Protect your investment with a lens tube, a lens cap, a tether or two, and perhaps a filter or an LCD cover
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Last updated July 27, 2004
The 41 mm lens cap on the original Oly C-2000Z popped off far too easily. Oly may have weakened its grip on purpose to prevent the cap from damaging the fragile zoom lens assembly when the camera powers up and the zoom lens begins to extend into operating position with the cap in place. Without a tether, that early cap was easily lost—especially when the zoom lens removed it for you.
Subsequent C-series rangefinders came with a much more secure 41 mm lens cap with spring-loaded grips. Many have questioned the wisdom of the newer, tighter cap, and I must admit that the idea of a resistant cap in the path of the zoom lens gave me the willies at first, but to Oly's credit, the design has passed the test of time. C-series owners who have never heard the dreaded grind of the zoom lens laboring against a forgotten cap are rare, but credible reports of zoom mechanism damage due to lens vs. cap collisions are even harder to find. All C-series manuals issue less-than-dire warnings about powering up with the cap on, and it should be avoided, to be sure, but it's not a cause for panic.
I'm not sure what the situation is with C-7xxUZ series cameras, but lens vs. cap collisions aren't an issue with digital SLRs like the C-2100UZ and the E-series. The C-2100UZ's 49 mm lens cap attaches to a fixed nose cone housing its enviable 10x zoom lens. Oly's optional but in my opinion essential CLA-1 and CLA-4 conversion lens adapters provide a similar housing for other C-series zoom lenses, as well see below.
Peace of Mind
The remainder of this article describes some simple modifications designed to bring peace of mind to Oly C-series ownership by addressing
along with several other minor but practical issues, some of potential interest to C-2100UZ owners as well.
I strongly recommend permanent lens armor for all Oly digital rangefinders to keep their most valuable and vulnerable asset — the zoom lens — safe from dirt, knocks, light rain and the original Oly lens cap.
(If you have a C-7xxUZ series camera, you'll need a CLA-4 adapter instead of the CLA-1.) For most C-series cameras, you'll also need
The sturdy lens tube becomes a permanent fixture on your camera; only the outer accessories change to fit the occasion. A protective filter ($10-$75) is entirely optional. The prices shown above are current as of 2Q2004.
Good News for C-x040Z and C-5050Z Owners
If you have a C-x040Z or a C-5050Z, you may be able to mount a 43 mm filter or lens cap directly on the CLA-1 without an intervening step-up or shim ring — provided you have the right filter. Be sure to test for lens-filter crashes beforehand. If you're willing to forego filter protection, as I do most of the time now, that gets you down to the viewfinder and flash encroachment of the CLA-1 alone.
Putting It All Together
Optimum sizing of the components outboard of the CLA-1 is by far the trickiest part of the armor game. Unfortunately, "one size fits all" does not apply. You'll just have to slog through the sizing considerations hashed out in gory detail in the First Steps section of the dpFWIW article Filters and lens shades for popular Oly digitals and decide what works best for you. In general, however, I'd stay away from filters larger than 49 mm and from 55 mm filters in particular — they're simply too large for these compact cameras.
I prefer 49 mm accessories (lens cap, filters, lens hoods) because even odd-ball attachments are widely available in that size. However, 43 and 46 mm gear interferes a bit less with the viewfinder and onboard flash.
If viewfinder and flash blockage overrides availability in your situation, consider the 43 mm route, but see below. Mark Gregory has beautifully illustrated a safe 43 mm armor solution for the C-2020Z that's perfectly workable for any C-series camera. dpFWIW contributor Ilkka Valkila also uses 43 mm gear on a C-2000Z with no vignetting—even with several stacked 43 mm attachments.
When selecting your armor components, watch out for these potential pitfalls:
Additional Armor Advantages
Still not convinced about lens armor? Consider these additional benefits:
Think of lens armor as an aftermarket nose cone akin to those built into the Oly D-620L, C-2500L and C-2100UZ.
To top off the lens tube on your Oly digital rangefinder, you can add a filter, a lens cap, a lens hood or some combination of these accessories.
My first and often only line of defense is a lens cap. I try to keep my CLA-1 covered with a lens cap as much as possible, whether or not I have a filter in place. In really threatening environments (dust, rain, crowds, tricky footing, bumpy rides, etc.), I occasionally mount a multi-coated UV cut or Heliopan 8125 IR/UV cut filter for additional lens protection. Otherwise, I mount filters only as needed.
I've rehashed the arguments for and against protective filters elsewhere. To recap, many professionals refuse to mount filters unless demanded by the photographic task at hand in order to maintain the highest possible image quality, but non-professionals more interested in permanent lens protection may never notice the small quality differences typically at stake here. My use of protective filters only in hostile environments represents a middle position.
