Letus Hawk Viewfinder with Quick Release system review
By Dan Carr | September 22, 2010
For serious video shooting with a DSLR you need to have a separate viewfinder that magnifies the image on your LCD. Not only do they keep the sun from your screen to aid your framing and composition but they also allow you to accurately focus with the very narrow DOF that comes from shooting with these types of cameras. There are already many viewfinders out there but the Hawk VF from Letus is one of the newer ones. Let's take a look at the new aluminum version and also reveal their brand new quick release system!
Letus launched the Hawk VF a couple of months back with a carbon fiber body and a semi-fixed baseplate attachment. I say semi-fixed because whilst you could detach the Hawk from your camera, you had to loosen a couple of screws to do so. It was suggested that a much quicker release mechanism would be a great improvement and the guys at Letus have listened to the requests! For the last few days I have been playing with the final prototype of the new Quick Release system for the Letus Hawk Viewfinder. On top of that, I have also given the opportunity to take a look at the new CNC machined aluminum bodied version of the Hawk.
New Hawk Quick Release system
So let's get right too it because there is some great stuff to look at here. First up lets take a detailed look at the QR system because this is brand new! The photo above show the old baseplate on the left and the new QR baseplate on the right. For anyone that has ever done a bit of woodwork, the actual quick release part of the plate looks something like a mortise and tenon joint. A small tongue protrudes beneath the actual viewfinder and gets inserted into a slot on the back of the baseplate. Inside the slot are two spring-loaded balls that click into indents on the sides of the tongue to hold it firmly in place. Should the springs weaken over time, they are entirely user replaceable via two screws on the side of the baseplate. The system works vey well and gives a satisfyingly loud CLICK when you slot the VF into place. In reverse, it takes a decent force to pull the viewfinder away from the screen, it's not going to come off unless you want it to. As a courtesy, LetusDirect.com customers who have already purchased a Hawk VF will be able to claim a FREE upgrade to the quick release plate once they are in production in about two weeks time. Can't say fairer than that! Once the QR system is in full production, the original baseplate will be phased out, but those of you who have no interest in quickly releasing the VF can still permanently mount it to the baseplate with included screws which go into the bottom.
Aluminum Vs. Carbon Fiber
I did not have a carbon fiber Hawk to photograph next to my aluminum one so the inset image is from Letus. Carbon fiber is one of the strongest composite materials on the planet and it is very expensive and time consuming to create complex shapes with it. This is I think the first time that I have seen any sort of camera accessory made from such a material. I was expecting the CF version of the Hawk to be considerably lighter than the aluminum one but I'm told that in fact the difference is a mere 3oz, most likely because the bulk of the Hawk's weight comes from the more complex optics but more on that later. The other features of the 2 Hawks are identical, the lens and eyepiece simply screw into the main chamber or shroud as they call it. So the choice between the two will really just come down to personal preference. I have included plenty of images here of the aluminium one which I think looks fantastic with a slightly textured anodized coating on it. The coating seems to prevent unwanted scuffs and scratches very well so one thing that I am certain about is that I prefer aluminum over plastic. It might be slightly heavier, but it just feels like a strong, quality product in your hand. None of the viewfinders out there are inexpensive and when you are paying good money for a product its great to get the feeling in your hand that it was money well spent and that you have a dependable accessory in your bag. Limited use with the plastic-bodied Z-Finder left it quickly scratched and looking worse for wear but not so with this Hawk and its anodized coating. The modular design of the optics and the shroud also allows for new shroud sizes to be made in the future to accommodate new screen sizes when the inevitable transition to something bigger than 3" occurs. This means you won't have to shell out again for the expensive optical system in the Hawk, just simply buy an additional shroud. Brilliant forethought.
Hawk VF alongside the Hoodman Hoodloupe
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