Choosing an On-Camera Monitor

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Ever look at the screen on the back of your camera and wish that it were just a tad bigger, or brighter, or sharper? Yeah, me too. The good news is that there is a solution! External on-camera monitors come in all shapes and sizes and are packed with additional features that will make shooting video much more enjoyable. Here is how you can pick the best one for you.

Atomos Ninja V 5" 4K HDMI Recording Monitor

What Camera?

Everything always starts with the camera. For external monitors, there are a few crucial features and specs you need to know before you can begin your search:

  • Can it output clean video?
  • What connectors does it have?
  • What is the resolution and frame rate of its video output?

Start at square one—whether or not your camera will even work with an external monitor. If it can’t output video, you can’t use one. That’s not to say there aren’t other helpful tools for you—dedicated loupes and magnifiers can improve your situation.

Assuming your camera can output high-res video, you have to know what connectors it can use. This could be a flavor of HDMI, SDI, proprietary with an adapter, etc. There are a bunch and I’m not going to get into them all here. HDMI and SDI are the most common options these days and where you should start if your camera has them.

Finally, you have to know what resolution and frame rate your camera outputs. If it only sends out DCI 4K at 60 fps and the monitor only takes Full HD at 30 fps, you’ll be out of luck.

Make sure these basic features are compatible between your camera and monitor:

  • Resolution
  • Frame rates
  • Connectors

Now we can talk about monitors.

Size, or Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Yes, one of the primary reasons filmmakers pick up external on-camera monitors is because the one on the camera is too small. However, I do still want to caution you from immediately jumping at the biggest you can get just because you believe it will solve all your problems. If you want us to tell you what to get, just get a 5" monitor and be happy.

Now, if you do want something a bit bigger or you have a larger camera that can handle it, then a 7-9" monitor is a perfectly viable option. There will be some added weight, so make sure all your mounting arms and other tools can handle it. For mirrorless/DSLR, I would stick to 5", but if you have a more traditional pro camcorder or cinema camera or even a rigged-up mirrorless or pocket camera, the 7" monitor can be a great addition.

Larger than this isn’t advised for on-camera use. It’s just too big. However, they can be great field monitors for a director or producer at a remote station.

Atomos Ninja V 5" 4K HDMI Recording Monitor

In general:

  • 5-7" is the sweet spot for on-camera use.
  • 7-9" works well for larger kits or remote viewing.
  • 10" or more are generally field monitors and not designed for on-camera use.

Resolution and Brightness

I’m lumping these two specs together because they relate to the panel. When you are looking for a monitor, these are critical specs, and going for higher-quality models can add to the price.

Resolution, in the simplest terms, is how sharp the screen can be. It also relates to screen size. A small screen can get away with lower resolution, since the density of the pixels makes it appear sharper. A larger screen will require higher resolutions. With on-camera monitors, anything between 5-9" will look very good in HD to Full HD. Anything smaller than 5" might be able to get away with less than Full HD and still look great.

Blackmagic Design Video Assist 5" 12G-SDI/HDMI HDR Recording Monitor

Keep in mind the specs your camera can output, as well, and make sure the display and its resolutions can support it. For example, if you are outputting 4K, you will want to make sure it can down-scale and has proper mechanisms for zooming in to 100% for focus checking if the resolution is only Full HD. Nowadays, I would say that a Full HD monitor is a good option and most good monitors offer it.

Brightness speaks for itself. This is simply how bright the screen can get. This matters because if you are mostly filming outside in varying degrees of sunlight, you may need a brightness boost to see the screen clearly. If a monitor doesn't have a super-high brightness setting, you may need an optional hood and, even then, you might not be able to see the screen. Brightness is another huge reason to pick up an on-camera monitor, since built-in displays usually lack in this key spec or their high-brightness modes quickly burn through battery life.

Brighter Is Better

This is a harder spec to judge, because you may not really notice any issues with a low-brightness display until that one day you shoot in the sun. If you intend to do a lot of shooting outdoors or want to guarantee that you have a display for all lighting conditions, then some monitors marketed as “daylight-viewable” offer 1000 cd/m2 (nit) brightness. Anything around this should be a good target for you.

