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!