Choosing an On-Camera Monitor

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While many people start by looking for a monitor within a specific price range, you may be better served by defining which features you need in a monitor before you consider price. This way, you will most likely get a better overall understanding of the value of the features, which will better fit your workflow. Spending a little extra time now will help you choose an on-camera monitor that will serve you a lot better and for a lot longer than a monitor you chose just based on price.

There are many different manufacturers’ on-camera monitors available at B&H, in a wide range of features and sizes. This may make choosing one on-camera monitor a daunting task, even when selecting from a single manufacturer’s lineup.

Monitor or Monitor/Recorder Combination

One of the first criteria to consideration is whether you want just a monitor or a monitor/recorder combination. Advantages of a monitor/recorder combination are that you can create high-quality recordings that your camera’s internal recorder may not be able to match. You are also assured that you will get the same recording file no matter what camera you use, and this can pay off when you are in the editing room. Additionally, a monitor/recorder combination is going to have built-in monitoring features and image tools that you may find useful when shooting. Not all non-recording on-camera monitors will have these features.

Atomos Shogun 4K Monitor/Recorder
 

Size and Weight Matter

Once you sort out which way you want to go, the next most important feature to evaluate is size. For the most part, an on-camera monitor serves as a more flexible viewing screen that is larger than your camera’s view screen or EVF, and one you can position independently of the camera itself. This allows you to use it as a composition and framing aid. Your monitor choice will most likely depend on how big a screen you need, or feel comfortable using. Remember that the bigger the on-camera monitor, the more you will have to move your head to see around the monitor. Taking into consideration the size and weight of an onboard monitor, the 5 to 7" monitors are generally preferred, with other sizes being useful mounted off the camera and in special applications. You will most likely be able to find similar monitoring and image tool options such as peaking, false color, histogram, waveform, parade, and Vectorscope in the 5 to 7" range. One thing to note is that there is now a full-featured 5" view screen that can be converted to an eyepiece-type viewfinder, similar to using a loupe on a DSLR’s screen, something that just isn’t going to work with a 7" screen.

Weight is often overlooked, until you’ve mounted the monitor and are shooting handheld all day. You definitely want to consider the weight of the monitor, and how you will mount it. The more weight, the more quickly you will get fatigued, and with fast camera moves, a heavy monitor may shift and upset your balance.

Inputs, Signal Format, and Frame Rate

Now that you’ve established what size monitor/recorder or simple monitor you need, some things to consider are how important multiple inputs/outputs, signal cross-conversion, and video scopes with image evaluation tools are to you. If you just need a run-and-gun rig, with a more flexible view screen than the one on your camera, then extra inputs/outputs and cross-conversion are most likely not necessary for you at this stage of the game. Something you will want to check with is the frame rate that your monitor supports, as cameras are now outputting a variety of frame rates. Since you are looking for an on-camera monitor, and weight is an issue, you want to avoid using a frame-rate converter if you can.

If you are working on more organized shoots, you will probably find it useful for your monitor to have a loop-through output so you can pass the signal on to other equipment. SDI is considered the professional standard, and HDMI, found on DSLRs, is considered more of a consumer standard, although it can be found on camcorders and even some high-end cameras. If you do opt for a monitor with both HDMI and SDI connectors, on-camera monitors that offer cross conversion between the two standards is becoming more commonplace and easier to find.

Connectors along the bottom of the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ Monitor/Recorder

 

Resolution

Here is where the monitor’s resolution will make a difference. You may feel that it is necessary to have Full HD resolution, and 1920 x 1080 panels are becoming more available in 5 and 7" sizes. Most monitors with lower resolution will scale your video for display, allowing you to see the entire frame.  This may introduce scaling artifacts, but it is doubtful that a scaling artifact, unless it is glaring, will disturb you when operating the shot. Where the resolution will make a difference is when you are reviewing your footage. Seeing the entire frame without scaling artifacts is nice, and most lower-resolution monitors provide a 1:1 Pixel mode that allows you to view parts of your image at full resolution. It may be a while before we see 4K on-camera displays, as there is some disagreement as to the smallest screen size that allows you to see 4K resolution but, most likely, your camera will provide a downscaled 1920 x 1080 output.


