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SmallHD Unveils Sleek New AC7 OLED Monitors at Ground-Breakingly Low Price Point

11.26.12 @ 5:42PM Tags : , , , , , ,

The differences between competing pieces of technology often become very, well, technical in explanation — but most of the time, we don’t get to use the term ‘organic’ as a qualifier. This happens to be true in the case of SmallHD’s new OLED HDMI and SDI monitors — and Organic Light Emitting Diodes are actually news to me in general. What’s even more exciting is that SmallHD is looking to provide very high-quality monitoring solutions for prices previously unheard-of. Read on for a more comprehensive specs readout and a bit on what makes OLEDs different from traditional LCD systems.

Now, SmallHD is no stranger to OLED technology, but we haven’t thoroughly covered the ins-and-outs of this display type in the past. There’s a couple of good videos that explain what’s going on with OLEDs, but the video below seems to be one of the most visual.

With a bow to Mitch from Planet5D for the find, here’s the a side-by-side of how OLED technology differs from the LCDs we’re used to, as explained by SmallHD:

As you can probably tell from the diagrams, the difference in the way such a panel produces light (unlike LCDs, there’s no backlight by default) means it can achieve far higher contrast ratios than an LCD, because it’s far more capable of producing true black. Because of this, SmallHD is claiming the ratio on their new AC7 series is virtually infinite — which sort of makes the whole idea of using a ratio to describe it obsolete. The other benefit of this technology is the color gamut it’s able to achieve, which again, is being claimed as far beyond the competition by SmallHD.

The final key consideration is price-point — and SmallHD’s options here look all the more formidable. The LCD AC7 is a 1280×800 7″ 8-bit display going for $600, or $900 for SDI capability. The 7.7″ OLED AC7 (also 1280×800) goes for $1100, or $1400 for SDI capability. SmallHD has put together a chart for comparison, but basically what it’s showing is that nobody else is meeting all of these specs in one package. What this means is, if you are an expecting BMCC parent or a beneficiary of RED’s recent price reductions, you may be putting SmallHD’s products prominently on your radar as far as third-party monitoring solutions go — especially since these prices are remarkable for OLED technology. The displays are available now, and are expected to ship in two-to-three weeks. It’s hard to argue when manufacturers seem truly interested in bringing powerful tech to us without making our wallets as light as they could be expected to, so I respect SmallHD a lot for this news.

What experiences have you guys had with SmallHD products in the past? How about OLED displays in general, or specifically, in monitoring circumstances? Will you be considering SmallHD’s displays for your camera packages, or perhaps rentals?


[via Planet5D]


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Description image 46 COMMENTS

  • Got a SmallHD with DP4 viewfinder, to use with my R1 BT,. and it seems to be awesome.
    I will need more monitoring later, and now I know where I’ll get it from, the gamut seems very impressive.

  • I have a SmallHD DP6 and it is amazing. Used it on a remote island project in the Philippines witha 60D and it proved to be a champ. Have used it with an af101 and no issues as well. SmallHD has been a huge help in my monitoring needs. I never go on a shoot without it!

  • Not to be a negative nancy or anything, but does it seem like prices for these monitors are horridly inflated? This is a screen (with some simple controls), the iphone 5 screen costs 18 bucks (according to this$167.50-to-build-says-one-estimate/). so why is this and every other 8bit monitor so expensive?

    • I’m guessing because it produces colour way better than an iPhone 5 monitor does.

      That’s like asking a professional colour grader why he uses his expensive projector over a cheap projector.

    • Same reason that machined aluminum parts that makeup rigs (some baseplates that cost as much as the monitors here) cost as much as they do, video market is small, production batches are small and therefore the volume savings of manufacturing (especially on the level of someone like an Apple) are nullified.

      They also spend money on R&D and marketing and they have to make sure their profit margin can recover their costs considering the relatively small amount of these they’re going to sell in comparison to a major product.

      • apple buys their screens from a 3rd party, as does just about everyone including video monitor makers. The sheer volume and demand for better and better screens in every single aspect of our lives is huge and has driven down prices, yet monitors like these are still usually over 1000 dollars. The same can be said of LED light panels, there is no reason the prices should be as high as they are. They are high because the market pays high prices for other equipment, not because the BOM cost is high and that’s annoying. but if i was making monitors and could sell them for this much, i would too.

