Hands-On Review: Convergent Design Odyssey7 OLED Monitor & Recorder

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Convergent Design Odyssey7

On the surface, Convergent Design’s Odyssey7 is a high-quality, 7.7" 1280 x 800 OLED monitor with a touchscreen interface that delivers true blacks, accurate colors, and comes packed with a full set of professional monitoring features, including waveform, histogram, false color, and focus assist, just to name a few. It also has built-in Rec.709 display LUTs for popular ARRI, Canon, and Sony log formats. If this was all the Odyssey7 had to offer, it would still be an impressive piece of equipment. Luckily for us, the Odyssey7 doesn’t stop there; it’s also an external recorder capable of capturing 4:2:2 1080p video over SDI and HDMI to 2.5" Convergent Design SSD drives. It can even function as an HDMI and SDI cross-converter.

The Odyssey7 is the little brother of the Odyssey7Q. Before diving further into the Odyssey7, it is important to note some key differences between the two models. Out of the box, both the Odyssey7 and 7Q can record up to 1080p30 8-bit 4:2:2 over HDMI, and up to 1080p60 10-bit 4:2:2 over SDI using the Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) codec. The Odyssey7’s recording options stop there, while the 7Q adds 2K/HD 12-bit/10-bit 4:4:4 RGB video recording at up to 30p in uncompressed DPX format, 2K/UHD/4K ProRes 422 (HQ), and various 4K and raw options for popular cameras that can be purchased or rented separately. Another difference is that the Odyssey7 has a single SSD slot, while the 7Q has two—a feature that enables RAID configurations to handle high bit-rate 4K raw files.

By stripping away some of the high-resolution and raw recording options available on the 7Q, Convergent Design is able to deliver a more cost-effective option for the vast majority of shooters and broadcast professionals out there who work in a 1080p environment, but still want to take advantage of all the monitoring features the Odyssey7 has to offer. There are some other differences between the two models, including the number of SDI inputs and outputs, which will be touched upon throughout the review.

Getting Started

Upon first removing the Odyssey7 from the box, I was immediately impressed by its build quality. The magnesium-alloy body felt sufficiently durable in my hands, yet surprisingly thin and lightweight, at only 1.2 pounds. You won’t find a lot of accessories packed with the device. In fact, the only included items are an AC adapter with three interchangeable plugs (US, UK, and European standards), and a handy quick-start guide. Now, unless you plan on tethering the device to a wall outlet while you shoot, you’re going to need to some sort of battery-powered option. There are plenty of accessories available from Convergent Design, including a P-Tap adapter cable and various battery plates that attach to the back of the unit. For my testing, I used a Power Cage with Dual Sony L-Series Battery Plates, from third-party company Nebtek.

The power input is located on the underside of the device, near the bottom left corner, and uses a 3-pin Neutrik connector that locks. This ensures your power cable doesn’t unexpectedly get pulled out when you’re recording, a very thoughtful feature. Once you’ve supplied power to the device, it can be turned on using the button located just in front of the power input. The first time you boot up the Odyssey7, you’ll be asked to enter a Basic Activation Key to take the monitor out of Demo Mode. To receive an activation key, you’ll have to create an account at Convergent Design’s website and register the device. While the Odyssey7 is still operational in Demo mode, all recorded files will have a blue line across the lower third of the image.

Another thing you will need to add before recording is at least one SSD drive. The Odyssey7 only supports Convergent Design Premium 2.5" SSD drives, which are available in 256GB and 512GB capacities. The drives are built for reliability and will recover and close clips in the event of a power loss. The SSD slot on the Odyssey7 is located on the top left (the top right slot, available on the Odyssey7Q, is noticeably blocked off). The drives have a plastic tab on top, which locks them into place. By squeezing this tab, you can remove them. Convergent Design says in the quick-start guide to “firmly squeeze,” and I can confirm that they aren’t kidding. Even then, I still had to give the drive a good yank to remove it. I recommend making sure you hold onto the bottom of the monitor when removing a drive.

Once a drive is mounted in the Odyssey7, a “DETECTING SSD” message appears on the lower left of the screen. An additional message will appear if the drive needs to be formatted. Convergent Design recommends that all drive formatting be performed in the Odyssey7, rather than externally.

Inputs/Outputs

Let’s take a moment to go quickly through all of the inputs and outputs found on the Odyssey7. Other than the SSD slot at the top of the unit, all input and output connectors are found on the bottom and the right side of the device. Starting at the bottom left and working our way right, you’ll find the power input, 3G/HD/SD-SDI input (BNC), time code I/O (BNC), Mini HDMI input, 3G/HD/SD-SDI Output (BNC), 3.5mm analog stereo audio input, and a 3.5mm headphone output. In contrast, the Odyssey7Q is a bit more crowded on the bottom, as it has a second dedicated 3G-SDI input, 3G-SDI output, and two bi-directional 3G-SDI inputs/outputs. This gives the 7Q up to four inputs or outputs; hence the “Q” in the name, meaning “quad.”

