When you spend all day pressing your eye onto a camera’s viewfinder, you’re not exactly living in the lap of luxury.
It’s easy for the viewfinder to become sweaty, dirty, and possibly spread an eye disease. The standard rubber eye cup is also not the most comfortable material to shove your face into.
That’s why you want to cover it with a special type of eye cushion called an eyepiece chamois.
Eyepiece chamois (also nicknamed chammys) are soft round pads that wrap around a viewfinder to provide comfort for the camera operator while also protecting their eyes from germs that can cause infections.
To make sure you maximize the comfort factor and health benefits, you need to buy the right kind for your camera and the right quantity for your production.
Different Types of Eyepiece Chamois
The most popular brand of eyepiece chamois is Bluestar, though there are others such as Birns & Sawyer. Each manufacturer provides a plethora of options in the form of sizes, shapes, material and color.
For some of these options, the type of camera you use will dictate what kind of chamois you get. For other options, it’s a matter of preference.
Size & Shape
Before placing your order, do a little research and find out the right size/shape combination for the camera you will be using. FilmTools has a handy chart (PDF link) for this.
That chart is a great resource except for one issue: the RED One sizes are misleading.
It says the RED One takes large round chamois eye cushions. While this is true, they fit very loosely and fall off fairly easily.
Instead of getting large round size for the RED One, order small round. The fit will be tighter and more secure around the RED EVF.
The standard eye chamois are made of lambskin and leather and are rubbed down to become a soft material.
If you are morally and ethically opposed to using animals for products or you are simply looking for a different feel, there are microfiber synthetic leather and fleece chamois options.
The three materials do have a very different feel on each of them.
Because I’m not the one using them, I usually ask the camera operator or director of photography what their preference is. If they have no preference, I order the microfiber ones. There’s no sense in harming an animal if you don’t have to.
The last and final option you have when purchasing a chammy is the color. The lambskin kind only come in tan/beige, but the microfiber and fleece ones can be dyed to all sorts of colors from red to purple.
This is useful if you are shooting with multiple cameras and use color coding to designate between gear and cameras (i.e. red for A cam, blue for B cam, etc.)
How Many You Should Have
To maximize the effectiveness of the chammy, you should replace them at the beginning of every shooting day and perhaps twice a day if you are shooting in a particularly dirty environment. They turn real nasty, real fast.
If you’re looking to save a bit of money, you can change them less frequently, but I recommend at least once every three days. Always OK the frequency with the camera operator who is the one putting their eyes on the viewfinder most of the time.
Whatever rate you choose to switch them out, always order extra. It’s not uncommon for a chamois to pop off and fall on a dirty set, into a drink, or some other hazard.
Where to Buy Eyepiece Chamois
Almost every rental house keeps a basic supply of expendables. They can add things like chammys onto the rental invoice so production can pay it off in one bill.
Most people, however, order their expendables from vendors different from the rental house. Here are some of the more popular ones:
Chamois are about the same price (around $5 to $7) wherever you shop for them, but buying in bulk means those few cents add up so research into the cheapest expendables vendor can go a long way.
Eyepiece Chamois Alternatives
You may find yourself in a situation where you run out of chammys. Or your production could consider them a commodity and not buy any in the first place.
If that’s the case, use an alcohol based cleaning product (like Pancro lens cleaner) and give the rubber around the viewfinder a quick wipe a few times during the day to keep it sanitary.
Another alternative is to purchase sweat wrist-bands to roll over the viewfinder.
What Have I Missed?
I’d like to ask for your help on this article to let me know what I left out. Are there any places I didn’t list to buy chamois cheap? Are there any alternatives to chammys that you’ve put in place? How often do you find yourself changing them? Please let me know in the comments.