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Archive 2012 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)
  
 
carstenw
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Already in my D3 days I was considering getting some kind of external monitor to use with live view to accurately focus and compose, since both viewfinder and rear LCDs have their limitations. Now that I have bought a D800, this issues has become more critical, and I find myself using live view almost all the time. I would prefer an easier to see screen with higher resolution, and so I am again returning to the idea of using an external monitor for focusing.

Has anyone done this, and can write about it here, pros and cons, gotchas, and workflow issues, as well as accessories, bulk, carrying issues and anything else?

For example, check out this comparison between the SmallHD DP4 and the Zacuto EVF (be sure to watch all 3 parts). Although I would prefer a bigger screen, after seeing this, I am leaning towards the Zacuto. I guess I am adding this to my wish list now, as I am broke after buying the D800.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd5BTYZPD7I

It looks like the Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro is about 1000 Euro at videodata, in Germany. In the States it appears to cost around $1000. How does one determine if an extra spacer is needed to get the right diopter?

http://www.videodata.de/shop/products/de/Kamerazubehoer/Sucher/Zacuto-Z-Finder-EVF-Pro.html

I guess this would kinda conflict with a Røde or similar hotshoe microphone for video. How do you get around that?



Jul 24, 2012 at 08:00 PM
briantho
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


It would be cool if you could use the iPhone/iPad or Android phone/pad as external live view screen. Why buy a dedicated screen when everyone's already got one?


Jul 24, 2012 at 09:11 PM
carstenw
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Because of the extra features, like peaking.

It is possible to use the iPad, by buying an Eye-fi card and so on. If you are interested, I can try to find the information again I read about that.



Jul 24, 2012 at 09:19 PM
briantho
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Well thanks, it isn't something I really need, it would just be useful in some situations. In the future, as we get more connectivety, I would like to see wireless transmission of live view to an external device (pad), and remote settings and shutter release through that.


Jul 24, 2012 at 09:27 PM
carstenw
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Ah, okay, the second half of that is missing The Eye-fi does transmit the shots wirelessly to the iPad though. It creates its own hotspot, which the iPad can connect to, and then there is a program you use to grab the photos.

But what I am really curious about here is dedicated monitors. I would love to hear from anyone who has one, or has tried one.



Jul 24, 2012 at 09:33 PM
joychris
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


I'm a video producer and I have owned the SmallHD DP4 and the Zacuto - both paired with among others my 5d2 (which has since been replaced by a Sony Fs100). Read my ramblings below or just buy the DP4, for the money you will not find a better external monitor.

I started with a cheap 7" monitor from CoolLCD, $200 made it tough to pass up. It was ok, a good way to focus without squinting at the LCD or marrying your eye to the cup of an add-on LCD viewfinder. The resolution wasn't up to precise focusing, the 5d2 didn't help either since its HDMI feed is 480p, blech. But I could use any battery to power it, Sony, Canon and Panasonic. Nice.

Then I got the Zacuto since I already had the Z-finder pro. Its a good, sharp monitor, but its screen size makes it tough to use without the Z-finder. If you've watched any of the videos floating around there are a ton of adjustments and so on to customize it just the way you like it. But for me - since its the same size as the 5d2's LCD, it just wasn't big enough. With the battery mounted its really chunky from front to back, but very light. It also used Canon batteries and I was divorcing myself from Canon - I hate the number of batteries I have, I didn't want to keep more just to power the monitor.

Having owned a 7" monitor, I felt the DP4 would be a nice compromise, and it sure was. Watch the video on the SmallHD site, it has a full array of settings for your camera, you can add markers for different aspect ratios and it has an absolutely brilliant focus peaking - better than the Zacuto IMHO and even better than Sony's. If you get the $699 bundle, you have three different battery options, a slew of cables and connections, a magic arm and they threw in extras that aren't listed on the website. Its light, its beautifully sharp and the loupe is fantastic, easy to flip out of the way or remove. I use the same batteries as my FS100, one generic $20 battery can power the monitor all day. With a small battery its also very light, I used the included hot shoe adapter and it was plenty strong.

To nail focus you can dial down the contrast, use false colors or no color with black and white, and zebras show blown highlights on both the Zacuto and the DP4, giving you a lot of options to get accurate focus and exposure. They each have peaking, but like I said, the DP4's is just awesome, amazing a small company can figure it out and Fuji/Olympus can't. The Zacuto looks to be a little more durable - supposedly it can be dropped without breaking, not sure that would be the case with the DP4, but I haven't had a case of the drops with any of my gear so that's not a concern for me. The Zacuto has a matte screen - like my Mac, the DP4 has a sharper glossy screen. Its easier to see fine detail with the DP4.

