Alphatron 035W EVF on the Sony PMW-F5 or F55. Zebras at 34%.

Sony PMW-F5 with Alphatron EVF and TV Logic monitor.

Sony PMW-F5 with Alphatron EVF and TV Logic monitor.

I have a few shoots and projects coming up that require a very portable setup  with little to no time to use a light meter etc (tornado chasing next month – anyone want to join me??). Currently the metering and measurement options on the PMW-F5 and F55 are limited to zebras and the zebras don’t go down below 50%. I’m going to be shooting 4K raw, so the camera will be in S-Log2. I can use a LUT to display a S-Log to 709 image in the viewfinder, but this makes it hard to appreciate the full range of what the camera is capturing. When shooting a dark storm against a bright sky the dynamic range of the scene can be massive, so I like to see the native image rather than via a LUT to help judge over exposure a bit more accurately. When I’ve done this before, as an exposure tool, I’ve taped a grey card to the car so if I need a quick exposure reference I can point the camera at the card and in the case of the PMW-F3 use the centre spot meter to get a quick exposure guide. The issue is that for S-Log2 middle grey should be approx 34%, so zebras that only go to 50% are not much use. I can use white as an alternative, which should fall around 68% but it’s not ideal. Anyway, I was exploring various options when I remembered that my Alphatron EVF had zebras that could easily go down to 34%. So I decided to check out the Alphatron on my F5 as an alternative to my Sony L350. Both LCD panels have similar resolution, so it was interesting to compare them anyway.

The two EVF's on my F5 for evaluation.

The two EVF’s on my F5 for evaluation.

The Sony L350 EVF is a very nice viewfinder, but it’s not cheap, running at around £2K/$3K (although that does include the mount). It has very good contrast and resolution that is high enough that you can’t see the pixels (just) when you look through the monocular. It’s also very versatile as the monocular flips up, both towards the rear and side.

The Alphatron EVF-035W-3G is also a very nice viewfinder, but at half the price of the Sony is considerably cheaper. It only opens up to the rear, but it does incorporate a very handy shutter in the loupe that when closed will prevent sun damage to the LCD screen. Interestingly both viewfinders specify the same 960×540 half HD resolution and contrast ratios of 1000:1. One side note: If you want a rubber eye cup with a set of rubber blades that open as you put your eye against the eyepiece to prevent the sun from damaging your expensive viewfinder, BandPro sell them for about $160 each.

The screen of the Alphatron EVF with peaking on.

The screen of the Alphatron EVF with peaking on.

Back to the viewfinders….. So how different are they? Well to be honest not very different. My Alphatron is an old pre-production one, so may be very slightly different to a production unit. Looking into the viewfinder loupe the image in the Aphatron is considerably larger than the Sony, you can just see the pixels in the Alphatron, but not in the Sony. This is simply due to the greater magnification from the optics in the Alphatron. The screen sizes and resolutions are the same. I think the Sony optics are a little better with less aberrations and distortion, but the viewed image is much smaller. When focussing I found both to provide similar performance, I could focus equally well with both viewfinders, if anything the Alphatron has a slight edge due to the larger image, but it’s a close call.

The screen of the Sony L350 EVF, peaking on.

The screen of the Sony L350 EVF, peaking on.

You can zoom in pixel to pixel on both viewfinders, both viewfinders have peaking, possibly marginally better on the Sony, but again really not a great deal of difference. Interestingly the Sony peaking system works on vertical edges while the Alphatron appears to favour horizontal.

Contrast, brightness, colour and smear wise both EVF’s are again very similar, maybe the Sony is just a little better on contrast. I think I might need to calibrate my the colours on my Alphatron slightly, this is easy enough in the menus. I do suspect that they are both using the same LCD panel. Powering and feeding the Alphatron is simple enough, I used a D-Tap to TV-Logic power adapter cable for this test and then took an SDI feed from the Sub SDI bus. But you could also use one of the Aux power outputs on the V-Mount adapter or R5 to power the Alphatron only when the camera is on.

TV-Logic 056W 5.6" monitor. Love this little monitor with its built in waveform display.

TV-Logic 056W 5.6″ monitor. Love this little monitor with its built in waveform display.

There you have it – The Alphatron 035W EVF is a legitimate option for use with the PMW-F5 and F55. The ability to use the Zebras to measure S-Log2 middle grey is a nice bonus, in addition you have other exposure tools such as false colour, oh if only I had these with the Sony EVF! I’m going to have to think long and hard about this. If I had thought about it sooner I could have saved myself £2K by not getting the Sony EVF and using the Alphatron that I already owned. Where possible I will use my TV-Logic 056W monitor (see my review of this great monitor here) with it’s built in waveform display for accurate exposure assessment, but sometimes it’s not practical to have a 5.6″ monitor hanging off the side of the camera and in this situation the extra exposure tools of the Alphatron will be very handy. One last thing, if you are thinking of going down the Alphatron EVF route, do remember you will need a bracket of some kind. The F5/F55’s handle has plenty of 3/8″ and 1/4″ threads, plus there are a few on the top of the camera body, so lots of options. I have the Element Technica Micron top plate and handle and I used a bracket from this. ET do make a dedicated mount for the Alphatron finder that is very nice.

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6 Responses to Alphatron 035W EVF on the Sony PMW-F5 or F55. Zebras at 34%.

  1. Jon says:

    Hi Alister,

    I like the Tvlogic option for the F5, is there a way to power it via the camera? and what parts would be needed?

    Thanks
    Jon

    • alisterchapman says:

      I powered it using readily available D-Tap to TVLogic power cable coming from my V-lock battery which has a D-Tap power socket. I got my cable with the monitor. You could also get a cable made up to go from the Hirose power outlets on the cameras V-Lock plate or from the R5.

  2. uli mors says:

    alister, how is the delay of the alphatron via sdi compared to the l350?

    i found some external VFs having 1 to 2 frames of delay while the 350 or the 100 was delay-free.

    rg. a production with f65 we found 14stops recordings are quite easy to work with when exposing mainly for highlights… will have to try with my f5 soon…

    br

    uli

  3. Rod Paul says:

    Alister – you mentioned a rubber eyecup with a shutter for the Alphatron available from Bandpro for $160. They’ve never heard of such an item. As the rubber cup from Alphatron is very uncomfortable for me even with the new chamois, I’d like to see an option. Can you tell me how to find the eyecup you mentioned? Thanks – new software great, by the way. Waveform a nice addition.

  4. Jim says:

    I like the Alphatron EVF. I’m just getting used to it and adjusting it to my liking, however I have had nothing but trouble with powering it. It’s been back to my supplier several times and they have sent it back to TV Logic. It’s come back and I continue to have problems. I rigged for a job the other day and it just wouldn’t turn on although for some reason it eventually did, which was very confusing. Once on, it lasted the whole gig. Today it refuses to turn on. It doesn’t help that the d-tap to 4 pin cable that came with it is not accurately moulded to fit the d-tap connector on my battery plate and can therefore be connected in either polarity (other cables can only plug one way). My fear now is that the circuitry has been damaged through a short circuit, although this doesn’t explain the intermittent nature of the problem that I’ve experienced before today’s refusal to turn on.

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