On-Camera Monitoring with SmallHD

Posted by Ēriks Jaunzems on

No matter if you are a long-time movie industry vet, or just starting out with your first project, you know how important it is to always be aware of what the camera is capturing, and in digital film and video age this could not be any easier. The market offers monitoring solutions for everyone, and the monitors come in different shapes and sizes and each with their own bells and whistles, but how do you choose the right one? In this article we will be taking a look at SmallHD and their lineup of monitors, comparing their pros and cons, as well as giving some info on how to choose a monitor, and hopefully, by the end of this you will be one step closer to choosing the perfect monitor for you.

Focus OLED

The Focus OLED monitors come in two different variants: There is cheaper Focus OLED Micro HDMI and the Focus OLED SDI and as their names imply, one uses Micro HDMI and the other one uses SDI as their inputs, and besides the price that is the only difference the two has. The monitors come with a 5.5 inch OLED display, offering 1920x1080 screen resolution. They are using the Sony L style battery slot for power and it has the ability to power popular DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It achieves this by having a 7.2V power output, so having a camera specific adapter cable you could use one battery to power both your camera and monitor. These monitors come equipped with SmallHD’s OS3, which is the software that allows you to check and adjust your exposure using histogram, waveform, false color, double check your focus with focus peaking, view your log image with 3D LUT, and much more.

700 Series

When it comes to the 700 Series SmallHD monitors, you have three options to choose from. They are: 701 Lite, 702 Lite, 702 Bright and 702 OLED. The first two are the more similar ones, so we will be comparing them first. All three of these models sport a 7-inch display, hence the name of the series. Both lite models are running a 1280x720 HD resolution with the brightness of 450 nits. The 701 version comes with only HDMI as its connection type, whereas the 702 has multiple options. In addition to HDMI and SDI this monitor has an option for SDI/HDMI cross conversion.

And then there is the 702 Bright, offering more than twice the brightness than that of its “brothers.” At 1000 nits, this monitor falls under the category of “Daylight viewable.” It also has a 1920x1080 Full HD LCD and Stereo audio output. Other than the audio out, the 702 Bright offers the same output in input options as the 702 Lite. But what about the other specs.

Though 702 OLED has only 300 nit brightness, thanks to OLED panel its perceptual brightness feels much closer to 702 Bright series than to 701/2 series monitors. That is all thanks to the fact that black levels are much lower thus making all brighter areas of your image appear much brighter and closer to the 800nits than to 300nits.

All four of them have been built with durability in mind, they are being housed in an aluminium frame with rubberised coating and all of them sport a replaceable acrylic screen protector, so if you are thinking of dropping them, well first of, I would advise against it, but secondly, they would be able to take a few hits. Same as the previously discussed models, these three also come with its own set of tools. All three of them offer the use of HD Waveform, Scopes, Focus Assist, Peaking, False Color, Zebra, 3D LUTS and more. 

UltraBright Series

UltraBright are one of the brightest on camera monitors on the market. They come 5-inch and 7-inch screen sizes and both support 2200 nit brightness on the LCD panel. But they are not just bright. Both units have Full HD 1920x1080 resolution screens, HDR previews, HDMI in/out, 1x SDI in and 1x SDI bi-directional serving as either SDI in or SDI out. They also support LEMO power in, in addition the 7-inch variant can also output power to a LEMO. These monitors offer the ability to view two input sources at the same time, and you can apply different LUT’s to each source individually. Worth noting that if used as 2 camera side-by-side handheld monitor, these monitors don’t have SDI output but only 2x SDI inputs.

Focus 7 

And now we have arrived to our last contender, the Focus 7. Focus 7 is the newest monitor by SmallHD. It is a 7-inch 1920x1200 monitor with a touch screen and 1000 nit brightness. This monitor can support signals of up to 4K 30 (2160p30/29.97) with its full-sized HDMI. To keep you up and running for a long time this model has two Sony L Series battery slots and same as the OLED models, Focus 7 also runs the OS3 system, offering the same tools as the aforementioned unit. 

Comparison

So, which one of these monitors would be the best for you? Well that is not for me to say, because each of the monitors can be used for different situations, so you have to look at your own situation and make the decision. For example, we can’t really compare the UltraBright monitors to any of the other ones, because they are in a league of their own. They offer the most variety on input and output options, they can be used to monitor two cameras on same screen, can be viewed with sunglasses on in bright daylight. But here comes the biggest downside and the reason you won’t buy it if you are not in the market for it, and that is the price. The UltraBright costs about as much as four Focus 7 monitors.

Focus 7 can be compared to the 700 Series the most, or maybe it is just the number 7 that gives me that idea. For starters we can compare it to the 701 Lite which, to be honest, instantly loses. It has a poor 450 nit LCD display with only 720p resolution over the 1000 nit 1080p and both of them sport a similar price tag. The 702 Lite has the same screen that the 701 has, so one would think it is an instant loss for this one as well. But, Focus 7 only has an HDMI input whereas the 702 offers multiple options in this area, which again, leads me to say, that there probably is not a universal one-for-all type of monitor and the choice should always be based on your own situation and needs, but let’s keep on going.

While the 702 Bright is no UltraBright, it offers similar display specs to that of Focus 7 and the connectivity of UltraBright, but, then again, it does cost around two times the price of Focus 7 and doesn’t allow 2 camera monitoring on same screen.

Last but not least, let’s take another look at the Focus OLED series. At a first glance, it does not seem all that special, having only 350 nit display does not help as well, but then again, one must take in to consideration the fact that instead of an LCD screen they are using OLED screens, which mean that instead of a backlight for pixel illumination their pixels produce their own light, and that opens a door for a completely different conversation and creates the illusion of almost 800nit brightness on 350 nit panel.

So why have I been comparing all of the devices to the Focus 7? Well, based on the price and the specs, it is probably the best base line from the listed units, but it is by no means the best monitor, and as I already stated, there is no one best monitor.

The one true recommendation, when selecting a monitor is – look at your own situation, evaluate your needs, if you are completely lost in this field, email us and we will help you to find the best solution for your needs and budget. You can’t really base monitor purchase solely on price, because as you have seen, every solution has its pros and cons.


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