Creep no more! The LensBand.

Though their website shows a very different way of using this theme park wristband repurposed – the LensBand anti zoom creep device – it just happens to fit many Sony zooms perfectly without stretching it into position to lock barrel to collar.

By fitting the LensBand exactly over the joint between the zoom ring and static lens barrel, you can create a much smoother damped zoom action and prevent the zoom from tromboning when carried, or creeping during long exposures when the camera is angled up or down. This issue is not tackled by stabilisation and very small amounts of zoom creep can affect exposures as short as 1/30th without your realising. You don’t get why the zoom appears to be not so sharp – that’s because you do not realise you, or gravity, have caused a tiny shift in focal length during the exposure.

These silicone rubber bands are not expensive, and they can also be used to provide extra grip on zoom or focusing rings. We chose two colours as the best for Sony Alpha – orange and black! At the end of this article you’ll find a link to our associates at The Photostore (Adrian, for a decade the manager of the Minolta Club) who have both these wonderful rubbery colours in stock.

Here’s Mr Orange fitted to a very first batch 16-80mm CZ zoom which has become slack enough to extend itself when strapdangled. By positioning the band centrally over the seam, leaving the focal lengths just visible and the focusing window clear, the lens is transformed. The zoom action becomes super-smooth and the lens does not shift at all. The elasticity of the LensBand is 100% perfect for this zoom. You can yank it over the back of the zoom ring closer to the camera, at one side, to increase the lock effect but in practice this position works full time. It locks, and prevents creep, and also radically improves the feel of the lens zoom.

As you can see, it also looks pretty funky and matches the orange lens not-a-seal-just-a-decoration bit on the Alpha 55 mount.

But for a Sigma 70-300mm Apo Macro – one of our favourite lenses despite past histories of stripped gears, since no other lens does the same thing in terms of focus range and pure sharpness – the black band looked better. This time, the fit is a little tighter but the band forms a cone shape gripping between zoomring and barrel. It prevents the rather slack zoom of a brand new 70-300mm Siggy from causing havoc. Between 150 and 250mm, this zoom will tend to self-extend if aimed downward (or collapse back when tracking those same old BIFs and airshow targets beloved of dPreview boringphoto posters!).

You can see that this new band collected dust and skinbits instantly – it really doesn’t matter if you have just spent 15 minutes in a bath, the human body sheds a couple of million sensor dust specks every hour and your fingers are a magnet for silicone rubber. Black always looks worse – the orange band stands up to our macro lens photography a bit better.

The band bridges a fatter zoom ring to a narrow diameter lens barrel. This still works. By moving the band just 1mm either way, the tension or damping effect on the zoom can be controlled precisely. This particular lens was improved 200% in feel by fitting the band. It was also made usable on a tripod when aimed down or up.

Well, there it is. Could not really be a simpler concept (we’ve done it with fat rubber bands – one Photoclubalpha member reports using a band found holding together a bunch of broccoli). But these robust, one-size-fits-all-except-tiny-microfourthirds LensBand alternatives are clearly a better choice.

No, they don’t fit the 70-400mm SSM G. For that you need the inner tube of a hobbit bicycle tyre, or perhaps a couple of sand eels knotted together. Or one big one in the fashion of the Worm Orobouros. One day, we’ll tackle that; at the moment, our 70-400mm SSM G is solid enough not to slip. Another really rocksolid lens seems to the 16-105mm Sony SAL zoom, lovely firm action; and the Tamron 18-200mm E for NEX feels like it won’t get loose for years.

You find the LensBand for sale all over the place, but in UK, for orange and black, visit:

Adrian Paul also has loads of small accessories and he can get almost ANY Sony Alpha part or product to order – faster than most retailers. He is an authorised Sony Alpha supplier and has 25 years plus in-depth knowledge of the system.

For worldwide orders, B&H in the USA stocks all the colours, even the ugly ones which look nice on Canon lenses!


