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| 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video producer and I have owned the SmallHD DP4 and the Zacuto - both paired with among others my 5d2 (which has since been replaced by a Sony Fs100).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.