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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.

Menu and Functionality

Now let's take a look at the menu and the functionality of it as a monitor. The display can be manipulated in seemingly endless ways. I keep finding new things every time I use it. Pushing down on the low-profile joystick shown in Figure 4 (below) brings up all of your different options that you have set up for display.

Figure 4. Push down on this joystick to access display options.

You can see in Figure 5 (below) how many options are available. You can keep adding them and you can customize each one.

Figure 5. Display options

Scrolling all the way to the left gets you to your settings, of which there are many (Figure 6, below). You've got everything from simple headphone control for your volume, to your backlit brightness, image rotation. Another nice thing about this monitor is you can flip it and it'll rotate automatically. You’ve also got anamorphic options and scaling settings for two different DSLR models, the 5D Mark II and 7D.

Figure 6. Apply settings here. Click the image to see it at full size.

You can also set input and output options for your HDMI and HD-SDI outputs and inputs. The monitor does have all 4 ports on the back, and that's for going downstream to another monitor, which I'll come back to in a minute when we talk about the LUTs.

For capture (also accessed in the Monitor Settings menu), you can take a screen image of what you've got on the screen at any given time, and the SmallHD 502 will store it on an SD card to pull off later. You also have a few other options that you might find useful like having different profiles for different users, you've got a calibration and you've got a firmware update, and then, of course, you have the option of resetting it to factory settings, just as with any good device.

Using LUTs

You can use LUTs with this monitor, which is a huge feature. The LUTs can be brought in with the SD slot. You just load your LUT onto there.

This has multiple advantages. Let's say you have a customer that you're shooting a commercial for, and they can't visualize what the final product is going to be because you're shooting in raw and you've got this really flat image on the screen. Thanks to the LUT support on the SmallHD 502, you could put your SD card into the slot on the top of the unit, and you can have a LUT that you're going to use for their particular project already loaded on there. Bring that LUT up, have it used on your display while you're shooting, and your client can then see basically what their final product's going to look like. They're happy, you're happy, everyone's happy--except for your camera operator because he wants to see the Raw image. There's a reason he shoots in Raw; he doesn't want to see all that bleach-bypass nonsense on there. He wants to see the image without it. No problem; you can send the LUT downstream to a second monitor, or you can have it on this one, or you could have it on both or neither. It is very versatile, and it's a great feature to be able to have for picky clients who can't visualize.

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