Image Evaluation Tools and Scopes

Unless you are only looking for the minimal monitor to use as a viewfinder, you may want to have peaking for focus, and exposure tools such as false color and Zebra bars. 1:1 pixel capability and zoom are important, and if you can read scopes, waveform, Vectorscope, and parade, they can be invaluable for objectively evaluating your video signal.

Atomos Ninja Blade Monitor/Recorder displaying RGB Parade, Time Code, On-Screen Menu, and Playback Controls
 

At this point, it is probably a good idea to consider your budget. It may just be that you can find all the features you want in an on-camera monitor for less than you were prepared to spend, or you may realize that the features you thought you needed just aren’t important right now. Then again, you may find that there are some killer features that are worth the investment. In either case, by considering the features that are important to you before you consider price, you will be able to evaluate the monitors based on their value to you, not just on how much they cost.

Things to Know

Now that we’ve had a general overview of the important features of an on-camera monitor, you will find a more specific explanation of terms that apply to monitors.

HDMI versus SDI versus Component & Composite

Composite  is a standard-definition signal only, and is still available from some cameras.

Component Video  is a better signal transmission system than Composite, as it breaks the signal into luminance (green) and red and blue. Component signals can be either Standard Definition or High Definition.

HDMI  is an uncompressed all-digital audio/video interface for transferring uncompressed video data and compressed or uncompressed digital audio data from an HDMI-compliant source device. HDMI is generally considered a consumer interface, but it has made inroads into the professional world. Generally speaking, even when using a good-quality cable, an HDMI signal will degrade and become unusable after about 49 feet, which limits your cable runs without using a signal repeater. HDMI is not interchangeable with SDI signals, although there are converters available, and some monitors will cross-convert from HDMI to SDI.

SDI  Serial Digital Interface is a professional signal standard. It is generally classified as SD, HD, or 3G-SDI, depending on the transmission bandwidth it supports. SD refers to Standard-Definition signals, HD-SDI refers to High-Definition signals up to 1080/30p, and 3G-SDI supports 1080/60p SDI signals. With SDI signals, the better the cable, the longer the cable run can be before signal degradation renders the signal unusable. Select high-quality cables can support 3G-SDI signals up to 390 feet and SD-SDI signals to more than 2,500 feet. SDI signals are not compatible with HDMI signals, although signal converters are available and some monitors will cross-convert from SDI to HDMI

Cross-Conversion  is a process that converts the video signal from one format to another.

Loop Through  Loop through outputs take the input to the monitor and pass it through unchanged. This is useful when you want to feed a monitor and send the signal farther to other devices, such as the video village or a director’s monitor.

Touchscreen versus Front-Panel Buttons

Touchscreen panels can be very useful, making it simple to interface with your device. Some monitors feature touchscreens for menu navigation and selection. Often, touchscreens are found on monitor recorders—most touchscreens are capacitive, which require contact with your skin. This is probably not going to be an issue, except in the cold if you are wearing gloves.

Monitors with front-panel buttons tend to be larger than their touch-panel counterparts, but the buttons and knobs allow you to work more easily with them while wearing gloves.

RF Receiver

Usually found built into monitors designed for First Person Viewing (FPV) RF receivers are often used with remote cameras, such as those mounted on a drone or quadcopter. These monitors are more often than not standard definition, although some may use higher-resolution screens. The Radio Frequency (RF) signal is analog as opposed to digital, as most analog monitors tolerate signal loss better than digital monitors do.

To LUT or Not to LUT

LUT stands for Look-up Table, and allows you to alter the way a monitor will display the video. This feature is often found on a monitor/recorder and it allows you to apply image and color space conversion when displaying flat or low-contrast log gamma video without affecting the video recording or signal. Some monitors allow you to choose to apply no LUT, the same LUT, or a different LUT to the output of the monitor, which can be useful when recording downstream, or sending the video to another monitor.

Atomos Assassin with LUT menu screen
 

Viewing Angle

Viewing Angle can become very important, as the camera operator may shift his/her position relative to the monitor during the shot. A wide viewing angle allows the operator to have a clear, easy-to-see image as their position shifts. A narrow viewing area may make the image on the monitor appear to shift in color/contrast as you change your position relative to the monitor, which may make viewing the footage/operating the camera difficult. In the world of LCD-panel technologies, IPS panels offer the best viewing angles, with angles up to 178 degrees.