Tamron 18-200mm VC for NEX

Tamron’s has announced a high-power zoom for Sony’s NEX-series – the 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III VC (Model B011).

The image-stabilised lens has exactly the same nominal specifications as Sony’s own zoom. The angle of view is 27-300mm when converted to 35mm format.

It weighs 460g, uses 62mm filters, and has VC (Vibration Compensation). The metallic lens barrel exterior is available in two colors: black and silver. A newly constructed stepping motor allows contrast-detection AF during video shooting. Direct Manual Focus (DMF) allows the user to make fine manual adjustments in the AF focus.

Di III (Digitally integrated design): A new designation Tamron gives to lenses engineered specifically for mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras with no internal mirror box or pentaprism, adopting an optical design that matches the characteristics of the digital camera.

The result of this development is a lens that is compact and lightweight, featuring a 62mm filter diameter and weighing only 460g. The lens is available in silver and in black.

Tamron’s VC mechanism employs a three-coil system, electromagnetically moving the VC group via three steel balls. The VC lens elements are held in place only by contact with the steel balls, achieving smooth movement with little friction. This provides a stable viewfinder image with excellent tracking performance that eliminates the blur from handheld shots for cleaner, crisper shots.

Tamron’s earlier VC unit has a moving magnet system with heavy magnets in the vibration-compensating lens. However, the new VC mechanism adopts a lightweight moving coil system that reduces the load on the drive system. This allows the drive to be operated with smaller coils and magnets, reducing the weight and size for the entire VC unit. In addition, improvements to software and other elements of the VC mechanism used in the 18-200mm Di III VC have made the mechanism even quieter.

Specifications 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di lll VC (Model B011)

  • Focal length: 18-200mm
  • Maximum aperture: F/3.5-6.3
  • Angle of view3: (diagonal) 76˚ 10´-8˚ 03´
  • (Horizontal) 66˚ 16´-6˚ 43´
  • (Vertical) 46˚ 51´-4˚ 27´
  • Lens construction: 17 elements in 13 groups
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.5m (throughout zoom range)
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 1:3.7 (at f=200mm: MFD 0.5m)
  • Filter size: φ62mm
  • Length4: 96.7mm
  • Entire Length5: 102.0mm
  • Diameter: φ68mm
  • Weight: 460 g
  • No. of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Minimum aperture: F/22 – 40
  • Standard accessories: Flower-shaped lens hood (included)
  • Compatible mounts: Sony E-mount

The angle of view of the lens when used for video on the Sony digital HD video camera recorder NEX-VG10 is 32.4 – 360mm when converted to the 35mm format.

Due to an inherent characteristic of this TAMRON lens, the resulting image in the LCD monitor may be displayed in a “pumping” manner in the continuous operation of the focus search function when using the Sports Action mode on Scene Selection. The actual images captured will NOT be affected by this circumstance. In other Shoot Modes (P, A, S, M), when the focus mode is set to Continuous AF (AF-C), the same condition may also arise. The actual images captured will also NOT be affected by this circumstance.

As an alternative to the above settings, you can change the focus mode to Single-shot AF (AF-S) or Direct Manual Focus (DMF).

This lens was developed, manufactured and will be sold based on the specifications for the E-mount that was disclosed by Sony Corporation under Tamron’s license agreement with Sony Corporation

Price: The suggested retail price is yet to be announced. Availability: Early 2012. Exact date to be announced.

Tamron 18-270mm – a hero, but no VC…

After using Sigma’s 18-250mm optically stabilised zoom on Alpha bodies for a year and more, the first thing which strikes about the Tamron 18-270mm for Sony mount is the lack of the VC (Vibration Control) stabiliser found on the same lens made for Canon or Nikon.