Moving up the right side of the device, we have an RS-232 remote I/O, a Mini HDMI output, and a USB port. A nice feature of the Odyssey7 is that SDI and HDMI outputs are simultaneously active, letting you send your signal to two separate devices. Another benefit of having HDMI and SDI inputs and outputs is that the Odyssey7 can also function as a signal converter. It must be noted that at the publishing of this article, the RS-232 port is not yet active. Convergent Design plans to enable this via a future firmware update.

For mounting on your camera rig or stand, the Odyssey7 has three available ¼"-20 threaded holes; one on each side, and one in the rear toward the bottom. Interestingly, there is not one on the bottom where you typically find mounting threads on other monitors. In its place is the HDMI input. To expand mounting options, various third-party brackets and accessories are available. For example, the Nebtek Power Cage adds a frame around the monitor, providing additional threaded holes on all sides.

Display and User Interface

I tested the Odyssey7 with my Sony a7S, and when I first connected the camera’s output to the Mini HDMI input, I was blown away. The 7.7" OLED 8-bit panel is a thing of beauty, with deep blacks and bright whites delivering a 3400:1 contrast ratio. The colors also seemed very accurate, and the 1280 x 800 resolution was more than plenty to deliver sharp images. One of the best features of the screen is its wide 176-degree viewing angle, letting me view the monitor from just about any angle without worrying about color or contrast shifts.

"The 7.7" OLED display is one of the most vivid I’ve ever used, and the interface is very intuitive, with all controls readily available with just the touch of a finger."

Now, I have to admit that I’m usually not a fan of touchscreen interfaces on monitors, but Convergent Design really got it right with the Odyssey models. The interface is incredibly intuitive, making all of the controls and features readily available, rather than buried deep within a menu system. The extra vertical resolution provided by the 1280 x 800 screen helps, letting you display a 16:9 image, while leaving 80 horizontal pixel rows available for various on-screen “boxes” or “buttons” above and below the image. This leaves a clean image for you to monitor while you shoot.

Along the top of the screen you have your record settings and operation controls, including the menu button, system status, video I/O settings, Trigger Method/Record button, and time remaining on the SSD. There are also metadata and last take information boxes, a box for switching between recording and playback, and audio level meters in the top right corner. Simply tap any box for more details, toggle through options, and select settings.

The bottom of the screen provides monitor-setting and feature options, as well as displaying the time code embedded in SDI and HDMI inputs. The OLED button in the bottom left brings up contrast, backlight, color gamut (Rec.709 or DCI P3), and screen flip options. The rest of the buttons activate the wide array of monitoring features that the Odyssey7 has to offer. These features include: Display LUT, Focus Assist, Zoom (1:1 or 2:1), False Color, Zebra, Waveform, and Histogram. Convergent Design also plans to add Vectorscope in a future firmware update. Tapping the monitoring feature boxes enable that feature, while pressing and holding brings up options to adjust settings.

Recording

Before recording to the Odyssey7, you’ll want to make sure your camera is set to the desired output format and that the Odyssey7 is set to match that format. The input format can be set to Progressive/PsF, Interlaced, or 3:2 Pulldown (used for 1080p23.976 signals from 60i sources). There is a handy setup chart on Convergent Design’s website that outlines the correct mode for commonly used cameras from Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, RED, and ARRI. For the Sony a7S, the chart indicated to set the Odyssey7 to 3:2 Pulldown.

At the time of this review, the Odyssey7 comes with limited recording formats. In fact, there’s only one—10-bit Apple ProRes 422 (HQ). In 1080p, the Project Rate can be set from 23.98 to 60 fps, or to follow the input rate. Now, some of you may be thinking, “why would you use an external device when you can simply record internally on your camera?” The first, and most important reason, is to get the highest image quality you can. Many DSLRS and camcorders record video using low-bitrate, heavily compressed codecs. However, the output signal from many cameras is uncompressed, letting you bypass the camera’s internal compression and record externally to devices using higher-bit-rate, more robust codecs. With regard to the a7S, rather than recording 8-bit 4:2:0 video at 50 mbps using Sony’s XAVC S codec, the Odyssey7 allowed me to record the camera’s uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output to ProRes HQ, which has a bit-rate of 220 Mbps.

Another benefit is being able to record ProRes HQ footage simultaneously to the Odyssey7, and a lower bit-rate option internally in the camera; whether it is XAVC S on my Sony a7S, or ProRes 422, LT, or Proxy on my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. While we are on the topic on lower bitrates, I would really like to see some additional recording formats, like ProRes 422 or even LT, added to the Odyssey7. ProRes HQ can be overkill for many projects, with file sizes taking up a great deal of space. Convergent Design’s website says additional formats are coming in the future, so it’s possible that these or other options become available via a firmware update.

The Odyssey7 offers a few different ways to trigger recording. For compatible SDI and HDMI cameras (including the Sony a7S), you can set the device to trigger Start Recording by pressing the REC button on the camera. You can also trigger it remotely via time code when using the time code in/out port. For cameras that don’t support a trigger pulse over SDI or HDMI, you can simply press the on-screen Record button on the Odyssey.

