Today it’s easy to shoot gorgeous video in HD and even 4K using your DSLR, mirrorless camera, or low-priced video cameras. But many of these cinema-worthy tools suffer from the same problem: small built-in screens. How can you shoot if you can’t see your subject? An on-camera monitor solves this problem. Used by enthusiasts and professionals alike, these screens attach to the camera via HDMI or SDI cables, and are larger, brighter, and sharper than the camera’s—but they’re light enough to keep things comfortable even without a tripod. The monitors also come packed with software to assist in focusing and setting exposure. What’s more, some of them can also record footage in formats better than those in with your camera—and that includes the industry-standard raw format. On-camera monitors are a cameraman’s best friend, and these Hollywood tools are accessible to anyone.
For the professional who wants all the bells and whistles. Amazon
The Atomos Shogun 7 is a powerhouse, with a 7-inch, 1920 x 1280 touch-screen that makes it easy to see small details. It provides a suite of scopes and software tools to help set exposure, pull focus, or apply different looks—known as LUTs—that help you see your footage as it’ll look after being color-corrected. The monitor supports resolutions up to DCI 4K at 60p, and up to 2K at 240p for slow-motion effects. More than just a monitor, the Shogun 7 records footage to 2.5-inch solid-state drives using AppleProRes Raw, ProRes 4:2:2, CinemaDMG, and Avid DNxHD codecs. For those shooting in high-dynamic range formats like Sony’s SLog3, Canon’s CLog, or Blackmagic Cinema, the Shogun 7’s AtomHDR display produces more accurate color and contrast. The monitor runs off a single Sony L-series battery, and dual battery plates support hot-swapping so you don’t have to interrupt your shoot. The monitor also has balanced XLR inputs with +48V phantom power in case your camera’s audio isn’t up to snuff.
When you need a professional monitor without the recording. Amazon
The monitors on many cameras suffer from poor performance in bright daylight. The SmallHD 702 solves this problem by delivering a whopping 1500 nits of brightness, which reduces the need for a sun shade when shooting outdoors. The seven-inch, 1920 x 1200 monitor is also 100-percent DCI-P3 color accurate—that’s something you’ll appreciate in post-production when you’re color-correcting your footage. The camera comes with custom scopes, waveforms, and other imaging tools, and features real-time, user-definable looks to help you achieve your creative vision. It has two 3G SDI inputs, HDMI/SDI cross-conversion, and is powered by convenient Sony L batteries.
Common SD cards provide a convenient storage solution. Amazon
Blackmagic Design’s Video Assist HDMI/6G-SDI Recorder is an affordable, compact system for monitoring and capturing HD footage. It features a five-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen, and can record up to 1080p in Apple’s industry-standard ProRes 4:2:2 codec. Nothing is worse than running out of recording media when you’re in the middle of a shoot, so it’s nice that the Blackmagic records to SD cards, which can be purchased at most big-box stores if you find yourself unexpectedly running low. The touch screen provides access to scopes, focus assist, audio meters, timecode, and many other tools. Dual slots accommodate lightweight, easy-to-find Canon LP-E6 batteries.
Lightweight, decent-sized screen. Amazon
With the Shinobi 4K HDMI monitor, Atomos provides an inexpensive, small-scale monitoring solution that still delivers all the tools found on their higher-end models. The five-inch, 4K display is razor-sharp, and the 1000-nit screen is bright enough to perform well in most daylight situations. Focus assist, false color, and an array of scopes help in composing the perfect shot, while a mirror-mode is a nice nod to bloggers. At seven ounces, the Shinobi sits comfortably on any camera and won’t weigh you down in the field.