Tamron’s lenses come without a case, but with a custom fit petal lens hood, front and rear caps. Design is clean with a Nikon-like sleeve grip and Canon-ish gold ring. The PiezoDrive focusing is similar to Nikon AF-S/Silent Wave or Canon USM, or Sony SSM, but not identical and on Sony models it can contrast-detect autofocus reliably. Sigma’s HSM hunts.

With Sigma facing patent claims by Nikon – that parts of their OS technology infringe on Nikon VR – Tamron VC is a mature system not so far challenged in the same way. It is also a very solid kind of stabilisation, free from swimming effects, and in this respect closely matches Sigma’s approach. Both are generally more comfortable than Canon’s IS which often seems to attach the image by a bungee cord to the viewfinder screen.

For video work, in-lens stabilisation is generally better than in-body as long as there is a good stable view which does not tend to float free when you pan slowly. For long lens work in general – over 200mm – in-lens stabilisation provides a view which is easier to aim and compose. We had already checked the lens out on Canon, with its smaller sensor area missing off the extreme corners (and therefore doing the lens favoured compared to other brands) but to compare with Sigma’s lens, needed to look at it in Sony mount.

The lack of VC in the Sony version of this lens is regrettable. There is no corresponding reduction in retail price.

Against this the Tamron has a longer zoom range, and it’s much smaller and lighter than the Sigma, taking regular 62mm filters not the unusual and large 72mm size. It also offers Piezo Drive focusing, which almost as quiet as SSM yet as fast as SAM. Small adjustments make a sort of faint clicking sound and focus travel is unusually fast, but a range of freehand refocusing tests using the Tamron showed that it is just as reliable in locking on to difficult targets as any other lens. Usually fast focusing means lots of overshooting or hunting, but not on the Alpha 580 used for this test.

Although the size and weight difference between this and the Sigma doesn’t look all that extreme when photographed in the studio, the heft in your hand (volume) is much less for the Tamron. It does not really seem any bigger than the Tamron/Sony 18-250mm design or the earlier 18-200mm.

The design of the lens follows these, with the LOCK switch for holding the lens at 18mm when walking round positioned for the right hand to operate, a long way from the AF/M switch (which should be used instead of the body switch for changing to manual focus).

This is a better design than the Sigma which clusters the AF/M, OS on/off and Lock controls together on the left hand side. Even after a year of use, both Shirley and I regularly turn the lens OS off, or turn AF off, instead of operating the Lock. All three controls move in the same way and are intended for the same fingers. Tamron’s location of Lock on the right hand side is ergonomically better.

However, both lenses fail to do the one simple thing which would improve such zooms – make the Lock control operate at ALL focal lengths not just 18mm. The Tamron is firm as we test it, so was the Sigma when new, but our Sigma can not now be used to pan with a plane or bird flying overhead unless one hand is used to keep the zoom from collapsing to 18mm immediately the lens is aimed upwards. To do the studio shot, the Sigma had to be taped to keep the zoom extended. Otherwise, it can’t even sit on a table set to 250mm.

You can’t see the sticky tape stopping the year-old Sigma zoom from deflating itself to 18mm every time when placed in the studio for this shot. The new Tamron is still young and firm. But we need locks which work at ALL settings.

It can not be difficult to devise a zoom lock which works at intermediate settings and it would transform the functionality of lenses like this.

Apart from ergonomics, there is no significant difference in build quality. Sigma feels more solid but heavier in action, Sigma’s exterior finish is difficult to clean and collects marks and dust easily. Tamron feels more plastic in build but has a high quality metal bayonet just like its rival.


Just studying the lens coatings shows why the Tamron can be more contrasty and less prone to flare in some light – especially if you fit a cheap filter to the Sigma and get contrast-eroding reflection for that front element.

The Tamron lens has visibly higher detail contrast than the Sigma, and in the centre of its field produces a very sharp image. The edge of the image lets it down, however, rather badly. The detail is soft at longer focal lengths unless stopped well down (ƒ/11 or so) and red-green chromatic fringes are serious enough to spoil JPEGs. They are not even very well corrected by using Adobe Lens Profile to process from raw (there is no Sony profile but Nikon, using similar sensors, can be selected).

