I thought I'd share a cunning trick I hit upon recently, which makes it possible to combine the OpTech Rainsleeve with the popular Panasonic 20mm pancake lens. The Rainsleeve is effectively a glorified polythene bag, shaped a bit like a hoodie so as to cover the camera and your hands and wrists, and featuring a hole for the lens to poke through, with a toggle drawstring which is tightened around the end of the lens barrel. It's not what you'd call a stylish solution to weatherproofing, but it is surprisingly effective and very affordable. You wouldn't want to shoot all day with it, but it can be handy for shooting through rain and snow showers.
One of our long time favourite combinations for street photography is the Olympus E-P5 and Panasonic 20/1.7 II:
Unfortunately, when you try to use it with a Rainsleeve, there's a snag, in fact two snags. The first is that the lens is too short for the purpose of securing the Rainsleeve's drawstring to it. The second is that the front element extends and retracts as the lens changes focus, so there's a small circular gap between its housing and the face of the barrel, just waiting to suck in raindrops, snowflakes and dust particles. What's needed is a means of both extending the barrel a bit so as to give the Rainsleeve something to cling to, and at the same time enclosing the entire end of the lens so as to protect the gap around the front element housing.
As luck would have it, some intensive web-scouring turned up an excellent solution. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Canon produced a range of optics known as the FL series lenses. Dedicated to the FL series was a neat system of clamp-on metal lens hoods, available in two diameters (50 and 60mm) and various lengths (Telephoto, Standard, Wide, Wide A and Wide B - possibly more). The design was unusual in that each hood consisted of two parts which screwed together: a chromed clamp ring which you tightened around the end of the lens barrel, and the actual hood itself. For a given diameter, all of the available hoods were compatible with a single, common clamp ring. The other feature of the system, and the one which lit a light bulb over my head, was the provision of a concealed cavity between the two parts of the hood, for the purpose of mounting a drop-in filter.
At the time of writing there appears to be a reasonably healthy availabilty of used copies of these hoods online, typically costing around $15. I paid $24 for this S-60 (to fit 60mm diameter, Standard lenses) because it came with the original leather case and plastic filter holder, which appealed to me:
As you would expect from an item from that era, everything is beautifully made, in Japan. Both parts of the hood are metal, the clamp ring is chrome-plated and the hood itself is made of a purplish-bronze-black anodized aluminum and lined with a thin layer of black felt.
Unscrewing the hood reveals the filter recess in its base (on the right in the next pic, inverted) and the cavity in the clamp ring (left) into which the hood screws.
The face of the cavity in the clamp ring is blackened with some form of paint which, on my copy, has become somewhat powdery and shows a tendency to flake off when scratched. In practice, however, this is a non-issue because in the course of our intended usage the stuff is not likely to be exposed again, once the hood has been assembled. In any case, it appears to be benign in nature and is easy to brush off, unlike the unspeakable black goo which certain types of light-sealing foam mutate into after extended periods spent in the company of mothballs, and for the removal of which there exists no means known to man.
I should probably have mentioned earlier that by happy chance, the diameter of the front of the Panasonic 20/1.7 II's barrel turns out to be... 60mm! Yay! There's a narrow band right in front of the focus ring channel which is just wide enough to be gripped by the S-60 clamp ring. What's more, there's a shallow groove formed between the bevelled base of the hood and a slightly raised, knurled finger-grip that runs around the outside of the clamp ring, which offers a modest amount of traction for the Rainsleeve drawstring. Hurrah!
