrew all four screws, then pull out the plastic cover by using a seal pick or dental pick at the small access slot (see green arrow).
Next, remove the four screws shown with the blue arrows below.
Lift out that plastic cowl, as shown below.
Remove the two screws seen below.
Finally! The polarizing filter is glued into the rectangular (octagonal?) section below. (I've already removed the polarizer in the photo below.) Carefully cut along all sides and corners with a sharp Xacto knife. It's firmly glued into place, so you won't be able to just lift it out. Use a seal pick or dental pick to pry it away from the glue. Be careful not to scratch the flexible clear plastic dust filter that is glued to the back side of this plastic frame. (You can see it in this photo, reflecting orange rings of light.) It wouldn't kill you not to have it, but it does help keep dust under control.
And here's the polarizing filter, after removal:
Re-assemble the loupe.
Now, using sharp, clean scissors, cut four thin strips of Joe's Sticky Stuff adhesive. I know this sounds like an ad for them, but I have no connection to the company or product. It's the ONLY product I recommend to do this. If you haven't worked with it, Joe's is like semi-dried rubber cement. It's extremely sticky but flexible, and does not harden or form a permanent bond....or at least, in my experience it stays flexible for over two years.
Carefully press the Sony hood against the EVA LCD, keeping the bottom of the hood aligned with the bottom of the EVA's LCD case. Joe's Sticky Stuff is extremely strong and flexible, but can be removed if you ever want to reverse this modification. I recommend that you use this for a few days or a few weeks, then --if you're happy with the rig-- either replace the Joe's Sticky Stuff with a permanent adhesive like JB Weld, or 3D print a bracket to hold the loupe and LCD together. The combination of Joe's Sticky and gaffers tape is pretty solid, but not if your camera is used aggressively, or has a very tight fit in the case, putting pressure on the LCD & loupe. In my case, I did a 3D-printed bracket plus gaff tape. It's solid as a rock.
(Ignore the 15mm rod... the built-in rod mount will not be used when you're finished.)
I suppose I could have opened up the LCD case and tried to remove the pivoting mechanism, but I didn't feel like getting into it, and it doesn't really bother me. Plus I wasn't sure it it could be removed without leaving a gaping hole in the side of the EVF.
Next, cut two pieces of 3M Dual-Lock self-adhesive fastener tape to fit on the right side of the Sony hood. (I recommend that you eventually replace the 3M with a permanent adhesive like JB Weld, but the 3M will hold well enough to test the rig for a few weeks or even months.) See below for what the first piece will look like.
Once you have the first piece of Dual-Lock attached to the right side of the hood, place the second piece next to the first piece (do not remove the backing or attach it -- simply hold it in place) and mark the Dual-Lock where you will need to cut it to fit it only on the part of the Sony hood that does not flip up. Cut the Dual-Lock with scissors, and check to make sure it's the proper size and shape, then attach it to the hood.
Now cut two more pieces a few millimeters shorter than the first piece.
Next -- and this might not be obvious unless you've used Dual-Lock before -- snap them onto the two pieces that have already been stuck to the Sony hood. It's important that you do this NOW, because Dual-Lock has very specific "tracks" of hooks that lock into each other. If they're not perfectly aligned, the pieces will not lock into each other. Snap the 3rd and 4th pieces into the two pieces that are already attached to the Sony hood. You'll end up with something like what you see below. (Note: I took this photo after I had removed the backing from the 3rd and 4th pieces. The backing should still be on at this point, since you still have some cutting to do.)
Mark the left-hand piece so you can trim it to match the thin, angled piece it mates with. Pull it away from the hood, trim it with sharp scissors, then place it back into position, snapped into its matching piece.
Remove the thumbscrew and grub screw pins that come with the Upgrade Innovations Cine Mounty 3 plate. Remove the oval O-ring from the long slot. Use your rubbing alcohol or other volatile degreaser to clean any dirt & oils off the plate, to ensure a good bond with the Dual-Lock tape.
Press the Upgrade Innovations Cine Mounty 3 plate firmly against the Dual-Lock so it sticks. The adhesive on the Dual-Lock tape is quite strong, so it will grip solidly. (The two pieces of Dual-Lock fasten together so securely that if you try to remove the hood from the Cine Mounty plate, the Dual-Lock will probably pull off either the hood or the Cine Mounty plate, rather than the two pieces of Dual-Lock coming apart.)
While there are probably other mounting plates that would work well, here's what I like about the Cine Mounty 3 (again, I have no connection to the company or the product):
• The 15mm rod attaches to the mini-cheeseplate with a mini Arri-style pin-lock mechanism, so the plate cannot spin.
• The attached 15mm rod has grooves with silicone O-rings that act as keepers/safety stops, preventing the rod from sliding out of the NATO rod adapter clamp.
Here's what the mount will look like with the hood flipped up.
