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Monitor Covers and Screen Protectors for Cameras

With the growth of digital photography, cameras have been turning into computers. For nature photographers that introduces a dilemma. Unlike the controlled office environment where computers have traditionally been used, it's anything but controlled in the great outdoors. Protecting the monitor screen on your camera is no easy thing.

Recognizing this, Nikon provides what they call a "monitor cover" with their digital SLR cameras. Not all models have the same screen so not all use the same cover, but each is designated with the two letter code "BM" followed by a number. My D300 uses a BM-8. These are better than nothing but are far from perfect.

First off, they are made of simple clear plastic that is itself easily scratched. While that means any stray branch of dirt will scratch the screen protector rather than your screen, you still have to look through it to see the display. It doesn't so much as prevent scratches but rather provide an alternative surface to get scratched. They also seem to attract glare in bright sunlight. And the more they get scratched, the worse this gets to the point where it can be more than a bit challenging to see the histogram and other information the screen is there to show you.

These things don't always stay on either. They're getting better with newer models but early cameras such as the venerable D100 were well known for having the BM-2 pop off at the most inopportune times. I used to travel with spares just in case.

I also carried a spare BM-3 for my D2x, although the only time it fell off was actually at home one time. Just came off in my hand somehow. I did though have a rather unusual problem with the D2x monitor cover in the field. On cold mornings it was almost impossible to look through the viewfinder for any length to compose a shot without my breath getting under the BM-3 and condensing. As such, the lower corner of the display was frequently clouded. I actually resorted to affixing small pieces of Velcro to block the edge and keep my breath from getting underneath the cover.

There are plenty of alternatives on the market of course, but until recently I had shied away from them for some reason. Regardless, I decided to try the ZAGG InvisibleSHIELD earlier this fall and am now a committed convert. My Nikon BM monitor covers stay at home when I go out to shoot.

The ZAGG InvisibleSHIELD is a stick-on screen protector made from some sort of high-tech polyester film that was originally developed for the US military to protect helicopter blades. It's thin and transparent and about as scratch proof as anything short of diamond could be. They proudly feature a video of someone attempting to scratch one with their car keys, going over the surface again and again to no avail. And since it affixes directly to the camera monitor screen, I can't get my breath underneath.

ZAGG InvisibleSHIELD for Nikon DSLRZAGG InvisibleSHIELD for Nikon DSLR

ZAGG makes these things for just about every kind of electronics with a screen imaginable, from cell phones, iPods and GPSs to, of course, cameras. Each comes with a spray bottle of fluid used to make positioning it easier and a rubber squeegee to force the fluid out once you get it where it goes. The whole process isn't as hard as it might sound if you take your time and do it in a clean environment to avoid trapping dust underneath. To get the best results possible you need the screen to be clean, your hands to be clean, and everything anywhere nearby to be clean when you put it on. Take time to study the instructions and demo videos on their website before you try putting one on your camera. If things don't go well, you can always peel it back off but I've put one on a fair number of electronic gadgets by now and never had a problem. I'd suggest using lots of their "Shield Spray" so the InvisibleSHIELD can be slid around easily to simplify lining it up correctly. If your camera can stand being rained on during normal use, it can stand getting wet with Shield Spray when you're affixing the screen protector. Just wipe the excess off with a lint-free cloth after you squeegee it out. If you're really nervous, buy two so you can use the first one as a trial run and then redo it with the second.

ZAGG custom cuts each different InvisibleSHIELD version to fit the device it is made for but I've found not all of them fit as well as they should. They're close, but some may be a millimeter to big in some areas. The InvisibleSHIELD for the D300 comes with pieces to cover both the main monitor on the camera back as well as the top LCD display area. I found that while it might look like a simple rectangle, the top LCD area is in fact subtly curved especially towards the outer edge. The bottom of the camera back monitor area is also slightly curved. It would have been nice if ZAGG had noticed this before I had to deal with it. You can cut the material with a sharp pair of scissors if need be but be careful that the tiny parts you cut off don't end up on the bottom of the part stuck to your camera. Pay attention and make sure any pieces you have to cut off end up in the trash not stuck to your fingers.

As for cost, you're in for a pleasant surprise. A ZAGG for to fit pretty much any camera costs almost exactly the same as the street price of the standard Nikon BM monitor cover. Based on my experience so far, I think its well worth it.

Date posted: December 21, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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