The Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 both use the same plastic-framed, metal stamping mounted rear 3 inch 16:9 LCD display for composition, menus and image review. The original LCD has a multilayer structure claimed by Sony to reduce reflections, increase contrast and resist scratches. But in use, these rear screens have shown a tendency for the surface layer to delaminate, creating very ugly and distracting patchy reflections. It is easy to replace this surface film completely, with a new toughened glass surface.
Here is my own NEX-5, one of the first deliveries in the summer of 2010, after less than one year’s use. It has not been abused, exposed to heat, damp or anything else. The screen has simply got worse and worse. Some owners have sent their NEX in for warranty repair and replacement of the screen. However, there’s no guarantee a replacement will be any better, and the plastic surface of the screen acquires a patina of fine scratches too.
This layer you can see is NOT the peel-off protector supplied when the camera is new. It is intended to be the working exterior surface of the screen. If you look at the top right corner, you can see it is slightly raised. This is from my initial investigation to see how firmly this layer is stuck to the next layer of the sandwich.
Here you can see the layer being peeled off. The adhesive is strong and the layer itself is very heavy duty film. It is important to hold the frame of the screen firmly and to use both hands, and even the wrist of the hand doing the peeling, to ensure you do not damage the assembly or the screen by distorting it when removing the film. It is best done in warm conditions (do not apply heat!) and should not be be attempted if the camera is physically cold. Hand warmth, home heating or a bit of sunshine will be enough to make the film more flexible.
After removal, the surface below is perfectly clean. There is no need to use any fluid or to polish it. Traces of glue were left at the extreme left in my case, as the last 2-3mm of the film parted company with the screen. Because these would fall under the black border of the new glass screen to be fitted, I did not attempt to remove them.
I ordered two of these – from an eBay seller, zhangjing2009. The cost including a 10-day postal service from China was £12.84 ($20) together. These screens are made using European Schott, Pilkington or Dow Corning laminated glass and 3M adhesive, in China. The massive demand for such screens in phones as well as on cameras has made the materials and the manufacturing processes easily available. If there is any significant difference between this ‘JYC’ screen and the GSS, Giotto or any other similar laminated-glass screens it will be down to the graphics on the surround, the coatings, and perhaps the quality of finishing to avoid sharp corners and edges.
There’s a new brand here (November 2011 edit) – VELLO from B&H also listed for many other cameras, but of course not all that many cameras have a removable top layer like the NEX models.
But this was the cheapest deal I could find that day, and the quality appears to me identical to GGS screens which I have used to overlay the LCD of other cameras including my Alpha 900, Shirley’s Alpha 700 and our Alpha 550 when that was brand new. See our March 2010 article on this. The 900 and 700 screens have held up perfectly and still look ‘as new’. The A550 screen cracked in one corner, where is it shaped to match the screen, and was removed before selling the camera to make way for the A580. Removal proved as easy as claimed, a thin metal card was all that was needed (a bookmark, in fact) to get between the screen and cover in one corner. Since the adhesive only goes in a strip round the edge, and does not cover the entire area, removal needs little force. The crack in the screen seems to have been caused by the flexing of the A550 assembly near the screen hinge, and looking to get a cover for the A580, I see this complex shaped design of glass cover is not readily available now.
You can see the range of Giotto glass screens to fit a very wide range of DSLRs here.
On opening the pack, the JYC screen has both outer and inner protective sheets and a silicon release paper on the adhesive zone. I did not clean the screen, assuming it would be clean-room quality, but in fact the protective film did leave a slight contact shadow on the inside glass. This was not really an issue once fitted but it would have been worth checking this surface, and carefully cleaning using something like a sensor cleaning pad, before unpeeling the adhesive protector.
An air-blaster was used to ensure no dust was trapped between the new cover and the ‘naked’ camera screen. Since the screen with its plastic foil removed is very slightly recessed into the metal-painted plastic frame, and the new glass cover was a precise fit to the aperture, alingment was 100% perfect and immediate. The new screen dropped into the rim and was pressed into place round the edges where it is glued.
The result was a transformation of the looks of the camera but also has made viewing more comfortable. The glass can be polished with a lens cloth, or a clean T-shirt. It does not scratch, as we found from our GGS covers now in use for a full year. It does not have sharp edges even though the edge now stands very slightly proud of the framing rim.
Issues? Well, this screen actually fits both NEX models, the Alpha 33 and 55 as all use the same rear screen unit. It certainly does not need to have NEX-3C written on it! That is not just a camera name, it’s the product designation for a retail kit combination. My camera is a NEX-5 and feels very insulted to be labelled NEX-3C from the back. Also, the JYC initials looks almost like JVC and my camera is a Sony…
As for the A55, I am not certain whether there is a plastic surface layer as on the NEX. My A55 shows no signs of having one and no delamination. Also, I leave the screen turned to face the camera most of the time and it is not getting any wear or tear. So I would be inclined at the most to fit a thin plastic protector, which is also what we have done with our A580 after the experience of the cracked GGS (potentially nasty, though small and right in one corner – sharp enough to cut if caught).
The spare JYC screen is there in case this ever needs replacing. In the meantime, this simple and quick surgery has restored the NEX to good condition without a trip back for servicing.
– David Kilpatrick
NB: see this post on dPreview – the guys on their forum are not visiting this site any more, or someone would have flagged this article up.