Review Life+Guard Vinyl Camera and Lens skins

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Ok, let's get this out of the way first: It's going to be a very debatable subject. I am sure there is plenty of reasons why not to stick something on your camera either because you don't like the idea of doing that or believe it's wasted money or it makes a camera ugly, etc. I will not expand the debate of why I chose to do it beyond the following:
I am a very clumsy person by nature, accidents happen and more often than not in my case (plenty of bad luck to go around) and I have enough anxiety from other aspects of my life to worry every second of babying my gear. I want to get an image then I do what I need and must (walk through thick foliage, crawl from mud, dirt and wet grass, climb rocks and difficult to access places, I don't shy away from a challenge and I put my stuff through hell and back. If there are ways to protect my gear I will get them/put them on/used them. It's just that simple.

Now, on to the main topic. In the last couple of years, I have noticed some adverts for Life+Guard (that's their brand name), their website is https://www.lifeguard-design.com/ (the reason the link is here is that their brand name and website is not the easiest to search for on the internet, a mix of popular words and different website link name). And it got me curious but they never had skins for the stuff I had, at first their main focus was CaNiSony but recently they have been pushing for Olympus products quite a bit and some Panasonic as well. At the start of this month, they launched the first Olympus camera skin, for the E-M1 Mark III. All of these skins I bought with my own money, nothing was sponsored:
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As you have noticed, if you convert the Hong Kong currency to $/£/€ the cost of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, Olympus 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro and Olympus 12-40mm f 2.8 Pro skins is 185 $/150 £/171 € seems very pricy but sub the shipping cost of 67 $/54 £/62 € because I bought the products at different dates (the E-M1 Mark III skin was not offered in April) the cost of these is not that bad. Shipping was very fast and arrived safely and on time, besides being very expensive I am happy with the shipping.

Now on to the items themselves, they arrive in a cardboard cover and in plastic bags for protection. When you buy a camera skin it comes with a rubbery squeegy and a rubbery tweezer, probably mold injected plastic with a more grippy surface, when you buy the lens skins they do not come with these two which might have been helpful at times.

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You do not get instruction inside the package but you get a QR code printed that will link you to the website with the instructions there. I am a bit disappointed by this because these instructions are more helpful on a bigger screen (like a monitor, laptop, TV) then phone or a tablet and you have no other way to get the link to these instructions. So you will end up scanning the QR code and then send yourself the link to a bigger device. This is what the instructions you get:

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Functional but limited. For cameras body it's fine but for lenses sometimes problems can come up (more on this later). I talked to the company and they promised they are working on making a video tutorial for EACH product.
The ease of installation is relatively easy and straightforward. The process has been made quite efficient and effective to minimize the number of twists and bends you need to make but, of course, that's model-dependent. But there are things you need to know before you do it (of which I did not know until I did my 2 lenses first):
*The vinyl starts stretching AS SOON as you peel it off the paper, so you have to be very gentle and slow when handling it, there is some room to pull it without having issues BUT you need to be absolutely minimal on the amount of handling it before it does not fit the shape as it should. Of course the thinner the material the more sensible it is.
*For lenses some parts are oversized (like the Focus and Zoom ring vinyl) but they don't tell you where to start putting it on (from the top or from the bottom). So what happened to me is that the Manual Focus Clutch for the Olympus 12-40mm f 2.8 has some play in it (it doesn't seem as robust and tight as the 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro) so I put the zoom ring vinyl starting from the bottom edge of the lens (the edge towards the lens mount) aligning it from the metal groove edge. When I reached the top edge it was longer so I bend it inwards (towards the body of the lens) like this:

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I did the same for the 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro as 12-40mm f 2.8 Pro (actually my 7-14mm Pro was the first skin I put on) but I noticed on the 12-40mm Pro that the Manual Focus Clutch could not engage because there was less room for the ring to fall inside the zoom ring compared to 7-14mm Pro so I couldn't use it. I eventually took off the in-between rings vinyl so that the clutch would work. After talking to the company about this issue they send me a replacement rings for the Zoom, Focus, and the one between the two at no cost (when I ordered the E-M1 Mark III vinyl). I told them about this issue and they were very open and willing to solve the issue and ask for further details on how the can fix it.
*You MUST have a lot of patience and time to do it properly, do not rush ... if you have OCD it might help (or might make it worse) ... listening to heavy metal helped me stay focused and not get my OCD to overly triggered.