    • The comparable sony monitor the PVM-741 is $2,250 at B&H. While not a direct comparison, 8bit vs 10bit and other things, still a considerable cost savings in the professional realm. The iPHONE screen might be inexpensive but I can’t exactly plug my 3G SDI feed into it now can I? Also there are license fees to be paid to the patent holders for SDI and HDMI connections plus all the other technologies that SmallHD is using. There are always cheaper options available. The question should be which is the right option for your specific needs.

    • @Kevin, You have to keep in mind the amount invested in R&D, the customer support for when you break it, the whole package you are getting when buying a product like this… There is a reason that people don’t just buy the part and plug it in to the camera. There is a large amount of designing, programming and building that goes into making one of these monitors compatible with your camera. You are not just paying for the part. The prices on these are very fair. Not to mention SmallHD builds them all in the US, so you are also supporting a local small business.

    • I’m with you, Kevin. I don’t have wads of cash to throw around, but if I did, I STILL wouldn’t buy over-priced OLED technology that color-shifts over potentially only a year or two. The odds of finished vid being VIEWED on OLED technology is pretty low – is there something to be gained by submitting product produced on top-end equipment that looks not-so-good on the client’s display? Am I missing something?

    • Daniel Mimura on 12.6.12 @ 8:44PM

      ?? Look around, these monitors are a BARGAIN.

      Even compared to Marshall and Ikan…the other two companies with stuff that pros need, but without costing what But when you look at other industry monitors, smallHD is a value. Look at specs, look at features, and then compare it to anything by Transvideo, Cinetronic and other “industry standards”…the new kids on the block is superior in many different ways. Built in SD card (I don’t have to have a separate onboard recorder for my own footage review/playback—this is a big thing for steadicam…you want to do your best, but you don’t want to hold up production or worry the director/DP…etc…).

      I put down a deposit for a new high bright monitor. For $2700 (their most expensive monitor), I’m replacing a $5k, standard def 700nits monitor. This monitor is 1200nits! And the off axis viewing exceeds the steadicam monitor top to bottom (& is about the same left to right).

      SmallHD has really good focus peaking…built in cross converter…etc…

      That monitor better come out soon, thou…they’ve pushed back the release dates a few times…

  • I just bought a DP6 (used) and I love it. Tricky to calibrate, I’m finding, but it’s proved invaluable connected to a GH2 for some small budget documentary-style sit-down interviews, and other uses.

  • Now you really can’t see your under-exposed areas any more!

    • Tyler, most of the Small HD monitors have various modes of monitoring including luma and histogram as well as peaking… I don’t think underexposing will be an issue if you take the time to learn the products’ capabilities.

    • it would be), and the box felt super light so I wonder, after oeninpg we found the earphones only, so I figured it would come in a separate box, 2 days later nothing came. Called Amazon and told them the situation and they said the the items were shipped together in one single box, so obviously the MP3 player is missing. They were kind enough to issue a replacement shipment for Next Day Delivery, but it won’t be here until Monday. I know mistakes happen, I just wish it didn’t happen this time, it was our son’s special and so wanted present. Just wanted to write about it so you are aware that this could happen to you. I have ordered several times from this company, and never had a problem before, and this had to be the first time.

  • OLED question – won’t previewing on monitor with super blacks and increased colors give you a false impression of what your image looks like with other monitor technology?

    Honest question. I (like many of us) learned the hard way that uncalibrated apple displays have crushed blacks and color correcting on them is a bad idea.

    • Yes this is my question as well. Doesn’t the iPhone 5 actually “win” in that gamut chart if Rec.709 is the goal of our monitoring? Won’t we all be disappointed to see what our colors actually look like compared to what we thought we were getting on-set?

      Too much is better than not enough, but it might be nice for them to provide a Rec.709 mode or at least offer such calibration. Do they?

      • If you can more, you can also do less. That means that th monitor can show more than rec709. Making it future proof. Seeing all your image is great as you might be shooting raw and going to a color correction, you need to make sure you are recording all the correct information from your camera.
        As for the price. This is way lower than previous monitors, plus this is a professional tool with a calibrated result and a lot of options and control. Something I can rely on on set, not a phone or a toy. If its too pricy for you and dont ubderstand why,you might not be the target of the product.

