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Emerson Digital Coin Bank
Emerson Digital Coin Bank
Offered by Reverb Liquidations
Price: $15.99
23 used & new from $10.85

4.0 out of 5 stars 3-Year Review: Reliable and Durable Change-Counting "Jar", April 15, 2016
My wife and I came across one of these while browsing at a thrift store and, for the minimal cost, brought it home. Ours appears to be exactly the same model shown here. It looks and feels inexpensive, even cheap, but after years of constant use I've been impressed by how consistently well it counts change. It always reports accurate counts as various coins are inserted and holds its reading indefinitely until re-set, even if a change of batteries is required.

When a coin is inserted, the readout blinks twice with the coin's denomination (unless you insert coins more quickly, in which case each coin is immediately counted), which takes perhaps three seconds, then shows the total. The total remains visible for a few seconds. Because the display is only active when coins are being inserted and a few seconds after, batteries seem to last years.

Inserting a coin takes some effort, as you are pushing the coin past a slider that moves to measure its size and denomination. There is a certain amount of friction, and some care needs to be taken to make sure the coin goes all the way past the slider and into the jar, especially with larger coins. Because the coins are metal and the slider is plastic, I was concerned that the slider would eventually be worn from abrasion, but after years of use that doesn't seem to be a problem.

Unlike some change-banks, the lid can easily be removed - it simply screws on and off - and there is no way to lock it short of glueing it closed. Because of this, change can easily be removed from the jar by anybody in its presence. Aside from possibly sabotaging the efforts of less disciplined collectors, if change is removed or added in this way, the count will no longer be accurate. This makes the counting function useful only for people who will add to the jar, through the counter, without ever "borrowing" back.

A few thoughts:

- Pennies are worth very little. Unless you are collecting for (or are) a small child, consider collecting only silver change in the jar. It will take longer to fill but will be more gratifying when done. (To "spend" pennies, just keep a few in your pocket. When an item rings up at $11.47, add two pennies to what you pay to make the change come out even. If $8.29, add four pennies. This way, you never need to have more than four pennies at a time. You're effectively converting pennies into larger, more useful denominations).

- When the jar is full, take it to a *bank* to be counted and converted, not a kiosk-style change machine. The kiosk machines charge an exorbitant fee, somewhere around 18% of your patiently accumulated savings. It would be preferable to simply spend the change in the first place, finding another way to save, than to give nearly a fifth of it away when done.

- Most people once they reach adult age really have no need to save small change, but it does tend to collect, and turning it into something of a game can be fun, especially if you have kids around. It's a useful reminder for adults and education for children in the importance of spending and saving with some degree of care. You don't have to save for yourself - a change jar makes an excellent "charity" fund, gift fund or similar non-self directed, though modest, source of funding.

- Spoiler alert: stop reading here if you don't want to know how much the jar holds. If you fill the jar with silver change, primarily nickels, dimes and quarters, it will contain approximately two hundred fifty dollars when full. If you go one step further, eliminating nickels (dimes and quarters weigh exactly the same per dollar and are much more compact than nickels), you will find you have almost three hundred when full.


CJ Industries F101 Fantastic Ice Scraper with Brass Blade (Color may Vary)
CJ Industries F101 Fantastic Ice Scraper with Brass Blade (Color may Vary)
Offered by C.B.C. Supply
Price: $5.99
3 used & new from $4.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Ice Scraper - Buy in quantity for lowest price, February 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Brass-bladed scrapers are far better than plastic, but have become very hard to find. On light to medium ice build-ups you will probably be astonished by how easily and cleanly this scraper works. It's as good as any I've used.

Plastic scrapers work less well when new, and quickly wear out. The plastic edge wears to a blunt, ragged surface that tends to ride over the ice rather than clear it. Unlike the brass scrapers, they are not reversible. Once the edge wears, it's gone, and you need a new scraper.

The motivation for my review has to do with price, however. The default single-unit purchase price of this scraper has varied over the past year, but has been on the high side compared to what it should be. Look for the alternate non-Prime options for 3-, 6-, and 12-packs. Even with shipping all are far less expensive per scraper. Compared with the price for a single scraper, with the 12-pack option you're currently paying just over a buck for each additional scraper. At that price we can put a couple in each car, give several away and still have a half-dozen extras for future needs.

A few things about the scraper itself, mostly to answer points made in other reviews:

- The narrow blade is actually ideal, because it lets you easily apply the right amount of pressure to clear ice. A wider blade would make the scraper harder to use. The narrow blade also better conforms to the glass' slightly curved surface.

- The blade can not scratch windshield glass. However, dirt and dust on the glass can be forced into the glass while using the scraper, scratching it. This is true with any scraper.

- The brass blade is, obviously, reversible. This is actually helpful since the slow natural wear of the blade will tend to even-out from side to side, helping the blade keep a fresh cutting edge indefinitely.

- The blade can more easily damage window trim, or the car's paint, if you're careless. Use reasonable care. The curved edges of this scraper's blade are well designed to help avoid causing this type of damage.

- Very heavy ice build-up is difficult to remove with any scraper. The ice-breaker blades on the *back* of most plastic scrapers can help, scoring the ice and making what remains easier to remove. This is the only reason I'd use a plastic scraper at all today.


Apple iPod Nano 16GB Slate (7th Generation)
Apple iPod Nano 16GB Slate (7th Generation)
10 used & new from $129.99

1,381 of 1,479 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near-Perfect Ultra-Portable Music Player, October 14, 2012
The latest iPod Nano is an update to the current state of the art in ultra-compact music players and it represents incremental but important improvements over its predecessors with only a few minor trade-offs. I'm convinced it represents a substantial functional upgrade for most users.

Its major advantage, in my opinion, is actually its slightly-larger size in comparison to the 5th generation. Although the smaller form factor of the previous Nano was remarkable for its extreme compactness, it actually made the device somewhat cumbersome to use. Its touch-screen was too susceptible to unintended inputs and it couldn't be easily held in one hand while manipulating its controls. Attempts to control it via screen-input while clipped onto one's clothing tended to be futile: you'd need to un-clip the device, then hold it in one hand and manipulate its touch-screen with the other. While the tiny size and convenient clip made it practically disappear while in use, it could be an ergonomic nightmare to actually interact with.

The new Nano is still tiny but much better for one-handed use. My index finger comfortably sits on the three-way volume/play/pause button (itself a major improvement) while my thumb has easy access to the sleep/wake button, the home button and the improved, larger, multi-touch-enabled screen. This easy one-handed control has the significant practical advantage of not requiring the interruption of my activities to switch, for example, between podcasts, music playlists and FM radio.

Other improvements follow logically from the Nano's new shape. The screen's larger proportions allow all the main "apps" to show up on a single home screen, so less fiddling is typically required for switching. Videos and photos become practical on a screen of these proportions, so it's perfectly reasonable to load some viewable content in addition to the audio content that will no doubt remain the Nano's main reason for existence. With few pixels, photos take up very little memory. The screen has neither the stunning colors nor the retina resolution of the premium iDevices, but photos still show up crisply and become the modern equivalent of the now-obsolete "wallet"-sized photos people used to carry. Video content is surprisingly usable as long as you can set the Nano in a viewable position - for example, on a cardio machine at the gym. The Nano supports rotation, so displaying the beautiful panos you've made with your new iPhone is simply a matter of rotating the device to the horizontal and then looking very, very closely. Maybe bring a magnifying glass.

More important for most people, the new Nano is an improved device for playing music. The "Home" button is a good antidote to the common experience of getting lost in the old Nano's sometimes-inscrutable layers of touch screens, bringing you immediately back to the home screen without interfering with playback. An even bigger practical improvement is the addition of the play/pause button on the volume control, a feature lifted from the (now unfortunately absent) remote-equipped earphones of many previous iPods. It's worth a few minutes' time to familiarize yourself with this button's very clever functions: click to play or to pause, double-click for next track, triple-click for previous track (even when in shuffle mode), double-click-and-hold for cueing (great for skipping forward in podcasts), and so on. Most routine playback functions are accessible through this simple and very welcome interface and can be accomplished while diverting little attention from whatever you're otherwise engaged in.

The list of major upgrades doesn't end there. The inclusion of Bluetooth will make the Nano usable, for the first time, with many car audio systems and also with wireless Bluetooth headsets and remote Bluetooth speaker systems. The FM radio is much better than I would have imagined if I hadn't used the previous Nano, with legitimately excellent reception and a very nice interface that lets you select unlimited numbers of "presets." I've used small portable radios in the past, and maybe there are some other good ones out there, but the ones I've experienced have been terrible. I'm personally still attached to FM, and this level of FM quality would make the Nano a terrific device even if it did nothing else.

In general I find the new Nano to be a beautiful, nearly-flawless little piece of practical technology that can do things which, not that long ago, I would not have expected to be possible within my lifetime. While it's not inexpensive, it has real life-improving potential for people who love music or who want to remain portably connected to a world of podcasted information. Being smaller than a credit card in two of three dimensions, it fits easily into the smallest pocket. While jaded consumers of technology can claim it's a mere incremental improvement over its predecessors, I prefer to see it as an instance of exceptional, practical, functional design in a world full of cheap junk that too often disappoints or fails to function altogether. While I have a few nitpicks (below), none of them significantly diminish its overall excellence. It earns every star.

Notes:

- There are a few disappointments and drawbacks:

--- The Ear Pods that come with the device sound good overall but don't have the remote function included with many iDevice earphones in recent years. While the new Nano has a hardware button that mimics that function, the corded remote is often more accessible, making pause/play and track-change functions instantly available even if the device is buried in a pocket. A decent set of Apple-compatible remote-equipped earphones would be a nice addition.

--- This latest Nano eliminates the useful integrated clip featured by the last (6th generation) Nano, making it more a pocket device. Its thin-ness and Bluetooth support compensates for this: the old Nano's clip made it slightly cumbersome in a pocket, as it could catch on things and added significantly to the device's thickness. Nevertheless the previous generation remains the ultimate for portability and, while thicker and slightly wider, weighs around 1/3 less than the latest model.

