Viewfinder Accessories for the E-System Cameras

My other articles related to the Olympus E-System cameras.

Note: this article is applicable to all (as of August, 2007) Olympus E-System models except the E-1: E-300, E-330, E-400, E-410, E-500, and E-510.

One of my complaints about the E-300 was its flimsy and hard to attach/remove eyecup, or rather eyeglass protector, the EP-3. This is a cheap piece of rubber, pushed over the eyepiece mount in a most inconvenient way; a real pain if you want to remove it — for example, to use the eyepiece cover when taking pictures from a tripod. (In such case, the light entering the finder through the eyepiece may affect light metering, so the eyepiece has to be covered.)

The EP-5 and EP-6 Eyecups

Responding to users' criticism, Olympus came up with two interchangeable eyecups, named EP-5 and EP-6. The EP-5 is included with the E-500 camera, and both can be purchased separately. This is a good news for both cameras' owners.

The picture at the right shows, top to bottom, all three eyecups: EP-3, EP-5, and EP-6. You can see the differences in size. EP-5 and EP-6 are mounted by sliding them over the eyecup mount; a procedure much less cumbersome than the stretch-and-push one used with the EP-3.

Both of the new eyecups have large, soft rim, convenient to use; they look good on both cameras, too. The EP-6, I would say, fits best the E-500, where it matches very nicely the width of the viewer hump. For the E-300 I would rather choose the EP-5. Your taste may differ.

(Shot with the C-5060WZ, reference WB, program exposure at +1 EV: 1/10 s, F/4, ISO 80.)

In any case, the E-300 owners have, at long last, an option to ditch the ugly and impractical EP-3. That's what I did: having bought the EP-6, I've put it on my E-500, moving the EP-5 to the E-300. I'm glad now with the way in which both cameras feel in use. As an eyeglass wearer, I have to move my eye aside in order to view the finder information display, but this is not really worse than with the original EP-3 on the E-300.

In the U.S. both eyecups are available from my favorite camera dealer, B&H (with whom we are unrelated, except that they gladly take my money).

Preempting the requests from Readers, here are some pictures, showing the eyecups mounted on both cameras: E-300 in the top row and E-500 at the bottom.

E-300 shown with the original EP-3 (left), then with the optional EP-5 and EP-6 eyecups. You can see why I consider the EP-6 too large (cosmetically, at least) for this camera.
E-500 without an eyepiece (left), then with the EP-5 and EP-6. Here the EP-6 feels (and looks) just right.

(Shot with the C-5060WZ, reference WB, aperture priority at -1 EV: 1/1.3 s, F/8, ISO 80.)

The ME-1 Eyecup Magnifier

Another viewfinder accessory recently made available by Olympus is the ME-1 Eyecup Magnifier. This one adds about 12 mm to the camera's depth, looks similar to the eyecup provided with the E-1, but provides an extra 1.2× magnification by means of an achromatic set of two lenses.

The magnifier is not easy to find; I was finally able to order one from Adorama in NY (a merchant I can highly recommend, having dealt with them for the last 20 years).

The ME-1 should address complaints about the finder image magnification in the E-500 being 10% less than that in the E-1 and E-300 (and also in all sub-$1000 digital SLR from other manufacturers except for the Pentax *ist DS, which sports an image 20% larger). It can be also used with the E-300 and E-330.

(Photo by Olympus)

The ME-1 works as advertised: the magnification is clearly noticeable, and it introduces no visible chromatic aberration, unsharpness, or distortion; so far so good. Unfortunately, its entrance pupil is quite small, and the eye relief practically nonexistent. Without glasses I can see the whole viewing screen in the E-300 or E-500, but I have to press my eye quite strong against the rubber collar; with glasses I'm experiencing problems.

Because of the limited eye relief, the magnifier does not have a real eyecup (like the EP-6); just a thin rubber ring; therefore it does not offer any protection against the incident light, which makes the EP-6 so useful. (This is simple: the incident light makes your eye's pupil contract, and the viewed image seems less bright. Think of a TV viewed with room lights on.)

The price seems a little steep for a simple accessory: the Olympus Emporium lists the ME-1 at $50, while Adorama discounts it to $40.

The bottom line: my recommendations regarding the ME-1 are a mixed bag. If you are desperate for more finder magnification, and if you are not wearing glasses, you will probably like it; otherwise you will be better off with a good rubber eyepiece like the EP-5. And if you really need precision for manual focusing, splurge for the VA-1 Angle finder, or, better, for the IR-QA 45° finder accessory.

The best way to make an informed decision would be to try the ME-1 on your camera before buying, but, unfortunately, the chances are against your local merchant having one in stock. Too bad: you will have to trust my judgment...

My other articles related to the Olympus E-System cameras.

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Posted 2005/12/04; last updated 2007/08/16 Copyright © 2005-2007 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak