If you are a DSLR owner like me, you are probably also deathly afraid of even looking at your camera’s innards. Whenever I change a lens I make doubly sure to keep the body pointed downwards at all times, and I will immediately send it back to Nikon (no matter the cost) if I ever need the sensor or mirror cleaned.
A Sony A55 user named Dario--who does not share my phobias--decided to clean the translucent mirror in his camera with some cleaning fluid. Unfortunately this lead him to accidentally damaging the mirror and having to order a €70 ($90) replacement. While Dario waited, he decided to tinker around some more and fashioned a homemade transparent mirror with some plastic food wrap.
Crazy enough, the Saran Wrap replacement actually works pretty well according to Dario. Apparently, the camera takes photos just as well as it did with an official mirror except that sometimes the autofocus will guess as to what your subject is.
If you are not familiar with Sony’s translucent, transparent, or pellicle mirror technology; it is essentially a “see-through” mirror that allows certain Sony camera to shoot faster. Most DSLRs are equipped with a silvered-glass-panel mirror to reflect the scene into the camera’s autofocus sensor. The mirror also has to flip up so that the camera sensor can actually capture the images.
A translucent mirror allows light to pass through itself to the viewfinder while reflecting light to the viewfinder at the same time, so the camera can take photos without the mirror ever moving. This system taking allows Sony cameras like the A55 to shoot at an above-average 10fps and A77 at 12fps--the high end Nikon D3 is 9fps and Canon 1D Mark IV is 10fps.
One advantage Dario points out is that the food wrap is more transparent than the original Sony mirror, which actually improves ISO sensitivity. At the same time, Dario says that because the food wrap is slightly opaque, it causes images to flare in bright light and create a soft-focus effect.
Dario is not done yet; he plans on using trying the plastic protective films for phone screens next. As cool and baffling that this idea actually worked, I think I’ll just stick to keeping my mirror and sensor clean, thanks.
What other transparent materials would you try? Leave a comment.
Updated Feb 3, 2012 to make some minor corrections.
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This story, "Photographer Replaces His DSLR’s Translucent Mirror With Saran Wrap" was originally published by PCWorld.