--- The white screen-surround on the colored Nanos doesn't look all that great in my opinion. It does give the Nanos a clean, friendly look, but to my eyes black would be a better choice and would contrast sharply with the bright colors and icons. I chose the boring but still attractive "slate" (black) model, which does have a black screen-surround.

--- I would like more flexibility in some of the settings: for example, the ability to keep the screen "on" longer, even indefinitely, before it sleeps. As it is, the screen goes dark so quickly I'm often still in the middle of fiddling with whatever I'm working on and have to re-wake the screen to continue. The previous-generation Nano was similar.

--- The previous 6th-gen Nano enjoyed an unintended popularity as a watch, mainly with kids, who seemed to love using it for this purpose. It had lots of clock faces to choose from and could be set to default to the clock when waked from sleep (as can the current model). The new Nano gives up the prospect of practical wrist-wearability. It also features fewer clock faces and only a few background options, all color-matched to the device, none of which is customizable. Perhaps this helps contribute to a lean OS and optimize the device's storage space. Whatever the case, the new Nano is not a watch, nor a clock, although it will accurately show you the time and it still has a useful stopwatch and countdown-timer.

- The Lightning connector is functionally far better than competing connector types such as Micro-USB and a clear improvement over the old style. The previous-generation Nano was nearly dwarfed by its connector, and it's easy to see that retaining that oversized monstrosity (as it will seem to have been, within a year or two) would have precluded the current positioning of the Home button on the new device, among other drawbacks.

- The Nano is still not an iOS device: internet connectivity and wireless- or Cloud-syncing remain in the future. This makes sense: a Nano is likely to be away from a wifi signal much of the time it's used, and cellular capability hardly seems reasonable. If you're looking for a do-it-all device, a smart phone remains a much more versatile (but cumbersome) alternative. The Nano is fundamentally optimized to function as a stand-alone audio player. Pandora will have to wait.

- Why not simply use a smart phone for music playback and podcasts? Well, you could - but the Nano has some significant advantages. Its size makes it much easier to carry while active, or while working around the house or in the garage. Its dedicated intelligent play/pause button makes interfacing with audio playback much simpler. And at least among Apple devices it is the only one to offer FM radio, which it does very well. These tend to be very important differences in day-to-day use and can easily justify its purchase price as a separate device.
Comment Comments (46) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2014 10:47 PM PST


Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Price: $1,096.95
31 used & new from $840.00

138 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT Lens for FX - Get the 16-85mm VR instead for DX, March 22, 2010
I knew the moment I heard about this lens that I'd need to get one. The chief problem I have with every other FX/film-sized wide angle lens is that they are either immense, heavy and extremely expensive; or quite mediocre* and not as wide as I'd like (and a few lens-generations old by now, as well). I had no doubt, given the excellence of nearly every recent Nikon lens, that it would be superb in terms of color, sharpness and focus performance - and only really wondered, before I'd seen it in person, whether its size would be appropriate for my use as a casual amateur photographer.

It is, almost, perfect.

First, though, having shot with it a fair bit now on both FX and DX, I can see that to convey an understanding of this lens and how it fits into the Nikon lineup it's helpful to have some understanding of the difference between the design requirements of FX and DX lenses. This is something I've been writing about a bit in my recent reviews as I keep noticing the misperceptions implied by a lot of comments I'm noticing. I'm seeing comments already in reviews of this lens, for example, that it is bigger than it needs to be as a wide-angle f/4 zoom. I see comments in reviews of DX lenses that they should have been designed as FX lenses, so that they could work on both formats. And I see comments about nearly all zooms that they should have been designed with larger max apertures, even if it would have made the lens slightly more expensive.

All these comments reveal a lack of understanding about the inherent physics of optics and the design and manufacture of lenses.

For an FX lens to have exactly the same optics on FX as an equivalent DX lens would have on DX, the FX lens would need to be 3.4 TIMES BIGGER than the DX lens. This is because the FX format is 1.5 times larger in linear terms, meaning that the identical lens would need to be 3.4 (1.5^3) times larger in volume. If made of exactly the same materials it would weigh 3.4 times more than the DX lens and be 1.5 times larger in every dimension. This is a theoretical approximation: the lens mount itself would have to be the same size, and the two lenses would have to be built slightly differently for various reasons, but the general reality is that it would need to be approximately 3.4 times larger and heavier. Obviously, FX lenses aren't usually 3.4 times bigger than DX lenses. This is because the design of any lens is a careful compromise between many factors, most importantly sharpness, zoom range, max aperture, build quality, size and weight, price, and projected image size. By lessening the requirement for any one of these characteristics, the others can be improved; while increasing the requirement for any one characteristic will require compromise among the rest. DX lenses have a major inherent size advantage, which allows them to be made with broader zoom ranges while still retaining excellent optics and still being small in size and relatively inexpensive. FX lenses, on the other hand, are limited to narrower zoom ranges, must be relatively much larger, or must give up important aspects of performance: distortion control, sharpness, and so on. Alternatively they can be made with more complex optical formulas, using more expensive aspherical elements or very expensive low-distortion glass; and therefore be very expensive. In reality, design goals usually demand compromise among more than one area, so we wind up with FX lenses that are significantly larger and heavier than DX lenses, that have relatively narrower zoom ranges, and that still give up some degree of performance in other areas.

In the case of this 16-35mm f/4 VR, what we have is a lens that is optically excellent, with some compromise in terms of distortion control, a fairly narrow 2.2:1 zoom range, an unimpressive constant f/4 max aperture, and moderately large physical size - and unfortunately, still quite a high price.

It works beautifully, however. It is - a first in my opinion - a wide-angle FX lens that can be left on the camera nearly all the time one intends to shoot wide. It's not enormous like the 14-24/2.8 and 17.35/2.8 (actually not that much bigger, but so much larger in diameter that it FEELS huge), it is very sharp, it is stunningly contrasty, and it spans a very useful zoom range from an almost-ridiculous (until you need it) 16mm to a "normal-wide" 35mm. Its size is not dis-similar to the popular old 35-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor when that lens is fully extended, and its weight, on my scale, is within an ounce of that lens' weight. Other similar-sized lenses would be the mediocre 24-120mm VR (this lens is FAR better in the overlapping part of the range), the 70-300mm VR (another excellent lens and a great complement to this one) and the very nice 180mm f/2.8 AF or AF-D.

For the first time in the digital era, it is possible to carry an FX camera with a relatively compact, somewhat-affordable kit that spans the range from ultra-wide at 16mm to long telephoto at 300mm and to have excellent image quality throughout the range. I would suggest this lens, the 50mm f/1.4G and the 70-300 VR. Substitute the 35-70/2.8 or one of the 24-85mm zooms if you want zoom in the middle.

I am not going to go into great detail about this lens' specific performance capabilities. I test my lenses semi-formally, shoot them informally, and look closely enough at the results to see whether they are good enough for my purposes. I care more about whether a lens gives snappy color rendition than how sharp it is at the pixel level, but I still frequently run into lenses that I don't think are sharp enough. This is not one of them. It is VERY sharp, sharp enough that I will shoot it at any aperture, at any focal length, and not be at all concerned about whether the results will be satisfactory. I'll let other people nitpick corner sharpness at 16mm and f/4. Its only noticeable optical drawback in my opinion is distortion. This is unfortunate, as it is more than I would like to see, but it isn't enough to detract from my overall favorable view of the lens. For architectural subjects, especially interiors, where a very wide angle of view is typically necessary, you will need to either use another lens or correct the distortion using software. For most other subject matter the distortion is not really going to be a factor. In particular, for landscape and most other outdoor photography, which this lens seems ideally suited to, it shouldn't even be noticeable.

I find the lens very pleasant to use. It's large, but I don't find it overly conspicuous (I want to be able to move around inconspicuously when I photograph), and it fits easily into any normal compartment in a camera bag. It has a nice, well-positioned zoom ring and a focus ring out towards the front of the lens, where the lens widens, making it both easy to find and to use with the hand in the shooting position. I don't anticipate doing a lot of manual focus with this lens, though, and the lens lacks any depth-of-field markings at all, even the vestigial ones found on some similar designs. The focus gearing seems very fast, to me - probably a compromise in favor of AF function above manual function, and I won't complain about that in this case. Small tweaks, when needed, can be made easily.

Conclusion:

This lens becomes the obvious choice among Nikon's wide-angle lens options for the vast majority of amateur FX shooters. Pros will undoubtedly be able to use this lens as well, although the particular subject matter will determine whether the f/2.8 max aperture or better distortion control of some of the other lenses will necessitate their use instead. For event photography, the 17-35 may remain the better choice. The 14-24 is the obvious choice when its particular abilities are needed, but not without serious compromises (size, weight, cost, vulnerability of front element, incompatibility with filters). For everything else, this 16-35mm adds VR, gives surpassingly excellent image quality including outstanding, snappy color rendition, and is sized much more appropriately for any type of casual use. I call it a five-star lens.

