I just purchased the SMALL HD 702 Bright Full HD Field Monitor and had recently bought the SmallHD 501.
I find the built in displays on DSLRs and mirrorless cameras to be lacking so I was looking for a solution for filming in the bright sun here in Florida. A while back I had purchased a 7″ monitor from Digital Juice and it was pretty bad. It took forever to boot up, it was next to impossible to see in the bright sun and it was pretty big and clunky (but it was cheap:)). I also have an Atomos Ninja Blade which is way better but still not great in direct sun. (and it’s a recorder so it’s bulkier)
It put me off using monitors with DSLR’s for a while. Although I still used monitors for my drone video downlink. I recently had one go bad that had a wireless video receiver built in. So it made me re-think about getting another monitor. I figured if I could have one decent monitor and share it between applications then I could justify the cost. I could share the use from filming in the air with my drone, to using it on land attached to my Movi M5, to using it on my cameras for regular filming.
I looked at a lot of different monitors and external recorders. I ended up deciding against an external recorder because I shoot very little 4k, so the rather lossy internal 4K codec is fine for what I do. If I need to record Prores then I can do that to the Ninja Blade. Also the fact that adding a recorder to a monitor adds bulk. I narrowed my choice down to the SmallHD 501 and SmallHD 502. The only difference between the SmallHD 501 and the SmallHD 502 is the fact that the 501 only has HDMI connectivity in and out, while the 502 has HDMI in and out and SDI in and out with cross connectivity. Meaning you can input into the monitor from the camera with HDMI or SDI and output to a second monitor with either HDMI or SDI. I decided to get the 501 as I do not currently own cameras with SDI connections and I was trying to save a little. I shoot with Canon DSLRs predominantly but I also have a Panasonic GH4 and have recently purchased the Sony A7R ii. I do however rent various cameras for different projects and a monitor is always something that can be used.
The SmallHD 501 has a MSRP of $899, its a big chunk of change for such a small piece of technology but boy, once I tried it out, I was a convert!
The definition of the monitor is stunning (1920×1080), critical focus is a breeze. The weight and the size of the 501 was perfect for DSLR’s and my Movi, build quality is ‘first class’. I was such a convert that I started looking to the future and realized that I would probably own an SDI capable camera in the not to distant future and if I didn’t, I would certainly be renting one.
So after looking into the different options that SmallHD had to offer, I learned that the SmallHD 702 Bright was about to be released. It sounded perfect, it had SDI and HDMI connections with the added bonus of a daylight viewable 7″ monitor. I returned the SmallHD 501 and put myself on the waiting list of the SmallHD 702 Bright. Ideally I would have kept both but with an MSRP of $1499 for the 702 Bright my budget would not allow it. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I now have the SmallHD 702 Bright.
The SmallHD 702 bright is a stunning monitor, it has all the features of the SmallHD 502 with the added bonus of an extra 2 diagonal inches of viewable real estate. Not forgetting the 1000 nits, daylight viewable screen (twice that of the 500 series).
It also has extra battery options. The 500 series use the hugely popular Canon LP-E6N batteries (used with the Canon 5D,7D etc.). While the 702 can use a combination of Canon batteries along with the equally popular Sony L series batteries. The Sony batteries slide down to be seated at the bottom of the battery receiver plate whilst the Canon LP batteries flip around and slide up to the top of the receiver plate. You can use two Sony L’s or two Canons, you can even use one of each if you like:) You can also get a D-tap to Canon LP adapter to run from Anton Bauer and Sony V-mount batteries for even longer run times.
I won’t go into all of the features of this monitor there are many, but I will say it has everything you could need in a professional monitor. It has vectorscopes, histogram, waveforms, peaking, zebras, punch-in and much, much more. It also has the ability to have multiple screens with different options/tools for each. One nice feature is the ability to add LUTs by the way of an SD card to the monitor. Say you are shooting in a really flat, desaturated profile like Sony’s S-log or Panasonic’s V-log, you can have the monitor display the flat image with a LUT added (the same is true for the 500 series). I don’t know about you but I find shooting in S-log truly un-inspiring:) having the ability to see a somewhat graded image makes it much easier to use. It is certainly better for showing clients in the field. You also have the ability to take screen shots and save them to the SD card which can be used as color or continuity references at a later date.
