Tired of the Director Asking Which Monitor to Trust on Set? Here's Your Answer

Everyone wants a monitor to trust on set, and with the SmallHD 7" OLED, there is finally a cost-effective option.

"Which monitor do I trust?" It's a question every DP dreads from a client on set. If you have a large production with a Flanders OLED in a tent, there is an easy answer. But for most of us out in the field with only the small camera monitor and maybe an older broadcast monitor for framing and client review, knowing precisely which monitor we can trust can be a complicated hassle.  Many top-end DPs swear by the Leader LV5333, but its price point leaves it out of reach for most of us, and they never seem to appear used on eBay (our saved search looking for one has run for a year without a single result).

It's not the least expensive, but it offers the most important quality: accuracy.

SmallHD has answered that pain point with its 7" OLED monitor. At $1599, it's more expensive than most 7" monitors, which are getting down in price as low as $200, but it offers that thing that DPs, directors, clients, and one-mule-team filmmakers dream of: accuracy. OLED technology is growing in popularity not just for its amazing contrast and rich blacks, but also for its accuracy levels, and the SmallHD matches the accuracy testers are seeing with the LG OLED monitors and the Flanders and Sony OLED models in the field. 

Credit: Charles Haine

Designed for set life

The unit itself is very attractive and more important than that, clearly designed for a hard life of set use. While competitors often come caged in plastic, this monitor comes in a sturdy, milled aluminum metal body which sets it up for years of use. It also comes with a gorilla glass screen.

Some might criticize its 1280x800 display, which puts it in the "720 HD" monitor category and doesn't offer full 1080p, but to be honest, it's practically impossible to see the difference between 720 and 1080 at such a small screen size. On a recent production, we offered the first AC the choice between this monitor and a true 1080 7" LCD, and the AC ended up choosing to pull focus off the SmallHD because the superior image quality, even at 720, made her job easier.

Credit: Charles Haine

Drawbacks

The drawbacks are small. The close, deep placement of the SDI ports sometimes makes it hard for those with larger fingers to quickly patch cables, especially if working with right angle bracket SDI cables as you might if you rigged the unit up in a directors cage. After a few months of hard work, we accidentally put in a battery crooked, grabbing only one of the battery mounts, and twisted it, leaving one of the battery mounts bent and then snapped on the NP side. This was user error, but as always a good reminder to be careful when mounting your batteries. There isn't a convenient power input option if you want to use brick batteries, meaning you need to purchase a pricy D-tap to NP adapter, as we have done when rigging it to work with a directors monitor.

It also rigs up quite nicely on the Wooden Camera Directors Cage and gives a mobile director the chance to see accurate images.Credit: Charles Haine

One issue we have had with the monitor is that the factory LUT reads at DLogE 1.3 (using SpectraCal and a Klein K-10), but if we create our own LUT with the same software/hardware combo it's only capable of getting down to about 1.5, with the biggest difference in the shadows. Anything under 2 is considered invisible to the human eye, so it's not a practical issue in real-world use, but it is something to note. We suspect that it's something to do with the differences between the K-10 and the higher end (over $20K Minolta colorimeters) gear generally used by manufacturers in the facility. Flanders Scientific will Calibrate a probe for you to ensure you can probe your monitor properly with your local K-10. Hopefully, SmallHD might offer such a service in the future.

Overall impression

None of the aforementioned drawbacks are really a problem when compared to the absolute joy that is felt putting this monitor side-by-side on a stage with a Flanders and a Panasonic Pro Plasma and having them all match perfectly, as we did on a recent shoot. The SmallHD went in the directors cage, getting wireless video through a Sidekick, the Flanders lived in video village for the DP and DIT, and the Panasonic was for group viewing (clients, etc.), but if you walked from one to another you never for a moment found yourself wondering "Which one can I trust?"  They all hit Rec. 709 accurately, and the actors' flesh tones looked the same model to model, and the black levels matched. Best of all, OLED doesn't need to be recalibrated monthly like those Plasmas.

Available now from B&H for $1299.

Tech Specs

  • 7" 1280 x 800 Display
  • SDI and HDMI Inputs
  • 300 cd/m² OLED Panel
  • 10,000:1 Contrast Ratio
  • Wide Color Gamut with LUT Support
  • SDI-HDMI Cross Conversion
  • Dual L-Series and LP-E6 Battery Support, for Canon or Sony batteries
  • Page Builder OS
  • Milled Aluminum Construction
  • Scratch-Resistant Gorilla Glass Screen

Your Comment

9 Comments

I don’t know, SmallHD monitors aren’t good. I’ve used and owned a bunch of theirs in the past and they always seemed a little red and contrast usually was to much. Since then I gave up on them.

February 27, 2018 at 9:34AM

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a 7" monitor. you want clients trying to scrutinise a 7" monitor. have you actually ever been on a professional set?

February 27, 2018 at 11:15AM

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keith
516

You should read the article. They are touting it as a director's monitor, i.e. a monitor that lives with and belongs to the director – not for video village.

February 27, 2018 at 12:03PM

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"Professional" - Defined as the size of a screen shown to clients -or someone who is willing to pay over a grand for a 7inch 720p monitor. Yeah, okay.

February 27, 2018 at 8:48PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1961

I love SmallHD and still own one, however my issue is that even with the current models, the highlights have always been off for me. Every SmallHD I use, I feel like I loose detail on it before I'm ever close to losing it from the native camera monitor. Does anyone else have this issue?

February 27, 2018 at 1:04PM

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Nick Novotny
Director of Photography
89

I have never posted on here before but I just made a account so I can warn people of the sales pitch that is above, I constantly hear from my producers is this monitor correct as far as color, as a operator I only use the on board monitor for framing and my scopes for exposure, but the constant questioning of skin tones and brightness lead me down the path to try and find a calibrated monitor, that lead me to this monitor, and I can say as it is coming out of factory it is truly awful, the 702 bright I have was far closer to the sony pvm a250 I have, so out of the box this is not a calibrated monitor, if you were to buy the calibration tools required I would hope it would get closer, out of the box this is not one, on the positive side it is very well built and sturdy, it feels a lot more sturdy than the 702bright. Has anyone on here got this monitor and gotten better results than I have?, you really don't have to look to hard to see its not color accurate, a very unscientific way is to point your camera at a white wall, the color bias is obvious. and to the author who says this "but it offers that thing that DPs, directors, clients, and one-mule-team filmmakers dream of: accuracy." that statement is laughable, show us your snapshots of it next to a flanders or Sony oled in the field as you say or better yet tell me how I can make this monitor accurate so I don't have a expensive 720 monitor in my kit that does not do as advertised

February 27, 2018 at 4:26PM

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G
81

So, your AC chose a lower resolution monitor because it made her life easier? OLED has higher contrast so it looks sharper, but it can really screw you when it fools you into thinking that you are in focus when you aren't.

February 27, 2018 at 5:38PM

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Casey Preston
Videographer
369

Is this any better than the Shoguns? Literally any of them should have a better screen and be cheaper

February 28, 2018 at 7:24AM

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Giri Klausner
Direction
145

What about some bad reputation and unreliability that OLED screens seem to be getting?

March 2, 2018 at 9:35AM

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