Notes:

- f/4 vs f/2.8 Max Aperture: Some have commented that it's unfortunate this lens wasn't made as an f/2.8 lens. Aside from the fact that Nikon already has two f/2.8 ultra-wide FX zooms from which to choose, both larger and more expensive than this lens, just do the math: at f/4, this lens needs an 8.5mm effective light-transmissive opening (35mm/4). To max out at f/2.8 it would need a 12.5mm effective light-transmissive opening. Square those numbers to get area, and it's apparent that it would need over double the diaphragm area and over double the glass area at the front element. Any minor spherical aberration would be magnified, so it would need additional optical correction, as well; either in the form of a more complex optical formula or additional expensive aspherical elements. It's a safe guess that to retain the same optical quality it would need to be at least two times the weight and sell for at least two times the price, and that's probably a conservative guess on both counts. Suddenly the 14-24/2.8 looks small and reasonably priced! The compromise of an f/4 max aperture gives this lens a tremendous advantage that can be applied to every other area of performance. Keep in mind that as partial compensation for that smaller max aperture, it has:

- VR: VR is less important on a wide lens than on a telephoto. It's not just a matter of shutter speeds being less critical at wide angles: it's also a consequence of the time function of the normal vibrations a hand-held camera will encounter. At some point after the shutter opens, camera movement is going to exceed what any VR implementation can compensate for, and blur will result. In most cases, the practical limit to VR effectiveness seems to be somewhere between 1/8 and 1/2 second, regardless of focal length. That is tremendously useful in a telephoto but less useful at 16mm, where 1/8-1/30 might be a usable non-VR shutter speed, depending on the circumstances. Even so, it's a very significant improvement. At the margins, VR improves the sharpness of most photos: where shooting at 1/16 and 16mm will result in some blur in nearly every shot for most photographers, 1/16 with VR will give perfect sharpness almost every time. Anywhere near the range of marginal shutter speeds, VR will allow the camera to be held with slightly less care, allowing shots to be framed and taken more quickly, and allowing shots under imperfect conditions (camera held in awkward position such as above head, or in a moving vehicle, etc) to be much more likely to turn out sharp. And over a couple of stops of shutter speeds, VR will make shots possible that would not have been possible at all without it. Diminishing this range of substantial benefits into a simple "x-stop advantage" doesn't really give it full credit. I find VR to be a tremendously helpful tool in many types of photography, even at wide angles. If nothing else, VR does at least compensate for this lens' f/4 max aperture under most conditions. Why have a fast max aperture on a wide lens, anyway? -- Subject isolation? Better save up for the 24mm f/1.4 and 28mm f/1.4 lenses; you're not going to get much background blur at f/2.8. Stopping motion? -- What sports are you going to be shooting with this lens? Event photography, with a combination of moving subjects and low light, is about the only use I can think of in which the f/4 max aperture is a real disadvantage. For everything else, I'd rather have f/4 with VR than f/2.8 without it, but that's just me. Still, on any FX body, this lens will be an outstanding tool for low-light photography.

- For DX: All the careful compromises inherent in making this lens excellent on FX are wasted when using it for DX. While that is the case with every other FX lens as well, in many cases there is no good DX substitute and the FX lens remains the best choice. In this case there is a perfect substitute. The 16-85mm VR is smaller, lighter, much cheaper, and superb. The chief complaint with that lens - its slow f/5.6 max aperture at the long end - is moot in comparison to this lens, as they are equally fast or slow in the 16-35mm range. The 16-85mm VR has a tremendously versatile zoom range, an equally good VR implementation, and is to my eyes just as snappy and contrasty in terms of color rendition as this lens. The real surprise is that the 16-85, at least my copy, is just as sharp as the 16-35. A bit of informal testing on a D300S had me finding the 16-85 just barely sharper, in fact, at 16mm, 24mm and 35mm; either wide open or at f/5.6. The 16-85 is an exceedingly sharp lens, so perhaps that isn't all that surprising after all, but the point is that for shooting on DX the 16-35 is not the best tool for the job. The counter-argument might be that unlike many FX lenses, this 16-35 actually gives a reasonably useful focal range on DX: the equivalent of 24-53mm, or usefully-wide to normal. Really, though - who would buy a 24-53mm f/4 lens for thirteen hundred bucks? The 16-85 VR is an excellent lens that is a far better complement to a DX camera than this 16-35. If you must spend more money, or really just want to get a bigger lens, get the 17-55mm f/2.8. It's not any sharper and it doesn't have VR, but at least you'll get the f/2.8 max aperture.

* The "affordable" predecessor to the 16-35 is the old 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D, one of the less great Nikkors I've used. It's problem is consistency, rather than a lack of sharpness at all settings. At 18mm, for example, mine is excellent in the center - but it falls apart at 24mm, where I can't think of a lens that would not perform better. At 35mm it is, again, very good in the center, less so towards the edges. It is a perfectly serviceable FX ultra-wide zoom for most purposes, but today's digital cameras reveal its flaws just too easily. Is the 16-35 worth the extra $900 it will cost you? If that $900 is not a serious impediment then unequivocally I would say yes. On a tighter budget, I would suggest that a DX body with any of the better DX wide zooms would be the better choice. For what it's worth, the DX alternative is my personal preference.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2012 9:17 PM PST


Nikon D300S 12.3MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Nikon D300S 12.3MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Offered by Cambridgeworld
Price: $947.95
30 used & new from $400.00

98 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars State of the DX art, better than FX for some, March 18, 2010
There are plenty of very good comprehensive reviews here of the D300S here already, so I'm instead of posting another I'm going to attempt to focus on what I see as some of the pros and cons of the D300S versus other camera bodies in the Nikon line-up. The D300S has essentially identical image quality to the $500 D5000 and the now quite old (in DSLR terms) D300 and D90; and it remains a small-format DX camera while the next step up in price gets you a full-frame D700. Even so, my personal choice for the majority of my photography is a D300S rather than any of those alternatives. I have also owned and shot with every other camera mentioned here: all are excellent and I believe all can be considered good values for the money spent in today's market. Perhaps some readers would find my perspective useful.

As far as I'm concerned, image quality from Nikon DSLRs has really been quite excellent at least since the introduction of the D70. Of course there have been all kinds of incremental improvements since then, but comparing anything since the D70 to the funky highlights produced by the earlier D100, for example, makes it clear that we have long since reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to real, visible improvements in DSLR image quality. In terms of the finer points it will continue to improve, but whether you buy a D5000, a D300S or a D700, the differences between the images you can make with the camera are going to be tiny compared with the differences in how you can use it - with the exception of the FX-vs-DX field of view, which is very important.

What I think most people will benefit from is carefully assessing the features and physical capabilities of the various bodies, considering the types of photography they like to do, and selecting the best match for their particular needs. Budget, of course, enters the equation: but for many photographers the small, light D5000 would be the best choice regardless of budget, while of course others will absolutely require the pro features of the more expensive bodies.

D300S vs D700; DX vs FX - By far the most fundamental issue in camera body selection:

This is the one real difference between the shooting capabilities of any of the bodies I'm writing about here, and it affects every image you make with the camera once you buy it. I would strongly advise readers NOT to look at format as a camera issue, but to look at it as a lens issue. Of course there are differences between the FX and DX bodies, even those closest in specification, and to some degree it's possible to equalize lens selection: but when you begin to look at the practical realities of lens selection for DX vs FX formats, it is immediately apparent that they operate in completely different worlds. I'm convinced that this should be one's primary consideration when choosing a camera, assuming that your budget allows you a choice between the formats.

The heart of the matter is that it really is much easier to make a great DX lens than it is to make a great FX lens. The basic physics guarantees it. The DX format is 2/3 the linear size of the FX format, meaning that, all else being equal, lenses will have to be 3.4 TIMES BIGGER (1.5^3) in FX format to exactly equal the optics on DX of a DX format lens. Because lens design is a matter of careful compromise between many factors mainly size, price, max aperture, zoom ratio, sharpness, and weight; real-world FX lenses aren't made 3.4 times bigger, heavier and more expensive than DX lenses. They are instead made only considerably bigger, with compromises in other aspects of design - so that they must give up some aspect of performance: zoom ratio, max aperture, optical excellence - to achieve their design objectives.

Because of this, there is really no FX equivalent to the excellent 16-85mm VR DX lens (the 24-120VR is a fairly mediocre lens despite being physically larger). Likewise the 35mm f/1.8 has come out being a slightly better lens than the 50mm f/1.4G despite being smaller and lighter (though slower, unfortunately). Many excellent wide zooms now exist for DX cameras at affordable prices, while the selection of FX wide zooms has one choosing between obscenely heavy and expensive excellent lenses and "normally" priced average lenses. This conundrum spans the entire range of available lenses, and it is likely never to change or to resolve in favor of FX because it is driven by the basic physics of optics and their design and manufacture.

For this reason, DX cameras have tremendous advantages if you want to shoot lenses that are reasonably priced, that give excellent sharpness and overall image quality, that have flexible zoom ranges, and that are light and compact enough to transport and use unobtrusively.

FX, on the other hand, will be marketed as the premier format, and I think we can expect that most of the very best lenses made will continue to be FX lenses. Very fast primes, f/2.8 zooms built to pro specifications, long telephotos and the best macro lenses will all be FX. FX lenses can of course be used on DX cameras, but that realization leads to the other FX advantages. While the DX "crop factor" gives DX bodies a presumed advantage in the telephoto range, it conversely gives FX cameras a sizeable advantage within the "normal" ranges most people do most of their shooting at. A 50mm lens on FX equals a 35mm lens on DX in terms of field of view, but allows for much better control of subject isolation than the DX lens. Likewise, a "fast wide" lens on FX such as the new 24mm f/1.4G becomes a much less exotic creature on DX, and probably rather pointless as a consequence. For portraiture, the selection of lenses for FX is wonderful, if expensive, whereas DX shooters must compromise by using lenses not designed for their native format.

For photographers who shoot mostly in the normal ranges, who want to maximize their control of depth of field (especially towards the wide end), who don't mind paying a premium for the most expensive equipment, and who are willing to put up with the weight and the conspicuousness of shooting with pro-level equipment as well as the compromises inherent in FX lens design, FX will continue to be the only option.

There is one more advantage currently in shooting FX, in that the FX sensors are more light-sensitive than the DX sensors, enabling shooting at tremendous ISOs, well above the DX level. This will probably always remain so: the FX sensor is bigger, and can gather more light. Whether this is important to a particular user really depends on the types of photography they like to do, but it should be appropriately factored into the decision. Likewise FX cameras have larger viewfinders, which will probably never be possible on DX cameras: another luxury of FX shooting that does not directly translate to the images that can be produced.

Personally, having been a film shooter in the past, I find my needs more than satisfied by DX bodies, at least for the time being. A selection of excellent, lightweight lenses suffices for the vast majority of my photography, while I can put up with the compromises inherent in some parts of the range, especially for fast wide shooting. I'd like some fast prime lens options in the range of 16-28mm for DX but I can live with their absence considering the cost, both financial and in terms of lost flexibility, of switching to FX.

D300S vs D300 vs D90

My upgrade path went from the D40 through the D90 and D300 and then to the D300S. I loved every one of those bodies except, notably, the D300, which was in some ways a step backwards in comparison to the D90 and which I was never completely satisfied with. I do currently have a D700 as well.

