Let’s get some history out of the way first. I have been using SmallHD monitors since their very first one the DP1, 10 years ago (I forgot I had this one, in my video review below I said I didn’t have the first one. It was OK but it was their following monitors that really grabbed me. The DP6 was the next one that I used and it was great. Small, about 720p and way better than the DP1.
Since then I think I have used every single different model apart form their large director’s monitors (which look amazing!)
Their first monitor that I REALLY loved and made me stop using my Marhsal and TV Logic ones was the DP7-Pro High Bright. This was the first monitor I had used that didn’t require a sun hood. The brightness was 1500 nits. I used it for all of season 1 of the “The Wonder List” for CNN, taking it all around the world. It never let me down even in the harshest of conditions.
The small 502 and 702 Bright became my go to monitors for the 2nd season due to their much reduced weight. Whilst the 702 bright was “only” 1000 nits it was still plenty bright enough for me.
Then two years ago their 503, 703 ultra brights came out. They are the best monitors I own with about 2200 nits brightness and gorgeous 1080p display. These are my main monitors for my video camera but are a bit heavy for my stills cameras. For those I have been using the Focus line since they came out, also about 2 years ago. Not as bright, around 850 nits, but incredibly light and lovely image. Perfect to go on a mirrorless camera.
These days though I do find the 5″ screen a bit too small and have started to use the 1000 nits 702 bright again for my small cameras. It’s a great screen for sure. Not cheap though…in fact apart from their Focus line the SmallHD monitors can be great pricey. I am a believer in you get what you pay for and the Ultrabrights, whilst pricey, I do think are the best on camera monitors money can buy.
That brings us onto the Focus 7 that was announced today, SmallHD sent me a review sample a week ago and I have to say I am really impressed. It has the brightness of the 702 bright, a lovely 1080p panel, gorgeous design, touch screen and that lovely SmallHD OS. It is HDMI only, but I am sure an SDI one will come out at some point. They key thing that sets this apart from the 702 bright for me is the price. It’s $699, which is about half the price of that monitor. This is impressive for a monitor of this brightness, size and quality.
Check out my video review for more on this screen and what I like about it, plus I compare it to most of the monitors mentioned above.
I often get asked why buy a SmallHD monitor when it doesn’t record. Well for many cameras all I need is a really high quality screen with low power consumption that is a joy to use. That is SmallHD.
I use the excellent Atomos Shogun Inferno with cameras which really benefit from an external recorder like my Sony FS5 but it is is heavy and sucks power. This is fine for my video cameras with d-tap but for my small cameras this is too problematic. The fantastic Ninja V though solves a lot of this, it doesn’t draw as much power and the size/ weight/ screen is very nice and the price is great. I still don’t need a recorder for all my cameras though. Their new Shinobi is also excellent with a brightness of 1000 nits. It draws even less power and is an excellent choice for a small on camera monitor, plus its cheap! I do prefer a larger screen though with my fading eyesight so that is where the Focus 7 comes in really handy.
Hopefully Atomos will come out at some point with a nice 7″ recorder which is lighter and less power hungry.
I still think I will use my 703 Ultrabright for my video cameras on tripods, my Inferno for my FS5, the Ninja V for my Fuji XT3/ Canon EOS-R (they do 10 bit out) and the SmallHD Focus 7 for gimbals and my mirrorless cameras. The Focus 7 screen is so gorgeous. It is big, detailed and bright. 3 things I need.
There are cheaper monitors out there than both these companies but I have not come across one that I would want to use day in day out. I do believe spending that extra money on a high quality monitor is worth it. This is what you are using to judge your shots, you need to see clearly, have accurate colours and it needs to work like a dream.