FeelWorld 7" 2200 cd/m² Full HD 3G-SDI/HDMI On-Camera Monitor with 4K Support

Bear in mind:

  • For resolution, aim for HD to Full HD at a minimum.
  • High-brightness monitors are useful for outdoors.

Better bets for outdoor use are to pick up a hood or shade to protect from glare and direct lighting.

Waveforms, LUTs, and HDR

While a bigger, brighter picture may be all you were looking for, if you are purchasing an on-camera monitor you will benefit greatly from having extra monitoring tools. Things like LUTs and waveforms should be on your list.

Starting with standard monitoring tools, there are a few things with which you should work. Zoom-in or punch-in settings can be very helpful for checking focus before you hit Record, especially if your monitor can pull in a full 4K feed to display on its Full HD screen. Then there are tools such as waveforms, false color, vectorscope, and RGB parade that help with confirming brightness and color in your image.

Waveforms and other related tools are some of the biggest advantages for separate monitors over built-in options. Even when a camera offers advanced monitoring tools, they usually don't offer the same quality, customization, or resolution as dedicated monitors. Having greater fidelity and resolution can help ensure your exposure and focus are spot-on, which is becoming more and more so as cameras introduce new gammas and formats each with their own particular quirks.

Guidelines to shoot for other aspect ratios is another option you may want to have to make sure your original footage can work if you decide to do a widescreen crop later or vice versa.

LUTs are likely the most important, because these will allow you to preview your image with basic grades or corrections applied. Monitors usually come with default options for common log profiles (C-Log, S-Log3, etc.). Also, better monitors will let you load up custom LUTs and then provide quick access to turn them on and off as you shoot. This is very beneficial because you can make sure your exposure and color work for the way you intend to push the footage in post.

New in the past few years is the proliferation of HDR-capable cameras and devices. Monitors are no exception, offering versions of HDR preview based on receiving HDR signals or by doing a rough conversion of log footage. This is a handy feature to have, but I wouldn’t call it essential just yet. What I would think about is having it, so that you can use it for HDR on set and then use the monitor again for grading if you connect it to a computer that supports HDR. This is far from the ideal, pro-quality setups used for HDR grading, but it is a great start for filmmakers looking to try HDR finishing.

Atomos Shogun 7 HDR Pro/Cinema Monitor-Recorder-Switcher

More unique features would be things like anamorphic de-squeeze and various others.

Here's a list of features to have on a monitor:

  • Zoom-in
  • Aspect ratio guides
  • Waveforms
  • Vectorscope
  • False color
  • LUT support (custom and built-in)
  • False color
  • Peaking
  • HDR preview

Make sure you have a monitor with a wide range of features. Even if today you don't use all of them, you will want something that will last as a monitor and can be used on many different cameras.

Monitor/Recorder Combos

Another increasingly common option in the monitor landscape is built-in recording. This means that the monitor can accept the incoming video signal and process and save it into its own format to its own storage. This is essential to get maximum image quality from many camera systems—though mirrorless and DSLRs see some of the greatest benefit.

Many cameras actually can't record their best quality internally. This can be because the processing isn’t powerful enough, or the camera might end up generating too much heat and have to shut down faster. It can also be a space-saving measure for the compact media many cameras use. The HDMI and SDI output can produce uncompressed video at higher bit depths but will demand a recorder that supports it.

Some other things to look out for are camera-specific compatibilities. ProRes RAW is a great example. Many new mirrorless cameras, the Sony a7S III, for example, offer raw output. However, they usually only work with select monitors, such as the Atomos Ninja V, to record. This is just one example, but there are a few available you may encounter so do some quick research before you jump into a monitor purchase. You never know, the decision might be easy after you look into it.

