photo by Rattankun Thongbun via iStock
Professionals and other serious videographers often find themselves wanting or needing a better method of viewing than the on camera viewscreen, especially if they shoot with the camera mounted inside a camera cage.
Two common types of videography gear for improved viewing are a field monitor and an on-camera monitor.
Considering on-camera vs field monitors, what type will work best for you?
Why Use Accessory Monitors?
There are several reasons why videographers use accessory monitors. A big reason is because once you put your DSLR or mirrorless camera inside a camera cage, the rear view screen is hard to access and see.
This may not be due to the cage limiting access - most of them designed for a specific camera grant access to all important camera features - but because the camera often becomes just a small part of the entire rig. So, an external monitor is connected to the camera.
Another good reason for using an on-camera monitor or a field monitor is that these monitors have extra features that assist with making videos. The larger size is beneficial for framing shots, for focus checking, and for viewing from a greater distance from behind the camera.
External monitors can also be turned up brighter, which is very helpful when shooting in high ambient light levels. External monitors have an additional benefit useful for shooting in the field - the image can be seen from a greater angle, side to side or up and down.
Differences Between On-Camera vs Field Monitors
That’s a pretty list of reasons why videographers use external monitors. Now let’s examine the differences of on-camera vs field monitors.
The biggest difference is that an on-camera monitor is designed to be mounted on the camera or camera cage while a field monitor isn’t limited in size and weight in order to fit on the camera.
A field monitor can be mounted anywhere near the camera, on a separate tripod or stand or even on a table. You just need a long enough cable. With wireless video transmission, you aren’t even limited by the requirement to be close enough to the camera for any length of cord.
Because of this difference, a field monitor is not limited in size or in weight, and not even in power requirements since a wirelessly-attached monitor can be plugged into a wall or floor power socket.
Additionally, many field monitors will include extra features for live viewing or for playback. There simply may not be room for the controls of such features on a smaller on-camera monitor.
Best of Both Worlds
What if, instead of debating with ourselves the benefits of on-camera vs field monitors, we could have the best of both worlds? In other words, a monitor with features and a fairly large size like a field monitor with the smaller weight and battery power options that allow easy on-camera or camera cage mounting.
It does exist, the Ikan VK5 video monitor is an example of one item of videography gear taking the place of multiple pieces of equipment. At 5.6 inches diagonal screen size, this monitor is plenty large for comfortable viewing from a greater distance and for accurately monitoring focus and composition.
The overall size of the monitor stays smaller because it uses a simple row of buttons to access on screen menu controls, allowing all sorts of features while not increasing the size of the casing to accommodate extra inputs.
Battery powered for portability, the Ikan VK5 also has the option of AC power via the adapter. Viewing angle of the high resolution screen is comfortable from several degrees to either side or up and down and the brightness of the screen allows for use in high ambient light levels.
Extra features include false color display, DSLR scaling, peaking, clip guide, and multiple inputs. With all of this, it’s still light enough to mount to the camera or camera cage. Plus, the price is very budget friendly, in the same ballpark as high quality LED DMX lights.
Videography Gear Resources
photo by gorodenkoff via iStock
Whenever I’m considering new videography gear, I have a few favorite places I usually go to first. One of them is Ikan. What makes Ikan such a great place to find videography accessories is that the company was founded and is run by people who are photographers and videographers themselves.
Much of the videography gear, lighting, and accessories they market on their website is designed by or completely made by them so they are able to offer to the public very high quality professional videography gear at prices that are lower, sometimes substantially so, than products from other brands.
I’ve done personal tests on a lot of the different gear that Ikan offers, such as sliders, DMX lighting, microphones, video tripods, lens filters, teleprompters, powered stabilization gimbals, and wireless video monitor systems. Many times, I end up liking the gear enough to pick it up for using in my own professional videography projects.
So, whether you’re comparing on-camera vs field monitors, designing a DMX lighting studio, or looking for the perfect handheld gimbal, Ikan is a good site to consider.