This is a Sony Alpha 55 ISO 400shot, deliberately off centred in composition, with the Tamron set to f/9 (a good compromise between diffraction and stop-down sharpness) and 270mm.

The focus point is away from the centre of the image, and the lens displays good contrast and sharpness, but even here there is a slightly dirty look to the detail and chromatic fringes hit the white edge. This is NOT by the way anything to do with the Alpha 55 translucent mirror!

Here’s the edge of the shot at 270mm and f/9. I feel it would be almost unfair to Tamron to publish some of the worst results I got wide open. This is a defocused distance, of course, but this is also real-life imaging. This is why we did not switch from the bulky, heavy Sigma to the neater, lighter travel-friendly Tamron.

At full aperture and 270mm the performance is markedly inferior to the Sigma at 250mm wide open. The lens has better multicoating but poor field flatness, which creates the softening to the edges and corners.

The Tamron at 18mm has pretty strong barrel distortion which, when corrected using a lens profile in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, lost some of the wide-angle coverage.

At wide to medium focal lengths, the difference is less marked and the Tamron is more equal the Sigma or other ‘best’ superzooms. But this is a lens bought for its extra reach at 270mm; given the performance, it’s not all that much use unless your subject is centred and surrounded by out of focus background.

Tamron at 270mm.

Sigma 250mm view – at near-infinity, the Tamron is longer the Sigma but not quite as much as 270mm would indicate.

Another issue is that of focal length, above and below examples. If the Sigma is a true 250mm (which it is not, all such zooms are shorter than their stated figures) then the Tamron is actually 265mm not 270mm at infinity.

This is unscientific, but the baby owl did not move and both lenses were placed in turn against the wire of its enclosure ensuring the same shooting distance to within a centimetre or so (with lens hoods removed). Tamron at 270mm.

By this distance, the Sigma at 250mm really is no different in focal length than the Tamron at 270mm, due to internal focusing differences. And it focuses closer than the Tamron for a larger maximum subject scale.

Although the close focus is good, at 49cm and 1:3.8 scale it’s not as good as the Sigma with 45cm and 1:3.4 scale – the true focal length at closer distances also seems to be shorter than the Sigma, though this is hard to evaluate.

As for bokeh, that’s not why you buy these lenses:

How many stumps? Wiry would be a fair bokeh description at medium apertures and longer focal lengths (270mm again, above, at f/9).

The Tamron PZD focus does work on the LA-EA1 Alpha adaptor for NEX; it’s not fast, but can lock autofocus perfectly even in difficult light. The Sigma can not do this at all and is not AF-compatible with the NEX adaptor. But… manually focused, the Sigma has OS. Vital!

Most telling is the weight difference when mounted on a light body like the A55. The Tamron is a far better match even if not as ‘good’ a lens – 970g for A55+Tamron, 1400g for A580+Sigma. Check prices, and work out your priorities.

– David & Shirley Kilpatrick

Replacing NEX LCD cover glass

The Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 both use the same plastic-framed, metal stamping mounted rear 3 inch 16:9 LCD display for composition, menus and image review. The original LCD has a multilayer structure claimed by Sony to reduce reflections, increase contrast and resist scratches. But in use, these rear screens have shown a tendency for the surface layer to delaminate, creating very ugly and distracting patchy reflections. It is easy to replace this surface film completely, with a new toughened glass surface. Continue reading »

Pro underwater housing for NEX-5

Most underwater housings for compact cameras are basic items intended for use down to 10m or so. The NEX-5, with its magnesium alloy body and exceptional 16mm f/2.8 optic with fisheye and wide conversion options, is worth far more than that. It can be turned into the modern-day equivalent of the Nikonos rather than a modern day equivalent of that peculiarly unreliable subaqua Vectis which Minolta bowed out with…

Here’s something which we found in an email for B&H Photo Video. It is not exactly cheap – you are looking at a near-$2000 investment to take your NEX and lenses below the waves – but it’s got a specification to make serious subaqua shooters rush for that low-cost NEX-5 outfit to complete the kit. Especially as anything similar for DSLR cameras may cost 50%, 100%, even more than this.