You can get a hotshoe extender that will give you extra mounting cold shoes if you need to run the monitor and a mic, or you can find some simple rigging. I had a 7" arm (included with the DP4 bundle) with a 1/4"-20 end that I threaded into my tripod and mounted it there. You can also get rigging from Redrock or any of the thousands of other rig part makers to mount it, there are a lot of options. I also used it with my sister-in-law's 60d, a GH2 and a Nex7, it was really cool to rack focus with the monitor where you want it rather than having to contort yourself to see the camera's LCD.

I'm speaking in past tense about the DP4 because the FS100's LCD is close in size and has better resolution, so the HD4 became redundant. There are a few really good reviews floating around, but the half-hour demo on the SmallHD site really does a great job of showing off the HD4 and all its features.

Hope this helps, if you have any specific questions, fire away.



Jul 24, 2012 at 10:54 PM
darbo
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


joychris, thanks for the great write-up; very useful! The SmallHD DP4 is the leading contender for me. The Zacuto looks great, but so does the SmallHD...for less cost.

It seems to me that a little hot-shoe mounted monitor like that could really be a nice benefit to aid with manual focusing. Of course it's a necessity for videographers, but even for photographers using manual-focus lenses, it makes sense to me. I think I'll start with the DP4 bundle and work from there.



Jul 25, 2012 at 01:04 AM
carstenw
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Yes, that write-up is very helpful, thanks. The flexible setup makes me think that this would be a godsend for macro photographers working close to the ground too.

I didn't realize that the SmallHD was cheaper, and the fact that the main thing I will be using it for is focusing puts it in the lead for me too. I do have a couple of small concerns though:

- The SmallHD website says that two FS100 batteries last 13 hours. You say one battery lasts all day, how many hours is that?

- Size. The EVF loupe attachment look huge, and it doesn't fold in any kind of way that I can see. Is it really as big as it looks, i.e. the size of a 100MP or similar lens, and wider at the base? Packing this might cause some anguish in my bag.

- I guess this is a question for a Nikon owner, but I just want to make sure that the HDMI out is active for photography mode live view? Does the review image pop onto the monitor? I would primarily use this for focusing in photo mode, not for video.

- How do you find the colour accuracy? I was thrilled to find out that the D800 has a near-sRGB well-calibrated LCD screen, so that I can judge the results easier, and would hate losing that advantage again.

- Does the cable pop out at all? It looks a little loose to me, especially with the 90 degree elbow.

Out of curiousity, why is it a problem that the 5DII has a 480p HDMI feed, when that is the resolution of the SmallHD monitor?



Jul 25, 2012 at 08:04 AM
joychris
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


I routinely shoot ground level shots and a monitor on top is a blessing, makes it so easy. If Sony's new FF camera has a articulating LCD it will be very tempting.

13 hours easily covers a day of shooting for me. I'm not rolling non-stop all day, but I've spent the better part of 8 or 9 hours out actively working the whole time and the NPF-970 (the big Sony battery that fits the FS) still had juice. The NPF batteries have been around for more than a decade, there are a ton of generics and there are three sizes; the 570, 770 and 970.

The loupe is big and does not collapse. There is a sunshade included in the bundle that folds flat for more portability.

I would assume it's fine for photography as the feed mirrors what the LCD shows, I rarely shot stills with the monitor. You could plug the d800 into a HDTV and check.

I shoot video a little flat to boost shadow details and protect the highlights, so to be honest I can't say anything about color accuracy with any authority. When using a standard profile on the Nex7, the colors looked identical to what the camera LCD was showing. I would check on DVXuser or DVinfo for any issues the video shooters may have found. You can also email SmallHD directly, the guys in the videos actually answer emails daily. I had a few questions and went back and forth with them for about a week before I bought the DP4, the customer service there is exceptional.

Never had any issues with the cable, even going from tripod to monopod to slider with everything rigged up. It feels fiddly - but all HDMI connections do because its a consumer TV connection not meant to be locked in place. Its a common gripe on the video side that cameras aimed at video professionals don't have an SDI option - seems like it would be something you could add to an optional "video grip" but that seems to be something reserved for much pricier cameras.

The resolution is the same, but an actual HD image does look better. I used expanded focus a lot and it was remarkable how much detail I was getting out of the GH2 and the Nex7.



Jul 25, 2012 at 12:07 PM
carstenw
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Thanks a lot again for these answers, this is super helpful. It sounds like a great little device, and I guess the next thing figuring out what to sell to be able to buy one (just after I confirm that live view and photo review all work on the external monitor, with a Nikon in photo live view mode.)


