Add a cheap but fine lens hood and rain hood to a Panasonic Lumix digicam.
My Christmas present this year was a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, an excellent little digicam with a Leica lens. It's been raining around the SF Bay Area lately and I wanted a way to shoot in bad weather. I remember seeing instructions years ago for taping the hood of a rain-poncho onto an SLR lens-hood so the whole arrangement covered you and your camera, making you look like an old-school view-camera operator.
There is no lens hood for the Lumix, and I don't use a poncho in the rain. I wanted a small kit to carry with me just-in-case. A few dollars at the hardware store and a Ziploc and my camera is storm-ready. As a bonus, I ended up with a rather elegant lens hood for the camera, for when the sun is out.
Lens hoods are good for reducing glare on a lens. Modern lenses are so well coated (against glare) that you can get away without a hood, but using one can increase contrast and is at the very least an aid when shooting towards bright light sources. My hood also protects the small extended lens from getting knocked when the camera is swinging at the end of my camera strap.
The cost of materials is only a few dollars, plus about 30 minutes of time. You'll need a couple tools, but they don't have to be the ones I used (I'll note options as I go). You'll see that the project is pretty specific to my Lumix, but you'll also see that it is basic enough that it might be modified to work for other cameras.
Critical to this project is that your camera that has a raised, fixed ring outside the movable lens assembly (digital camera lenses are always moving in and out as you zoom). There might be other ways of affixing a makeshift hood (mailing tube?) to a differently configured camera body (elastic bands, tape, glue), but none quite so simple as this. I know this is very specific to the Lumix, but maybe it will inspire solutions for other cameras.
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Step 1: What You'll Need
One black PVC 1.5" x 2" reducer/increaser coupling ($2)
Four inch cable tie (zip tie)
Ziploc bag as a rain coat for your camera (1 gallon size ... can be any brand, but should be beefy)
Drill (bit diameter to match width of zip tie) (or other way of making a hole ... see step 5)
Assorted sandpaper (rough and fine, for sanding and finishing the PVC)
Needle files (or other way of routing channels in the plastic ... see step 6)
Dremel or other rotary grinder to speed up the shaping of the PVC
Step 2: Observe the Edges
Take a look at the edge of the PVC. On the small end, it has a slight interior bevel. I'm going to sand it down a bit so there is no bevel. This way the hood will sit more snugly against the ring around the lens of the camera.
On the other hand--on the other (larger) end--there is not enough of a bevel for the Lumix: when I first mounted it, there was slight vignetting (the hood was just the slightest bit too small in diameter at the edge). I solved this by grinding / sanding away the inside edge of the large opening of the hood ... that did the trick, eliminating the vignetting.
The next couple steps show the sanding operations.
Step 3: Sanding the Small End Flat
Here I'm sanding down the small end, effectively eliminating a small bevel inside that would interfere with the hood getting a good grip on the small ring around the lumix's lens.
Step 4: Grinding a Bevel in the Large End
By taking away material on the inside of the large end of the PVC hood, I eliminated the vignetting on my Lumix (throughout the entire zoom range as well). It may not be necessary on another camera (but for that matter, the vignetting might be too severe on another camera to solve this way. The only way to test it would be to go to the hardware store with your camera and play around).
Step 5: Adding a Brace to Make a Snug Fit: Drilling
The diameter of the small end of the hood is almost perfectly suited to snug onto the ring around my camera's lens. But not quite. I decided on attaching a small cable tie to brace it. It's the best solution I could come up with (having tried a bit of gaffer's tape to reduce the diameter inside the hood, but ruling that to be too impermanent).
In these next few pics, I'm drilling a hole to mount the tie, then using a small square needle file to create a channel for the zip tie to rest in. More on why in the next slides.
If you don't have access to a drill, you can find another way to put a hole in the relatively soft PVC: an awl (such as you'd find on a Swiss Army Knife) would work, or a soldering iron would melt a neat hole through (and stink your workshop up).
Step 6: Filing a Channel for the Tie
Simply adding a zip tie made the hood fit a little too snugly, so I filed a little channel for it to 'settle' in, effectively lessening the reduction in diameter. As you do this for the Lumix (or any other mount), remember to be be gentle with the filing: you can't put material back, but you can always take more away. Don't overdo it at first. I went through a couple of cycles of testing while deepening the channel so that my zip tie stuck out just enough to brace the hood with enough tension to stay on, while not threatening to deform the ring it was pressed onto.
The file is a square needle file, which worked really well. Before I remembered I had these little files, I considered using the soldering iron to melt a little channel in the plastic.
Step 7: The Channel for the Zip Tie
Here's a view of the channel after I filed it down. Note the corresponding notch in the edge: this is necessary so that the hood sits flush against the camera body (otherwise the zip tie would have prevented it).
Step 8: Zip Tie Installed
This zip tie is necessary to decrease the diameter of the small end of the hood ... so that the hood will grab onto the ring around the lens.
Note: please be very careful not to force a home-brew hood onto any part of your camera if you aren't sure it will fit. If you have any concern that it will deform or mar any part of your camera, or that it will interfere with the movements of the lenses, step away from the camera, man!
Step 9: My Naked Lumix
A view of the Lumix with no hood attached. You can see the ring around the lens elements. That ring, which is metal, actually comes off (so you can screw on an accessory mount for attaching filters). Sliding the hood over the ring does not interfere at all with the lens elements or the zoom action when they are moving in and out. In fact the hood ends up being extra protection for the lens elements when they're extended.
Step 10: Lumix With Hood
The hood protects the lens from getting knocked, and will keep glare off of the lens. This seems even more good with the Leica on this Lumix: the outside lens element is nearly flush with the end of the lens assembly, with no protection at all.
From this picture, you can see the only limitation of attaching the hood: the auto-focus assist lamp (the little glass circle to the right of the LUMIX badge) will be partially blocked. The lamp is only there to illuminate subjects in the dark (and to blink when the self-timer is on). It serves no other function. Shouldn't be a problem: you won't need to use the hood in the dark. If you want to take pics in the rain, while it's dark ... what can I say?
Step 11: Lumix With Hood, Another View
Looks like it belongs on the camera, doesn't it? (It would probably look even sexier on the black version of the Lumix. I like this just fine.)
Step 12: Ready for the Rain
Remember that the origin of the project was my desire to protect the camera from rain. So ... here is the hood mounted inside a one-gallon Ziploc. The hole in the bag is about 75% of the diameter of the small end of the hood. The Ziploc stretches onto it (and seems to rebound quite well when I take it off, suggesting it will last through several 'sessions') and creates a nice seal, as you can see. Rain shouldn't get in there.
Obviously, the hood is open on the end, and this is not waterproof! It is only going to protect the lens if you don't point it up into the rain. And you will have to gauge the seal on the bag for yourself (it's your camera after all). I will use this in a downpour, and simply keep the lens pointed horizontal or down! If you take this out in a hurricane, you'd better be pointed downwind!
That said, you can also see from the way the diameter shrinks as it moves closer to the body of the camera, that any drips that get inside the large end will be prevented from flowing back into the lens assembly, unless you tip it way back.
Step 13: The Camera, Covered
You can hold it from inside the bag or from the outside. The Ziploc allows you to operate all the buttons, and to see all your images on the large LCD through the plastic bag (the Lumix has no viewfinder).
When I tested the system out in a rain recently, I found that the inside of the bag steamed up ... my hands were probably a bit damp. I think the smart move is to operate the cam from the outside of the bag.