Consider:

  • Monitor/recorder combos are a great idea.
  • Doublecheck that the recorder will support the camera’s maximum output.
  • Raw video output requires additional compatibility and firmware.
Atomos Ninja V On the Sony a7S III

Final Thoughts

On-camera monitors can be complicated, so we hope this helps. Some of my personal recommendations would be the SmallHD FOCUS 5" for a basic monitor and the Atomos Ninja V for a monitor/recorder combo. Both are from reputable brands and offer an incredible array of features, plus the 5" size is certainly my recommendation for on-camera use.

SmallHD FOCUS 5"

Be sure to stop by the Comments section, below, if you have questions you need answered or want help figuring out what is best for you!

Items discussed in article

241 Comments

What would you recommend for a 5" monitor to be used primary on a Nikon D850? Must have HDMI in & out. Record N-log and bright enough for outside. Ninja V? Anything at a lower price point?

The Atomos Shinobi 5.2" 4K HDMI Monitor would be a great choice, BH #ATSHIN.
https://bhpho.to/35OkG6Y 

Hello, I’m looking for an on-camera monitor for my Sony A7R2. I’m going to use it primarily for outdoor photography to have a bigger screen but I do want to use it eventually for vlogging as well. I’d prefer a monitor that’s touchscreen, not too heavy/big, and has functions that my camera doesn’t necessarily have, if possible/compatible. Please advise. Thank you. 

The PORTKEYS BM5 5.2" Touchscreen Monitor with Camera Control for Sony a6000, RX100, and a7 Series is a great option.  This is 2200 nits, it is a very bright monitor.  Also it has Touch Screen Controls for the A7RII.

https://bhpho.to/3sjWZwY

Hellow, can i use autofocus selective with an external monitor? i own a nikon z6 and i want to be able to use touch focus on the monitor as i do on the camera screen, is it possible?

Thanks

Hello , I shoot with the A7III and I'm looking for a budget monitor for simple interview setups . Something simple that turns 180 degrees for when I'm lighting the subject ,, I don't have to walk back and forth from camera to lighting setup ,, I can just face the monitor towards me as I light the subject

My budget is $150-200 ,, any suggestions? I see many compliment the Andycine A6 Plus ,, does the Feelworld F6 Plus work the same ? or anything similar along those lines ? Thanks for any suggestions

Hi Joshua - 

These monitors function and perform similarly and both would be excellent companions to your SONY Alpha a7III.

I'm looking for a basic monitor for the upcoming Nikon Z6 II. The monitor will only be used indoors in a YouTube studio environment as the Z6 II is rumored not to have a fully articulating screen. What do you recommend?

I would recommend the Elvid FieldVision 7" HDR IPS LCD On-Camera MonitorB&H # ELOCM7PHDR, or the PORTKEYS P6 5.5" 4K HDMI On-Camera Monitor with 3D LUT Support​B&H # POP6, as good options for your planned usage needs.

Would you recommend the same setups with z6ii but taking into account using for indoor as well as Outdoor use? Or would outdoor be a brightness factor with these? 

Yes we would still recommend the same monitors for the Z6 II when working indoors and outdoors. 

Hi,

I am looking for a field monitor for my Canon XF100 video camera. I use the camera for filming my sons hockey games and it is difficult to follow the players looking through the small LCD display. The monitor does not need to have recording capabilities and the size I am looking for is either a 5" or 7". If possible, I would like to be able to power the monitor with an external power brick/bank. My maximum budget is $500.. Please provide me with some options that would best meet my needs.

Thanks

The FeelWorld 7" 4K Ultra-Bright Monitor with Loop-Through HDMI would be a great option.  It is within you budget and is Ultra Bright, that way if you ever used it outside it would still work.

https://bhpho.to/3dkIAJO

Thanks!

Hi!

I’m looking for a on camera monitor for my Canon M50, that I can most importantly, daisy chain to another set monitor, so I must be able to loop through via hdmi.

also scopes and focus peaking is a must!

thank you 

The Feelworl F5 offers a histogram, focus assist, false colors, zebra, zoom, image flip and has an HDMI loop out.

https://bhpho.to/3bfYjc9

Awesome thank you!

is there any other options with the same features, but a little bit bigger, around 7”?