There is a waiting list now – the Montreal manufacturer (reports Photoclubalpha forum member Javelin) is 4-6 weeks from delivery after a big rush following the product announcement. So if you want one of these for summer, get your order in right now, do not delay as all production is likely to be pre-ordered this year.

To complete this you need an extension and dome port front, of course

The Aquatica AN-5 Underwater Housing for Sony NEX 5 Camera is a compact (5.5 x 3.25 x 6″/14.2 x 8 x 15.4 cm) housing machined from a solid block of aluminum designed for the Sony NEX 5 camera. This lightweight (2.2 lbs/1 kg) housing has a baked-on powder coating and is fully anodized against the corrosive effects of sea water. It has replaceable sacrificial anodes, plus pad printed function labels that won’t peel off or fade. It has built-in dual optical connectors, and all controls are easily accessed, with the LCD screen at a more-comfortable 15° viewing angle. A variety of ports are available for the AN-5 housing.

Note: Requires Lens port
Also Note: Most zoom lenses require a close-up diopter filter to correct focus distance.

  • Accurately balanced ergonomic design – all controls are within easy reach.
  • Depth rating: 300′ (90 m).
  • Excellent balance underwater.
  • Replaceable sacrificial anodes protect the housing from electrolysis.
  • Precision machined from a single aluminum block
  • Lightweight and compact housing is fully anodized
  • Covered with baked-on powder coating to protect against the corrosive effects of sea water
  • All function labels are pad printed so they will not peel off or fade.

Pre-order from B&H

This is a new product, and B&H show it as available for pre-order, along with the accessory ports (to fit either the 18-55mm zoom, the 16mm f/2.8 alone or the 16mm fitted with the VCL-ECF1 fisheye converter) and accessory L-type hand grip. See comments above about production and orders. This is a hot product and likely to be hard to get.

The housing is compatible with the Sea & Sea Y110a slave-strobe underwater flash. This will set you back the better part of $1000 more, but it’s been tested synched with the NEX mini flash and apparently all works well. Flash is essential for good colour at depth, even down 5m or so and you’ll require it in many water conditions. The premium option is the twin Y110a dual unit (the housing has two optical connectors for the strobe’s fibre optic triggering cables).

If you are put off by the cost, maybe you can’t afford that two week trip to the Maldives to photograph manta ray convocations – the basic housing is $1399, a typical dome port as shown is $499 (for the 16mm lens alone, only $159 and the cheapest option), the L-grip is $59, there’s also an optional zoom control. But 90m diving with an APS-C live view autofocus camera with f/2.8 lens focusing down to a few inches, usable ISO to 1600 and then more, has to make this worth the cost. And if you want to match the combo, you can easily spend $10,000 on a DSLR with housing which will not get into the same space or handle anything like as well.

– DK

Nissin Di866 flashgun for Alpha

Kenro, the UK distributor for Nissin, has announced that the powerful and fully featured wireless twin-head Di866 Professional Speedlite is now available in Sony hot shoe fit.

Initially launched in September 2009 with a Canon or Nikon fit, the Di866 is specifically designed for use with digital SLR cameras and comes with many ‘world’s first’ features. This new flash unit is simple to use and can also be fired wirelessly where it can be used as a master or receiver.

Check availability and price in your camera fitting from B&H Photo Video here

With a guide number of 60m (ISO 100 @ 105mm) the Di866 features Nissin’s original ‘My TTL’ user adjustable TTL light output level and is firmware upgradable thanks to an onboard USB port.