    • The AC7-OLED will come calibrated to the Rec 709 standard. Meaning it won’t saturate the colors beyond Rec 709. The monitor is capable of producing colors well outside of the Rec 709 gamut, it’s just nice to have the headroom in gamut that most colors don’t have. You can always scale color saturation back, but you can never artificially increase it.

      The true advantage of the OLED other than gamut is the contrast ratio. Images just look fantastic.

  • Definitely an item of lust, but, for budgetary reasons, I’m unlikely to be doing much more than window shopping for some time yet.

    I personally think that monitors is one of the areas (along with matte boxes and many items of grip gear) in which low budget crews can save money without much appreciable difference on resulting video quality. If I had the cash, I’d probably buy a light or a lens or a microphone. Not only are there cheap and nasty monitors available, as well as substitutes (computer monitors, TV sets), but there are products that incorporate some sort of monitoring solution (like Atomos recorders, Zacuto EVFs, Teradek cubes broadcasting to iPhones and iPads).

    • Focus, Focus, Focus. Less expensive monitor solutions are often lower resolution. What happens is that nice HD signal get down sampled. Now your focus might be off a bit but on a down sampled monitor you won’t be able to tell as readily as you would be able to on a higher resolution monitor. Doesn’t sound like a big problem until your client starts wondering why everything is out of focus on the 50″ plasma in the edit suite.

      • Derek Means on 11.27.12 @ 12:30PM

        this is why you focus by distance when using proper cine lenses with accurate markings. Focusing strictly by monitor on most shots is a rookie move on the part of your AC.

        • Chris Hedeen on 11.29.12 @ 11:12PM

          Hopefully we’re not getting too off-topic here but, what if you’re a one-man-band in a run-and-gun sort of situation? You’ll be pulling focus yourself, and with how fast-paced and unpredictable certain situations can be, you’re going to be relying on a monitor, not having a chance to precisely measure each shot. Of course, you might be using a zoom lens and not cine primes. Either way, I think there are some situations and styles of shooting where you need a monitor for focus because you just wouldn’t have time or resources to measure focus.

      • Completely agree. Focus is my main reason for an external monitor. I like to shoot bands in low light settings and I can’t always pull a tape, so a good focus assist is crucial. I have an Ikan, but their focus peaking gives too broad a range of ‘in focus’ for the f-stop that I’m using. I have an AC7 in the mail, and I hope that with their multiple focus assist systems plus the 2X that I can get closer to the exact focus point.

  • Stu Mannion on 11.26.12 @ 8:35PM

    I bought a DP4 for my 5D mk2 and I have to say I’m pretty unimpressed with the image – it’s not a patch on the screen on the back of the camera – washed out and murky. Not sure how much is the monitor and how much the HDMI out on the mk2.

  • Will the non SDI version work with a 5d?

  • You think its cheap!!!!!!!!!


    • For OLED, yeah it’s cheap. A company I work for bought a 17 inch OLED for $17000 US. Even the DP7 OLED with SDI pass through is $2699.

  • Ya’ll do realize OLEDs wear our after a few years, right? Fine for cellphones you replace every other year but on $1000 monitor?

    Also, I like the look for OLED but for judging what something will look like on LCD or projector? Doesn’t seem very good.

    • Exactly what I was going to say. OLED was created as a cheap way to manufacture short-lived screens. The OLED screen in my phone has changed color dramatically since I bought it 18 months ago.

      • The specs on the OLED panel show that it would take you running it around 625 days, non-stop, 24/7, for the brightness to decrease. The average user will not run their monitor near that often. Even then, the brightness of the monitor would still be superior to any normal LCD panel.

