The Atomos Ninja Blade and Samurai Blade are great external recorders, and pretty decent monitors too. While they’re no DP7, they do have many of the professional features you need in a monitor – high resolution, zebra stripes, focus peaking, waveform and audio monitors, etc. In many circumstances the Blade is more than sufficient doubling as a monitor. The only real issue we have is with its glossy screen. When shooting outside on a semi-bright day, the screen glare can be a deal breaker.
Unfortunately, Atomos does not make a viewfinder for the Blade, and there are no third-party manufacturers making any (that we know of). Atomos does offer a small sunhood but it requires two screws to attach to the monitor (one on the top and one on the bottom) making it time consuming and cumbersome to attach/detach in the field, especially if the Blade is mounted to something like a Magic Arm. Attaching or detaching the sunhood requires unscrewing the Blade from the Magic Arm. Regardless, the sunhood is not a real solution to the glare problem. Even with the sunhood attached, when shooting outside on a bright day, achieving critical focus is somewhat of a guessing game. What would be nice is a proper viewfinder that blocks ALL the light and can be attached or detached easily. Well, we found one and it works pretty well!
The Grid 5.0 Viewfinder
This is the Grid 5.0 viewfinder – attached to our Atomos Samurai Blade. The viewfinder was designed for the Red Touch 5.0” LCD, not the Blade, but as you can see it fits perfectly on the Blade.
A mounting bracket for the Grid connects to the monitor via double-sided tape, and the viewfinder attaches to the mounting bracket via magnets. The double-sided tape creates an absolutely rock-solid bond – the mounting bracket feels welded to the monitor. The magnetic bond between the mounting bracket and viewfinder is also very solid, perhaps even a bit too solid. You really have to yank on the viewfinder to remove it, which can be annoying if the monitor is mounted to something like a Magic Arm because it can move the whole arm.
Build Quality & Performance
Considering we spent a whopping $150 + shipping for the viewfinder (the price has gone up to $200 since we purchased ours), there’s not much to complain about. As mentioned above, once installed, the viewfinder bonds firmly to the monitor, giving you a nice solid connection that can endure a little knocking around. When testing the viewfinder outside on a bright day, it successfully blocked out 99.9% of the light. If you want to get really picky, there was a tiny, negligible, amount of light visible between the viewfinder and the mounting bracket. I had to squint my eyes and look for it before I knew it was there.
The viewfinder has a nice look and feel to it. The exterior is finished with real leather, which not only feels nice to the touch, it looks nice. My favorite feature by far is the inside of the viewfinder, which is lined with felt. The reason I like this is because it does a really nice job at reducing light glare coming from the screen itself. In my Zacuto Z-Finder EVF, for example, the light coming from the screen reflects off the inside of the Z-Finder. It’s not a large amount of glare but it does add some minor eye strain over time. The Grid 5.0 does not have this issue, which I appreciate.
The diopter is not adjustable, so if you’re really near or far-sighted you may have an issue with that. I experience no eye strain at all when looking into the viewfinder. My eye focuses easily and the screen feels huge. You can really see every pixel, which makes focusing much easier than before. The Atomos Blade does not have a real nice focus assist feature like the SmallHD and Zacuto monitors do, which is all the more reason a viewfinder is critical.
The only real negative with the Grid is with its rubber eye cup. The rubber itself is very, very stiff. It really has hardly any give to it at all. If you have to spend a whole day with your eye pressed up against the eye cup, there may be some discomfort after a while. It’s not a deal breaker, as you get used to it after a while and unconsciously adjust how hard you press your eye to the eye cup. I don’t really notice it anymore.
The Atomos Blade is a pretty great monitor, but with a horribly reflective screen and no viewfinder it is unusable (as a monitor) in many situations. For a couple hundred dollars, the Grid 5.0 Viewfinder transforms your Atomos Samurai Blade or Ninja Blade into a fully functioning EVF that can be used in many situations. The Grid 5.0 is well built and, once the mounting bracket is installed, forms a solid bond with the monitor. Relying on magnets to hold it in place, the Grid 5.0 can be quickly attached or detached while on set, saving valuable time.
There are a couple negatives. The diopter is not adjustable, which may be a problem for near/far-sighted individuals (personally, I experience no eye strain). The rubber eye cup is very stiff and uncomfortable. It’s not a deal breaker as you get used to it. The diopter did arrive with a small scratch on it, as well as a finger print. The scratch is not noticeable when looking through the viewfinder. Finally, from a customer service perspective, the Grid 5.0 took several weeks to arrive and during that time my emails were ignored. It was reaching the point where I thought I had been ripped off. When it finally arrived, I had completely forgotten I ever ordered it and was like what’s this package?
Overall, it’s a great addition to my kit. In the video production world, $200 dollars is nothing. When you factor together the price of the unit and the benefits it offers, the negatives become inconsequential. Until another third party manufacturer designs a viewfinder specifically for the Atomos Blade, this is likely the best option.