It’s probably safe to say the biggest problem with the current crop of video DSLRs is the viewfinder. Or lack thereof. It’s nearly impossible to shoot a video DSLR without a viewfinder attachment over the LCD such as the Z-Finder by Zacuto or the Hawk by Letus. Trying to grab focus without is just too difficult. Fixing one of these glorified loupes to the back of your DSLR kinda puts the camera in an odd shooting position. Since I’m taller than most of my subjects, I learned very early on in my shooting career to hold the camera low and look down through the viewfinder. Almost like the waist-level viewfinder on a medium format camera (probably a big reason why I found medium format cameras so natural when I started shooting them). I never put my hand in the strap on any non-shoulder mount camera. I’d say the only exceptions are the EX1 and EX3 cameras which let you tilt the grip. Long story short, putting a motion picture camera directly in front of my face feels odd.
The issue with these viewfinders is that the LCD on the back of the DSLRs is fairly low res for this type of use. Some have found it hard to focus. With some viewfinders, the individual pixels seem to jump up at you and even pincushion a bit. Some shooters will use a portable monitor to check critical focus. You can’t use both though – when you plug something into the HDMI port, the LCD goes dark.
Philip Bloom announced on his blog the upcoming Z-Finder EVF from Zacuto which attaches via HDMI to the camera. It promises (specs can change!) a higher resolution (800×480) than the LCD on your favorite DSLR. So focusing should be easier. Plug in the HDMI cable, attach the Z-Finder and you’re good to go. This combo is over $1000 though ($775 for the EVF and up to $395 for a Z-Finder Pro). More than the T2i camera many people are using.
A day or so later I came across an upcoming EVF from Redrock Micro. It’s a more traditional self-contained unit and is slated to sell for about $600. Shipping dates have not been announced yet, and there’s no hard specs on their website, so I hope it’s not vaporware.
Hopefully this gives you some more options for monitoring your shoots.