        • my phone hasn’t lost brightness, it has changed color: it’s now clearly more blue than it used to be
          I know because I bought two in the same month, one has gone blue, the other yellow (drastic difference, it’s unbelievable that they looked the same when I boght them)

    • Daniel Mimura on 12.6.12 @ 9:08PM

      Yes. Everyone needs to realize this about OLED. It’s great if you’re an on-set colorist or something, but I think OLED is a bad idea, overall. We all spend so much money on our gear…the last thing we need is gear that will become outmoded before it needs to be, and that won’t have much of a re-sale value because of it…

      And for what? You’re not coloring by your monitor…in fact a lot of times, you have your monitor set to black and white to better see the color focus peaking (smallHD, awesomely, lets you choose the color, as opposed to always being blue or red…etc…)… Or if you’re using RED (the camera, not the color), you may need color to show noise to highlight ratios…you have everything set to 6 or 7 colors (I don’t remember off hand…underexposed is purple, mid tones, green…etc…), so you have no interest in seeing a full wide color gamut (it’s an indicator…sorta like zebra stripes, except for all values, not just over-exposure.). You just know that your camera/recorder is catching it and that it’s there.

      On Girl w/ The Dragon. tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth lit it to one color temperature and gelled it to that standard (this may be easier for people who’ve come from film where you only have two color temperatures)…they didn’t even have an on-set DIT or colorist.

      I think the industry *wants* OLED, the way they wanted light bulbs that will burn out quickly. Vote against it with your wallet and spread the word in forums like these. I don’t think smallHD or RED or other companies that have OLED products necessarily have any ominous plot to screw us the way Edison/Phillips/Osram did with the light bulb (look it up, it’s true…there is a great doc about it), but I don’t think they’ve thought about it well enough from the consumer’s point of view.

      Also, keep in mind that OLED won’t fade/wear/deteriorate evenly…so re-calibrating will be a constant need, and I don’t think many low budget (as well as many higher budget productions) are that knowledgable or concerned with recalibrating their monitors…if this sounds like you, you shouldn’t be using OLED.

  • I’m super happy with my DP6. I can’t quite justify an upgrade to this, although that would be brilliant.

    SmallHD’s focus assist more is the best I’ve ever seen. I recently shot a project with some very courageous rack focusing, where I was constantly following actors moving all over the place with razor thin depth of field. I really don’t know of any way of pulling that off except for using the focus assist on the DP6. The false color is also simply the best way to expose. Rock solid every time. I’ll never buy another monitor without those features.

  • I find all the field monitors pretty exorbitant. And, unreasonable. The color temperature is possible the nly argument, in their favor (among a few more, feeble ones). One can get the Google Nexus 7, at $100, and it has pretty amazing resolution, Also, there are many other things it can do, which a field monitor, cannot even fathom … :P

    • Again, we’re talking about companies that spread their costs over a lot more products – they make a lot of profit on some and they lose money on others. They buy in huge volumes and they can get discounts for that reason.

      Getting a screen relatively cheap is one thing, but actually getting it to interface with your camera and contain features that are useful is a whole other thing entirely. If it were that cheap to make an external monitor of high quality, it would have been done already. This field is already pretty competitive, so if you could get high quality for a low price, it would exist. There will always be tradeoffs for getting a lower price, just as the two companies pursuing their first digital camera, Blackmagic and Digital Bolex, have both chosen smaller then Super 35mmm sensors for a reason. It’s much cheaper at the moment to use those sensors with all of the other costs associated with building a camera.

  • Having shot extensively with a Marshall vlcd 70xp and the DP6 I had to conclude that Marshall made the superior product, just a truer, more trustworthy rendition if the image. You can argue about resolution for sure, but shooting side by side with them at the weekend just brought home what an awesome piece of kit the Marshall actually is. I love the small hd design ethic and their products are beautifully made and feel so much more solid but the extra you pay for a Marshall is reflected in the performance. I keep feeling tempted to trade in the Marshall but actually, while monitor competition has beneficially driven the mark forward it’s still probably the brand to aim for. Worth looking around for a secondhand one.

  • DIYFilmSchool on 12.17.12 @ 10:54AM

    Is the big marketing point the OLED technology? Because as far as I’ve been able to discern, this doesn’t afford much flexibility in what it is that the monitor monitors. I’d put my money in a Lilliput or something like that for is variety of functions over this. But that’s just my opinion.

  • That must be very expensive. OLED is a new technology. I am afraid I also could not afford it. I will try MustHD f eild montior with variety of functions.