The FeelWorld 7" 4K Ultra-Bright Monitor with Loop-Through HDMI has the same features I listed above, only with a 7 Inch Screen and a 2200 Nit panel.  It is very bright!

https://bhpho.to/3blkRZ5

Thanks for the response!

sorry to drag this out, but I’m curious.

why the FeelWorld over something like the Lilliput a7s?

what makes the FeelWorld a better choice?

The Lilliput will also work, the Feelworld I suggested is a lot brighter though.  It is 2200 nits compared to just 500.

Thanks again!

Hi there, can you advise whether the 'Sony CLM-V55 5" On-Camera LCD Monitor for Alpha' is compatible with the Sony Alpha SLT-58 camera please?

Thanks in advance.

Yes, the Sony CLM-V55 5" On-Camera LCD Monitor is compatible with the SLT-A58 via HDMI.

Hii, I was wondering if you can give me an advise. Im using a Sony a7r to scan my negatives, now the camera display broke. Can I use an external monitor with HDMI connection and continue using the camera in that way? If so could you suggest me a suited HDMI connection cable and an external monitor? 

Thanks in advance.

If you use the Live View mode normally the HDMI will send out a signal to an external monitor.  This Feelworld is a great, basic option.  However I would really advise and suggest you look in to getting the screen fixed on your camera.  That not working could lead to over issues down the line, including other things failing like the HDMI output.

https://bhpho.to/3bcbAAS

Any suggestions for a video monitor for a Sony A7iii in the 5" to 7" size

i have an a7iii and i'm just now starting to shoot in SLog.  I'm currently using a Feelworld 4k monitor but the down side of it is that it does not display zebras alongside with my focus peaking.  Is there a monitor that you would recommend that displays both? Just looking to upgrade my setup and my budget is around $300

Hi Ron - 

 ikan Saga SX7 7" High-Brightness 3G-SDI/HDMI Field Monitor with 3D LUTs & Scopes BH #IKSX7:    https://bhpho.to/2yZdVSg

Software Features

3D LUTs
HDR preview
Guides
Grids
Crosshair
Waveform
Vectorscope
RGB parade
Histogram
Audio meters
Peaking
False color
Image zoom
Image flip
Check field
Zebra
Underscan
USB firmware update

Hi, I have a Canon 80D and i am thinking in buy an ON Camera Monitor. We do Photography and Videography. Could you suggest a good monitor/recorder? 

BH #LIA5 is a great 5" monitor from Lilliput.  This will work very well with the 80D for both Photo and Video.

https://bhpho.to/2Rgx1te

Hi Joseph. Do you have a monitor in the $300 range you'd recommend for a Canon 80D? Any way to attach the monitor without losing the on-camera settings capability? Disadvantages of using a monitor w/ the Canon 80D? Is the 90D any better w/ a monitor (i.e. have fewer limitations than the 80D?)

The SmallHD Focus is a great monitor to use with the 80D or 90D, but how those cameras behave with a monitor is not something the monitor can control, but how the camera works with any monitor.  Generally with DSLRs you may lose certain info on the screen when you output to a monitor like this.  In some cases you lose all the video on the DSLR's screen.  If you have any additional questions on this please email us at [email protected].

https://bhpho.to/3ht3CGY

Hi! I have a Nikon D7100. I am interested in a monitor so I can view the pictures in a bigger screen without needing to login in the computer, and see them on Ligthroom. I mostly just want to check focus, and if I need to retake as I take pictures of  of puppies/dogs who are mostly moving. Which one would you recommend? Thank you!

A good option in terms of on-camera monitor is the Elvid 7" 4K On-Camera Monitor with Battery, Articulating Arm, and HDMI Cable Kit, B&H # ELOCM7B4KV2C.  It will include the necessary HDMI cable to get it connected with your D7100 as well as a battery and articulated arm.

https://bhpho.to/2Kqv5KJ

I'm looking for a 4k monitor to use with my Z6. Are there any cheaper monitors that will do 4k and 1080p 120? I can only find monitors that go up to 1080p 60.