Next we'll be cutting a piece of firm self-adhesive felt pad (3/16" or 4mm thick) to cover the rest of the Cine Mounty 3 plate. This acts as a shim, keeping the hood from wiggling, but not interfering with the operation of the flip-up hood mechanism.
Self-adhesive felt pads come in various colors. If you want, you can use magic marker or something similar to color the felt black so it's more aesthetically pleasing.
Here's a view from the top:
Next -- and this is optional -- I tacked the EVF cable against the back of the LCD, just to keep it from flopping around.
Last, because Joe's Sticky Stuff is translucent, there's some minor light leakage around the edges of the loupe where it meets the LCD screen. In sunlight or under bright studio lighting, it's a problem. So cut some long, narrow strips of black gaffers tape or black electrical tape, and mask off that tiny gap.
Screw a 100mm or 150mm NATO safety rail into your top plate. Because the Sony hood/loupe is so deep (it really is SO much bigger than it needs to be), the NATO rail will need to extend quite a bit forward of the front edge of the top plate. For me, 100mm is a tight, snug fit against my face when the camera is balanced properly on my shoulder, so I'll probably use a 150mm rail for a little wiggle room on front/back positioning.
As you would expect, the EVF tilts up and down, and (unlike the built-in Panasonic pivot mechanism) the 15mm rod clamp lets you set the tension as loose or as tight as you want. Also unlike the built-in Panasonic pivot mechanism, the EVF does not snap into position at 90-degree increments, which is VERY annoying if you want to use an angle that's slightly off from a 90-degree click point. It's one of many "unforced errors" in Panasonic's design that prove that its designers were engineers, not professional camera users.
The very clever "keepers" on Upgrade Innovations's rod ensure that it will not accidentally slide off the rod clamp, and their mini pin-lock rod attachment prevents unwanted spin between the rod and the cheeseplate. There's also no possibility of "horizon droop" as is so often the case with other EVF mounting hardware.
Because the EVF/loupe is mounted via a NATO clamp, it can be quickly moved to any point on the camera where you can mount a NATO rail... which is virtually anywhere there's a 1/4"-20 tap. (Wooden Camera makes tiny NATO rails in 35mm length that will fit almost anywhere.) The loupe can be flipped up to view the LCD directly (and the hood portion of the Sony hood/loupe works better than Panasonic's own flip-up hood, which fell apart the second time I opened it.) The entire rig is extremely solid and secure.... and significantly less expensive than the "other" loupe on the market, which is an utter abomination in my opinion. Truly awful.
Next up: I'm going to see if I can fit an optically-flat CC10M resin color correction filter into the hood, against the LCD screen. Hopefully this will correct for the green bias in the Panasonic LCD, whether I'm viewing through the loupe or directly with the hood flipped up.
Why didn't you just use the built-in pivot mechanism on the Panasonic LCD with the Sony loupe attached?
Well... I could have. You can, if you prefer. But I like having adjustable friction on the tilt up/down on my EVF, and I like to be able to lock it into place. You can't do either of those with the stock Panasonic pivot. I've also mentioned my dislike of the way the Panasonic pivot snaps into position at 90 degree increments. And finally, I didn't feel that the built-in pivot is structurally able to handle the long-term stresses on an EVF.
Wouldn't it have been easier to just use an external monitor like smallHD or Atomos?
I use them, depending on the job. 'Horses for courses,' as they say. But I work quickly, with very little time to fiddle with things. Tools need to just work. External monitors require their own power supply (or P-tap cables), they have to be turned on/off separately from the camera on/off switch, and sometimes have built-in functions like LUTs that can change what you see, possibly causing exposure or color mistakes if you get distracted or someone hits a button without you noticing. In short, many more potential points of failure. Also, if you want to see viewfinder data, that must be sent down the HDSDI signal, which means you can't have a clean recording or a clean feed to your client monitor (or a 5k raw output), since the EVA has only one video out BNC. All of those are dealbreakers for me for a full-time solution.
And in case you're wondering why I don't like the only third-party loupe that's currently for sale:
• I think it's very badly designed. (Or should I say "deZigned"??)
• The two 15mm rod clamps are odd, hard to reach, will slip off the rod if you're not paying attention, and tend to loosen on their own.
• The diopter range is very limited, and requires snapping on extra hood segments, depending on your eyesight. So if two people with very different vision try to use the same camera, you have to physically pry the hood apart when switching from user 1 to user 2.
(I wish I were making this up, but I'm not.)
• The bottom clip that holds the EVF in the loupe falls open several times a day. You can't easily tape it shut, because it's also completely in the way of the Mirror Function switch on the LCD.
• You need two hands to flip open the hood. Yes, it's impossible to do it with one hand....like you can do with virtually every other loupe known to mankind. There's no reason for it; they simply didn't bother to consider how they were mounting the hood clip.
• It's far too expensive for such a poorly designed product.
• And last --and this is personal-- I've been disappointed with the design and reliability of every one of the products I've purchased from that company. There are so many good accessory shops out there that I refuse to use one that does bad work.