The D90 is still a great camera, affording the vast majority of capabilities of the D300S, the exceptions being the inherent handling and feature advantages of the pro bodies. The D90 is also much lighter and physically smaller than the pro bodies, making it a very pleasant camera to shoot, and I would still be using mine were it not for just a couple of relatively minor improvements that make the D300S worth the upgrade for me. The pro bodies let you define custom setting banks, so that I can switch between different types of shooting easily. Since I do this daily, this is very important to me. Switching from an indoor, tripod-mounted shooting configuration to an outdoor, hand-held shooting configuration on a D90 takes a lot of button presses and a couple of minutes, and there is always the very likely possibility of forgetting to change one critical parameter and not realizing it until it's too late. No matter how serious a photographer you are, if you shoot mostly in similar conditions all the time, or in constantly changing conditions such that pre-defined shooting banks would be useless, then this feature is probably meaningless to you. It happens to be very useful to me.

Likewise the D300S has a couple of features lacking in the D300 that allow for quick settings changes: several shooting parameters (not enough, though) can be changed quickly right on the rear LCD as on the D40/60/3000/5000 bodies, which I find very useful. Also useful, the D300S' function buttons can be programmed to put you at the top selection of a custom-defined menu. Between these two features I can access and change almost any of the commonly-altered settings on the D300S (or the D90/D700) very quickly, while the D300 had me hunting through the menu system for far too long. This alone is a significant upgrade in camera handling for the D300S compared to the D300, and by itself would merit the upgrade in my case.

I wish any of these cameras could be programmed so that the LCD info screen would come on automatically between shots as can be done with the D40-style bodies. I think buyers of higher-end bodies probably consider this an unnecessary or amateur feature, but in my opinion, that is not so at all! Especially when shooting on a tripod, the info screen is a much quicker and more complete information reference than the top LCD, and especially if ALL the settings could be set directly through it, this would be another extremely valuable aid to quick settings changes. Today's cameras have so many settings, and they need to be changed so often to get the best possible image, that anything Nikon could do to give users quicker access to more settings would be a step forward for photographers of any experience level.

Other major differences between the D90 and D300S are, in order of approximate decreasing importance to me, are: 1) Better focus system on D300 and D300S, 2) External buttons and switches to quickly change focus and meter settings on D300 and D300S, 3) Usefully quicker continuous shooting speed on D300 and even quicker on D300S (4.5fps for D90, 6fps for D300, 7fps for D300S), 4) Decently weather-sealed body on D300 and D300S, 5) Rugged pro build quality on D300 and D300S (comes at a cost, though, much larger and heavier), 6) AF fine-tuning on D300 and D300S. There are many more differences between the cameras than these, but these are the ones that matter to me.

There is one more biggie. The D300S, unlike either the D300 or D90 (or D700 for that matter), has two memory card slots, and I happen to love the fact that one holds an SD card and the other a CF card. Most pros prefer CF cards. I'm not a pro, and I prefer SD cards. What I love about this feature, though, is that there is a setting which allows the camera to write a jpeg to one card and a RAW file to the other. I shoot jpeg most of the time but RAW some of the time, and this is by far the easiest way to go between jpeg-only and jpeg-plus-RAW, while ALSO getting all the RAW shots segregated from the jpegs so that you can later decide either to discard them, or to download them to a different folder, at a different time, without any fancy file-download trickery. When not using this feature the second card can be set to duplicate or to overflow, although I would prefer there to be more flexibility as to which card does what function.

While the D300S is the "best" of these bodies in many ways, the features it has over the D90 are just not going to matter to everybody, and the D90 is smaller and lighter enough that it's very seriously worth considering if you don't need them. The D90 is one of the best-positioned, best bang for the buck bodies Nikon has yet made, while the D300S is a superb camera but gives diminishing returns for the dollar, and by the ounce, in comparison.

D300S vs D5000

I know beyond any doubt that there are a lot of photographers buying pro cameras that would be much better served with a smaller, easier to use, easier to carry and handle and store body, and if you can't decide whether to start slow or to go all-out with a pro body, you should really take a look at the D5000. In terms of its ability to capture any given image, the D5000 is the equal of the D300S, and only the time it takes to get that image, or the variety of lenses you can use to do so, really differs. The handling of the D300S, with its multiplicity of features and settings, is going to slow down, not speed up, the process for people who don't use the camera often enough to stay fluent in the layout of its controls and functions. The D5000 gives you much of the flexibility, all of the image quality, and less size, cost, and weight. I personally enjoy the smaller cameras very much. I prefer their smaller size and only use the larger, heavier bodies because they have capabilities the smaller bodies lack, and those capabilities are important to me. If those capabilities are of questionable importance to you, consider your needs carefully before you encumber yourself with their extra weight and extra expense.

Conclusion

I'm going to give the D300S a rating of four stars. Clearly it is only intended to be a minor upgrade with respect to the D300, and it uses the same now-aging sensor used in all these cameras, so it's natural to expect that it is not a blockbuster on the new camera scene. It's not intended to be: Nikon has been busy developing FX bodies and adding to its lens line over the past year or two. This particular corner of the lineup is getting a breather. It is a tremendously competent camera, the top DX body currently available from Nikon, and an excellent tool for the job of photography under almost all conditions. It would be surprising not to see an improvement on the subject of sensor technology within the coming months or year, which would be incorporated into a successor in time. I do think Nikon needs to get to work figuring out ways to make the control interfaces of today's pro cameras more intuitive to use. Better menu systems, more easily accessed; more flexibility in the use of the rear LCD to view and change settings; more flexibility in the enabling of custom menus and setting banks (which are useful but limited as currently implemented), would be high on my list of improvements. Nikon by its nature prefers to evolve its cameras incrementally over a period of years, and although that's a good strategy in some ways, other times it means we get stuck with "legacy" after-effects: backwards-reading meters, mechanical lens interfaces, and old style menu systems that have begun to overflow their banks. Some streamlining of the user experience would make the cameras easier, quicker and more flexible in use.

In a relative sense, though, those things remain nitpicks. The D300S is the best camera for my needs currently on the market.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2010 12:31 PM PST


Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Price: $446.95
50 used & new from $315.99

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A careful balance of performance and cost, March 4, 2010
Through a rather unique set of coincidences I actually wound up owning two of these lenses at the same time: one that I'd purchased brand-new from B&H, the other a used sample that had been back to Nikon for calibration and found to be within specification. This gave me the fortunate opportunity to test and shoot with two lenses to ensure that the results I was getting were representative of the design and not the result of a particularly good or bad sample.

I did find some differences between the two. More on that later.

I can pronounce the lens unsurprisingly competent on all major counts. I don't think this lens is going to compete with the high-end lenses from the niche manufacturers like Zeiss for ultimate crispness and contrast at large apertures, and it doesn't raise the bar in that regard, necessarily, in comparison to its predecessors - but it is a capable lens that can be used with confidence all the way to its maximum aperture. It is approximately as sharp at f/2.8 as Nikon's best zooms at that aperture, which in the case of Nikon's pro zooms is quite a high standard. It is increasingly fuzzy as f/1.4 is approached, but not, unlike some other lenses I've used, to such a degree that it becomes nearly unusable. It's f/1.4 center acuity is a good match for the pixel pitch of a D700 or D40, and it looks quite sharp on those bodies, but not perfect. On a higher-resolution sensor such as a 12mp DX body or of course a D3X, the sensor is out-resolving the lens by a significant margin and much more sharpness could be used. For the special purposes for which f/1.4 will be used, however, it is more than acceptable. In the other direction, at f/5.6 is has reached maximum sharpness and is slightly sharper than it is at f/2.8: again, quite excellent.

If I seem slightly disappointed in its large-aperture performance, it is because so many of Nikon's recent lenses have been standouts. Nikon's consumer zooms of recent years, the 35mm f/1.8G, the recent fixed-length macro lenses, and almost all Nikon pro zooms for at least a decade now, have been genuinely outstanding lenses in terms of image quality, even near max aperture. I can't quite say that the 50/1.4G is equal to the best of them, but it is good enough that in most ways any differences amount to useless hair-splitting. It is, however, quite possible to nitpick this lens' image quality as it approaches f/1.4, and if you intend to shoot detailed subjects with this lens and then display the results in large size, it will be best to have some discipline as to what apertures you shoot at.

On the more important point of practical real-world photography, these differences really don't matter, most of the time. What is likely to matter much more is the lens' usability, the quality of its focusing system, the coatings that improve contrast and reduce flare: and in all these areas this lens is pure, modern, AF-S Nikon - which is to say excellent. I can point the lens so that direct sunlight grazes its front element, or include the sun in the frame, and the most I'll get is a few subtle ghosts and a small reduction in contrast. It focuses with spot-on accuracy every time, even at f/1.4, a feat that eludes lesser lenses. It is also contrasty, although I will need more experience with the lens before I come to a final opinion on whether it is quite the equal of the best Nikkors on that count, especially near wide open. Differences in color rendition and contrast between lenses are subtle enough that they take time to fully appreciate.

If Nikon got the major points right with this lens - and they did - I still don't think they quite put everything they could into it. It is, for example, already somewhat notorious for slow focusing. The argument has been made that slow focusing might be a necessary trade-off, in an f/1.4 lens, for accuracy: but I don't really buy that argument. The pro zooms, for example, have massive, powerful focusing motors that snap into focus almost instantly, yet they manage perfect focus as well, even at much longer focal lengths where the challenge at f/2.8 is far greater than it is at f/1.4 and 50mm. I suspect the difference is mainly a matter of cost control. In addition - and I know a lot of people will disagree with me here - I think a lens like this could use VR. I realize that the old school would rather make their images sharp with careful planning and good shot discipline than with a gimmick like VR, and yet I grew up shooting film cameras at ISO 64 myself, and I love what VR can do for a lens' versatility. If VR is so useful on my slow 16-85mm VR zoom, and if it has been included on the new FX 16-35mm f/4 zoom, imagine how useful it would be to be able to shoot an f/1.4 lens, hand-held, at 1/4" shutter speeds - especially at the high ISOs today's DSLRs are capable of. It would immediately become an unmatched tool for low-light photography, and I would be happy to pay extra for such a capability. Also, even though it is a brand-new design it lacks Nikon's premium "nano-coating," which is being applied to most of today's top lenses. I suspect that is another cost-control measure, which undoubtedly causes some diminishment in performance compared to what it could have been.

