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Review: Video Devices PIX E5H Recording Video Monitor

The Video Devices PIX E5H 5" LCD Monitor and 4K recorder offers a lot of capability--4K ProRes and H.264 dual recording, image assessment, and tools to assist with video shooting--in a small and rugged package.

The other significant realization is that the Pix E5 gets hot. I encountered 135°F on the metal exterior of the monitor, and that’s with the internal fan working to cool things off. The Pix E5’s performance never suffered from a thermal issue while recording in 90+ degree weather in the Texas summer, although the batteries seemed to run out faster as they too were heated up right next to the back of the monitor.

I may not have had to worry about the Pix, but I did have to worry about my own fingers. Outside, I wanted to grab the monitor to adjust the view, but applying my grip to the hot monitor quickly made me pull away. It gets too hot for me to handle it. The plastic-encased Atomos Shogun, was similarly hot on the screen, but the plastic case was never too hot to touch. Even though it relies on a touchscreen interface, it was never too hot to briefly touch the screen.

The Pix has tactile buttons on the bottom of the unit, but these turned out to be less useful than I expected. Not just because of the heat and the force required to press them, but because most of the image-assessment tools are unavailable during recording (Figure 10, below). So the only button you need to worry about while recording is the stop button. And, since they are all the same size and shape, you have to look at it to make sure you're pressing the right one, and if I have to look, I could just as well be looking for a virtual button on a touchscreen.

Figure 10. Most of the tools accessed through the Pix E5H touchscreen are not accessible during recording. Click the image to see it at full size.

The screen itself was not as bright as I thought it would be when used outdoors. It comes with a small hood that pops onto the Pix with magnets to hold it in place. But the greater issue is the reflectivity of the glass over the screen. Without a good coating to reduce reflectiveness, it's not so much the glare of sunlight hitting the screen, but reflectivity of you looking at the screen that's the issue (Figure 11, below). This makes it hard to see the audio meters, recording status, timecode, etc. outdoors in bright sunlight. This is where the Pix-LR would come in handy to make audio levels very easy to see, as well as recording status.

Figure 11. Glare and reflectivity are issues when shooting outside with the Pix E5H. Click the image to see it at full size.

I did really appreciate the ability to tap the screen to zoom in for focus, even during recording. My GH4 can't do that, but other cameras can, so your need for this feature depends on what your camera can or cannot do.

If you want to take a camera's SD card and use it in the Pix, the Pix will want to reformat it to exFAT before using it to avoid the FAT32 4GB file segmenting (Figure 12, below). So if you bounce your cards around between devices, be aware of that. The SpeedDrive also uses exFAT, but you're unlikely to use it anywhere else so that's not an issue.

Figure 12. Media reformatting warning. Click the image to see it at full size.

The footage provided by the Pix E5 in ProRes worked fine on both my PC and Mac. While PCs cannot export ProRes, they can open and edit ProRes files with Windows ProRes drivers provided by Apple (if you still use QuickTime on a PC). Also, some applications, like Adobe Premiere Pro, incorporate ProRes reading directly into the application if you do not have QuickTime on your PC. I did not test DNxHD functionality.

Playback on the Pix is easy (Figure 13, below), and you can still tap the screen to zoom in to the footage. You can use the menu knob like a jog/shuttle control to easily go back and forth in the footage, as slow as one frame at a time in jog mode. That's pretty slick. You can also use the image assessment tools on the recorded video. But do note that the Pix gets hot during playback too.

Figure 13. Playback on the Pix. Click the image to see it at full size.

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