Thanks!

On cameras monitors tend not to offer 1080p at 120fps.  Also, the Z6 may be able to shoot that frame rate, but it does not output 1080p at 120fps.   That is not a feature you would need with that camera.  Andycine offers great, inexpensive 4K monitors that will work.

https://bhpho.to/2VqEPLE

Does one buy a Camera Monitor purely for Video or do some purchase purely for shooting stills?  

I would imagine the majority of people are using it for Video.  However there will be some who use it for both or just photography.

Thanks!

I have a Sony A7iii and will most often need to have a front-facing monitor for recording myself (similar to what the A6100, A6400, A6600) - I will have a Rode mic on a cold shoe and want to have this monitor on the hot shoe, and the camera set on a Joby tripod.  As a college professor who teaches online courses, I want to record my mini-lectures - and make sure that I am in the middle of the screen.  I will probably also want to take it with me to do some vlogging and vacation videos (as secondary uses).  I think a key element would be the ability to have it both front-facing and rear-facing, easily.  I'm thinking about something in the $300 or so range would be a comfortable budget for me.  I understand with some of these units I also have to buy a battery(ies) and HDMI cables, etc.  What suggestions would you have for me?  Thanks!

The ANDYCINE T7 would be a great option that leaves you plenty of room for accessories.

https://bhpho.to/2RCKa0k

Thanks!

Hi, recently got SmallHD Focus but it doesn’t seem to do what I need.

Camera: Canon XA55

Sound Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre 6 II

Would like to have the timecode sent by the XA55 (SDI or HDMI) control the MixPre 6 II (HDMI or AUX).  I’m just an amateur with aspirations but seems to me the TC signal would need to be looped through the external monitor I’d like to use — or should I consider a different signal chain?

What option do you recommend — in particular, what monitor could be relied upon to pass on TC signal without problems?  Looking for around 5” HD at $1,000 or less.

Thank you!

How well this set up would work between an XA55 and a MixPre 6 II is something you would need to test out to see the results.  That being said, SmallHD Focus monitors tend not to have an HDMI loop out.  You would need to look at a different option that has an HDMI input and output to send a signal on from the monitor.  Here are just 2 options with an output.

https://bhpho.to/2RBRp8L
https://bhpho.to/2S2s3zI

I'm looking for stability and reliability in my life.  Should I just use the SmallHD monitor via SDI -- and time-sync camcorder and audiorecorder with another (external) solution?  If so, which solution would you recommend?

Thank you!

We would love to assist you with this further.  Feel free to email us directly at [email protected].

Thanks!

Hey! Recently I bought a Sony FS700R and looking to buy a monitor for its 4K capabilities. The research I've done, I see everyone either uses the Odyssey 7q+ or Atomos Shogun Inferno with it. I'm not really familiar with external monitor brands and wanted to know if there are any other monitors that can record up to 4K 60fps just like the other two? Thanks!

Those are the two options that will work for this.  You need a monitor that can process the RAW signal that the FS700R sends out.  The Shogun Inferno is going to be the most popular option as it does not require any additional paid firmware upgrades for RAW.

https://bhpho.to/2O0atv1

Thanks!

I'm looking for an off camera monitor for focussing - especially when I'm on tripod down close to the ground.

I have both a 5d3 and an xt-2  Is there an option that will work for me for both cameras? 

Ideally I'd like focus peak highlighting but I realise the 5d doesn’t do that natively

The Bestview S7 is a great choice for this, BH #BES7.  It offers focus peaking!

https://bhpho.to/2GgLHCK

Thanks!

can I use other than Atmos brand for 4K 10bit raw on Nikon Z6?

Hi Sandip - 

Yes.  Currently this is our sole recommendation.

What would you recommend for the Sony A7?

Andycine offers a great monitor.  You could even get an NP-FW50 Dummy Battery that will allow you to power the camera off of the battery powering the monitor.

Andycine A6 - https://bhpho.to/2NaqRJ7
Andycine NP-FW50 - https://bhpho.to/2QX77Ke

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