Video / Hands-on Review

Directors' Choice: SmallHD AC7 OLED On-Camera Monitors

         

Since its introduction at the tail end of 2012, the SmallHD AC7 OLED monitor has become a perennial favorite among many directors, cinematographers, and camera assistants, due to its sleek design, durability, and well-regarded focus-assist features. Perhaps the most notable feature is its 7.7", 1280 x 800 8-bit OLED panel that delivers true blacks and a wide color gamut, resulting in more natural-looking images than traditional LCD panels. In fact, the AC7 was one of the first on-camera monitors to offer an OLED display at a competitive price, making it a bit of a pioneer in the video industry—a maverick that still delivers today, and offers a lot of bang for the buck.

The AC7 OLED is available in two flavors: an SDI model and HDMI-only model. The HDMI-only version, as the name suggests, features only an HDMI input, while the SDI model adds an HD-SDI input and loop-through output. The monitors support input signals up to 1080p, with the HD-SDI inputs supporting frame rates up to 30 fps and the HDMI input supporting up to 60 fps. Additionally, both monitors feature component and composite video input on RCA connectors, and a USB input for firmware updates and 5V DC power output.

While the large 7.7", 1280 x 800-resolution screen built-in focus and exposure assist tools make the AC7 OLED suitable for use by cinematographers and camera assistants, the monitor is perhaps best suited as a director or client monitor. This is especially true when paired with a handheld mounting system, such as the Director’s Monitor Cage from Wooden Camera, and a wireless video transmission system. 


AC7 OLED being used by a focus puller. Shown here with an optional Anton Bauer Gold Mount plate, battery, and sunhood.

 

The 8-bit OLED panel covers 100% of the Rec 709 color space, allowing you or your client to more accurately monitor the images that the camera is recording. Images are also more lifelike, thanks to the OLED display technology, where each pixel has its own light source rather than using a backlit LCD panel. This yields a virtually infinite contrast ratio, as individual pixels can be completely off to produce an absolute black.

The monitor itself doesn’t support built-in or custom LUTs, but it can easily be integrated into a workflow where a capable on-camera monitor, such as SmallHD’s 501/502 or 702 Bright, outputs an image with a pre-made LUT downstream to the AC7. This lets your clients view images that are closer to what the final deliverable will look like. To further aid in director or client viewing is an anamorphic de-squeeze feature guide lines for popular aspect ratios.

To power the AC7 OLED monitor, a variety of battery plates is available separately, including options that accept dual Canon LP-E6 batteries or even an Anton Bauer Gold Mount battery. You can also provide power from external battery via a barrel input or the locking Hirose connector and an optional adapter cable, such as this Hirose to D-Tap option.


When used with the Wooden Camera Director’s Monitor Cage and Teradek Bolt 300 Wireless Receiver, the SmallHD AC7 OLED monitor is an ideal wireless director/client monitor.

Part of the reason the AC7 OLED monitors receive such high praise from shooters comes down to their rugged design. Though an overused expression, these things are built like tanks. Utilizing a milled-aluminum skeleton that goes from edge to edge, a rubberized ABS plastic housing, and a Gorilla Glass screen, the AC7 OLED monitors can withstand the rigors of set life, and then some. Check out the torture-test video below to watch the SmallHD team have a bit of fun dropping, throwing, and kicking around the monitor, while it escapes unscathed.

The AC7 OLED monitor brings the advantages of an OLED panel into a slim, low-profile design that is built to last. For shooters looking for a tried and tested on-camera monitor who don’t need more advanced features like waveform, histogram, or vectorscope display, then the AC7 OLED is definitely worth considering. The large 7.7" screen and image quality of the 8-bit OLED panel also make the AC7 a perfect monitor to hand off to clients on set and showcase the quality of your work. Add to that the fact that the monitor weighs less than a pound and integrates easily with handheld support systems, and the AC7 OLED could be your go-to director or client monitor for years to come.