The final piece of the puzzle is, of course, the filter. [Note: I've edited the original contents of this paragraph in light of new data — it's just possible that the following info is now actually correct.] The hood was originally designed to accept Series VIII drop-in filters, which have unthreaded frames and an outside diameter of 63.5mm. Original examples of Series VIII UV filters are relatively scarce and in uncertain condition, and in any case, a decent multi-coated modern filter ought to perform better than a 60s original. A few companies do still make series VIII UV filters, but they're on the upmarket side: for anyone interested, there's a link to some at B&H here. A more economical option would be to use a regular threaded filter — it just remains to find one that fits. The critical dimension from the point of view of using the hood with with the 20/1.7 is that the distance between the back of the filter glass and the bottom of the clamp ring must be no less than 8mm, otherwise the front element of the lens will crash into the back of the filter when at its maximum extension. If I were the autofocus motor, I think I would strongly object to such treatment and express my unhappiness by setting fire to myself or something equally unproductive, so such an eventuality should be avoided at all costs.
Initially, I had hoped that it might be possible to match the size of the filter thread to the one which connects the hood to the clamp ring, and simply screw the hood into the filter and the filter into the clamp ring, but although the diameter of the hood thread proved to be a standard one for modern filters (67mm), its pitch, unfortunately, did not, which put an end to that idea. Next I tried dropping a Hoya 58mm filter into the hood recess but it was slightly too small to sit comfortably over the aperture in the clamp ring. Finally, I tried a 62mm MeFOTO UV filter and, lo and behold, it was a perfect interference fit in the recess, and most importantly satisfied the 8mm minimum depth requirement — just.
When inserted in the conventional orientation (i.e. facing outwards) the distance is about 8.7mm. Reversing the filter so that it faces inwards increases the distance, but I'm not sure whether reversing a UV filter is a good idea or not, and since 8.7mm leaves nearly a millimetre to spare, I decided to install it the right way round. I know for a fact that not all 62mm filters will fit into the recess, however — for example, the frames of Vü Ariel and Sion filters have protruding finger-grips which increases their diameter by millimetre or so, and the MeFOTO was already a very tight fit, so my recommendation would be to use the latter should you decide to have a go yourself.
I found that the best method of inserting the filter was to start with the hood facing downwards like in the above photos, and when it was far enough in so as not to fall out, to invert the hood and push it down onto a flat surface like a table, until the filter was fully inserted. The exposed filter frame should not protrude from the hood by more than about 0.5mm, or else the hood won't screw into the clamp ring properly (above, right).
Once the filter is in place, the hood can be screwed tightly into the clamp ring. The final step is to carefully measure the critical depth and confirm that it is at least 8mm:
If it is, it's ready to be attached to the lens. But first a very important point which is fairly obvious but also easy to overlook, so I think it justifies big ugly red letters to make it memorable:
ANY EXISTING FILTERS MUST BE REMOVED FROM THE LENS BEFORE ATTACHING THE HOOD!!!
Seriously though — if you normally use the lens with a 46mm filter mounted on it, and think that there's even the slightest chance of you one day forgetting to remove it in the heat of battle, I urge you to stick some kind of warning label on the hood to remind you. I hereby disclaim any liability for you absent-mindedly wrecking your lens!
Now we've got that over with, let's look at the result:
As a finishing touch, a 67mm lens cap such as this one from a Panasonic 100-300 is a good fit:
And here's a pic with the Rainsleeve attached. While it's difficult for a camera to look fabulous in a plastic bag, if it means you get the shot, I'd say the temporary indignity is worth it!
A few footnotes regarding which of the Canon hoods will/won't work:
- Make sure it is a two-part hood. I saw one for sale online which had a valid model number but which appeared to consist of a single piece. It would still fit the lens, but there would be no place to insert the filter. The two-part models can be identified by the fact that they have a chrome-plated clamp ring. If there's no chrome, don't buy it!
- Provided it's a two-part hood, then any of the following models should work: W-60, W-60-A, W-60-B, S-60. I chose to use an S-60, but the W- models may actually work even better — they're about the same length as the S-60 but the hood section steps out to a wider diameter, which would probably make the Rainsleeve drawstring more secure.
- Anything with a "50" in its name wil not fit.
- Any of the T-60 variants will be unecessarily long and may even cause vignetting.