Small HD's 502 On-Camera Monitor

Having played with the Small HD 502 monitorin a limited capacity at NAB I was impressed enough to place an order.  Honestly, it was a bit of an impulse buy, but I was in need of a new on camera monitor.  I had been using the Marshall 6.5” Sunbrite over the last few years, but with a less then full HD resolution (1024 x 768) compared to the Small HD 502’s (1920x1080) and a panel that ghosts terribly in average to low light situations I was in desperate need of a replacement.  After all, what good is a monitor if you have to be completely still while shooting handheld to get focus.

With a shoot coming up on Monday April 27th, I placed my order on April 22 which guaranteed 2 day shipping for a Friday April 24th arrival.  As promised, the monitor arrived on Friday evening.  I quickly attached it to My Sony F55 through HDSDI port and powered it via a P-Tap to LP-E6 dummy battery

To my surprise absolutely no documentation is included with the monitor.  I guess Small HD is either trying to save trees, or they believe anyone who is smart enough to order a monitor online should also be smart enough to figure the monitor out.  I pressed what I assumed was the power button on the top left side of the monitor and nothing happened.  I thought to myself, perhaps you need to hold down the power button.  Still nothing.  I then tried the identical looking button on the top right corner of the monitor.  Still nothing.  I held both buttons down at the same time, nada… How about the button on the front of the monitor I said?  No dice.  My frustration began to grow as I was unsure if the monitor was bad, my power supply was bad, or if I was just too dumb to figure out how to turn the darn thing on!

Having not purchased any LP-E6 Batteries, I had to wait until Monday to take my monitor to a rental house to do a test to see where the issue lied.  All weekend, I assumed it was a bad power supply.  Unfortunately after I attached a pair of LP-E6 batteries to the back I quickly found out that my brand new monitor was in fact Dead on Arrival.  While this may be incredibly frustrating as I had a shoot coming up in 2hrs, I know this kind of thing does happen.  I once bought a brand new camera from Sony only to quickly realize the sensor was bad.  Sony fought with me for an entire month before they relented and admitted that the sensor was garbage.  Small HD on the other hand proved just how good customer service can be.  Finding their contact info via their website could not have been easier.  Within minutes, I had Joey from Small HD on the phone.  He was more than helpful and within and hour, he had a new monitor shipping overnight to me via UPS.

The monitor arrived at 10:30AM the next morning and I was able to use it on day 2 of my shoot.

The following are my gut reactions based on nearly 15 years of shooting experience coupled with one day of having the monitor in the field.

Pros:

  • Razor sharp
  • Light Weight
  • Sturdy build
  • Incredibly customizable
  • Small, yet large enough to get focus easily
  • Readily accessible pixel zoom
  • Great array of focus assist tools
  • Nice framing tools
  • Onscreen display for false color values

Cons:

  • Latency in image (a bit of a jutter as you pan across things.  It appears that the processing speed of the monitor may just be a bit slow)
  • No way to calibrate the monitor
  • No Blue Only
  • No Brightness Adjustment
  • No Color Adjustment
  • No Contrast Adjustment
  • No Tint Adjustment
  • Lack of documentation is incredibly frustrating

Unknowns:

  • Waveform &amp Vector-scope are not yet available
  • Screen-cap button is not yet available
  • Cross conversion from HDMI to SDI and vice versa is not yet available
  • 3D LUTS, I honesty can’t tell if they are functioning, it seems to require you loading them on to an SD and importing them

The Bottom line:  This is a super light-weight, tack sharp focus monitor which includes some nice exposure and framing control options.  In all honesty, if I had known before I placed my order, that there is no way to calibrate this monitor, I probably would not have purchased it.  However, the price is great and if Small HD delivers on firmware upgrades that include calibration controls, this monitor will be a steal.  Not to mention the sidefinder option, which will turn this bad boy into an eyepiece, should be available shortly.  I know for myself as well as a lot of shooters, having a two-in-one on-board monitor/eyepiece will be an incredible asset in the field.  For me, I love having a monitor for tripod work and an eyepiece for handheld.  Now you have one device that can do it all!



Johnny Derango adds the new Fujinon Cabrio 19-90 zoom lens to his package

I can remember my first conversation about Fujinon’s new 19-90 Cabrio zoom lens and it went something like this:

Johnny

No, seriously bro… I’m looking for a good Cine zoom.

Something like a DP Rouge, but with a better focal range.

This thing has a rocker zoom on it.  I’m not a reality shooter.

Ryan

Just listen to me for a minute.  This thing blows your CP.2’s away

in sharpness, it has an amazing range, 19-90 and the rocker comes off with

two screws. It is a TRUE Cine zoom.  I wouldn’t have bought it if it weren’t!

Johnny

Dude, it has a rocker zoom.

Ryan

Stop being a bitchy little feature DP for a minute and listen to me.

I’m telling you this thing blows your lenses away and

is a serious Cine zoom.

Johnny

How are the witness markings, pull of the lens and stop?

Ryan

Great witness markings, the pull is super smooth and it’s a 2.9

all the way through.

Johnny

Alright, alright, I’ll give it a look.  When can I come check it out…

Are you sure that rocker comes off?!

 

 

Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant to try a lens that was calling itself a Cine Zoom, but had a rocker zoom on it.  After all, I’m not as reality shooter, what use would I have for a rocker zoom?

As Director of Photography, I always strive to create the most striking images possible.  A lot of what makes up these images is the vision I have in my mind, but without the right tools, those beautiful images may never become reality.  Throughout my twelve-year career as a DP many vendors have created cameras, lenses and AKS they claim will help you to better achieve your vision.  For me, a lot of the times these promises of revolutionary new gear fall flat.

