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Review: SmallHD 502 FullHD On-Camera Monitor

As a compact on-camera monitor with usability more reminiscent of a smartphone than a monitor, the ability to use and customize multiple displays with scopes and diagnostic features, add LUTs, and mount virtually any way you desire to a DSLR cage, the SmallHD 502 is in a class by itself.

In this article we’ll look at the SmallHD 502 on-camera monitor ($1199). The kit that I received for review included a number of items: two wipes for the screen to keep it clean, a power adapter to charge the batteries, and a hot shoe adapter for mounting the monitor on top of a DSLR or some other hot shoe-compatible device like a cage. The hot shoe adapter has a ball on top so you can rotate it to fit any angle that you need to use it at. It also comes with a few cables: full-size HDMI and BNC, which you’ll need if you're using SDI connections. This monitor supports both.

The monitor also comes with two batteries. Each of these batteries can be used separately or together, and you'll probably recognize them as the standard Canon LPE6 used in a lot of devices these days. They are probably third-party batteries because they're branded as SmallHD; they do not have Canon's name on the label. The bundle includes a charger for these batteries, as mentioned before, and the monitor itself comes in a nice, cushiony neoprene bag.

Form Factor, Connectivity, and Mounting

The SmallHD 502 device itself is quite small, kind of like an oversized iPhone in an Otterbox--it's got this really durable rubberized case around it (Figure 1, below). On the back you'll find I/O for HDMI and SDI with BNC connections.

Figure 1. The SmallHD 502’s iPhone-like form factor

The SmallHD 502 has several threaded female connections for mounting in different ways. The SDI cable in particular is very thick; it has a nice, thick head on it to prevent cracking and tearing as you use it over time. It's got really good bend protection on the end. The full-size HDMI cable looks like a pretty standard HDMI cable to me.

Batteries

Batteries simply mount on the back and snap in (Figure 2, below). There's no actual button release for the batteries, so they're snapped in, but you can just snap them back out. That could be a detriment if the device gets bumped, battery could get knocked out fairly easily but not too easily.

Figure 2. The monitor uses two Canon LPE6-compatible batteries

The two Canon LPE6-compatible batteries are common in the professional and the prosumer lines of Canon cameras--anything from the 1D series all the way down to the 7D, 6D, and 5D uses these batteries.

There are a lot of third-party manufacturers that make these batteries now. I use them in my camera, and I've seen them in a lot of different devices that I've reviewed because they're small, inexpensive, and readily available, which means users don't get stuck with a proprietary battery. I can have these batteries out in the field with me, and if I'm using my Canon camera or something else that has them, I can just swap batteries between devices and be charging a few while I'm using a few, and then if one dies on one device I can pull it over to another more mission-critical device and put the other device on ice for a little bit if I need to.

Hot Shoe Mount

The hot shoe mount for this monitor (Figure 3, below) is really nice. It keeps it short, but it gives it some good versatility because of the ball head. You can mount it all the way to a 90-degree angle if you're, say, using a DSLR cage or some system like that; you could position it on the side and still have it mounted to where the operator can see it well.

Figure 3. The included hot shoe mount

You can also just have it mounted straight up. In my case, if I'm using it on my DSLR to shoot this video, I would just mount it on top of the hot shoe, and typically I would turn it around to face the same direction as the lens so that while I'm actually talking on camera, I can look at this and it works almost like a teleprompter because you can't really tell that I'm not looking directly into the lens.

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