by Ian Burley
If you have difficulty in resolving the focusing screen in your E-System viewfinder, the Olympus ME-1 magnifier eyecup could be the solution
Typical price: US$39, UKŁ35, EU€47
One aspect shared by the majority of DSLR cameras, and Four Thirds is no exception, is that the through-the-lens viewfinder experience isn't as big and bold as with 'full frame' 35mm film SLRs of old. On a Four Thirds camera this is because the lens projects an image circle just half the width a 35mm film. To preserve the brightness of the view through the reflex system, the apparent size of the viewfinder frame is limited.
For most people with normal eyesight, this really isn't a problem, but for others some assistance is required to enable comfortable viewing for determining critical focus, for example. Olympus provides an accessory to help do this job; the ME-1 Magnifier Eyecup. This is a simple replacement part for the standard EP-5 or EP-6 viewfinder eyecup that comes as standard with all current Olympus E-System models, excepting the E-1, which has a different fitting.
On the left a standard EP-5 eyecup and on the right the ME-1 magnifier eyecup.
The ME-1 magnifier eyecup, which slides in to the eyepiece fitting after the original eyecup has been removed by sliding it out, incorporates two lens elements and increases magnification by 20%. There is no obvious loss of brightness. That doesn't sound dramatic and the result isn't either, but it is fairly effective. The central ring etched onto the focus screen is noticeably clearer and larger. I didn't need to alter the eyepiece diopter adjuster once the ME-1 was fitted.
Here is an E-410 fitted with the standard EP-5 eyecup
Although the viewfinder frame appears larger and it's easier to see fine details on the focus screen, there is a cost. As a spectacle wearer, I routinely find that with the standard eyecup fitted, if I want to see the entire focus screen area, I need to position my eye quite careful and the extreme right of the viewfinder, containing the part of the status information panel, is out of view. Without glasses on, it's just possible to see the entire frame area and status panel.
Above, the ME-1 magnifier eyecup fitted to an E-410 in place of the EP-5 standard eyecup.
But with the ME-1 eyecup magnifier fitted, it becomes a straight choice between seeing the status panel and not seeing the left side of the focus screen or not seeing the status panel and seeing the whole focus screen. This isn't ideal, but In practice, you soon learn to adapt to this and I certainly didn't find it particularly problematical.
I'm blessed with good eyesight thanks to my specs and, if I'm really honest, I don't personally benefit that much from the ME-1. But after requesting some feedback from Four Thirds User forum members who already use the ME-1, it's clear that many people do find a valuable benefit in using an ME-1 eyecup magnifier. Interestingly, Panasonic has decided bundle as standard their version of the ME-1 with their new Lumix DMC-L10 Four Thirds DSLR.
The above view shows how much the standard eyecup protrudes.
The ME-1 eyepiece does protrude slightly more, but the main point to consider is that the rubber surround is not as flexible as the standard eyecup.
As shown in the pictures above, the ME-1 doesn't stick out a great deal more than the standard eyecup, but the circular rubber surround of the ME-1 is solid, not soft and deformable in the way the standard eyecup is. I found this occasionally uncomfortable without my specs on before I got used to it.
If you have difficulty in seeing the focus screen details clearly, the ME-1 is likely to help. If you have good eyesight, an ME-1 is not going to make a dramatic difference. In use, the ME-1 does limit the field of view slightly, causing you to reposition your eye to see the whole frame or part of the frame plus the status display. So in the end, the decision to get an ME-1 is very much a personal one.
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