Contrast Ratio and Brightness

Monitors with high contrast ratios and brightness tend to display a more pleasing image. They also become much easier to see in exteriors where you may normally have reflections and glare from the sun or sky. However, even high-contrast/brightness monitors may benefit from using a sun hood of some kind.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article, and that it has clearly identified some of the steps in the process of choosing an on-camera monitor.

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145 Comments

Im looking for a Monitor for my Canon 5d Mark 4. I use this camera for Low Budget Video Work like Interviews, Music Videos, Documentaries... What I want mostly is Lut, Peaking and Brightness (it would be nice if I could record a better quality but the output on the 5dmk4 is limited).

I rent bigger Cameras mostly RED for bigger jobs and I would like to use the Monitor then too. 

My Budget is around 1000$ 

My first thougt was the Blackmagic 4k Video Assist? What would you recommend? 

I have the URSA MINI, i need a bright monitor because i use my camera in exteriors, what monitor do you recomend me?

The Ursa Mini has an SDI output for monitoring.  A great choice that has SDI is the MustHD Hyper-Brite, B&H # MUM703S, which offers 2200 Nits of brightness.  This is a fantastic choice for shooting outside with.

https://bhpho.to/2Q2xcWJ

Thanks!

Hi Joseph! Thank your for this article! I own a C100 mk1 and I'm looking for a monitor that is a professional as possible. Budget could be around $400. It would be great if it is a monitor that I can later use if I decide to upgrade my camera, say for example to a Sony FS5 or a Black Magic URSA Mini. Thanks for your advice!  

If you want the ability to use a camera like the Ursa Mini, which has an SDI output only, down the line you will need a monitor with an SDI input.  Lilliput makes a great option right in your price range.

https://bhpho.to/2MxLY9Y

Thanks!

 Hi, thanks so much for your informative article.

 I have the Nikon D850 and I am looking for an external-on- camera monitor to assist mainly with focus and exposure for a video documentary.  This video will be shot both indoors and outdoors on location.  I mainly use a tripod but am considering perhaps a shoulder mount.  I also have the Nikon d750 as a back up camera. I usually shoot at 30 p.

  I am unsure about the necessity of having an audio recorder. (I have Sennheiser lav mic for interviews and Nikon mic.)

Im wondering what is the best bang for my buck, keeping in mind accessory costs required for the monitor. I do not have a huge budget as I'm a solo shooter. 

I'd very much appreciate your thoughts on this.

The Lilliput A7S 7" Full HD Monitor is a great choice for an affordable monitor to use with your D850 and D750.  This monitor will work with both.

https://bhpho.to/2AOgOoL

Thanks!

Thanks for your feedback.  I will explore this option.  Do I need to purchase a separate micro HDMI cord? 

You would need to purchase an HDMI cable as well.  The D750 and D805 have a Mini HDMI Port.  You would need an HDMI Mini to HDMI cable.

https://bhpho.to/2sf94TR

Thanks again!

Again I appreciate your time and feedback.

I have a Sony PXW Z150 Camcorder & would like a HD Monitor with a hood which makes it easy to see & focus when outdoors. I wold like Zebra function also. Limited budget - any suggestions?

The Feelworld FWT756 is a great choice for an affordable monitor to use with the PXW-Z150.  This offers zebras and it comes with a sunhood.

https://bhpho.to/2BLAJVl

Thanks!

I have a canon 70d which I’m using for videos with my ronin m, which screen would you recommend that is cheap and allows me to use the external monitor to focus feature while filming?

The Lilliput A7S 7" Full HD Monitor is a great choice for an affordable monitor to use on the Ronin-M.  Please keep in mind if you are referring to touch screen focus on your 70D that is something that is only available on the camera's screen, it will not work on any external monitor.  However this is still a great choice to monitor your shot.

https://bhpho.to/2AOgOoL

Thanks!