It’s so easy as a DP to say, “well, I'll just have production rent the gear there is no reason to spend my own money on it and rent it, it’s just too big of a risk.”  I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I’ve been genuinely excited about adding a new product to my own shooting package.  After all, incurring the expense that comes along with it can be a scary proposition.  For me to want to buy a piece of gear, I need to know that it will accomplish several things:

1. It needs to be better than its competitions similarly priced products.

2. It needs to provide an extended duration of use (5+ years).

3. It needs to be able to have a return on investment in 3 years or less.

These are just a few of the reasons why I have chosen to add Fujinon's new 19-90 Cabrio lightweight zoom lens to my personal shooting package.

Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio

I first came across the Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio when I was called to shoot a short teaser for the upcoming feature film Bullrider written & directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf and starring Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama).  I was put in a scenario where I would be shooting with my Sony F3 handheld in a run 'n gun fashion with very little time to light or maneuver.  I owned a set of Zeiss CP.2 prime lenses, but realized right away that prime lenses would never work for this particular project.  I was going to be shooting Josh on a Ranch riding horses and mixing in amongst bull-riders and bulls.  This complex environment made it imperative that I had a lightweight zoom with the widest focal range possible.  I needed to be able to grab the action when it came in close to me, have a decent reach on the telephoto end and have enough stop for late in the day  when the sunlight began to slip away.

 

That’s when my conversation with Ryan Beardsley of Lightstone Rentals came back to me.  A fast lightweight zoom with a solid stop that I could use in a reality TV type configuration but deliver feature quality images with…  The last thing I wanted to do was admit that my friend Ryan may be right, but it took about two minutes before I was on the phone with him checking on the 19-90’s availability.  The first thing I noticed about the lens was it's weight.  It's remarkably light for a zoom of this range but still has a solidness to it that is undeniable.  The pull in the focus ring reminds me more of an ENG style lens than say my CP.2's but it is smooth and solid if not a little light.  The witness markings are done in an incredible phosphorescent paint that makes pulling on the lens a breeze in dark environments.  All in all I was wowed.

 

Being alone with no first AC or camera support team I had to come up with a camera configuration that made the most sense.  This is when I turned to my good friends at Redrock Micro.  Redrock Micro is often my first call when a new challenge arises as they provide support like few other companies I know.  I laid out the situation for them and within an hour or so, we had put together a handheld rig that I truly feel that I could have gone to war with!  We built a pretty basic handheld rig with 24” Steel rods, a lens support, handgrips and Redrock’s amazing new shoulder pad.  Sounds pretty standard right?  That’s when we made a few really exciting tweaks.  We took Redrock's new wireless follow focus system and hard wired a thumb roller into it, that we then placed on the left handgrip of my rig.  We added a weight plate but we replaced the weights with an Anton Bauer plate and battery which would power the wireless follow focus and counterweight the lens.  I was then able to very comfortably shoulder the well balanced handheld rig, while keeping my left hand on the handgrip with the thumb roller focus unit and my right hand up through, yes, you guessed it, the ROCKER ZOOM!.  I shot in this configuration for three days and let me just say, without the rig that Redrock helped me build, I don’t have any idea how I would have gotten through it!

 

Here are some stills pulled directly from the Bullrider footage.  All stills are screen grabs and no color timing or manipulation of any kind has taken place.  I was using Able Cine's AB range picture profile on the camera, which accounts for a bit of the "flatter" look.  I tried to put Josh’s back to the sun whenever I could and I tried not to lose detail in the sky.  Nothing says low budget to me more than blown out backgrounds and poor composition.  As you can see from the photos, I was pretty successful in crafting high quality images in a run ‘n gun situation from a Cine Zoom lens that just so happens to have a rocker zoom on it!  Who would have thought?

Josh Lucas walks down a lonely road in the teaser for “Bullrider”

 

Director Bethany Aston Wolf and Cinematographer Johnny Derango line up a shot of Josh Lucas.

 

Josh Lucas sits atop a gate and watches as riders emerge from the chute.

 

Josh Lucas stares across the ranch as he reflects on his life.

As you can see from this still the lens flares incredibly easily.  In this particular situation the flares worked wonderfully for the story.  In many other situations, I would make my camera team aware of the lenses susceptibility to flaring and take appropriate actions.

 

Josh Lucas watches new riders emerge from the chute in Bullrider.

 

Cinematographer Johnny Derango captures Josh Lucas mounting a bull with Fujinon's Cabrio 19-90.

 

Josh Lucas reflects on the sins of a previous life.

In possibly my favorite shot from the shoot, Josh stands in the corral back-lit by the sun.  You can really see the sharpness and contrast of this lens despite using a picture profile that was designed to flatten the image out.

 

Director Bethany Ashton Wolf and Cinematographer Johnny Derango line up a shot.

After the incredible experience I had using the lens on the teaser, I brought it on to my next job which was a series of five comedy spots for Clorox through "The Onion."  (Be warned they are only posted in a resolution of 360P)  Needless to say my experience the second time around was just as great.

For those DP's out there that are truly looking for a versatile lens, I can't recommend the Fujinon 19-90 highly enough.  I am now using it on Features, Commercials and to my surprise, run 'n gun corporate gigs where I have really upped the look of the overall product.  For as close to an all in one lens as I think you can get, the Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio is where it's at!

*Just a note, the Fujinon 19-90 Cabrio can be powered from and communicate with Sony Cameras such as the F3, F5, and F55.  This makes using the lens on these cameras a dream!