Hack 10 Battle the Sun with an LCD Hood

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Your camera's LCD viewing screen is one of its most exciting features?except, that is, when you're standing in bright sunlight and can't see the pictures on it.

If you ask people what they like best about their digital camera, many will say it's the LCD viewing screen that provides instant gratification right after you take the shot. How could you not love it? You can review the image, analyze its pros and cons, and then either keep it or try again?instant gratification at its best.

Too often, though, this love affair comes to a screeching halt when you're working in bright, direct sun. Your once color-rich LCD fades to a nearly indistinguishable shell of its former greatness. What happened?

The sun happened. Many LCD monitors hate the sun and don't fare well in its presence. To combat this problem, you have two options. You could purchase a state-of-the-art digital camera, such as the Contax SL300R T* shown in Figure 1-10, that uses a new technology called DayFine to preserve the screen's color fidelity regardless of the ambient light. Contax's parent company, Kyocera, originally developed this screen for their smart phones, which are constantly used in these types of lighting conditions.

Figure 1-10. The Contax SL300R T* with DayFine

If you're not in the mood to go out and buy a new digicam, you have to find a way to shield your existing LCD monitor from the sun's blinding rays. Hoodman (http://www.hoodmanusa.com) has excelled at providing glare relief for digicam owners. They make a variety of custom hoods that attach to almost every digital camera LCD on the market. The nylon hoods are well made and most sell for US$15 to $20. They fold up and take up hardly any room in your camera bag.

You might also want to take a look at the offerings from Screen-Shade (http://www.screenshade.com). They offer LCD shades for digital cameras, camcorders, and laptops. Their camera shades run between US$20 and $40, depending on size and whether a glass magnifier is included.

A clever homemade solution for photographers who have magnifying loupes to view their film transparencies is to adapt the magnifier to mount on the LCD screen. Models such as the Peak 2038 4X and the Horizon 4X, which have a two-inch viewing base for looking at medium-format film, can also be used as a nifty LCD viewer, as illustrated in Figure 1-11. You want to make sure you use the opaque base so that no stray light comes in, and stay away from loupes stronger than 4x, as that's just too much magnification for your LCD monitor.

Figure 1-11. Magnifying loupe used as an LCD shade

If you want, you can attach the loupe to the camera by cutting strips of adhesive-backed Velcro and adhering them the base of the loupe and the body of the camera. That way, you can easily remove the magnifier when it isn't needed. Not only does this rig provide you with sun relief so that you can actually see the picture you just took, it also makes it easier to inspect the fine details of the image.

Another trick is to take a plastic slide box, drill a hole in the bottom about the size of a U.S. quarter, and then use the Velcro strips to attach the open side of the box to the camera. If possible, use a black box to block out the light better. The main drawback of this solution is that it doesn't fold up like commercially made shades.

No matter which route you take, they're all better than cupping your hand around the LCD while squinting and trying to discern the picture you just took.