I’m currently looking for an on camera monitor, in 5” or 7”. My top priority is monitoring, and since I primarily use a GH5 and shoot in V-log, the option to be able to preview using LUTs feels like a must. I’m noticing that there is really a significant jump in price for any monitor capable of providing this option. Is there any monitor only with this option that is in the $300 and under range? I see FullHD has an option starting at around $500, but this puts me in the range of just deciding to go for the soon to be released Atmos Ninja V, which unlocks my 4K 60 and recording in ProRes potential. And, the Atmos seems to be incomplete at $695, without spending another $250 at least for battery, small SSD, ETC.. Am I missing a potential option?

THANKS!

Monitors with LUT capabilities start with options like the SmallHD Focus.  We are not aware of a choice below this that will give you LUT support at this time.

https://bhpho.to/2wpXHdF

Thanks!

Thank you for explaining all the features so well! 

Question: I use cannon mark IV for photography only, do video only for fun not professionally. Working in my outdoor studio, use tripod. 

So size and weight not a big problem, I want to get maximum sensible size, I guess it is 7 inch?

Main feature I am looking for is good performance in strong sunlight(hood would be good) and show peaking focus - so in short I am looking for big and good quality viewfinder.

I have not use external monitors yet, so would prefer something "plug and play" 

I am not sure can this monitors do zoom in? Preferable touchscreen.
Speed is important too. I have heard some screen can be slow to show picture.

Not limited in budget, but prefer something around £1000

What would you recommend? 

The Atomos Ninja Flame is a fantastic choice.  It is 1500 Nit, making it very bright.  It is probably one of the more affordable options for a bright monitor and it is a recording monitor as well.

https://bhpho.to/2qc121K

Thanks!

Question please... Why are most camera monitors using a 16x10 aspect ratio (1920x1200) and not the more common 16x9 (1920x1080)? Is there some legacy reason? Thanks.  

I am using a Sony a6300. I will be needing an external monitor as I will be video recording my son's basketball games from mid-court. The a6300 will be mounted on a tripod and will be doing panning and zooming. I would think the most important factor would be latency. Looking to spend up to $500 (Small HD) but definitely would spend less if there was an LCD monitor that would fit the bill (i.e., latency). Your thoughts?

Hello,

I'm using a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a DJI Ronin-M stabilizer and am wondering which monitors would work best with my setup (in this case I would most likely have the monitor on the top bar of the stabilizer). I'm looking a budget of $300 but I'm flexible. Thanks!

The Ikan DH5e is a great option, B&H # IKDH5E. It even uses the same LP-E6 style batteries that your 5D Mark IV uses. You would just need a Mini HDMI to HDMI cable and we have a great mount from GyroVu specifically for putting a monitor on the Ronin-M’s Handle Bar. 

https://bhpho.to/2bYPeah 

https://bhpho.to/2Bo4cVW 

https://bhpho.to/2q8eoHX 

Thanks!

Hi,

I have the Sony HXR-NX80 and wonder which of several monitors/recorders is compatible with my video recorder. For a starter, I don't want to spend more than a grand because this is my first purchase of such unit.

thanks for your help. 

Hi Isaac - 

View UHD-resolution HDMI signals with the Ikan DH7 Monitor (B&H # IKDH7UHDM). Featuring a 1920x1200 WUXGA IPS panel for accurate color and wide viewing angles, the 4K-compatible HDMI connections can accept and loop-output 4K HDMI signals without requiring extra downscaling hardware. Because the DH7 can work with 4K signals, which have greater representation of fine details and edges, focus assist functions, such as focus peaking and punch-in through 1:1 pixel mapping, are enhanced. The thin profile of the monitor as well as 1/4"-20 threads on all sides, make it easy to integrate into your DSLR or mirrorless camera setup. A convenient headphone output allows for audio monitoring straight from the camera's HDMI signal. The monitor includes two swappable battery plates: one for Canon LP-E6-type batteries and one for Sony L-type batteries.

Hello I have a nikon d500 and I am looking for a field monitor. My budget is 300eur.

Any recommendation please? 