The point is that the 50/1.4G, like anything else, has been built to a price, and although it is not an inexpensive lens it is priced moderately when taking into account its FX optics and full AF-S feature set. It seems likely to me that Nikon has made the decision quite consciously to make this a competent, solid-performing lens, representing an update and a modest improvement in overall performance in comparison to its predecessors, rather than to hit it out of the park. That's good enough: it's a fine lens, and I recommend it. I give it four stars on the basis that it gets every important aspect of lens performance right, carries the very useful technical advance of AF-S focusing, and has no flaws of any real consequence.

Notes:

- Sample variability: I'm confident that I received two good samples of this lens: one had been specifically accounted for as such by Nikon while the other one, brand-new, was even better. The lesson here is that sample variability does exist. The better of these two lenses is noticeably, but slightly, sharper than the other one at each aperture from f/1.4 through f/5.6. It also seems slightly contrastier, which is a logical complement to the higher sharpness. The difference is not large. Compared to some lenses, in which I've noticed large variations between samples, it is relatively insignificant.

- Vs. zoom lenses: Years ago, prime lenses were universally better in terms of image quality than zoom lenses. That is no longer the case. In comparing this lens with my 16-85mm VR DX zoom, an excellent lens that I use as a reference for such purposes, it seems to my eyes that the zoom has a slight advantage in sharpness at f/5.6, which is pretty close to wide open for that lens. The zoom is also at least as contrasty as the prime. This brings me to reiterate something I mention in most of my reviews of prime lenses: the advantage of a prime over a zoom today is not one of sharpness or of overall image quality at all, but of control over depth of field and of low-light applicability. The zoom is versatile in ways that the prime is not, but on the other hand the prime can do things that the zoom lens can not do. For portraiture, still-life subjects and the like, the 50/1.4 gives a critical dimension of artistic control, and for low-light shooting of moving subjects, it is about as good as lenses get (with the slow focusing as a caveat to the latter). For everyday shooting, for landscapes, for low-light photography of non-moving subjects; it has no advantage aside from its compact size and relative simplicity. The same comments would apply equally well in comparison with any of Nikon's recent pro midrange zooms. The corollary to this line of reasoning is that performance at wide apertures is the single distinguishing quality of an excellent fixed-focal-length lens: without that quality any number of excellent zoom lenses can do pretty much the same job.

- Vs. Nikon 50mm AF and AF-D f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses: These lenses are among the worst for sample variability, in my experience. I happen to have a couple of good samples of the f/1.8 on hand at the moment as well as an average sample of the f/1.4D, and the differences in sharpness are very small between those and the f/1.4G, except that the f/1.4D is poorer near f/1.4 (I have seen some that were better). I have separately reviewed the f/1.8D as a three-star lens, primarily because they are so variable and often quite mediocre at wide apertures, and I prefer the newer lens for its AF-S focusing and handling improvements over the old lenses. However, if you get a good sample of one of the older lenses, there is very little to choose from between them and the newer lens in terms of overall image quality. Let your needs and your willingness to spend the extra cash be your guide: if the cost difference is of significant consequence, find a good AF or AF-D sample in your chosen flavor and be confident that your images will in practical terms be the equal of those you'd make with the newer lens.

- Vs Nikon 35mm f/1.8G: This is mostly academic since these lenses are of different focal lengths and designed for different formats, but it is interesting to me as a matter of pure curiosity since these lenses are of such similar vintage and apparent design. The 35mm doesn't have the focus distance scale that the 50mm has, but it is a sweet little inexpensive lens with great performance. In terms of image quality my feeling is that the 35mm has come out being the better of the two by a slight margin. Probably because it's designed with a smaller image circle for DX, and because it doesn't need to open up all the way to f/1.4, it manages to lose less acuity as it approaches max aperture. At f/1.8 through f/2.8 the 35mm is distinctly sharper than the 50mm. The 35mm is remarkably sharp wide open and I'd happily use it at f/1.8 any time, whereas with the 50mm I'd prefer to stop it down beyond that unless I have a good reason not to. The 50mm is good enough at f/1.8 and below, but the 35mm is better than good enough. The 35mm remains my easy pick as the one truly no-brainer prime lens that any DX shooter should have.

- Filters: This lens has a 58mm filter ring, which is unusual for Nikon. If you're looking for a reason other than price to stay with the older lenses, their standard 52mm filter sizes would be a good one. As it is, buying this lens either means buying a spectrum of new filters to use with it, or resigning oneself to using a step-up ring, possibly to 67mm, which precludes the use of a lens hood. This isn't a new dilemma but it certainly doesn't make things any easier.

- Bokeh: I've probably saved this for last because I know, unfortunately, that I have little that is positive or useful to say about it. This lens doesn't have good bokeh. It's not awful; not as bad as some - but depending on what's in the background, if you're shooting close subjects at large apertures you might wind up with some unpleasant out of focus elements in your frame. Personally, with a lens like this, I prefer not to try to throw the background way out of focus: longer lenses are far better for that purpose. A subtle degree of background blur, one that allows you to emphasize the subject while still placing it in a recognizable environment, is my preference - and for that type of photography the quality of the blur is not usually all that important. So for me, this lens' bokeh is moderately poor, but still acceptable. There are times when it can catch you off-guard, though; tree branches and grass being two of the things that can take on quite a distracting look in certain instances. Another special case comes into play when using the lens to photograph close-up subjects, in which case the background will be well out of focus. That type of use is consequently not this lens' forte.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2011 12:44 PM PDT


Giottos AGSP-8258 Screen Protector (Transparent/Black)
Giottos AGSP-8258 Screen Protector (Transparent/Black)
Offered by Gold Star Broker
Price: $24.97
9 used & new from $18.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Giottos, January 27, 2010
I think this is a GREAT product.

For a long time the issue of screen protection has been a real problem for owners of Nikon DSLRs. Even those which come with screen protectors from the factory are not well served, as the supplied plastic screen protectors scratch and haze so easily that even in ordinary use they soon lose much of their original clarity.

APPLICABILITY

There are three tiers of Nikon DSLRs as far as screen protection is concerned:

- Nikon's top professional bodies such as the D2x/D3/D3s, and so on, have tempered-glass rear LCDs that are quite tough and very scratch-resistant. In fact, these bodies seem more likely to suffer from a broken screen than a scratched one, seemingly indicating that the screens are sufficiently resistant to being scratched that it takes quite a heavy, damaging impact to make any mark on them at all. In a case like this it's difficult to see the advantage of an auxiliary screen protector of any kind. I wouldn't bother to use anything at all, unless I anticipated some sort of particularly heavy use, in which case an impact-absorbing plastic screen protector like the factory item might be a better choice than the Giottos glass screen protector.

- Nikon's mid-range SLRs such as the D80, D90 and D300 have fairly easily-scratched screens (plastic, I believe) that are protected by clip-on plastic protectors from the factory. These plastic protectors are inexpensively replaced - however, they have very little surface hardness and routinely suffer superficial hazing marks and fine scratches even in careful, ordinary use. In addition, small particles of sand and dust can work themselves between the cover and the screen, leading to damage to the screen itself over time. The covers negatively impact transmission of the image from the screen even when new, and don't take long to deteriorate to the point at which the usability of the screen is much reduced, especially in bright conditions. The Giottos protector is a vast improvement over the standard covers for these cameras, effectively solving the problems of the standard protectors completely (though adding on or two new ones - see below).

- Nikon's entry-level consumer bodies such as the D40/60/3000/5000 have plastic rear LCDs with no screen protection of any kind either supplied or offered by the factory. These screens scratch so easily and universally in use as to be the most serious (often only) cosmetic issue these cameras suffer after months or years in service. These cameras absolutely need some form of aftermarket screen protection, and until now no good solution has been available.

AEGIS

The Giottos Aegis screen protector is glass. It is thinner than commonly available plastic screen protectors, and has visibly less impact on light transmission. It presumably has multiple layers of coatings applied to each side: the precise number of coating layers notwithstanding, it is clear that the Aegis is a high quality optical product, optimized for its function, and that it will transmit light clearly from the screen while minimizing unwanted reflections.

The Aegis has a clear glass area that makes up the majority of its surface. The clear area is designed to be slightly larger than the actual viewable area of each screen it is specified for, such that perfect alignment isn't critical when installing it: a slight mis-alignment will still allow you to view the entire visible picture area of the screen. Surrounding the clear area is a black area that closely matches the black surround on the camera's own screen. On the rear of this black area is a mild adhesive to enable the protector to be semi-permanently adhered to the camera's screen. When installed, the Aegis sits on and just about perfectly fills the LCD area of the camera body it is designed for.

In use, the Aegis is almost completely invisible. Comparing two identical D40s side-by-side in direct sunlight and in low indoor light - one with the Aegis protector installed and one with no screen protection - there is virtually no difference in the appearance of the two screens in either condition. The image through the Aegis screen protector is crisp and contrasty and fully allows the quality of the Nikon's LCD to be appreciated. It is still washed-out by reflections from the sun or a very bright sky, but no more than the standard LCD by itself, and far less than a plastic screen protector (the plastic screen protector's worst quality). Obviously, this refers to new examples of each. With use, the Aegis should remain free of scratches is handled with reasonable care, while the bare LCD or plastic screen protector won't, giving the Aegis a compelling advantage in real-world use.

INSTALLATION

The majority of poor reviews of the Aegis come from people disappointed with its adhesiveness - apparently the Aegis protectors will fall of and/or break off easily in use. Thinking that this might have something to do with care in installation, I took considerable care installing the Aegis on each camera body I've used it on (we have three SLR camera bodies in the house, all with Aegis protectors now installed).

