Olympus OM-D DIY Sugru eyecup
In the six months or so that I have owned my Olympus E-M5 OM-D I have lost 3 standard EP-10 viewfinder eyecups. There’s just something about how they’re designed that apparently causes them to be highly susceptible to getting knocked off when I’m wearing my camera on a strap across my chest. At $10.00 a pop + shipping I decided I needed a more permanent solution when my last one popped off somewhere in NYC a few weeks ago.
Without the eyecup the OM-D’s viewfinder is really quite exposed and not protected from scratches and fingerprints. Also, light leaks around the viewfinder when you hold it up to your face making the EVF too dim in bright sunlight. Finally, the sharp corners around the viewfinder can be quite uncomfortable when pressed up against your face. I’ve used regular DSLRs in the past that worked fine without an eyecup. An eyecup is obviously a necessity with the OM-D.
My first thought was to simply glue a stock Olympus eyecup to the camera. However, as shown in this photo of an Olympus EP-11 extended eyecup that I mistakenly bought as replacement, the rubber portion of the eyecup fits over a plastic core that attaches to the camera. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to separate the rubber from the plastic. This happened within about 5 minutes of attaching the EP-11 to my camera. My concern was that if I glued a stock eyecup to the camera I would soon be left with nothing but a plastic frame glued to my viewfinder. A better solution is clearly needed.
So, being a handy guy and happening to have a sample kit of Sugru laying around, I decided to make a go at creating a DIY semi-permanent rubber eyecup. Sugru, if you didn’t know, is an air curing rubber compound that is moldable like clay and then dries to a hard rubber consistency overnight. It sticks to just about anything but can typically be removed cleanly from smooth surfaces. I bought my sample kit from Amazon. Following is a step-by-step of what I did to create my own DIY OM-D eyecup:
The first step was cleaning the area around my OM-D’s viewfinder to ensure a good bond with the Sugru. I used Windex and a paper towel. Rubbing alcohol probably would have been a better choice but I was out.
The Sugru sample kit I had originally came with 8 5g packets. I had used a red and a blue pack on an unrelated project. Since there was only one black packet I decided to do my first trial run with the red Sugru- thinking that I could re-do it in black once I had validated the concept and perfected the design.
I opened the packet and removed the Sugru. At this point I was wearing nitrile gloves, but I soon discovered that the Sugru tended to stick to the gloves more than my bare skin and ditched the gloves. Sugru claims it’s fine to use bare handed.
Not really knowing how much Sugru to use, I rolled the entire 5g amount into a log and wrapped it around my OM-D’s viewfinder. It seemed like about the right amount so I proceeded to start sculpting the eyecup with my fingers, making sure to not obscure the eye sensors just to the right of the EVF.
Once I was pretty happy with the overall shape and balance of my eyecup, I made sure the diopter adjustment wheel could turn freely and created a finger notch near the EVF/LCD button to ensure easy access.
Next, I checked the LCD articulation and modified the bottom edges of the eyecup to make sure they cleared the LCD screen as it swung open.
At this point I was feeling pretty good about my first attempt except I was starting to feel it might be a bit too bulky. So, I used the nearest smooth, flat object I could find (an old drafting triangle) and pressed the eyecup flat a bit.
After a bit more sculpting and smoothing I was satisfied the resulting “squashed loaf” look was about as good as my first attempt was going to get and left the camera overnight so the Sugru could fully set up. The next day the eyecup had dried to a nice hard consistency quite a bit firmer than the stock eyecups. I found that it worked great, fitting my face well and feeling very securely attached. I then used my OM-D with my prototype Sugru eyecup for a week or so just to make sure that it would hold up and that there weren’t any other issues. It was in and out of my bag daily and worn on a strap several times. The Sugru’s harder consistency slides more smoothly in and out of my bag and doesn’t snag on my clothing like the stock eyecups do. Plus, I quickly realized I didn’t have to constantly check my camera to make sure my eyecup wasn’t coming off.
Feeling good about the Sugru eyecup concept, I decided to peel the prototype off and go ahead and make a final version out of the black Sugru. The prototype eyecup took a little persuading but finally peeled off in a couple of large chunks. It was really stuck on there quite well!!
It took a bit of elbow grease and patience, but I was able to successfully remove all of the red Sugru using my fingers, fingernails and a soft tissue.
For the final version, I used about 2/3 of the 5g pack of Sugru and spent more time sculpting and shaping it to get the eyecup to look less like a squashed loaf and more like something that might have come with the camera originally. I also added a thin section across the bottom of the viewfinder to help block glare coming up from below. While I’m not 100% satisfied with the look of the finished product, I have found that the new lower profile design works beautifully. It serves the function of an eyecup perfectly and yet doesn’t get snagged and pulled off like the stock ones did. I expect it will last a lot longer than the stock ones did, and if/when it fails I can just make a new one!
A couple of final pointers: I don’t use the accessory port above the viewfinder on my OM-D so I wasn’t concerned with obstructing the cover. If you use the stock mini flash or other accessories that attach to that port you’ll want to take them into consideration as you shape your Sugru eyecup. Also, since Sugru is not as compressible as the stock eyecups it doesn’t work as well with glasses. I don’t wear corrective lenses and my sunglasses are polarized (which means I have to remove them to use the EVF) so this hasn’t been an issue for me. However, if you do wear glasses I would think you could custom design a lower profile Sugru eyecup for use with your glasses that could be even better than no eyecup at all (and wouldn’t scratch your lenses like using no eyecup can.) I would think that this process would work well for any camera and Sugru might even work to repair/modify/secure a stock eyecup. Finally, as with any DIY project, be careful, take your time and proceed at your own risk.