When you’re ready to offload your files, you can do so using a 2.5" SSD dock or adapter, such as Convergent Design’s 2.5" SATA drive to USB SB 3.0 adapter. Having a computer with USB 3.0 ports is recommended, as file transfers via USB 2.0 can be painfully slow.

Shooting Experience

I had an articulating arm screwed into a ¼"-20 mount at the bottom of the Nebtek Power Cage, which then was attached to a ¼"-20 mount on a 15mm rod bracket. The articulating arm allowed me to position the screen just above the rear of the a7S, letting me view the camera’s display and adjust camera settings easily while still keeping an eye on the Odyssey7’s screen. The screen can get pretty bright at its max backlight setting, which made it easy to use, even in bright conditions. The glass prong is prone to reflections, so adding Convergent Design’s plastic sun hood is definitely recommended for shooting outdoors on sunny days.

As noted in the User Interface section of this review, there are a plethora of features that you’d expect to find in a professional monitor. To ensure that your subject is properly focused, you can punch in using 1:1 or 2:1 pixel mapping for fine-tuning your focus. For following focus while recording, you’ll find typical focus-assist options such as edge enhanced and peaking. For exposure, whether you like to work with false color, waveform, or histogram displays, the Odyssey7 has you covered. The waveform and histogram display can be viewed over the top of the image in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, or made full screen. Each mode offers luma, RGB parade, and red, green, and blue channel-only modes.

A really useful feature is the pre-installed display LUTs. A LUT, or Look Up Table, is a set of exposure, contrast, and color adjustments for an image. Display LUTs are provided for ARRI Log C, Canon C-Log, Sony S-Log from the F3, S-Log2 from the FS700, S-Log2 from the F5/F55, and S-Log3 from the F5/F55. The LUTs allow you to view the normally flat-looking log images in standard Rec.709 color and contrast, while recording the original log image for greater latitude during color correction and grading. With the a7S being able to shoot in S-Log2, I was interested in seeing how the image responded to the LUTs designed for the FS700 or F5/F55. I found that the F5/F55 LUT did a better job, but the shadows got a bit washed-out looking. It was helpful being able to quickly switch the LUT on to have a rough idea of how the log images would look when I added contrast to them in post. Being able to import custom LUTs would be great, but this is a feature that only the Odyssey7Q will get with a firmware update.

Additional features that I found useful include frame guides (2.39, 1.85, and 1.33), on-screen audio levels, an auto screen-flip feature when the monitor is mounted upside down, and the ability to hide all on-screen boxes and buttons with a single touch. There is also a physical button on the left side of the monitor that locks the screen when you don’t want accidental touches to adjust settings. This can come in handy during a take or when re-positioning the monitor.

Final Impressions

Overall, I really enjoyed working with the Odyssey7. The 7.7" OLED display is one of the most vivid I’ve ever used, and the interface is very intuitive, with all controls readily available with just the touch of a finger. Packed with a full set of professional monitoring features, including pre-installed display LUTs, the Odyssey7 as a stand-alone monitor is impressive. Combine all that with ProRes 422 (HQ) recording from HDMI or SDI camera outputs, and the Odyssey7 makes a great addition to any 1080p workflow.

Convergent Design Odyssey 7
Display 7.7" OLED (19.5 cm) 
1280 x 800 resolution 
3400:1 contrast ratio
RGB 8-bit color depth 
176° viewing angle
Video Inputs 1 x 3G/HD/SD-SDI, single link 
1 x Mini HDMI
Video Outputs 1 x 3G/HD/SD-SDI, single link 
1 x Mini HDMI
Video Formats SDI: 
720p60/50 to 1080p30/i60 in Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) 

HDMI: 
Up to 1080p30/60i 4:2:2 8-bit
Digital Audio I/O 2-channel embedded audio (48 kHz, 24-bit)
Analog Audio I/O 1 x 3.5 mm input; 2-channel unbalanced or 1-channel balance input with gain adjustment from -99 to +44dB

1 x 3.5mm headphone output
LUT Support ARRI Log C, Canon C-LOG, Sony S-Log (F3), S-Log2(FS700, F5/F55), S-Log3 (F5/F55)
Recording Media Support 1x SSD slot supports Convergent Design 2.5" SSDs
Timecode LTC I/O (BNC) or embedded SDI/HDMI
User Interface Capacitive touchscreen, two mechanical function keys
Material Cast-magnesium case
Firmware Updates Via micro-USB port
Power Input 10 to 34 VDC with built-in reverse polarity protection; built-in power switch
Power Dissipation 8 W (monitor only), 9-12 W (simultaneous monitor and record mode)
Operating Temperature 14 to 104°F (-10 to 40°C)
Dimensions 7.9 x 6.1 x 1" (20 x 15.5 x 2.5 cm)
Storage Temperature -4 to 128°F (-20 to 70°C)
Weight 1.2 lb (0.56 kg)