The Aegis is thin and presumably fairly brittle, although it does have enough flex to bend usefully for installation. It comes with a protective plastic layer on both its inner and outer surface. It also comes with a small Giottos micro-fiber cloth, and the instructions advise using the cloth to clean the screen prior to installation. The cloth by itself did not clean the screens to my satisfaction, leaving tiny bits of cloth residue that wouldn't blow or brush off. Personally, my preference anyway is to use a good no-residue optical cleaner, along with lens-cleaning tissues, to clean the screen, and then to blow it dry with a blower-bulb (see my review of the Giottos cleaning kit for my advice on safely cleaning optical surfaces). Make sure to use a cleaner that leaves no residue, as any residue could impede the adherence of the screen. A final light wipe-down with the Giottos cloth can't hurt. Critically important: position the camera body under a bright light before installation so that you can be absolutely certain of the screen's perfect cleanliness. This is very hard to achieve as you will find bits of dust landing on the screen in almost any environment. A little care and patience will pay off.

Because most adhesives work much better in warmer conditions, I lightly heated both the screen itself and the screen protector with a hair dryer before installation. My intention wasn't to get the adhesive hot, but to warm it to slightly above room temperature to help chemically activate it, and to soften it to allow it to conform as well as possible to the screen's surface.

Remove the outer layer of plastic from the screen protector. At first I thought it would be helpful to keep the outer layer in place to help with maneuvering the screen protector into position, but the cover made it more difficult to see exactly how the screen protector was lining up with the screen. I got better results by removing it.

Finally, remove the cover from the adhesive side of the screen protector. Line it up and position first one corner, then an adjacent corner, carefully on the screen in the best alignment you can. If alignment isn't perfect at this point, you will have some ability to gently move or rotate the screen protector until two adjacent corners are nicely lined up. Then gradually and carefully lower the two remaining corners onto the screen, checking and if necessary tweaking the alignment as you go. A small misalignment is possible even if you're careful, but won't have any effect on function.

Immediately after installation, while the screen and the adhesive are still warm, using the microfiber cloth, firmly and evenly apply pressure all the way around the adhesive band on the outside of the protector, working the adhesive into the screen. This should help encourage a strong, permanent bond.

Having applied the screens to our cameras in this way, I haven't had any problem with the screens coming loose in use. Not that it can't happen: If anything Giottos seems to have been too concerned with making sure that the protectors could be easily removed, if desired. Every Aegis comes with clear instructions for removal, for example, and seems that Giottos might have erred in choosing an adhesive that is not as aggressive as it could have been. I do believe that a little care exercised in installation, and appropriate care in use, will mitigate this issue.

DRAWBACKS

Because the Aegis is glass, and thin, it is fairly brittle. While it has advantages as noted compared to the thicker plastic screen protectors as used on the D90/D300 series cameras and their ilk, it has a couple of disadvantages as well. The plastic, although optically inferior and prone to being optically degraded in use, will not shatter in response to impacts, and will provide a level of cushioning to the screen that a thin glass film can not match. If your camera's screen is likely to get bumped against rocks or other hard objects; or to be treated roughly or without care; or to be used in unpredictable environments; a thick, plastic protector will likely offer more protection than the Aegis. The Aegis is optically better, will not scratch easily, and will offer good protection against the kinds of normal handling that a well-cared-for camera will be subject to. It will offer only limited impact protection, however, and will itself be sacrificed if rougher conditions are encountered, possibly also allowing damage to the screen itself.

The Aegis does show prints and any other kind of gunk that gets on it very readily - just like a lens element would. Usually, though, you don't shoot with your nose pressed against the front of your lens. The screen protector will get stuff on it, all the time, and will need cleaning, all the time. It is, fortunately, easy to clean. Unlike some coated surfaces, residue comes off easily and streaking isn't a problem.

CONCLUSION

The Aegis is exactly what I've been looking for, and I've been looking for a long time. As a dedicated amateur photographer I treat my cameras well, but have found factory screen protection to be lacking in the camera bodies I prefer to use. The mere act of putting a camera body into a camera bag and taking it back out again causes issues with the cameras' LCD screens and standard screen protectors, and no good solution has previously existed. An optically-excellent, hard-coated glass screen protector, specifically designed for each camera's screen, is the ideal solution, and I can't fault the execution except to note that the degree of adhesiveness is necessarily a compromise. I give it five stars. Its minor flaws are much more than compensated for by its overall high quality and its vast superiority to its competition. The price is reasonable. If you need one, get it.


Giottos AGSP-8257 Screen Protector (Transparent/Black)
Giottos AGSP-8257 Screen Protector (Transparent/Black)
Price: $25.29
2 used & new from $25.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Giottos, January 27, 2010
I think this is a GREAT product.

For a long time the issue of screen protection has been a real problem for owners of Nikon DSLRs. Even those which come with screen protectors from the factory are not well served, as the supplied plastic screen protectors scratch and haze so easily that even in ordinary use they soon lose much of their original clarity.

APPLICABILITY

There are three tiers of Nikon DSLRs as far as screen protection is concerned:

- Nikon's top professional bodies such as the D2x/D3/D3s, and so on, have tempered-glass rear LCDs that are quite tough and very scratch-resistant. In fact, these bodies seem more likely to suffer from a broken screen than a scratched one, seemingly indicating that the screens are sufficiently resistant to being scratched that it takes quite a heavy, damaging impact to make any mark on them at all. In a case like this it's difficult to see the advantage of an auxiliary screen protector of any kind. I wouldn't bother to use anything at all, unless I anticipated some sort of particularly heavy use, in which case an impact-absorbing plastic screen protector like the factory item might be a better choice than the Giottos glass screen protector.

- Nikon's mid-range SLRs such as the D80, D90 and D300 have fairly easily-scratched screens (plastic, I believe) that are protected by clip-on plastic protectors from the factory. These plastic protectors are inexpensively replaced - however, they have very little surface hardness and routinely suffer superficial hazing marks and fine scratches even in careful, ordinary use. In addition, small particles of sand and dust can work themselves between the cover and the screen, leading to damage to the screen itself over time. The covers negatively impact transmission of the image from the screen even when new, and don't take long to deteriorate to the point at which the usability of the screen is much reduced, especially in bright conditions. The Giottos protector is a vast improvement over the standard covers for these cameras, effectively solving the problems of the standard protectors completely (though adding on or two new ones - see below).

- Nikon's entry-level consumer bodies such as the D40/60/3000/5000 have plastic rear LCDs with no screen protection of any kind either supplied or offered by the factory. These screens scratch so easily and universally in use as to be the most serious (often only) cosmetic issue these cameras suffer after months or years in service. These cameras absolutely need some form of aftermarket screen protection, and until now no good solution has been available.

AEGIS

The Giottos Aegis screen protector is glass. It is thinner than commonly available plastic screen protectors, and has visibly less impact on light transmission. It presumably has multiple layers of coatings applied to each side: the precise number of coating layers notwithstanding, it is clear that the Aegis is a high quality optical product, optimized for its function, and that it will transmit light clearly from the screen while minimizing unwanted reflections.

The Aegis has a clear glass area that makes up the majority of its surface. The clear area is designed to be slightly larger than the actual viewable area of each screen it is specified for, such that perfect alignment isn't critical when installing it: a slight mis-alignment will still allow you to view the entire visible picture area of the screen. Surrounding the clear area is a black area that closely matches the black surround on the camera's own screen. On the rear of this black area is a mild adhesive to enable the protector to be semi-permanently adhered to the camera's screen. When installed, the Aegis sits on and just about perfectly fills the LCD area of the camera body it is designed for.

In use, the Aegis is almost completely invisible. Comparing two identical D40s side-by-side in direct sunlight and in low indoor light - one with the Aegis protector installed and one with no screen protection - there is virtually no difference in the appearance of the two screens in either condition. The image through the Aegis screen protector is crisp and contrasty and fully allows the quality of the Nikon's LCD to be appreciated. It is still washed-out by reflections from the sun or a very bright sky, but no more than the standard LCD by itself, and far less than a plastic screen protector (the plastic screen protector's worst quality). Obviously, this refers to new examples of each. With use, the Aegis should remain free of scratches is handled with reasonable care, while the bare LCD or plastic screen protector won't, giving the Aegis a compelling advantage in real-world use.

INSTALLATION

The majority of poor reviews of the Aegis come from people disappointed with its adhesiveness - apparently the Aegis protectors will fall of and/or break off easily in use. Thinking that this might have something to do with care in installation, I took considerable care installing the Aegis on each camera body I've used it on (we have three SLR camera bodies in the house, all with Aegis protectors now installed).

The Aegis is thin and presumably fairly brittle, although it does have enough flex to bend usefully for installation. It comes with a protective plastic layer on both its inner and outer surface. It also comes with a small Giottos micro-fiber cloth, and the instructions advise using the cloth to clean the screen prior to installation. The cloth by itself did not clean the screens to my satisfaction, leaving tiny bits of cloth residue that wouldn't blow or brush off. Personally, my preference anyway is to use a good no-residue optical cleaner, along with lens-cleaning tissues, to clean the screen, and then to blow it dry with a blower-bulb (see my review of the Giottos cleaning kit for my advice on safely cleaning optical surfaces). Make sure to use a cleaner that leaves no residue, as any residue could impede the adherence of the screen. A final light wipe-down with the Giottos cloth can't hurt. Critically important: position the camera body under a bright light before installation so that you can be absolutely certain of the screen's perfect cleanliness. This is very hard to achieve as you will find bits of dust landing on the screen in almost any environment. A little care and patience will pay off.

Because most adhesives work much better in warmer conditions, I lightly heated both the screen itself and the screen protector with a hair dryer before installation. My intention wasn't to get the adhesive hot, but to warm it to slightly above room temperature to help chemically activate it, and to soften it to allow it to conform as well as possible to the screen's surface.

Remove the outer layer of plastic from the screen protector. At first I thought it would be helpful to keep the outer layer in place to help with maneuvering the screen protector into position, but the cover made it more difficult to see exactly how the screen protector was lining up with the screen. I got better results by removing it.

