Someday I will pay $400 for Z-Finder Pro because they are clear, secure, and adjustable. But today isn't that day. Budget is too tight at the moment. But I do need a bright, crisp LCD magnifier for some upcoming video projects. So for the time being, I'll do it myself.
Figuring Out the Optics
I went upstairs into my mad scientist lab and started playing with lenses and mounts. My magnifier is based on the old "reverse lens trick" to increase magnification. I chose a Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 lens because of its wide opening. To get the right viewing distance from the LCD screen, I needed to add a couple spacers. I used my Rayqual Micro 4/3 adapter because it also had a large diameter opening. It was close to the right distance, but just a tad short. So I took a real lens cap, cut a large diameter hold in it, and mounted it to the Rayqual adapter. Perfect!
I added a little gaffers tape to the open end as to not scratch the LCD on the Canon. On the other end, I screwed in a rubber lens hood to serve as my eyepiece. That way I can use the rig in bright light.
Designing the Mount
I wanted something solid that didn't look too cobbled together. It dawned on me that the tripod collar for my 70-200mm f/4 Canon lens might work. You can get these cheap, BTW -- $12.99 from Meritline. For the bottom plate, I repurposed a flash bracket that had two tripod screws. One for the camera and the other for the Canon ring mount. The only problem was, it sat a little high. So I found a brass spacer in my lighting bag that lined everything up nicely. It doesn't look too bad, does it?
Pros and Cons for this Set Up
Cons: The image is beautifully crisp, but it doesn't cover the entire LCD, only the central area. This isn't a problem when the camera is tripod mounted because I can set up the shot, then remove the magnifier. But for action shooting this would be a problem.
Pros: Aside from being very sharp, I can fine tune the focus via the lens focusing ring. Also, I used stuff I already had (no cash outlay!). And, when I want to use the 50mm on my Olympus PEN camera, I just remove the bottom lens cap (that has a hole in it) and mount the lens to my micro 4/3s camera. So I can get double use out of this set up. (Since the PEN doubles the focal length, that means I have a 100mm f/1.7 lens for my E-PL1. Tell me that isn't useful at times.)
At some point this DIY rig will drive me crazy. Hopefully by then I'll have the money to buy a real LCD magnifier. Until then, however, I'm in business.
If you like do it yourself gear, be sure to check out our DIY Section here on The Digital Story. Lots of great ideas there.