DSLR and mirrorless cameras are awesome for both still photography and video capture. However, if one of these cameras is the centerpiece of a video production, there’s one thing that video operators may want to add to their rigs: an on-camera video monitor, also known as field monitors.
The reason to add a field monitor is simple: a typical DSLR or mirrorless camera’s built-in monitor, at around 3 inches, may be too small to see fine details. Field monitors range in size from 5 to 10 inches. As a result, content creators can use a field monitor to check focus, composition and even sensor dust. But it’s more than that. Many models offer interfaces and compatibility with a wide range of codecs and camera systems. Moreover, they can offer the operator more control over the input and output of both audio and video.
Most monitors mount on a camera’s flash shoe; however, creators may need to keep that free for a mic or another accessory. A separate stand or rig can accommodate the monitor, which is then plugged into a camera’s HDMI port for a live view. In addition, most offer HD resolution, with pricey models going up to 4K.
As prices increase, monitors offer more advanced features, rugged construction and brighter sunlight-friendly screens. Advanced features may include more accurate color, frame markers, real-time color correction as well as a way to control the camera from the screen that some videographers find easier to use. High-end models also have enhanced recording capabilities, receiving signals from the cameras but capturing with a higher bit rate. Or they have the ability to capture footage and transmit it to a larger monitor wirelessly.
A Sampling of Field Monitors across Price Points
There are hundreds of on-camera video monitors. Our selection includes a range of price points.
SmallHD 702 Touch
Designed for full-time creative professionals, this rugged, 7-inch, daylight-viewable monitor from SmallHD is 100% DCI-P3 color accurate.
Featuring 1,920×1,200 resolution and a brightness of 1,500 nits, the monitor has a very responsive touchscreen. It is also considered an industry standard for full-scale video production. $1,599.
Blackmagic Design Video Assist 12G
Blackmagic offers two 7-inch and two 5-inch monitors. The higher end Video Assist 12G is a 7-inch HDR monitor with faster 12G-SDI and Ultra HD HDMI connectivity for all formats up to 2,160p60. It has a bright, wide gamut LCD for HDR as well as HDR Scopes.
In addition, it provides two SD card recorders and records to external USB-C flash drives. The 2,500 nits Video Assist 12G also records Blackmagic RAW from supported cameras. $995.
Atomos Ninja V
The popular Atomos Ninja V is a 5.2-inch touchscreen monitor with a 10-bit HDR 1,920×1,080 display and 1,000 nits output. It also supports 4K HDMI 2.0 input/output.
Moreover, the unit records directly from a camera’s sensor to Apple ProRes/ProRes RAW, Avid DNx and (via a $99 upgrade) H.265 (HEVC) codecs. It is also compatible with DSLRs, pro cinema cameras and mirrorless prosumer cameras. $649.
PortKeys BM5 II
The PortKeys BM5 II features an exceptionally bright 2,200 nit, 5.2-inch, 1,920×1,080-resolution touchscreen. It’s housed in a rugged aluminum alloy body. Built-in camera control supports Sony, Canon, Blackmagic, Panasonic and Z Cam models.
Furthermore, the field monitor can load multiple 3D LUT and has a focus puller interface. It also offers multiple touch gesture and a 1,000:1 high-contrast ratio. $499.
The largest monitor in our collection, the Feelworld FW1018V1 features a 10.1-inch panel with a wide 170º viewing angle and 800:1 contrast. It also offers focus assist, center marker, safe frame, check field, camera mode, aspect ratio, image flip, pixel-to-pixel and image freeze.
What’s more, they are all controlled via six assignable front panel buttons. Multiple inputs include HDMI, Ypbpr, video as well as L/R audio. The unit connects directly to any DSLR. $289.99.
Desview R7 Plus
Rollei’s Desview R7 Plus is a bright, 1,500 nits, high-resolution touchscreen monitor. Moreover, it is viewable in direct sunlight. It provides 4K HDMI input and output as well as a 178º viewing angle. Key features also include focus peaking, a histogram, guideline indicators, an audio indicator and a vectorscope.
Content creators can choose to indicate overexposed areas with false color or Zebra. Variable intensity focus peaking is also offered. The R7 Plus is compatible with Sony F970 batteries. $300.
Andycine A6 Plus
Featuring a 5.5-inch touchscreen with 1,920×1,080 display resolution, the Andycine A6 Plus offers 4K HDMI input and output. The 3D LUT monitor also provides S-Log2/3, V-Log and Log-C to convert to REC709 for all major cameras.
It is powered by Sony F-series and Canon LP-E6 batteries; rotates 360º; and comes with a sunshade for outdoor use. Moreover, it has a shoe mount of its own to mount additional accessories. $189.
One of the less expensive field monitors is the 7-inch Lilliput A7s. The 1,920×1,200-resolution LCD monitor has 4K HDMI 1.4 inputs. Features include timecode, pixel zoom, audio level meters, focus peaking, false color, histograms, check fields, color bars, pixel–to–pixel as well as image flips.
In addition, battery plates are available for the Canon LP-E6, Sony QM91D and Panasonic DU21. Videographers can mounted the monitor via a threaded or shoe mount adapter. $169.