Finally Big Enough and Sharp Enough
The Hoodman Loupe has been a popular accessory for many photographers over the past couple of years. Its purpose is to provide a magnified and shaded view of a camera's rear LCD screen, and in this it did a fairly good job. It suffered from two flaws though.
The first was that it did not provide coverage for the new generation of larger 3" LCD screens, and the second is that the eyepiece magnifier was, shall we say, not of the highest quality. Still, it was useful and convenient.
Now, with HoodLoupe 3.0, we have a loupe that covers the full 3" screen and which also has a quite high quality adjustable (+ / - 3 diopter) magnifier. The loupe comes in a fitted pouch with a belt clip. The unit itself is made of a hard rubber material that won't mar the camera or LCD, and features a removable neck lanyard. The HoodLoupe 3.0 retails for $79.99 and may be purchased online from Hoodman or from online or local retailers.
The loupe is useful for evaluating cropping and histogram on a DSLR. It is particularly useful in evaluating the tri-colour histogram on some cameras which display this with very fine lines – great indoors, but almost invisible outdoors.
On a Live View and Video DSLR
With the current exception of the Panasonic G1 and GH1 none of the DSLRs available that have live view and / or video capability have eye level viewfinders. When working on a tripod this may not be that big a drawback, but when shooting hand-held it makes for awkward handling and more camera shake than is desirable. Also, in bright daylight most camera's rear LCD's just aren't that visible. (Yes, I know that the Panasonic G1 and GH1 aren't DSLRs, but that's just semantics. They are functionally equivalent, and there isn't yet a good acronym for what they are.)
The HoodLoupe 3.0 allows these cameras to be used at eye level with a bright and clear view in any light. Hoodman makes something called a Cinema Strap, which allows easy attaching and detaching of the Loup to the camera, though I have found that a couple of thick elastic bands do just as good a job, and don't cost the outrageous $20 that Hoodman charges for this accessory. The Cinema Strap also didn't last long, with the rubber bands breaking within a few days, with frequent installation and removal. Wide elastic bands from the stationary store do a better job, and $20 will buy you a supply likely to last at least one millenium, if not longer.
On a Digicam
I am a fan of pocket cameras. In my work with aspiring photographers I find that most often their biggest failing isn't technical or esthetic skills but simply lack of regular practice. With a pocket digicam – I recently reviewed some of the top compact super-zooms – one can always be ready to do photography, on a walk around the block at lunch hour or when walking the dog in the evening.
As much fun as these small digicams cameras can be, they suffer from a major failing; the lack of an eye-level viewfinder. Holding these cameras at arm's length is annoying, not to mention much less stable then when ones arms are not extended. Also, as with DSLR screens, these are usually not particularly visible in bright daylight.
HoodLoupe 3 on Panasonic ZS3
By using a Hoodloupe, attached with either their Cinema Strap or a couple of elastic bands, one transforms a pocket digicam into an eye-level camera as well as making it much more user friendly in bright conditions. Yes, of course it makes a small camera that much bulkier, but when small size is not the overwhelming criteria of the moment I find it much preferable to shoot one of these cameras with a Hoodloupe than without.
Be aware though that many LCD screens, on DSLRs and digicams, are of such poor resolution that the Hoodloupe will be found to make the lower resolution ones annoying to use. The better LCDs, with resolutions of about 500,000 dots or more will therefore be preferred when used with the Hoodloupe.
Written May, 2009
Published March, 2010