Am I pleased with my purchase?
In a word…. Totally!, no regrets. The daylight viewable screen truly is ‘daylight viewable’, I was skeptical at first but it really is, (see the video) even with the sun directly on the monitor. Would view-ability be improved with a hood? Absolutely but you can definitely use it without. It does what it is supposed to do and more. The form factor is good, it’s reasonably compact for a 7″ monitor. The menu navigation is easy with just two controls, the clickable joystick and the back button. I love the fact that it is not a touch screen monitor. Sounds odd but with my experience with the Ninja Blade, once you have been using the touch screen for a while the screen gets covered in finger prints, which in turn reflects the light back to the user making the monitor even harder to see on a sunny day (even with a hood). It’s fine indoors but not out. I must be clear though, I am not out to bash the Ninja Blade it is a phenomenal monitor/recorder and worth every penny. I have used it since it’s release and love it for most applications. I wanted a quality monitor to compare the brightness of the SmallHD 702 bright and had I not returned the 501, I would have used it.
Which monitor to buy?
Undoubtably the size and weight of the 500 series monitors are better suited for gimbal use and they are arguably more proportionate with DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras, however, you really need a hood in direct sunlight. You also have the option to add a side-finder attachment to the 500 series of monitors which is not possible on the 702. The 702 is considerably heavier than the 500 series SmallHD, add in the additional weight of the bulkier Sony L batteries and it packs on the ounces. Having said that, the daylight viewable screen of the 702 bright is awesome, it’s a game changer for me. I am far more likely to use it on a regular basis if it is not a struggle to use and this one certainly is not. The ability to add considerable runtime with Sony’s L series batteries is both needed with it’s extra power consumption and appreciated. Check out the video you will see what I mean. If you are wondering how bright the 500 series monitors are, (manufacturer states they are 500nits), I would guesstimate they are somewhere between the Ninja Blade and the 702’s brightness. You definitely will need a hood with the 500’s on bright sunny days but they are totally useable. In fact I used one without a hood on a gimbal on a sunny day and it was perfect for composition purposes but you would need a hood for anything else.
There are a couple of monitors at the time of writing that are coming to the market place. Video Devices is making an external 4K recorder that has just been released. It costs less than the 702 monitor does (around $1395) but like I said my priority is the monitor and not the recorder. There is also a Blackmagic monitor which is about to be released that is a third of the cost of the 702 ($495) but again, no talk of daylight viewable. Ikan also recently joined in with an affordable monitor looks good but is yet to be released $550
Recommended Accessories :
I purchased the SmallHD screen protector and the neoprene bag although I have not used either yet.
A good quality ball head or monitor clamp is a must, I just purchased the Xtender friction mount 200 series and it is a great monitor mount, very well made. Much better than a ball head. You do not need two hands to adjust it, which is nice.
Canon Batteries or Sony L series batteries
HDMI cables. I use the thin HyperThin cables. If you are using the 702 Bright on a smaller camera like the Sony A7 series cameras or the GH4 I would reccomend using a cage or a rig on your camera. Although I have used the 702 on the hot-shoe mount of these cameras, I do not think it would take much of a knock to rip the hotshoe off the body. I may be wrong but I personally would not chance it.
I use the Varavon Zeus cage for my Sony A7Rii and I would highly recommend it.
I would also recommend a sunshade, SmallHD’s shade is very good for the 500 series. (at the time of writing the 702’s sunshade has not made it to marketplace, although I have it on backorder.)
Regrets: Only one: I wish I could afford to keep both the 501 and the 702 SmallHD monitors:).