The gun also features high speed synchronisation and a fill in sub-flash (12m100 ISO), which is activated while the main flash is bounced and also has a built-in wide angle diffuser and catch-light reflector.

The flash gun comes with an auto-rotate colour display that stays upright whichever way the unit is tilted. The display utilises user-friendly icons to enable ease of operation.

“The Di866 has been a hit with photographers and journalists alike, with one reviewer describing the flash as ‘the most powerful hotshoe flashgun available,’ and I think everyone who uses the flash will agree with that statement,” says Kenro managing director, Paul Kench. “I’m delighted we are now able to offer this unit to Sony users.”

See for details of your nearest stockist, or call Kenro on 01793 615836 for more detail.

Sigma lens incompatibility with A33 and A55

Edited from Sigma Japan’s announcement:
Sigma’s lenses for Sony mount may have a potential aperture operation problem when used with the Sony α33 and α55 Interchangeable Lens digital cameras.
To overcome this issue, we will be offering, free of charge, a modification service to our customers who have purchased a Sony α33 and α55 and own Sigma lenses for Sony mount. This phenomenon will only occur with Sony α33 and α55 cameras. Future production of Sigma lenses will be fully compatible with these cameras.
We deeply apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers.
When shooting with a Sony α33 and α55 cameras, the aperture may not work properly and a “camera error” message will be displayed on the camera.
Lenses requiring the modification
All current Sigma’s lenses for Sony mount.
For lenses discontinued several years ago, a modification may not be available. For further details, please contact your nearest authorized Sigma Service Station.
Support for this issue
We will be offering a modification service for our current range of lenses free of charge. Please contact your nearest authorized Sigma Service Station.
World Network
Mark for compatible lenses
Future production of Sigma lenses will be compatible with these cameras. The above sticker will be put on the product box of compatible lenses.
For further information, please contact your nearest authorized Sigma Service Station.

Editor’s comment:
Depending on whether the aperture problem is entirely mechanical (the coupling) or also involves electronics, it would be fair to assume that problems with the A33/A55 may not be restricted to Sigma independent lenses, but may also apply to other makes, especially older lenses. Brands made by Sigma such as Quantaray are almost certain to be affected. We await Sony’s statement on compatibility with older lenses, including Minolta. Please note that the Alpha adaptor for the NEX E-mount provides normal aperture operation with Sigma lenses; how the A33/A55 mount differs we have yet to see.

GGS Toughened Glass LCD Protectors for Alpha

Back in that first golden summer – well, it was late autumn going on winter, just the time to acquire a new DSLR when the days were short and the light awful – the Konica Minolta Dynax 7D arrived with a plastic screen protector in the box. A week later the first one had, after several recaptures, successfully jumped ship leaving the decks bare.
Two more 7D screen protectors later I finally sold the 7D, but only after it had spent three years in the studio where the worst that could happen was a soft landing on the carpet. My Alpha 100 never got a protector but never seemed to get scratches on the LCD. Then the Alpha 700 arrived, and with its lovely hard coated screen I got the same sense of durability you get from glass.
Wrong again! After six months, my Alpha 700 screen was covered in a fine patina of scratches with one slightly visible one. The coating was suffering and I bought a clip-on Sony hard plastic protector. Unlike the 7D model, this one stayed put, but over the next two years of use became a rather scruffy impediment to screen reviewing.
From then on, I decided to put screen protectors on all our Alphas. The Alpha 200 got a thin layer design for mobile phones. It did the job perfectly. The Alpha 350 got a much thicker plastic which felt almost rigid when it was applied, and left we wondering whether it would come off cleanly. The Alpha 900 got a slightly more flexible feeling sheet with a similar not too glossy, slightly uneven surface.
The Alpha 380 was given a Fujifilm LCD protector from the local shop (packs of three, with a cleaning cloth, suitable for all screens around 2.7 to 3 inches). It was still on it in perfect condition when sold. The same pack of foils provided instant cover for the Alpha 550 although its screen and surround really demanded a slightly larger protector.
Then, in February, two things happened. I order some kit from Poland and the on-line store (Foto-Tip) also had GGS toughened optical glass screen protectors. I’ve seen these labelled as Giottos Schott glass protectors and various other makes, generally at around £20 each in the UK, and had my doubts about the idea of fitting adhesive glass to my camera. Also, Alpha fit types were not all that visible in the UK. But Foto-Tip had Alpha fit glass protectors for the A700, A900, A350 and even the A550 – all the Alphas we are currently using.

