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 »

Sony 5″ video monitor for DSLRs

For some time, I have been using a 7″ Lilliput external monitor for my Alpha and other HDMI output cameras. This is fairly bulky, with its external battery pack, and is mounted on a flash bracket holding it to the side of the camera. The main use of the monitor is for interview-style filming with it facing the subject (self filming) but it also has uses making location shooting simpler. Such monitors are usually mounted within video rigs, off camera, often at waist or chest level even when the camera is held above and forward of them.

The cost of the Lilliput is around £150-£200 depending on supplier and battery/mains power choices. Similar monitors from Marshall and other makers typically cost two to three times this, because they are sold for the photo market – the Lilliput is sold to the in-car entertainment sector, and therefore is not marked up by 300% to allow for the deep pockets of camera owners relative to car owners.

Sony’s new 5″ monitor is much lighter, and comes with mounts for hot shoe and Alpha shoe, and a neat lightweight HDMI-miniHDMI cable (oddly enough, that’s about the hardest thing to find – a short, skinny cable). It costs $395, but for that you do get a folding hood which is neat. They have many photos of it and not one shows it facing forwards, but the use is mentioned in the publicity.

It does not draw power from the HDMI, but requires either a mains adaptor or a battery pack, which is not shown in any of the photos. Sony have done the same as LED-video-light makers – provided a bay for fitting the regular Alpha camera battery as a power source. The press release implies that the battery pack is a separate item (‘optional’) instead of making the point that you use any large Alpha battery (including old ones left over from the A100). I find it very convenient that my video light accepts the same batteries as my camera system, and not very convenient to have a bulky rechargeable pack for my 7″ monitor. (NB: all that white space is part of Sony’s image we have linked to – nothing like wasting a bit of bandwidth by not cropping pix, is there?).

Here’s the press release:


A new clip-on LCD monitor from Sony gives DSLR camera owners a bigger, better view of their footage while shooting HD video.

The CLM-V55 is a portable video monitor featuring a high-resolution WVGA (800 x 480) (5”) LCD panel. Attaching easily to most Interchangeable Lens Digital cameras and compatible HD camcorders via the supplied adaptor, it displays video footage during shooting/playback with excellent clarity and a wide viewing angle.

The clip-on screen tilts and swivels to any angle for comfortable framing in any position – even self-shooting when you’re in the picture.

The CLM-V55 is loaded with pro-style features to help photo enthusiasts and videographers shoot high-quality HD video footage with their Interchangeable Lens Digital camera.

Pixel magnification mode assists with accurate focus confirmation, giving an enlarged pixel-perfect view of a selected portion of the Full HD image. It’s complemented by a colour peaking function that highlights the edges of accurately-focused areas of the video image.

An intuitive control wheel allows quick, positive adjustment of a wide range of monitor settings without interrupting shooting. Adjustable parameters include aspect ratio (16:9/4:3), volume, brightness, contrast, colour tone (phase), colour temp and auto dimmer. On-screen markers aid precise framing by giving precise indication of a TV’s 16:9 or 4:3 actual display area. The LCD monitor’s on-board mono speaker is complemented by a headphone jack for accurate audio monitoring during shooting.

The CLM-V55 attaches easily to a wide range of Interchangeable Lens Digital cameras from Sony and other manufacturers that support HD video shooting. The supplied adaptor simplifies mounting on any camera or HD camcorder that features an auto-lock accessory shoe or ISO shoe. Signal connection from camera to monitor is via the supplied HDMI cable, while power can be supplied using a battery pack or AC adaptor (both optional). The CLM-V55 comes with a detachable LCD hood for more comfortable viewing when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight.

The CLM-V55 LCD video monitor by Sony is available from March 2011.

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

New skins versus old wine – A350 or A380?

As the generation of Alpha 200, 300 and 350 reaches early retirement age it may be the time to grab bargains. The new Alpha 230, 330 and 380 have plenty of bonus points to win over new users despite the critical lack of video capture. But the older generation has some very tangible benefits.
The most obvious changes in the ‘Plus-30’ range are the use of a new smaller battery (NP-F50AM) shared with Cyber Shot consumer models, a dual MS ProHG Duo and SD card interface, substantial reduction in weight and size, improved rear LCD screen with auto brightness adjustment (only on the A330 and A380), and a radical overhaul of the graphical user interface to include sample picture tips (pioneered by Nikon).
Continue reading »

Nikon D5000: live view, HDv, articulated screen

Nikon UK is pleased to announce the D5000, its latest digital SLR camera that is perfect for capturing family fun and developing the skills of photography hobbyists. Packed with features that make taking pictures easy and fun, this camera stands out above the competition with its unique Vari-angle LCD monitor, allowing you to shoot easily from almost any angle. (Press release from Nikon UK, April 14th).

Continue reading »

Alpha 900 – finder and frames

It’s not going to be long before we see the Alpha 900, and some cameras are known to be out there on trial in the hands of Sony staff and pre-release testers. I am not one, so rest assured, this is not a leak! What can you expect from the Alpha 900’s full-frame prism finder?

(Note: this post was written in early August – it is now 100% certain that the finder is 100%, and at 0.74X magnification will be – as had been hinted – the largest of all current DSLR finders in apparent visual terms except the EOS 1Ds Mk III which is 0.76X. Comparisons: EOS 5D 0.68X, Nikon D3 0.70X)

Continue reading »

1 2