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Gadget Bag: What A View!

Viewing accessories such as LCD hoods and magnifiers can vastly improve your photographic experience
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One of the most significant benefits of shooting with a digital camera is being able to view your images immediately on the camera’s LCD screen. You can determine in seconds if you got the shot you wanted. If not, you can see whether the exposure or focus was off and quickly correct it in time to take the shot again. You also can use the LCD to make changes to settings such as white balance, as well as control other functions of the camera.

What A View!

So, you take your new digital camera out in the field on a beautiful autumn day, excited to get started on the fall color portfolio you’ve been planning for months. You get to your location, prepare everything and take the first test shot. Switching on the LCD to preview your image, you realize that the same sunlight that illuminated your shot also is making it impossible to view the screen clearly.

A problem with LCD monitors is that they can be difficult to see in glaring light. They require a separate light source, usually a backlight, which can be easily drowned out by bright ambient lighting. In such situations, the screen appears light and details are hard to make out. This can be frustrating when you’re relying on the LCD to provide previews of your images and display crucial menu options.

You can try increasing the screen’s brightness, but that can have its own problems and it may not even be enough to make the image sufficiently visible. You can look for a shady spot to view your images, but who wants to run to the shade after every shot? Another workable, yet inconvenient, option is to drape a towel or other dark cloth over your head and the camera each time you want to view your screen.

Some newer camera models address this setback by featuring larger, brighter LCD monitors that are easier to view in direct sunlight. They have brighter backlights, which better illuminate the display, but sometimes require more power, in which case, they’ll drain your batteries even faster than standard LCDs.

A simple solution to looking at your LCD outdoors is using a viewing accessory. LCD hoods are inexpensive, lightweight add-ons that are easy to attach around your screen and can be removed when not needed. The four-sided hoods create a shaded viewing tunnel and eliminate the glare that makes it difficult to see in direct light.

There also are accessories that shade and magnify the screen by two or three times for additional clarity. These are helpful not only in bright conditions, but in everyday use for viewing details in your photos, menu options and other small-print information on your LCD. They work best with high-pixel-count LCDs, however. Screens with lower resolutions often don’t magnify very well.

A right-angle viewfinder is a related accessory generally used for macro photography or in any situation where you need to shoot at unusual angles, such as below your waist or above your head. These L-shaped attachments to an SLR’s eyepiece can be used with digital and film cameras and often can be rotated 360 degrees for much flexibility in shooting.

For some photographers, a beneficial feature of the LCD screen is that you can look at it with both eyes, unlike a viewfinder that forces you to use one eye. With some attachments, you’ll have to use one eye; with others you can use both.

Some of these accessories attach to your camera using Velcro strips, which are convenient for reliably securing the shade or hood to the back of the camera. The downside is that you have Velcro strips permanently attached to your camera. Also, the strips may interfere with buttons close to the LCD.

Other shades can be put on a camera using one or two elastic straps. Straps are less permanent but not as secure as Velcro, and you risk their shifting or sliding off. Right-angle viewfinders are secured using eyepiece adapters. There also are accessories that have special attachments to fit specific cameras.

Screen-Shades from LEE Filters
shade your LCD screen and eliminate glare. You attach the shade, made of rugged camera bellows material, by applying self-stick Velcro strips to the camera. Removing and replacing the Screen-Shade is quick and easy once these strips are on. Available in various sizes, the shade fits screens that are up to 2.5 inches diagonally. List Price: $19.95.

Screen-Shades also are available with built-in magnifiers to make details in your photos or menu options easier to see. In addition to shading the screen, these accessories magnify it at varying degrees. The lightweight, polycarbonate version magnifies up to 2x and is available in two sizes to fit 1 3/4 and 2-inch screens. The high-quality glass magnifier functions like a loupe and magnifies up to 3x. They’re available in four sizes to fit any Screen-Shade. List Price: $29.95 (polycarbonate magnifier); $39.95 (glass magnifier).

The Digital Pursuits Digital Camera LCD Screen Hood from BKA has a silver aluminum finish that matches most digital cameras. Adhesive pads secure the hood in place without harming the camera. Available in two sizes to fit 1.5- and 1.8-inch screens, it folds flat for easy storage after each use. List Price: $19.95.

Hoodman specializes in digital camera hoods and other viewing accessories. The H-DCR rubber hood converts the camera’s LCD screen into a viewfinder for improved outdoor viewing without the glare. The hood is strapped in place over the LCD and fits screens of 1.5 to 1.8 inches in size. A 2x magnifier facilitates close focus. List Price: $19.95. Other hoods, such as the H-180 and H-400, fit LCDs that range from 1.5 to 4 inches. List Price: $9.95 to $19.95.

Designed specifically for Nikon’s D1, D1x and D1h digital SLRs, Hoodman’s H-D1CM 3-in-1 Combo includes a cap, hood and magnifier that fit together. The cap protects your LCD from scratches and dirt, the soft bellowed hood shades your screen, and the 2x magnifier fits in the bellows for easy menu reading. List Price: $49.95.

The same 3-in-1 combo (List Price: $39.95) also is available for the Kodak DCS Pro 14n, as well as other SLR models. For the Fujifilm S2, which has a play button close to the LCD screen, Hoodman makes a modified cap so you can attach the 3-in-1 SLR Pro Shooter Kit. List Price: $29.95.

The DigiFinder LCD Monitor Viewer is for digital cameras with 1.5- to 2-inch monitors. Transforming the monitor into a viewfinder, it allows you to clearly view the screen in bright light and at a focal distance that enlarges the picture without distorting it. Another benefit is being able to view the image from a comfortable distance using both eyes with the built-in magnifying condenser lens. List Price: $39.95.

The V4FL Visor from Photodon is collapsible and can be comfortably stored in your pocket to be used when needed. It magnifies and shades LCD screens that are 1.5 to 1.8 inches. A 50mm 3x lens improves visibility, but also can be removed so you can use the visor on its own. It’s attached via an elastic strap. List Price: $21.95.

Canon’s Angle Finder C allows you to adjust your viewing angle, making it easier to shoot macro photography. It provides a 2.5x magnification with a full-screen image that shows exposure data. An adapter is included to fit any EOS camera. List Price: $270.

For low-level viewing, Nikon makes two right-angle finders, the DR-5 and DR-6, that provide 100-percent viewfinder coverage from a convenient 90-degree angle. The DR-5 is a screw-in viewing attachment and is compatible with Nikon’s D2h, D1x and F5, as well as any SLR with a circular screw thread-type finder. The DR-6 slips onto any SLR with a rectangular configuration, including the D100 and D70. List Price: $279 (DR-5 or DR-6).

For use with the Pentax *ist D, ZX, PZ, LX, M and Program series, Pentax offers the Right-Angle Finder A. It features a 360-degree rotating angle viewfinder and an adjustable diopter. For close-to-the-ground macro shots, the finder has a built-in 2x magnification. List Price: $560.

(800) OK-CANON

DigiFinder (OmegaSatter)
(410) 374-3250

Digital Pursuits (BKA)
(800) 250-8394

(800) 818-3946

(800) NIKON-UX

(800) 877-0155

(775) 278-6741

Screen-Shade (LEE Filters)
(800) 576-5055