They were well under £10 each including postage – cheaper than plastic clip-on protectors, a bit more than most peel off films (which also tend to come in packs of two to three, though this is rarely made clear when advertised). So I ordered the entire set. You can see them above.
2018 update: You can find new GGS Larmor screen protectors on Amazon UK or WEX Photo Visual as well on eBay. B&H have plenty of other brands and types but not this.
Before trying anything, I examined the screens and checked their reputation on-line. It seems that they consist of much the same laminated glass and polymer film sandwich which forms the hardened glass for professional Canon LCDs, and that the adhesive is an elastic optically clear gel made by 3M and very similar to that now being used for the intermediate layers in LCD assembly.
In other words, adding this would add a layer – but to the same standards as normal glass-faced LCD, without the superior coating found in a camera like the Canon EOS 7D.
Which camera to treat first came about when the second thing happened – the plastic protector foil on the Alpha 550 must have come loose on a corner, stuck to my jacket and pulled off. I returned from shooting outdoors to find the screen no longer protected, and the camera had been swinging around with zips, straps, other cameras and all kinds of scratch hazards. It was still perfect, fortunately.
Fitting the GGS to the Alpha 550
Using a microfibre cloth, I cleaned the 550 screen very carefully and followed the simple instructions. I left the top plastic protector in place, but they recommend you remove this before fitting as it makes alignment easier. Every GGS protector has a neat black printed edge frame with the camera name. This helps with handling, as if you do get a tiny edge of finger touching the adhesive gel, any resulting mark is hidden behind the black surround.

The Alpha 550 screen surface is slightly recessed. This helped greatly with the exact alignment of the very large cover glass, which goes beyond the image area of the screen and covers all the original plastic face of the panel. There is a shaped edge to match the indent in the rectangle, and a hole in the black frame for the activity light to show.

Alignment was very easy indeed with the rigid screen – far more so than with flexible foils. The adhesion was instant, and perfect, without a single bubble. Unlike a foil, this optically plane sheet doesn’t trap air and even if you did get a dust speck in the sandwich, the gel glue surrounds it without an air pocket.
The thickness of the glass leaves the screen now slightly raised, not slighly sunk, but the edge is beautifully ground and polished so that there is no question of a sharp encounter with your nose or hands. The old foil protector had never reallty been totally clear and was always visible; the GGS protector, though lacking a multilayer coating, improves visibility in daylight compared to a plastic protector.