The build quality of the vinyl seems very good so far but I have it for only one month now (on the lenses). I will come back in 3, 6 and 12 months later to update the state of the vinyl, probably with pictures too (I will reserve the 2nd post of the review for future updates). In the backpack, lenses can get some bumps and scratches but so far no visible damage on them. Compared to my Panasonic Leica 50-200mm f 2.8-4 which has its paint scratch at the front of the sharp edges around the front lens barrel and the zoom & focus rings and I have this lens for just one year.
Another benefit is that, although I love the metal construction of the lenses, the vinyl makes them more comfortable to hold in cold or hot weather and the focus & zoom rings feel more grippy for turning.
On the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III the camera feels more grippy and secure in my hand after covering the plastic parts where the battery door is, I did not expect that.

Design ... well, they are plenty of options to choose for on their website and there's something for everyone, from boring one design/color to a mix of different colors and designs and even custom requests. I like the Mamba design and Blue is my favorite color so that's why I choose this. Let's not talk about tastes since everyone has different opinions on that :p , my Olympus stuff now feels a lot more me than boring black. I will consider the forest camo for Olympus 100-400mm f 4.5 Pro in the future (possibly with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 X or X Mark II).
Although the skins were designed to cover the rubber grip I chose not to because I like the feel of the rubber so I had to make a few modifications to the skin to cover the plastic part and not the rubber grip. I gut one piece in 2 places and did not use some of the other pieces at all.

Before I get to the pictures: I don't do product photography, the only flash I have is a 60-year-old Sirui manual flash (that works amazingly well I might say) and I don't have a lot of space to work with.
Picture Gallery Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III:
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I am thinking I might take the skin off one of the front buttons to further differentiate the two by touch feeling.

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The seams on the front grip are a bit more noticeable but there's not much I can do about it.

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This is the modified part, I cut the vinyl piece on the right side of the arrow pad and on the left side of the ISO button because I find not want to cover the rubber grip are.

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The Hot Shoe FINALLY doesn't have that gross gray steel color (really Olympus? you had to skimp on pain on that tiny but obvious part?). The seams on top of the EVF are a bit more noticeable then everywhere else but my OCD hasn't killed me about it ... yet :p

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The only part I f^c" up was this tiny cress at the bottom of the front, I could not fix it at all so I gave up before I would start damaging it even more (the two white dots are damaged from trying to flatten it).

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The precision of the cuts is really good.

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With the Big Boy 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro

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I should really send the 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro to the gym ... look at the girth

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"I'm bringing SEXY Back" :p

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Even the bottom has a part ... time will tell how well it will handle tripod mounting and dismounting.

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The Blue Boys
 
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Good review.
I think the site you mention is the original one. Another website https://alphagvrd.com/ sells pretty much the safe stuff with same names minus obscene shipping fees ($4 CONUS). They don't have Olympus skins yet so I am guessing they are yet to copy those templates from real site.

Having said that, I have been looking at these skins for a long time for my Olympus and PL gear. A used Sony A7 III that I bought came with Nordic black skin on it. If it is of any help, the stuff doesn't leave residue behind and in worst case you can peel off and re-apply with ease. I did not notice much loss in stickiness. This is assuming the skin came from life+guard and not alphagvrd.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Good review.
I think the site you mention is the original one. Another website https://alphagvrd.com/ sells pretty much the safe stuff with same names minus obscene shipping fees ($4 CONUS). They don't have Olympus skins yet so I am guessing they are yet to copy those templates from real site.

Having said that, I have been looking at these skins for a long time for my Olympus and PL gear. A used Sony A7 III that I bought came with Nordic black skin on it. If it is of any help, the stuff doesn't leave residue behind and in worst case you can peel off and re-apply with ease. I did not notice much loss in stickiness. This is assuming the skin came from life+guard and not alphagvrd.
They are Life+Guard Originals, I had to take off the zoom ring piece off the Olympus 12-40mm f 2.8 Pro (as I mentioned above) and I have not noticed any significant amount of residue left (a tiny bit did remain but was easily cleaned off with alcohol and a rag). I may test this in 6 months (I have a spare focus ring left to do that).
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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After almost a year of use, I can attest to the quality of the Vinyl Skins. As I sold my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f 2.8 Pro & 12-40mm f 2.8 Pro I needed to take the skins off.
1) The skin comes off very easily but care should be taken on the very thin parts as it's very easy to break, making it more difficult to peel off. Also, a reminder that the vinyl is very stretch if pulled too much as it stretches, try to peel as close to the body to keep the integrity and get an easier peel.
2) The vinyl leaves no residual glue after peeling.
3) The lenses have no scratches after almost one year of use, and the lenses have been used and traveled in the bag a lot as well. There have been no accidental peels or comings off either. The lenses looked the same as if I bought them yesterday.