Jul 25, 2012 at 02:30 PM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



carstenw
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Ah, I forgot to ask one thing:

- How well do these monitors do in relative darkness? I do a lot of urbex shooting, and often the conditions are very dark. Is it still easy to focus and judge exposure?



Jul 25, 2012 at 05:39 PM
AhamB
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Does your D800 have exposure simulation in LV? If yes, then you can just use M mode and bump up the exposure time to get a brighter view for focusing. I'd think this applies to the rear LCD just the same as for an external screen.


Jul 25, 2012 at 06:14 PM
carstenw
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


The rear LCD gets kinda hard to focus with when the brightness of the image is boosted in dark situations. I am hoping that the larger resolution of the DP4 combined with the peaking would handle this somewhat better, but maybe all the noise confused the peaking?


Jul 25, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Mike K
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


I have a Small HD DP6 and use it on a Canon 5DII. My application is not video, but as a larger, high resolution monitor for Tilt/Shift lens use. In that situation the camera lens is often just a few inches from the ground. I can bend down and with my head a few feet above the camera make fine adjustments to the lens tilt/lock knobs and lens focus with two hands. I don't use focus assist, an aggressive form of peaking (white outlines on high frequency edges), but do use focus peaking. However, along with the Canon or Nikon display presets, the 1:1 mapping feature is great for max screen resolution as it allows use of the entire screen while monitoring. I go back and forth between normal (to compose) and 1:1 (for fine adjustments at 5-10X) as you don't see the entire image with 1:1. In essence, I use the DP6 as a large, high resolution flip/swivel screen. Works Great!
Here is an example of TSE lens use close to the ground in portrait orientation in my driveway:






In the following petroglyph photo the tripod is set up like this, and with many of these shots the rear legs of the tripod are within an few inches of a 10 foot vertical cliff. So there is no way I could adequately view the camera LCD without an extrnal monitor like the DP6.





Mike K


Edited on Jul 27, 2012 at 05:08 AM · View previous versions



Jul 25, 2012 at 08:24 PM
buggz2k
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Just wondering, anyone use one of these external monitor solutions AND Magic Lantern software?

It has zebras, focus peaking, and MANY other options.
However, a bigger screen is ALWAYS a welcomed addition, for me it would be.
BTW, I LOVE Magic Lantern on my 5DMkII.
I'm still on the Christmas donation beta release, and now see that 2.3 RELEASE is out, woo, gotta get that going tonight...



Jul 25, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Jochenb
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


Mike, that looks great. Must be really helpful for those kind of low angle shots.



Jul 25, 2012 at 10:47 PM
VisualLifeLine
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


I decided to go with the Zacuto for several reasons:
- ships with a LP-E6 (consider then the price difference)
- reviews said, it has better color- handling
- to me it seems to be built more rugged and compact
- smaller in size
- an the most important reason: in Germany you could get it for far less money than the DP-4 (no idea why, but it's a fact)



Edited on Jul 26, 2012 at 08:54 AM · View previous versions



Jul 26, 2012 at 07:04 AM
carstenw
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


The DP4 also takes Canon LP-E6 batteries, with the right back plate. The sizes seem very close in reality, as the Zacuto's plastic frame is much thicker. The Zacuto is probably a bit lighter though, and has better battery life. The SmallHD is very rugged, there is a video on the site showing them throwing it around on pavement, and it just keeps working. The colour does seem to be better on the Zacuto, but this is countered by the better focus assist on the DP4, and the magnets holding up the hood when flipped up... Hmm.

I haven't yet found the DP4 on sale in Germany, but buying it from the states would cost about 730 Euro plus shipping, and that includes taxes and customs fees. The price has dropped a bit. The Zacuto costs around 1000 Euro for a similar kit. Do you know somewhere which sells the DP4 here?



Jul 26, 2012 at 07:18 AM
carstenw
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


The Zacuto does have one advantage: the loupe can be used on the back LCD (with the right adapter). This might come in handy sometimes.


Jul 26, 2012 at 07:20 AM
joychris
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Using External Monitors for Focusing (and Video)


The bundle really makes the SmallHD tough to beat, battery plates for Sony/Canon/Nikon and even AA's, HDMI cables - they list two on the site but they sent me 5 of them, the loupe flips up and stays put with the magnets, the eyepiece cover even has a small magnet and a place to attach it so its not dangling from a cord like the Z, it comes with a ball mount and a strong arm so you can easily mount it on a camera shoe, tripod or any camera rig and for me the extra screen size made focusing a little easier than with the Zacuto. They do have a 30-day return policy too IIRC, so don't trash it after you get it and if it's not your thing just return it.


Jul 26, 2012 at 05:45 PM
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