Finally, remove the cover from the adhesive side of the screen protector. Line it up and position first one corner, then an adjacent corner, carefully on the screen in the best alignment you can. If alignment isn't perfect at this point, you will have some ability to gently move or rotate the screen protector until two adjacent corners are nicely lined up. Then gradually and carefully lower the two remaining corners onto the screen, checking and if necessary tweaking the alignment as you go. A small misalignment is possible even if you're careful, but won't have any effect on function.

Immediately after installation, while the screen and the adhesive are still warm, using the microfiber cloth, firmly and evenly apply pressure all the way around the adhesive band on the outside of the protector, working the adhesive into the screen. This should help encourage a strong, permanent bond.

Having applied the screens to our cameras in this way, I haven't had any problem with the screens coming loose in use. Not that it can't happen: If anything Giottos seems to have been too concerned with making sure that the protectors could be easily removed, if desired. Every Aegis comes with clear instructions for removal, for example, and seems that Giottos might have erred in choosing an adhesive that is not as aggressive as it could have been. I do believe that a little care exercised in installation, and appropriate care in use, will mitigate this issue.

DRAWBACKS

Because the Aegis is glass, and thin, it is fairly brittle. While it has advantages as noted compared to the thicker plastic screen protectors as used on the D90/D300 series cameras and their ilk, it has a couple of disadvantages as well. The plastic, although optically inferior and prone to being optically degraded in use, will not shatter in response to impacts, and will provide a level of cushioning to the screen that a thin glass film can not match. If your camera's screen is likely to get bumped against rocks or other hard objects; or to be treated roughly or without care; or to be used in unpredictable environments; a thick, plastic protector will likely offer more protection than the Aegis. The Aegis is optically better, will not scratch easily, and will offer good protection against the kinds of normal handling that a well-cared-for camera will be subject to. It will offer only limited impact protection, however, and will itself be sacrificed if rougher conditions are encountered, possibly also allowing damage to the screen itself.

The Aegis does show prints and any other kind of gunk that gets on it very readily - just like a lens element would. Usually, though, you don't shoot with your nose pressed against the front of your lens. The screen protector will get stuff on it, all the time, and will need cleaning, all the time. It is, fortunately, easy to clean. Unlike some coated surfaces, residue comes off easily and streaking isn't a problem.

CONCLUSION

The Aegis is exactly what I've been looking for, and I've been looking for a long time. As a dedicated amateur photographer I treat my cameras well, but have found factory screen protection to be lacking in the camera bodies I prefer to use. The mere act of putting a camera body into a camera bag and taking it back out again causes issues with the cameras' LCD screens and standard screen protectors, and no good solution has previously existed. An optically-excellent, hard-coated glass screen protector, specifically designed for each camera's screen, is the ideal solution, and I can't fault the execution except to note that the degree of adhesiveness is necessarily a compromise. I give it five stars. Its minor flaws are much more than compensated for by its overall high quality and its vast superiority to its competition. The price is reasonable. If you need one, get it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 6, 2011 8:06 AM PDT


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Giottos, January 27, 2010
I think this is a GREAT product.

For a long time the issue of screen protection has been a real problem for owners of Nikon DSLRs. In many cases, the rear LCD on these cameras is neither glass nor hard-coated, yet comes from the factory with no protection of any kind. For such cameras the simple act of sliding the body into and out of a clean camera bag is sufficient over time to lead to a haze of fine scratches that mar the appearance of the camera and reduce image contrast when the screen is in use.

APPLICABILITY

There are three tiers of Nikon DSLRs as far as screen protection is concerned:

- Nikon's top professional bodies such as the D2x/D3/D3s, and so on, have tempered-glass rear LCDs that are quite tough and very scratch-resistant. In fact, these bodies seem more likely to suffer from a broken screen than a scratched one, seemingly indicating that the screens are sufficiently resistant to being scratched that it takes quite a heavy, damaging impact to make any mark on them at all. In a case like this it's difficult to see the advantage of an auxiliary screen protector of any kind. I wouldn't bother to use anything at all, unless I anticipated some sort of particularly heavy use, in which case an impact-absorbing plastic screen protector like the factory item might be a better choice than the Giottos glass screen protector.

- Nikon's mid-range SLRs such as the D80, D90 and D300 have fairly easily-scratched screens (plastic, I believe) that are protected by clip-on plastic protectors from the factory. These plastic protectors are inexpensively replaced - however, they have very little surface hardness and routinely suffer superficial hazing marks and fine scratches even in careful, ordinary use. In addition, small particles of sand and dust can work themselves between the cover and the screen, leading to damage to the screen itself over time. The covers negatively impact transmission of the image from the screen even when new, and don't take long to deteriorate to the point at which the usability of the screen is much reduced, especially in bright conditions. The Giottos protector is a vast improvement over the standard covers for these cameras, effectively solving the problems of the standard protectors completely (though adding on or two new ones - see below).

- Nikon's entry-level consumer bodies such as the D40/60/3000/5000 have plastic rear LCDs with no screen protection of any kind either supplied or offered by the factory. These screens scratch so easily and universally in use as to be the most serious (often only) cosmetic issue these cameras suffer after months or years in service. These cameras absolutely need some form of aftermarket screen protection, and until now no good solution has been available.

AEGIS

The Giottos Aegis screen protector is glass. It is thinner than commonly available plastic screen protectors, and has visibly less impact on light transmission. It presumably has multiple layers of coatings applied to each side: the precise number of coating layers notwithstanding, it is clear that the Aegis is a high quality optical product, optimized for its function, and that it will transmit light clearly from the screen while minimizing unwanted reflections.

The Aegis has a clear glass area that makes up the majority of its surface. The clear area is designed to be slightly larger than the actual viewable area of each screen it is specified for, such that perfect alignment isn't critical when installing it: a slight mis-alignment will still allow you to view the entire visible picture area of the screen. Surrounding the clear area is a black area that closely matches the black surround on the camera's own screen. On the rear of this black area is a mild adhesive to enable the protector to be semi-permanently adhered to the camera's screen. When installed, the Aegis sits on and just about perfectly fills the LCD area of the camera body it is designed for.

In use, the Aegis is almost completely invisible. Comparing two identical D40s side-by-side in direct sunlight and in low indoor light - one with the Aegis protector installed and one with no screen protection - there is virtually no difference in the appearance of the two screens in either condition. The image through the Aegis screen protector is crisp and contrasty and fully allows the quality of the Nikon's LCD to be appreciated. It is still washed-out by reflections from the sun or a very bright sky, but no more than the standard LCD by itself, and far less than a plastic screen protector (the plastic screen protector's worst quality). Obviously, this refers to new examples of each. With use, the Aegis should remain free of scratches is handled with reasonable care, while the bare LCD or plastic screen protector won't, giving the Aegis a compelling advantage in real-world use.

INSTALLATION

The majority of poor reviews of the Aegis come from people disappointed with its adhesiveness - apparently the Aegis protectors will fall of and/or break off easily in use. Thinking that this might have something to do with care in installation, I took considerable care installing the Aegis on each camera body I've used it on (we have three SLR camera bodies in the house, all with Aegis protectors now installed).

The Aegis is thin and presumably fairly brittle, although it does have enough flex to bend usefully for installation. It comes with a protective plastic layer on both its inner and outer surface. It also comes with a small Giottos micro-fiber cloth, and the instructions advise using the cloth to clean the screen prior to installation. The cloth by itself did not clean the screens to my satisfaction, leaving tiny bits of cloth residue that wouldn't blow or brush off. Personally, my preference anyway is to use a good no-residue optical cleaner, along with lens-cleaning tissues, to clean the screen, and then to blow it dry with a blower-bulb (see my review of the Giottos cleaning kit for my advice on safely cleaning optical surfaces). Make sure to use a cleaner that leaves no residue, as any residue could impede the adherence of the screen. A final light wipe-down with the Giottos cloth can't hurt. Critically important: position the camera body under a bright light before installation so that you can be absolutely certain of the screen's perfect cleanliness. This is very hard to achieve as you will find bits of dust landing on the screen in almost any environment. A little care and patience will pay off.

Because most adhesives work much better in warmer conditions, I lightly heated both the screen itself and the screen protector with a hair dryer before installation. My intention wasn't to get the adhesive hot, but to warm it to slightly above room temperature to help chemically activate it, and to soften it to allow it to conform as well as possible to the screen's surface.

Remove the outer layer of plastic from the screen protector. At first I thought it would be helpful to keep the outer layer in place to help with maneuvering the screen protector into position, but the cover made it more difficult to see exactly how the screen protector was lining up with the screen. I got better results by removing it.

Finally, remove the cover from the adhesive side of the screen protector. Line it up and position first one corner, then an adjacent corner, carefully on the screen in the best alignment you can. If alignment isn't perfect at this point, you will have some ability to gently move or rotate the screen protector until two adjacent corners are nicely lined up. Then gradually and carefully lower the two remaining corners onto the screen, checking and if necessary tweaking the alignment as you go. A small misalignment is possible even if you're careful, but won't have any effect on function.

Immediately after installation, while the screen and the adhesive are still warm, using the microfiber cloth, firmly and evenly apply pressure all the way around the adhesive band on the outside of the protector, working the adhesive into the screen. This should help encourage a strong, permanent bond.

Having applied the screens to our cameras in this way, I haven't had any problem with the screens coming loose in use. Not that it can't happen: If anything Giottos seems to have been too concerned with making sure that the protectors could be easily removed, if desired. Every Aegis comes with clear instructions for removal, for example, and seems that Giottos might have erred in choosing an adhesive that is not as aggressive as it could have been. I do believe that a little care exercised in installation, and appropriate care in use, will mitigate this issue.

DRAWBACKS

Because the Aegis is glass, and thin, it is fairly brittle. While it has advantages as noted compared to the thicker plastic screen protectors as used on the D90/D300 series cameras and their ilk, it has a couple of disadvantages as well. The plastic, although optically inferior and prone to being optically degraded in use, will not shatter in response to impacts, and will provide a level of cushioning to the screen that a thin glass film can not match. If your camera's screen is likely to get bumped against rocks or other hard objects; or to be treated roughly or without care; or to be used in unpredictable environments; a thick, plastic protector will likely offer more protection than the Aegis. The Aegis is optically better, will not scratch easily, and will offer good protection against the kinds of normal handling that a well-cared-for camera will be subject to. It will offer only limited impact protection, however, and will itself be sacrificed if rougher conditions are encountered, possibly also allowing damage to the screen itself.