The perfect flatness of the glass and perfect fit to the camera make a very rewarding finished job. Does it void the warranty? Will it ever be removable? Will the 3M glue layer go yellow with age, or harden and lose contact? Will the screen crack if hit – or will the extra layer stiffen the overall assembly and reduce the risk of damage?
It’s such a permanent-looking and feeling job that I may never find out. GGS say the screen may need to be gently heated, and eased off using a scalpel blade.
2018 update: the latest GGS, Afunta, Vello and similar glass protectors use a silicon adhesive which is even better for fixing, but allows removal with just a fingernail to lift a screen corner.
The other Alphas
The Alpha 700 had a patinated LCD – six months of unprotected use. Careful cleaning minimised this. The GGS glass screen fits neatly, with its whole thickness adding to the screen which starts flush with the camera. The edge, again, does not feel likely to cut or injure but it becomes the ‘hardest’ edge on the camera. Surprisingly, the adhesive gel seems to remove any the visible blotchiness of the hard coating along with the fine scratches. The single most visible small mark on the screen remains just visible.
While the added glass layer can not improve reflections or viewing conditions, it beats the clip-on plastic shield through which everything was diffused before. The Sony name at the bottom of the screen is now hidden, but can be glimpsed refracted through the clear edge of the protector which sits proud of the surface.
Much the same applies to the Alpha 900, but the screen is slightly recessed (more like the A550) to start with and is changed to having a slightly proud edge once the glass is fitted. It is a bit neater than the A700. It’s recessed just enough to hide the Sony name at the bottom of the screen fully, it can’t be spotted through the side of the glass thickness.
Finally, the Alpha 350 has a thick plastic LCD protector as its outer layer and this stands well proud of the surround. My thought, which I still don’t dismiss entirely, is that this sheet looks as if it could be removed and replaced with the GGS glass. But I was not going to attack my Alpha 350 with a scalpel to find out. If you had a 350 with a cracked cover sheet, it could be worth trying.
With the GGS glass added, the 350 has a pretty ‘high build’ screen – the glass increases the thickness of it by about 50%. It is already pushed into your face compared to the A550, or any other Alpha, with the viewfinder eyepiece too far forward. The extra 0.3mm or whatever it is (I have not measured it) is just a little more ergonomic negativeness. But the edge still feels safe not sharp, the screen assembly appears to be given added rigidity, and I’m happy that this is a good permanent protection for an exposed and vulnerable LCD cover surface.
Update: two months after this post was written the NEX mirrorless range was launched, and I visited Croatia to be one of the first journalists to use the system – reported here. We transcribed the launch presentation too. But after less than a year, the rear LCD screens of NEX models were showing signs of serious deterioration. I decided to risk my camera after studying how the screen was made, and removed the top layer. The GGS (actually a JYY branded version) screen protector turned out to be able to replace the worn original plastic top layer easily and I wrote about this in April 2011, sparking off hundreds of YouTubers and bloggers to follow our lead.
At the same time, I was fitting my Nikon D5000 with a Delkin Silicon Skin. I just fancied giving my ‘car camera’ a bit of extra protection, and maybe some damping for better video sound. The silicon skin comes with a couple of screen protector foils.
Despite the LCD of this camera being kept face-to-camera (concealed) all the time, and rarely used except for video shooting, my careful cleaning and dusting did not prevent several dust spots and bubbles with the first protector foil. So I removed it, cleaned again, and fitted the second. Still one bubble – and it won’t go away!
That is one very big benefit of these GGS glass protectors. They don’t get bubbles, they are easily fitted with perfect straight alignment, and after a day’s use and handling I have found a quick polish restores a perfect surface. Hopefully, they will resist scratching for years not months, and never need to be prised off their host bodies.
2018 update: you can read my post about the 5th generation GGS Larmor product here.
– David Kilpatrick

Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM

Tamron’s 18-250mm lens – later adopted by Sony – was so good that it really takes some effort to beat it. Sigma has put that effort in, but the cost is a very much larger and heavier lens. If all you got was some better performance, it might not be all that exciting. But you get potentially superior anti-shake through its built-in OS, and faster focusing with HSM, the Sigma equivalent of SSM. And you can buy it for under $430, and it works fine on the NEX A-mount adaptor for stabilised videos too – with some degree of autofocus tracking during filming.
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The Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG HSM Macro II

SIGMA redesigned their 70-200mm not long ago to change the EX version to DG, introducing new coatings which greatly improved microcontrast and eliminated digital camera sensor reflections. In 2008, this was further upgraded to the Macro II model with HSM sonic motor focusing, a new optical design capable of focusing down to 1 metre distance. In 2009 this became available, along with matched HSM-compatible 2X and 1.4X converters, for the Sony Alpha mount.
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