At the moment I still have the skin on my Big Oly but it will come off when I get a replacement as a set of Camo Forest Green for the E-M1 III, 12-100 Pro, and 100-400. It may look ungodly when doing street shooting out in towns and cities but that won't bother me as I am hoping the effectiveness in the field for wildlife will be decent if not great (and it will still protect the gear from unnecessary scratches).
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Update: I have bought another set of vinyl skin, Operational Camouflage Forest Green. While it's not meant to be the best solution for wildlife subterfuge, the idea is to take out the shape of a big, long block of black, either viewed from front-ish or side ... but mainly it is to protect the camera and lenses from scratches and light bumps (mostly from foliage and vegetation). Since my current lenses are new (to me, bought like new but still used) to me I didn't have any skins for them so might as well make it a full set.
This set seems to be a bit looser on the lenses in a couple of areas, nothing major ... unless you have OCD ... and from a distance farther than a hand's length it wouldn't be noticeable at all. More details below:

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Here's the full set together.

Let's start with the body of Big Oly:

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This time I used the carbon texture on the grip and it doesn't feel as bad as I thought ... though the shape of the 2 front Fn buttons are covered and they feel similar now, could make it harder to tell them apart by touch but you can take off at any time.

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The precision for the vinyl was on point and it was easy to put it on, did not have any issues with the installation.

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This time I improvised and took the lens cap vinyl part and cut the logo out and stuck it on the back of the screen because ... read below.

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I requested the company to not cut the Olympus and OM-D logos and just have fill-in.

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There was no covering for around the drive mode dial and On/Off switch so I improvised and used bits of vinyl skin to stitch up a cover ... not the prettiest but it works and from afar it's not that intrusive.
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There was enough to cover it all the way around and it does not affect the function of the On/Off switch.

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On the right side of the camera mount, you get carbon texture like the grip but there were enough leftovers to improvise a cover for the side to look like the rest of the top and back. I'm not sure why but there was a Mark 3 punch-hole patch and I wasn't sure where to put it, still confused why they made it when the E-M1 Mark III logo was not covered.


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There were a few leftover long strips that were enough to cover the edge of the right side grip and it blends together ... if you squint your eyes hard enough.

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There were some leftovers from the lens caps covers (I didn't see any point in putting vinyl on them) and I just cut and stuck the carbon texture on the bottom L Bracket to improve the texture when holding the camera and the cold feeling of metal on the finger. It wasn't enough to cover it entirely so half of the front is left bare but that's just fine, my fingers are not reaching there.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Continuation:

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f 4 IS Pro.

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The skin around the buttons came out well and they do not interfere with the functionality of the buttons.

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One thing that disappointed me is that the connecting portion between the top of the lens hood and the lens hood mount did not have a strip to have its covered. I used the leftover to cut small pieces to make them look a bit rounder when put together and covered that black portion.

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The other disappointment was the slight gap between the portions around the focal range piece ... I just couldn't get it to fit well enough and it did distort the proportions for the focal length window information ... annoying but I won't be losing sleep over it.

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How the combination looks together.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Continuation:
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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm f 5-6.3 IS

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Like the Olympus 12-100mm f 4 Pro, the lens hood had the portion between the base of the lens hood and the top area of the lens hood not included. I used 2 strips that were meant for the lens cap and put them around the black area to cover it up. It doesn't fit perfectly but I did go to OCD therapy for a week because of that :p

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The lens switches fit very well and do not affect the functionality of the switches.

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The focal range window and the name of the lens fit very well with no errors. But there is a gap between them, not the most noticeable thing ever.

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I was very annoyed with the previous blue vinyl skin for Olympus lenses (I don't know if it's or was the same with the other brands) but they would cover the serial number of the lens (the Olympus 12-100mm f 4 Pro lens skin does cover the serial number). Looks like they fixed it this time ... also the lens looks so much better and less like it's missing something without the tripod ring on.

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They include vinyl skin for the tripod food and ring as well, it covers most of it but not all of it.

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With the tripod foot on.

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Mounted on the camera, with the tripod foot and with a dot sight finder mounted.

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From the front-ish.
 

jk4u59

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Cool... and fearful! The E-M1 seems a weapon... or, better: it looks like a tank fitted with a big gun!

Update: I have bought another set of vinyl skin, Operational Camouflage Forest Green. While it's not meant to be the best solution for wildlife subterfuge, the idea is to take out the shape of a big, long block of black, either viewed from front-ish or side ... but mainly it is to protect the camera and lenses from scratches and light bumps (mostly from foliage and vegetation). Since my current lenses are new (to me, bought like new but still used) to me I didn't have any skins for them so might as well make it a full set.
This set seems to be a bit looser on the lenses in a couple of areas, nothing major ... unless you have OCD ... and from a distance farther than a hand's length it wouldn't be noticeable at all. More details below:
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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A really god job of putting those skins on.
I was thinking of a set then quickly dismissed the idea as I would never get them on properly.

Can see the appeal though.
If you know anyone with even a little bit of OCD just give them your gear and the skins and let them "play" for a few hours, you will be surprised (pleasantly).
 

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