I would recommend either the ikan DH7 7" Full HD HDMI Monitor with 4K Signal Support, B&H # IKDH7UHDM, the ikan DH5e 5" HDMI On-Camera Monitor, B&H # IKDH5E, or the Elvid FieldVision 4KV2 7" On-Camera Monitor, B&H # ELOCM7B4KV2, would work for your usage needs, depending on your budget and your usage needs.  For more information, you can see the following link by either clicking directly on it or by copying and pasting the link into your internet browser's address bar:

https://bhpho.to/2bHsSN5

https://bhpho.to/2bYPeah

https://bhpho.to/2mQDEpB

hello - I have a GH4 and am looking for a 5 inch monitor with the least amount of latency or lap - preferably none!

I film many dialogue narratives or interviews and altho I can just about live with a small lag in video the lag in audio is driving me insane!

Any suggestions please.

Paul

The Ikan DH5E is a great choice for a 5 Inch Monitor to go along with your GH4.  We are not aware of any lag with the audio when using this monitor either.

https://bhpho.to/2bYPeah

Thanks!

Hi there

looking to get a video monitor / recorder for nikon d500. Thinking about atomos ninja flame. Will the camera output the right video size for 4k?  Does the d500 have the same limitations as the 5300 below and also does the d850 have the?

thanks

The Ninja Flame is the perfect option to go along with either the Nikon D500 or D850.  Both cameras will output UHD 4K at up to 30fps, which is what the Ninja Flame is able to record up to.

https://bhpho.to/2qc121K

Thanks!

Hello! I have a Nikon D5300, and I want to get an external monitor or a monitor/recorder unit, but I'm having trouble finding information about what will work best with my unit. I was considering the Ninja Blade, but I've read that the Atomos units don't properly record the 24fps signal from the camera and tend to drop the signal. I was also considering the Feelworld 7" HD, but again, have had trouble finding information about compatibility. If you could give me an idea of which monitor and monitor/recorder units might actually work with my camera, I'd really appreciate it.

The Nikon D5300 does not output a 1080p signal at 24fps, it can record 24fps but it cannot output it.  The Ninja Blade will work with the D5300, but for 30fps.  The same goes for any Monitor or Recorder you use with the D5300.  The Ninja Blade is no longer available, but you could use the Ninja Flame instead.  Or you could use just a monitor like the Feelworld FW759.

https://bhpho.to/2qc121K
https://bhpho.to/2ifCeRB

Thanks!

Hello, I purchased an a7riii with 3 Sony GM lens (16-35, 24-70 & 100-400). Besides my photography I need to start shooting some video for business ie. vlog and short (1-2 min. edited videos). I kind of emptied the bank account with the sony camera and lens, so I need to hold back for the monitor. I was thinking 5 - 7 inch and MAYBE up to $300.00. Your perfect match please!

The FeelWorld FH7 7" IPS LCD On-Camera HDMI Monitor is a very nice choice.  This will not further break the bank and supports a UHD 4K signal.  It also has great features like Focus Peaking, False Colors and 1:1 Pixel Mapping.

https://bhpho.to/2yYWaOH

Hey, I was thinking of purchasing an external monitor that could only display up to 4k 30fps. My concern is that if my camera is recording at 4k 60fps, would there be any potential drawbacks when downscaling the frame rates? Because from what I know, if recording at 4k resolution then output on a 1080p monitor might use some processing power when downscaling, thus affecting AF performance for instance.

Hi Benny, although there are monitors have the capability to internally scale 4K material to display it on a native 1920 x 1080 screen, I'm not personally aware of any monitors that will convert the frame rate. Either the monitor supports the resolution and frame rate, or it doesn't. There are external frame rate converters that may suit your needs. As far as performance, specific cameras may have limitations on outputting a different resolution than you are capturing at, but I don't believe that affects the camera's performance. However, individual cameras may have specific limitations.

Hope this helps.

I have a Sony 7s ii and use the zhiyun crane 2 gimbal with it to shoot. I only want a monitor that because it's hard to see the camera screen when using the gimbal. I also want something sort of light but also at least 1920x1080. What would be best for me? 

The Ikan DH5e 5" Monitor is a great choice for this.  It is a 5" monitor that weighs only 0.2 pounds, yet offers 1920x1080 resolution. 

https://bhpho.to/2bYPeah

Hi,

I am looking for a new field monitor. I am using the GH5, shooting mostly 120fps. Something lightweight would be ideal as I am often on the move. Is there any good recommendations? 

Thank you!