With a filter in place, some will feel comfortable foregoing a lens cap altogether. Personally, I prefer to cap the filter because it keeps my filters scratch-free, clean and ready to shoot and allows even more relaxed camera handling than would the CLA-1 and filter alone.
But lens caps come with one little catch:
For me, the last defense is the most effective.
A lens cap tether can save you a lot of grief — particularly if you rely primarily on a cap for lens protection— but you may have to scrounge for one that fits your armored C-series camera. Back in the late 1990s, Oly's C-2000Z and C-2020Z came with a 41 mm lens cap with neither a tether nor even a means to attach one. By late 2002, the C-5050Z shipped with a sturdier 41 mm cap with a channel in its rim for a tether string, which was also supplied. (The string's shorter than I'd like but still appreciated.)
Unfortunately, none of these 41 mm caps work with lens armor. The 49 mm Oly lens cap I purchased to cap the armor on my C-5050Z in 1Q2004 came with a tether channel but no string. Many camera shops carry adaptable lens cap tethers for as little as $1-4. An inexpensive example is the Sima® Cap Keeper 2, which includes an elastic loop that slips over a CLA-1 or CLA-4 lens adapter (or perhaps even over the nose cone of a C-2100UZ) and attaches to the cap with a small adhesive pad.
And why the right strap post?
The tether arrangement detailed above has yet to get in the way of either my camera handling or my pictures. The camera attachment point may be less critical on the C-2100UZ.
While you're at it, consider securing the tiny, hard-to-remove and easy-to-lose sync socket cap on the C-2000Z/2020Z with a homemade tether like the lens cap tether described above, particularly if you use external flash with any frequency. Accessing the sync socket will become as quick and easy as a tug on the tether—no more prying up the cap with your finger nail—and you'll no longer waste time looking around for a safe place to hold that #$%^@&*! sync cap off the camera.
This may be less of an issue with the screw-on plastic cap covering the proprietary TTL sync socket found on the C-2100UZ and Oly digital rangefinders following the C-2020Z. But since I'm equally adept at losing push-on and screw-on caps, I might be tempted to tether that cap, too.
Doing It Yourself
This sync socket tether won't get in your way.
Covering your LCD with a sunshade to improve its visibility in bright sunlight is a modification well worth considering, especially if you shoot outdoors using gear begging for TTL control—e.g., square graduated neutral density filters or viewfinder-obstructing teleconverters or lens hoods. (Polarizers can easily be used successfully with viewfinder cameras without TTL control, so I wouldn't recommend getting an LCD sunshade solely for that purpose.)
A hat held up to cast a shadow across both the LCD and the eyes is a start, but you may have to resort to a commercial LCD sunshade like the Xtend-a-View or the HoodMan H200 to regain reliable TTL control via the rear LCD. My experiences with these sunshades are reviewed below.
I like the nylon HoodMan H200 for its lightweight, compact fold-up design, but it's just not workable with my over-50 eyes. In fact, unmagnified LCD hoods like this one can be a stretch for anyone over 30.
Lens Shades and Presbyopia
Stretch is precisely the problem here, by the way. As the lens of the eye inevitably loses its stretch with age, its minimum focusing distance stretches out far beyond workable Hoodman distances. This largely inescapable process is known as presbyopia, and it typically rears its ugly head around age 40.
To do its job, an LCD shade must block all or nearly all ambient light from the viewing eye. For a shade small enough to carry in a camera bag, this can happen only with the eye held very close to the shade. But when my over-50 eye comes up to the 2" deep Hoodman, it can't even begin to focus on the LCD. When I pull back to a workable eye-LCD focusing distance (10-12" with glasses in my case), ambient light flooding in around the shade drowns out the LCD image inside the hood.
Mounting the Hoodman
There's no viable way to strap-mount the HoodMan H200 to an Oly digital rangefinder (even with a longer strap than the one supplied), so I ended up mounting mine initially with the supplied narrow adhesive velcro strips. Two strips top and bottom on the LCD bezel are enough, leaving the remaining 2 strips supplied for spares.
A 2-3 mm wider and taller H200 would be a slightly better fit for the C-2000Z/2020Z without obstructing buttons, but the fit's workable as is. Whether that would be the case with the differing button layout of other Oly rangefinders, I don't know.
The velcro-mounted H200 is sturdy enough to support the camera against the brow to steady handheld shots—if you can focus on the LCD at that range.
BTW, velcro adhesive residue comes off easily and safely with commonly available adhesive remover. I've used heptane-based Un-Du® from Ace Hardware without damage to the LCD or camera back.
My comments notwithstanding, the Hoodman got a favorable review here.
