A good field monitor is often the best friend a film crew can have. Although an operator is typically looking through the camera’s viewfinder, anyone from a first AC to a director to a script supervisor will check the on-camera field monitor for reference. But if you’re shooting a commercial, a very important person who might occasionally check the monitor is your client, who probably won’t understand the concept of RAW or Log shooting. "Why does the image look so flat and washed out?" he or she might ask.
SmallHD is one of the most innovative makers of on-camera field monitors, and they have released an excellent series of seven-inch field monitors that will assist you from capture through post. The DP7-PRO series’ signature feature is the ability to performreal-time color grading within the monitor.
I recently got the chance to try out the DP7-PRO LCD ($1,399), which I connected via HDMI with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Along with HDMI ins and outs, the monitor offers SDI (BNC) I/O, Composite In, Mini USB (for firmware updates) and an SD card slot for transferring specific looks (more on that later). Because of the many I/O options, on a set where you’re working with an additional monitor away from the camera, you can shoot SDI and send the signal to a less expensive HDMI monitor. If you’re shooting with a DSLR’s HDMI out, you can convert the signal to SDI and cable out to a larger monitor in video village. Although it weighs only 1.2 pounds, the DP7-PRO LCD is solidly built in a reinforced milled aluminum shell.
While a seven-inch monitor is a little large for mounting on the hot-shoe of a consumer DSLR, it’s the industry-standard size for a professional on-camera monitor. The DP7-PRO LCD has a 6.95-inch 1280×800 IPS LCD screen and has different battery options, including plates for Sony V-Mount, Anton/Bauer Gold Mount and duel Canon LP-E6. I was using the LP-E6, and although the unit only draws 10 watts of power, it’s important to have several batteries on hand if you’re shooting all day.
Once connected to the camera, the DP7-PRO LCD is very intuitive to use. At both top corners, there are control dials to navigate the menus by turning and pressing the dials. With the dials, you can quickly set focus peaking, false color, zebras and frame guides. Also, on the front of the monitor, there are eight smart keys that you can assign different features to for even faster access for changes.