The Ikan DH5e 5" Monitor is a great choice.  It is a high quality monitor with a 1920x1080 screen that only weighs 0.2 pounds.

https://bhpho.to/2bYPeah

Hi there,

Thanks so much for this informative article! I primarily shoot food videos and while the Nikon D750 flipout screen is helpful, I'd like to be able to see more and have a more precise view of my composition, exposure, white balance, etc. For lenses, I typically use a Nikon 50mm f/1.8g and Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Can you recommend an external monitor that will get the job done at a moderate price point? 

Thanks! 

The Ikan DH7 is a fantastic choice, B&H # IKDH7UHDM.  It is a well built 7" monitor that offers Monochrome Peaking, False Color, Clip Guide and 1:1 Pixel Mapping to help you set up, exposure and focus your shots.

https://bhpho.to/2bHsSN5

Thank you for such an informative article. 

I am interested in using a monitor in tandem with my Canon EOS 60D for shooting in-doors and mostly with a tri-pod. 

Since I am very new to the concept of monitors, my question might seem vague, but I hope you'll be able to help me regardless: What monitor would be easy to use and good for those fine-tuned camera adjustments that take the image from sharpish to sharp - and good to great? 

Much obliged, 
Thanks

The tools in a monitor that will help you get a shot that is very sharp are those designed to assist with focus.  Focus Peaking is a great feature for that, as is 1:1 Pixel Mapping.  Along with sharp focus, proper exposure leads to great shots.  For that Zebra Patterns are a great tool to help you get the right exposure.  The Feelworld FW760, B&H # FEFW760, is a very nice starting option to consider.  It offers all of those features at a reasonable price.

https://bhpho.to/2wY2gjU

Thank you for the article and advice.

Looking to replace the factory monitor for the Fs7, which has gone kaput. I don't want to replace it with an eye-piece evf, I tried the small HF sidefinder and wasn't  pleased with the ergonomics. So know I am looking for just a 3-5 inch monitor to replace the main viewfinder. I still may just order the small HD 502 (from the sidefinder kit), but lose the side finder part.

My only big requirements are SDI in's and out's, and I want features like LUTs, false color, etc.

Have any ideas? Thanks!

It sounds like you are on the right track with the SmallHD 502, B&H # SMMON502.  It has an SDI input and loop out and a wide variety of tools available.  It offers LUTS, Peaking, Zebras, False Colors and much more.  It is also has a fantastic and rugged build quality.

https://bhpho.to/2hRBArA

The SmallHD is a great option, however I would still consider reaching out to Sony directly regarding replacing the monitor it came with.  It is always better to have a fully operational camera, especially if you ever wanted to sale the FS7 down the road.

Hello! I have a canon 6D and I've read through this article and it helped a bunch but I'm still having trouble making a decision. I need a monitor to display what I am filming. I'm constantly filming indoors and outside low light and lots of light.. I need something so Im not having to hold my face two inches from the screen to see what its looking like especially when I am filming outdoors in the sun light. What would you reccomend? 

For the Canon 6D a great option to consider is the SmallHD Focus Canon LP-E6 Bundle, B&H # SMMFLPE6KIT.  With this you will get an 800 Nit Monitor, which is a nice level of brightness for use both inside and outside.  It also comes with an LP-E6 Dummy Battery cable.  You will use that cable to connect the camera to the monitor and it will allow you to power both off of the included Sony L Style Battery that comes in the kit.

https://bhpho.to/2xkv06C

For a more affordably priced option the Ikan DH5e is very nice, B&H # IKDH5E.  It has a plate that will allow you to use Canon LP-E6 batteries and a Sunhood to help block out light when you are shooting outside.

https://bhpho.to/2bYPeah

Hi. I have a Canon 7D Mkii I use for macro photography. I'm looking for a monitor to help achieve critcal focus. What would you recommend that won't break the bank?

Thanks, John

Hi John -

Perfect for DSLR and mirrorless cameras, or any other video or cinema camera with an HDMI output, the Elvid FieldVision 4KV2 7" On-Camera Monitor allows you to monitor SD, HD, and 4K video signals on its high-resolution 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD screen. Monitoring tools such as focus peaking, zebras, 1:1 pixel mapping, and more make it easy to assess your image on the FieldVision 4KV2.

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