Anyone who has shot something with a DSLR knows how important monitoring is. These camera’s large sensors give us that oh so gloriously coveted depth of field; however, this new breed of digital film cameras does have a downside, pulling focus. While there are many different techniques that can help you keep your subjects in focus (especially when shooting with the aperture wide open), I think one of the best solutions to be able to tell if you’re in focus or not is by using an external monitor for all your critical focusing. I know this may seem like a simple solution, but when you begin to take a look at the plethora of monitors available, this seemingly simple solution becomes a monumental decision. Being the technical nerd that I am, I always want the top of the line model that has every bell and whistle, even if those bells & whistles are seldomly used. That being said, I am a firm believer in the idea that you get what you pay for. This is my personal opinion regarding which monitors I believe give you the most bang for your buck. While this won’t be an in depth review of each monitor, I hope to shed a little light on my favorite features of each monitor.
Small HD DP6 w/ HD-SDI $1299
This monitor is the cheaper of the two, yet it still has some pretty impressive features. One of my favorite features of this monitor is the fact that it has a native resolution of 1280x800 which really helps when you’re trying to pull critical focus. A lot of the DSLR camera monitors have resolutions that are around 800x480. The DP6 was also one of the first monitors to boast the DSLR preset, which allows you to see your image full screen on your monitor without the black/grey bars on the sides, top, & bottom. The DP6 also has some nice features like a false color filer, focus assist, & 1:1 pixel mapping just to name a few. However, I think this monitor’s best feature quite possibly could it’s future-proofness. I’m pretty sure we’ve all bought that iPad or other electronic device only to be disappointed a couple of weeks later when the new & improved model is released, leaving us to have to deal with electronics envy. With every DP6 purchase, Small HD includes a 2GB flash drive which will allow you to download new firmware & software updates that can then be installed on your monitor giving it the latest and greatest features.
TV Logic VFM-056WP $1495
I saw TV Logic’s monitors a couple of years ago for the first time at NAB and I have to say I was quite impressed with what I saw. These are some of the most professional monitors on the market and I have been very impressed with their features. Like the DP6, the VFM-056WP is a 5.6” monitor with a native resolution of 1280x800 and features such as false color, focus assist, & 1:1 pixel mapping. There are a couple of features that I think really make this monitor stand out among the rest. One of those features is the fact that you can input an HDMI signal into this monitor and output an HD-SDI signal. This is a really great feature if you plan on running a video village or just want to hook up a second monitor and eliminates the need for HDMI splitters and HDMI to HD-SDI converters on your camera rigs. The other feature that I think is really nice to have is waveform and vector scopes built right into this monitor. This is just one more feature that will help you ensure that you get good footage while you’re out in the field…unless of course you think that the vector scope is some sort of radar that can find all the best shooting locations or something.
Although I personally give the TV Logic monitor the edge I would be happy to have either one in my camera case. Ultimately though it’s important to keep in mind that having a really nice monitor will not magically make you a better cinematographer, it’s merely a tool that makes your job a little easier.