Intro: Home Made DSLR Rear LCD Viewfinder for Shooting Video
Have you ever been shooting video with your DSLR in bright sunlight or bright indoor lighting? Most DSLRs that shoot video require you to use the rear LCD to view what you are shooting. What's the problem here? Well, in brightly lit scenes glare causes you to not be able to seen the screen very well. I recently bought the Canon T1i and love the way it takes photos but was disappointed when often times parts of my videos were out of focus due to my inability to see the screen while shooting. I saw a gadget in a photo mag that hooked into your hot shoe and made a viewfinder out of your LCD to fix this problem. I thought that was cool but didn't want to know what that would cost. Here is my solution to the given problem. Keep in mind that this cost me less than 5 dollars and took only a few hours. This is not by any means a professional piece of equipment but it works great for me.
Step 1: What Your Going to Need
To start off I must caution that this project changed and evolved as I worked on it so the materials pictured may not all have been used. Also I work a very strange place in Lynnwood, Washington called Creation Station that gets a lot of strange items. That being said some of the things I used may be hard for you to find.
1 piece of Sintra, which is a plastic that is easily mold-able with boiling water or a heat gun.
1 Lab style 500ml Nalgene bottle
1 small piece of soft foam
1 small piece of foam rubber
1 35mm film container
1 lens from a set of cheap bonoculars
Don't be turned off by the strange Nalgene bottle and mold-able plastic keep reading about how to use other materials.
Step 2: Just a Few Tools
As far as tools are concerned for this project your not going to need very many tools. Also there are many different and alternative options for the tools I used.
1) Hack saw
2) Dremel with cut off wheel
3) Hot glue gun
4) Soldering iron
5) X-acto knife
7) Sand paper about 180 grit or something coarse
8) A good work surface
9) Some free time
10) A little bit of imagination
11) Oh yes and a straight edge if you like your edges all straight and what not
Sorry no picture for this step. This is what the imagination is for.
Step 3: The Weird Bottle!
To start get your Nalgene bottle if you have one. What your going to want to do is find out where the bottle starts to go straight. You can see in the photo where I marked on the bottle. Once you have marked all the way around with your straight edge or just by hand if your awesome, get your hack saw. Being careful not to go off course cut the top of the bottle off. Once you have done this get your sand paper of choice and clean up the edge of the bottle neck portion. At this point you can get rid of the bottom of the bottle, but you really should keep it for some other project. The other thing you can do while your at it is sand the heck out of the inside and outside of the bottle.
Now, if you cannot get a hold of one of these bottles don't lose hope. Get some Black matte board or plastic and using your tools and hot glue gun build a pyramid with a large end that will fit over you LCD on your camera and a small end that will accommodate a 35mm film container snugly.
While your doing this you might want to turn on your soldering iron to warm it up if you haven't already.
Step 4: Don't Scratch Your Screen!
Now that you have a nice plastic edge that could potentially scratch your LCD grab your piece of foam rubber. Place your bottle neck on it large side down and trace it. Now cut the foam leaving about 1/16th of an inch around your line. Once you have done this cut a hole on the inside that is the same size as your LCD.
Step 5: Make That Gasket Fit
Now that you have a gasket to go between your cone and LCD you need to make it attach sufficiently. This is where the soldering iron comes in. very carefully melt the foam rubber along the inside of your line that is where the cone sits. What your aiming for is a slot that the cone with fit in but not that goes all the way through. I melted about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through the foam for a nice fit. At this point you can put a small bead of hot glue in the slot you just made and attach it to the cone.
Step 6: This Step Is Not Completely Necessary
I say that this step is not needed because I it will take a little more time with not much change. I noticed that the round opening in the bottle cropped the LCD a bit so you could just barely not see some of it. I set out to fix this problem and this is what I came up with. ( I did not actually fix the problem)
Cut the bottle neck off at its base as shown. Cut the 35mm film container off about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Now using the Dremel cut off wheel make the hole in the bottle piece a rectangle as shown in the second photo. The hold should just fit the 35mm film container when it is squished into a rectangle. Then hot glue it nice and solid so it stays in place.
The variables here are how long your viewfinder needs to bee. Test out the binocular lens you have or whatever it was that you found and get the correct distance from the LCD so that you can get focus properly.
This step however is important if your not using a bottle and made you own cone. Just do the same thing.
Step 7: Flat Black for the Professional Finish
Professional finish... Right! Like it says just take what you have assembled outside now and spray it with some kind of black paint. You can hand paint it, sharpie, or if your really cool maybe you have a black bottle already. Anyway, the black is simply to keep glaring lite from entering the viewfinder.
Now grab your lens and your soft foam. Trace the lens on the foam and cut a rough outside shape like a square. Then using your knife cut a round hole from the center as best you can. It works better to make the hole slightly smaller so you can stretch the foam around the lens. Now hot glue it or glue it with your favorite adhesive. Again using the knife you can now form the foam piece so it better fits your eye. Lastly glue the whole thing on the end of the 35mm film container. Be sure you don't use super glue for this as it will cause hazing on the lens.
Step 8: But How Does It Go on My Camera?
What you need to do now is using the Sintra or whatever material that is bendable, mold-able, thin, and strong, make a mount. The mount should slide tightly into the hot shoe on top of your camera and attach somewhere on the viewfinder you have now made. If you don't like that approach you can use some imagination and two rubber bands to go around your whole camera. This part is really up to you.
The easiest alternative to using Sintra would be a small piece of aluminum. Just be sure that you put something on the underside so that you don't cause the hot shoe points to make contact confusing your camera.
Step 9: Your Done!
Now your cool now accessory is done and you can shoot videos like no one else. Well, at least I can. I hope this build was helpful to you and if you would like to purchase one of the Nalgene bottles they are available from Creation Station by phone at (425) 775-7959 or hop on over to the web site at CreationStationInc.com don't forget the INC. The items used are not posted on the web site but are available by phone order or E-mail. I can pick them out personally.
Cheers and happy shooting.