The Aegis does show prints and any other kind of gunk that gets on it very readily - just like a lens element would. Usually, though, you don't shoot with your nose pressed against the front of your lens. The screen protector will get stuff on it, all the time, and will need cleaning, all the time. It is, fortunately, easy to clean. Unlike some coated surfaces, residue comes off easily and streaking isn't a problem.

CONCLUSION

The Aegis is exactly what I've been looking for, and I've been looking for a long time. As a dedicated amateur photographer I treat my cameras well, but have found factory screen protection to be lacking in the camera bodies I prefer to use. The mere act of putting a camera body into a camera bag and taking it back out again causes issues with the cameras' LCD screens and standard screen protectors, and no good solution has previously existed. An optically-excellent, hard-coated glass screen protector, specifically designed for each camera's screen, is the ideal solution, and I can't fault the execution except to note that the degree of adhesiveness is necessarily a compromise. I give it five stars. Its minor flaws are much more than compensated for by its overall high quality and its vast superiority to its competition. The price is reasonable. If you need one, get it.


Giottos SP8202 Aegis Multi-coated LCD Screen Protector for Nikon D70S
Giottos SP8202 Aegis Multi-coated LCD Screen Protector for Nikon D70S
Price: $41.99
2 used & new from $21.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Giottos, January 27, 2010
I think this is a GREAT product.

For a long time the issue of screen protection has been a real problem for owners of Nikon DSLRs. In many cases, the rear LCD on these cameras is neither glass nor hard-coated, yet comes from the factory with no protection of any kind. For such cameras the simple act of sliding the body into and out of a clean camera bag is sufficient over time to lead to a haze of fine scratches that mar the appearance of the camera and reduce image contrast when the screen is in use.

APPLICABILITY

There are three tiers of Nikon DSLRs as far as screen protection is concerned:

- Nikon's top professional bodies such as the D2x/D3/D3s, and so on, have tempered-glass rear LCDs that are quite tough and very scratch-resistant. In fact, these bodies seem more likely to suffer from a broken screen than a scratched one, seemingly indicating that the screens are sufficiently resistant to being scratched that it takes quite a heavy, damaging impact to make any mark on them at all. In a case like this it's difficult to see the advantage of an auxiliary screen protector of any kind. I wouldn't bother to use anything at all, unless I anticipated some sort of particularly heavy use, in which case an impact-absorbing plastic screen protector like the factory item might be a better choice than the Giottos glass screen protector.

- Nikon's mid-range SLRs such as the D80, D90 and D300 have fairly easily-scratched screens (plastic, I believe) that are protected by clip-on plastic protectors from the factory. These plastic protectors are inexpensively replaced - however, they have very little surface hardness and routinely suffer superficial hazing marks and fine scratches even in careful, ordinary use. In addition, small particles of sand and dust can work themselves between the cover and the screen, leading to damage to the screen itself over time. The covers negatively impact transmission of the image from the screen even when new, and don't take long to deteriorate to the point at which the usability of the screen is much reduced, especially in bright conditions. The Giottos protector is a vast improvement over the standard covers for these cameras, effectively solving the problems of the standard protectors completely (though adding on or two new ones - see below).

- Nikon's entry-level consumer bodies such as the D40/60/3000/5000 have plastic rear LCDs with no screen protection of any kind either supplied or offered by the factory. These screens scratch so easily and universally in use as to be the most serious (often only) cosmetic issue these cameras suffer after months or years in service. These cameras absolutely need some form of aftermarket screen protection, and until now no good solution has been available.

AEGIS

The Giottos Aegis screen protector is glass. It is thinner than commonly available plastic screen protectors, and has visibly less impact on light transmission. It presumably has multiple layers of coatings applied to each side: the precise number of coating layers notwithstanding, it is clear that the Aegis is a high quality optical product, optimized for its function, and that it will transmit light clearly from the screen while minimizing unwanted reflections.

The Aegis has a clear glass area that makes up the majority of its surface. The clear area is designed to be slightly larger than the actual viewable area of each screen it is specified for, such that perfect alignment isn't critical when installing it: a slight mis-alignment will still allow you to view the entire visible picture area of the screen. Surrounding the clear area is a black area that closely matches the black surround on the camera's own screen. On the rear of this black area is a mild adhesive to enable the protector to be semi-permanently adhered to the camera's screen. When installed, the Aegis sits on and just about perfectly fills the LCD area of the camera body it is designed for.

In use, the Aegis is almost completely invisible. Comparing two identical D40s side-by-side in direct sunlight and in low indoor light - one with the Aegis protector installed and one with no screen protection - there is virtually no difference in the appearance of the two screens in either condition. The image through the Aegis screen protector is crisp and contrasty and fully allows the quality of the Nikon's LCD to be appreciated. It is still washed-out by reflections from the sun or a very bright sky, but no more than the standard LCD by itself, and far less than a plastic screen protector (the plastic screen protector's worst quality). Obviously, this refers to new examples of each. With use, the Aegis should remain free of scratches is handled with reasonable care, while the bare LCD or plastic screen protector won't, giving the Aegis a compelling advantage in real-world use.

INSTALLATION

The majority of poor reviews of the Aegis come from people disappointed with its adhesiveness - apparently the Aegis protectors will fall of and/or break off easily in use. Thinking that this might have something to do with care in installation, I took considerable care installing the Aegis on each camera body I've used it on (we have three SLR camera bodies in the house, all with Aegis protectors now installed).

The Aegis is thin and presumably fairly brittle, although it does have enough flex to bend usefully for installation. It comes with a protective plastic layer on both its inner and outer surface. It also comes with a small Giottos micro-fiber cloth, and the instructions advise using the cloth to clean the screen prior to installation. The cloth by itself did not clean the screens to my satisfaction, leaving tiny bits of cloth residue that wouldn't blow or brush off. Personally, my preference anyway is to use a good no-residue optical cleaner, along with lens-cleaning tissues, to clean the screen, and then to blow it dry with a blower-bulb (see my review of the Giottos cleaning kit for my advice on safely cleaning optical surfaces). Make sure to use a cleaner that leaves no residue, as any residue could impede the adherence of the screen. A final light wipe-down with the Giottos cloth can't hurt. Critically important: position the camera body under a bright light before installation so that you can be absolutely certain of the screen's perfect cleanliness. This is very hard to achieve as you will find bits of dust landing on the screen in almost any environment. A little care and patience will pay off.

Because most adhesives work much better in warmer conditions, I lightly heated both the screen itself and the screen protector with a hair dryer before installation. My intention wasn't to get the adhesive hot, but to warm it to slightly above room temperature to help chemically activate it, and to soften it to allow it to conform as well as possible to the screen's surface.

Remove the outer layer of plastic from the screen protector. At first I thought it would be helpful to keep the outer layer in place to help with maneuvering the screen protector into position, but the cover made it more difficult to see exactly how the screen protector was lining up with the screen. I got better results by removing it.

Finally, remove the cover from the adhesive side of the screen protector. Line it up and position first one corner, then an adjacent corner, carefully on the screen in the best alignment you can. If alignment isn't perfect at this point, you will have some ability to gently move or rotate the screen protector until two adjacent corners are nicely lined up. Then gradually and carefully lower the two remaining corners onto the screen, checking and if necessary tweaking the alignment as you go. A small misalignment is possible even if you're careful, but won't have any effect on function.

Immediately after installation, while the screen and the adhesive are still warm, using the microfiber cloth, firmly and evenly apply pressure all the way around the adhesive band on the outside of the protector, working the adhesive into the screen. This should help encourage a strong, permanent bond.

Having applied the screens to our cameras in this way, I haven't had any problem with the screens coming loose in use. Not that it can't happen: If anything Giottos seems to have been too concerned with making sure that the protectors could be easily removed, if desired. Every Aegis comes with clear instructions for removal, for example, and seems that Giottos might have erred in choosing an adhesive that is not as aggressive as it could have been. I do believe that a little care exercised in installation, and appropriate care in use, will mitigate this issue.

DRAWBACKS

Because the Aegis is glass, and thin, it is fairly brittle. While it has advantages as noted compared to the thicker plastic screen protectors as used on the D90/D300 series cameras and their ilk, it has a couple of disadvantages as well. The plastic, although optically inferior and prone to being optically degraded in use, will not shatter in response to impacts, and will provide a level of cushioning to the screen that a thin glass film can not match. If your camera's screen is likely to get bumped against rocks or other hard objects; or to be treated roughly or without care; or to be used in unpredictable environments; a thick, plastic protector will likely offer more protection than the Aegis. The Aegis is optically better, will not scratch easily, and will offer good protection against the kinds of normal handling that a well-cared-for camera will be subject to. It will offer only limited impact protection, however, and will itself be sacrificed if rougher conditions are encountered, possibly also allowing damage to the screen itself.

The Aegis does show prints and any other kind of gunk that gets on it very readily - just like a lens element would. Usually, though, you don't shoot with your nose pressed against the front of your lens. The screen protector will get stuff on it, all the time, and will need cleaning, all the time. It is, fortunately, easy to clean. Unlike some coated surfaces, residue comes off easily and streaking isn't a problem.

CONCLUSION

The Aegis is exactly what I've been looking for, and I've been looking for a long time. As a dedicated amateur photographer I treat my cameras well, but have found factory screen protection to be lacking in the camera bodies I prefer to use. The mere act of putting a camera body into a camera bag and taking it back out again causes issues with the cameras' LCD screens and standard screen protectors, and no good solution has previously existed. An optically-excellent, hard-coated glass screen protector, specifically designed for each camera's screen, is the ideal solution, and I can't fault the execution except to note that the degree of adhesiveness is necessarily a compromise. I give it five stars. Its minor flaws are much more than compensated for by its overall high quality and its vast superiority to its competition. The price is reasonable. If you need one, get it.


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