Customizing Olympus PEN (part 2): CS-31B leather body jacket

The other not-so-well-thought-out feature of the Olympus PEN E-PL3 is the grip, or originally, the lack of grip.

For some – possibly aesthetical – reason the Olympus engineers decided to leave out the grip, present in earlier models, from the E-PL3. I admit that the smooth, gripless body looks very sleek, but in practice it is actually quite cold and slippery to hold. There are quite a lot of third-party aftermarket grips for the E-PL3 available, but there exists also Olympus’s own solution to the problem: the CS-31B leather body jacket, available in black, brown, white and beige. It looks really good, and makes the camera a delight to handle. However, it has one severe problem: it fits to the tripod screw mount, forcing you to remove it if you want to use a tripod or the USB connector, or if you want to change the battery or memory card. And worse still, it needs a tool (i.e. a coin) to fit and remove. This design oversight makes the practical usage of CS-31B ‘leather jacket’ a nightmare.

I had one already-ripped-beyond-reasonable-repair 70’s Miranda case lying around, and on it a suitable oversized mounting screw with an extra tripod mount on the underside. I decided to remove the screw with its fitting plate and use it to customize the Olympus jacket. (Do I hear the cries of disgust from the Miranda enthusiasts…?)

The CS-31B was reasonably easy to take apart without causing irrepairable damage, the parts were just glued together. I enlarged the mounting hole to accept the Miranda screw, and after fitting the screw glued the jacket back together.

Now the E-PL3 has a perfect leather body jacket with tool-less fitting, and it can also be mounted on a tripod without the need to remove the jacket. That’s how it should have been designed from the start!!!

Original CS-31B
Miranda screw
CS-31B taken apart
Enlargened hole
Miranda screw in place
Glued back together
CS-31B with Miranda screw
Customized CS-31B in place

As a side note, I have really learned to hate various tripod screw mount equipment which needs a tool (usually a coin) to fit securely. I use a Slik Sprint Pro II tripod with both the PEN and the Mirandas, which tripod originally had Slik SBH-100DQ ball head with a quick release plate. As you probably already quessed, the QR plate bolt needed the use of a coin to screw it into the camera… While the tripod itself is excellent for its size, the design of the QR plate leaved a lot to be desired. In addition to the tool-needing problem, the joint between the plate and the camera flexed annoyingly. So, in the end I swapped the ball head to the SBH-100 model – the same ball head, but without the quick release plate. It is much better that way!

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