The 2x magnifier built into the lightweight box-like Xtend-a-View LCD hood allows me to focus easily on the well-shaded LCD, even with my eye pressed smack up against the magnifier to block out ambient light. The rigid Xtend-a-View body also lets me frame with the LCD and support handheld shots firmly against my brow at the same time. This makes the Xtend-A-View a natural complement to bulky viewfinder-hogging accessories like my Oly B-300 teleconverter and Cokin A-series square filters. The indispensable Xtend-a-View has earned a permanent berth in my digital camera bag.
Under 2x magnification, the LCD's pixels become obvious and the colors rather washed out, but the resulting view of the LCD remains suitable for precise TTL control, even on the brightest days. Personally, I'd prefer a bit less magnification.
I mounted my Xtend-a-View in a few minutes with the supplied adhesive-backed velcro, even though I had to cut the strips to size myself. The painted-on black matte finish is a bit uneven on my early plastic version, but who cares? It works.
The original Xtend-a-View has since been superceded by the Xtend-a-View Pro, with a similar overall design but a machined black anodized aluminum rather than molded plastic body and a glass rather than plastic 2x magnifying lens. You'll find the Pro version favorably reviewed here, but the review reveals a rather alarming Xtend-a-View hazard—LCD meltdown. Ouch!
Whenever the camera's hanging LCD-up on bright sunny days, remove the Xtend-a-View or cover the magnifier with the (not so) optional $5 rubber eye cup and cap to prevent LCD meltdowns. The cap also protects the magnifier from other camera bag inhabitants.
Phil Williams, maker of the reasonably-priced Xtend-a-View, offers a money-back guarantee. He personally answered several pre-sales e-questions in detail. The regular-size Xtend-a-View Pro is a perfect match for all Oly digital rangefinders and the C-2100UZ as well. The larger Xtend-a-View II would be too big for these cameras.
Oly rangefinder rear LCDs have proved quite robust in my hands, but they're by no means impervious to scratches and abrasions. A strategically placed rainsuit snap managed to scratch my LCD, but it's barely noticeable most of the time. The camera's awkward and otherwise inexplicable upward pitch when hanging from its neck strap clearly helps to prevent LCD damage, but the added weight of lens armor and filters reduces this pitch substantially. Flattening of my C-2000Z's angle of dangle definitely contributed to my scratch, but the armor stays.
That said, I haven't been moved to protect my rear LCD, in part because it already has a thick, hard clear plastic cover, but I would be interested in an optically clear anti-glare cover that actually improved LCD visibility in bright lighting. I'm not convinced that such an animal yet exists, but fellow users with a need to protect their LCDs have offered the solutions outlined below.
Among several other Oly users, Scott Wierschem has written to recommend the $6 self-adhesive, anti-glare 2 mm 'da Products plexiglass LCD cover. Oly rangefinders take the 'da Oly Protector model, but the C-2100UZ takes the 'da Protector Jr instead. Scott confirms no loss of LCD visibility in bright sunlight with an Oly Protector installed on his C-4040Z, but adds
Speaking of adhesives, this informative quote from Ron Meyers at 'da Products should comfort anyone feeling squeamish about sticking things to an expensive digital camera:
FWIW, I've successfully removed self-sticking velcro adhesive from the LCD on my Oly C-2020Z using Un-Du, a heptane-based adhesive remover I picked up at Ace Hardware. Un-du has worked safely for me on a wide range of plastics.
Soft LCD Covers
The protective clear plastic film often found clinging to LCDs when unpacking new electronic devices is apparently available in very inexpensive 2" strips from Walmart's fabric department and in packs of several sheets from Staples. Whether these are optically clear enough to allow manual focusing of my C-2020Z via the LCD, I can't say, but these pressure-sensitive films have their supporters.
The rather pricey WriteRight screen protectors made for various handheld PCs and PDAs stay put with a mild residue-free adhesive. A backing sheet makes them relatively easy to cut to size and apply bubble-free. These clear films cut glare, but the textured versions definitely interfere with overall LCD visibility, as Matt Chase's nicely illustrated C-2020Z WriteRight test page shows. WriteRight also sells a "glossy" version that may be better optically, but I have no further information here. It's been rumored on RPD that WriteRight may offer an untextured version for digital cameras, but that remains unconfirmed.
Regarding what may be a competing product, Paul Secinaro wrote on RPD in August, 2000,
Some have suggested one or more layers of plastic cling wrap. Thick, heavy duty cling wrap might be worth a try, but the thin polyvinyl food wrap I found in our kitchen failed miserably. It managed to cling to the LCD well enough but was murder to cut to size and apply bubble-free and was easily torn with a fingernail once in place.
To my knowledge, this article otherwise applies fully to all C-series cameras. If you find anything else that doesn't fit, please let me know at dpFWIW@cliffshade.com.
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