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Using your DSLR or mirrorless camera for video projects is a great way to capture excellent quality raw footage with a compact rig. Current digital cameras have absolutely fantastic video recording capabilities. Among the most useful videography accessories for DSLR and mirrorless is an on-camera monitor for video.
Why You Need an On-Camera Monitor
There are a host of reasons why an on-camera monitor is a great investment for DSLR and mirrorless shooters.
Perhaps the primary reason to use external monitors for video recording with your Full-frame, APS-C, or MFT camera comes down to size of the viewscreen. An external monitor’s screen offers a larger view of what you’re recording than either your camera viewfinder or rear view screen.
When comparing viewscreen sizes, it’s important to keep in mind that screen sizes are measured diagonally. So, while it might sound like your new camera has a giant 3.1” rear viewscreen, it really isn’t that large compared to what’s available as external monitors for video.
Better Battery Life
Extended battery life is another reason to choose an on-camera monitor for video. When using your camera’s video mode, the rear screen is switched on as the default with most cameras. Having the screen on while shooting video sucks up a lot of power, but what’s the alternative?
Well, provided your own particular camera has the option to do this, turn off the camera screen while recording and view the external monitor which has its own batteries.
Increased Brightness and Viewability
One of the nicest perks of using video accessories like an external monitor is the ease of visibility due to having a brighter, sharper, bigger screen. When shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, the camera viewscreen can be very difficult to see.
External monitors for video have great brightness adjustments plus many of them have built in or included sun screens. Both factors give you better viewability while shooting.
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Shows Extra Information
Many of the better external monitors for video show lots of extra information in an easy to view manner. On the larger screen, you can keep track of exposure by monitoring the histogram and you can also see an audio strength meter. Set the monitor for false color to see certain details or follow focus peaking and exposure clipping.
All of this information is vital in order to control it and create the best video footage possible. Some of it is able to be displayed on the camera viewscreen, but it shows up better on the bigger screen of the external monitor.
Stay On Top of Audio
Besides the audio meter you can put on screen, most external monitors for video have an audio jack that can let you monitor the actual feed being recorded.
Since audio is an essential part of most video footage shot by our DSLR or mirrorless cameras, keeping on top of it while recording allows us to be able to control it better. The result is better raw video with less time needed in editing.
LUTs Are Useful
Another fantastic tool for videographers is being able to apply LUTs or Look-Up Tables. A LUT is a preset, more or less, that changes the RAW video feed into whatever the LUT is designed to look like.
In order to use this tool to the full, you will need to loop through the monitor to record separately, which is another good feature to look for. Some external monitors for video also have recording capability. That does tend to add to price and weight, though.
Choose the Features You Need
As with cameras, lenses, and other accessories, there are a wide variety of options for accessory on-camera video monitors. The options include the features mentioned above plus size, weight, and price.
Here are several outstanding external video monitors that may work for you:
Ikan Delta DH5e-V2 5” On-Camera 4K HDMI Monitor
From Ikan, maker of high-quality video accessories of every kind, comes the compact DH5e-V2 5-inch monitor.
When it comes to videography and cinema accessories, it’s hard to beat what Ikan has available.The company is run and staffed by people who have a passion for filmmaking themselves, so the products they bring to market are feature packed, high-quality, and budget-friendly.
The DH5e-V2 is a 4K HDMI monitor with a great mix of features that allow you to be in control of your video. It is pretty compact and lightweight, so it readily fits on top of your camera by means of the accessory shoe or you can attach it to a bracket.
Powered by its own camcorder-style battery, it shows audio meter, histogram, focus peaking, and other functions. It has HDMI in and out, so you can apply the included LUTs in your recording, and an audio jack for live sound monitoring. It is also very attractively priced for photographers jumping into serious videography for the first time.
Ikan Delta DH7-V2 7” High Bright 4K HDMI Monitor
Slightly larger is the DH7-V2 High Bright monitor that boasts a 7” screen and added brightness with outstanding color rendition.
In addition to extra level of screen brightness, resolution, and color fidelity, the DH7-V2 has a USB port that can be used to load extra LUTs besides what comes preloaded. HDMI in/out/thru gives you professional capabilities including applying the LUTs to your recording.
It has dual battery slots for extended filming time and is relatively lightweight for such a large screen size. Compared to the average size of camera view screens, this 7 inches feels like a large screen TV set. It’s a little bit more expensive than the 5'' monitor, but still very budget friendly.
Ikan Saga S7P Super High Bright 3G-SDI Touchscreen Monitor
The Saga S7P is an external monitor with professional functionality while still maintaining a relatively decent low price point. Sure, it costs about three times what the 5” DH5e-V2 does, but it adds features and functions from professional level recording equipment.
One of the biggest features is the extra in/out/thru for 3G-SDI in addition to 4K Ultra HDMI. This lets you match this monitor with profesional level audio and video recording gear for absolutely superb raw footage.
Also upgraded when opting for this monitor is an SD slot for loading LUTs, increased brightness, resolution, and color quality, plus several more on screen tools. The extra tools include Waveform, RGB parade, vectorscope, and pixel to pixel added to the meters already mentioned in the other monitors.
It also uses dual camcorder style batteries for extended use and adds a very user friendly touch screen for controlling features and functions. If you don’t like touch screens, use the scroll wheel to access the tools.
Upgrade Your Video
Making use of videography accessories like an on-camera monitor for video won’t automatically make you a video superstar. What external monitors actually do for you is open up all the possibilities you have already in your new DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Being able to clearly and comfortably see everything happening in your raw video and audio means you can control it better. Try a video monitor out for yourself and see what I mean!