When CineMartin first announced the amazing price of the 4K LT external monitor ($199), many were skeptical, but No Film School got our hands on a unit and are impressed. In fact, so many people were impressed that the units are almost sold out, and Cinemartin remains unclear on whether there will be more batches in the future, so grab one soon if you want an unbelievable value.
The CineMartin 4K LT monitor is a 7" external monitor with a Sony NP battery mount, HDMI inputs and outputs, with a hot shoe mount and camera hood included . Unlike popular monitor/recorders like the Atomos Ninja, this is just a monitor. However, it's a monitor that comes in at only $199, and has a host of exposure and focus assist features that make it an amazing bargain at the price.
This is an ideal option for filmmakers who want to get more function out of their GH5, XT2, or even 5D while sticking with internal recording. The larger screen (compared to the screen on your camera body), exposure and focus assist tools offer a tremendous benefit over shooting on a DSLR alone.
[Note: CineMartin sent us a 4K LT for review, that we have set up with our Fujfilm XT2 camera.]
Sony battery sticking out the back of the monitorCredit: Charles Haine for NoFilmSchool
For a low-cost monitor, the LT feels sturdy and not fragile. It doesn't seem quite as "modern" as some competitors—the textured plastic surface is slightly '80s, but is very useful for helping with grip. What's more important is that the monitor is not going to break the first time you drop it.
One oddity is that the battery mount came unmounted: the end user needed to attach it themselves. This is not a huge burden for a filmmaker who is used to rigging cables and fixing screw mounts themselves, but an oddity nonetheless. Of course, some sacrifices have to be made to bring in gear at this price point, and 5 minutes of using a screwdriver is hardly a burden.
The HDMI ports are all on the bottom, which can be slightly awkward when routing the cable, and made re-attachments when it fell out tricky. Not impossible, by any means, but just a little bit of a hassle as opposed to the absolute ease of a side mounted HDMI, where it is easy to see the port and how it is oriented.
Buttons and menus are accessed on the top and it's easy to do so. A roll bar and buttons are never as easy to navigate as a touch screen, but again, this is a $199 4K monitor that gives you false color, histogram, waveform, and more. A scroll wheel and buttons will do just fine, and the menu system is easy to navigate. There are three user-programmable buttons, easy to set up for focus assist tools, which genuinely improves the functional life of the monitor.
We measured color accuracy as a reminder that this isn't what the tool is for. The accuracy of colors on this monitor isn't great, coming in around dLogE of 6.5; in an ideal world the hope is for something under 5 to be considered color accurate. It's not a terrible accuracy number, and actors won't look like Oompa Loompas on this monitor unless they are supposed to, but you cannot use it for color grading, and it shouldn't be used for absolute on-set color evaluation.
Then again, for $199, that is to be expected. This monitor delivers what you need from it: accurate framing and tools to help with focus and exposure evaluation. The color settings are very robust for the price point, but considering the software and hardware needed to calibrate, it's unlikely that would be a typical workflow on a $199 monitor.
Measuring the CineMartin LT on the bench: lights were turned off for actual measurements.Credit: Charles Haine for NoFilmSchool
While color accuracy is low, sharpness accuracy is actually quite useful. While you won't see the full 4K resolution at 7" (most studies say you need something more like 85" to see 4K resolution), the 4k input allows for a tremendous amount of zoom into the image, which helps tremendously with the focusing process. 4K resolution really highlights even slight focus errors, and having the ability to punch in so far on the monitor is a huge bonus.
Visible artifacting on the 4k image.
High level of monitor zoom for seeing accurate focusCredit: Charles Haine for NoFilmSchool
Where this monitor really shines, of course, is the processing options. With anamorphic, false color, histogram, and focus features, this monitor truly gives you a host of tools to help with making the best possible decisions on set.
Credit: Charles Haine for NoFilmSchool
If you are on a budget, and want an external monitor for your DSLR, this is it. There isn't an SDI port, it's not color accurate, and you attach the battery mount yourself—but it's only $199. You're going to love having a 7" screen, a waveform monitor and a false color guide, and best of all multiple focus assist tools. It's going to turn your $1500 camera into a real joy to work with.
Despite the their statement that the LT line is done, we hope that CineMartin decides to make another batch when this one is sold out. This is a product the film industry needs. Even if they go wild and raise the price to $299, it'll still be a deal.
Available for purchase now at the CineMartin site.
- $199 monitor that seriously ups the game for small cameras
- Not color accurate, not meant to be; don't grade with it, shoot with it
- Waveform, Histogram, and False Color, Oh My!