10 Best Budget External Camera Monitor For Video [Buyer’s Guide]

DISCLOSURE: AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU, I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES. AFFILIATE LINKS ARE MARKED WITH #ad. "I" IN THIS CASE MEANS THE OWNER OF FILMDAFT.COM. PLEASE READ THE FULL DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

In this article, you can see the best external monitors for video recording on the market today.

If this is the first time you’re buying a monitor or want to brush up on your knowledge, I recommend you read the thorough guide after all the top picks of the monitor jungle before making your final decision.

Because at the end of the day, while one monitor might suit one person, it might not be the right choice for another.

If you’re ready to jump in, keep reading ten of the best camera monitors for video content creators in 2022.

1. Portkeys BM5 III WR 5.5″ 2200 nits Touchscreen Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B081Z26BY5&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 5.5″ LCD screen
  • 1920*1080 FullHD resolution
  • 2200nit brightness
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Wide viewing angle of 178°H/178°V
  • Touch screen
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, etc.)
  • HDR support (HLG)
  • Wireless connectivity (2.4Ghz) with camera control for selected cameras
  • Wired camera control port
  • SDI/HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • LUT support
  • Lightweight: 376g
  • Aluminum Alloy chassis and tempered glass

The first on-camera monitor on our list comes from Portkey and packs many nice features.

The Portkeys BM5 III is a budget-friendly 5.5″-inch display with a FullHD 1080 p resolution.

It has a brightness of 2200 nits and a contrast ratio of 1000:1, giving you a clear image, and it is a perfect choice for shooting in bright sunlight.

The monitor features HDMI and SDI ports and is compatible with many cameras.

Extra features include wireless control for Wireless control RED Raptor 8K, RED KOMODO, BMPCC4K/6K/6K Pro, Panasonic BGH1, and Z CAM E2.

Notice, however, that you need to purchase the optional PORTKEYS BT1 Bluetooth Module separately to work with the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cameras!

On the KOMODO, Panasonic Lumix BGH1, and the Z CAM E2 you can control the focus wirelessly via the touch screen.

The camera control port lets you similarly control many cameras from the screen via a cable.

The BM5 III is also compatible with the Tilta Nucleus N/M Follow Focus for easy focus pulling.

Although this screen is relatively small, it can show a wide range of details to improve your visual experience while filming. You can use the numerous tools available, such as vector scope, RGB waveform, brightness waveform, RGB histogram, ARRI False Color mode, and brightness histogram.

The SDI output can superimpose a 3DLUT in real time so you can send an idea of the final look to a bigger screen for the director.

This monitor is made from aluminum alloy and tempered glass for good build quality.

When it comes to weight, this device weighs just 376 grams thanks to its small display size, so your hand won’t get tired that easily when filming.

Pros

  • High brightness of 2200 nits
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Wireless + wired connectivity options
  • Control many different cameras directly from the screen
  • Touch screen
  • 10bit color depth
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Need a big battery (like Sony NP-F970) to run a full brightness for more than an hour
  • The many features make it less beginner-friendly
  • Expensive

Check the current price on Amazon

2. Feelworld FW279 7-inch 4k HDMI Ultra-Bright 2200nit Daylight Viewable Field Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07KXN3QRB&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 7″ screen
  • IPS display
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • 1920*1080 FullHD resolution
  • 2200nit brightness
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, etc.)
  • SDI/HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • Lightweight: 370g

If you’re looking for a large screen, check out the Feelworld FW 279 on-camera monitor.

This 7″ monitor supports 4K input and has a 1920*1200 resolution.

The aspect ratio is 16:10, the 323 pixels-per-inch (PPI), and the brightness level is 2200 nits, making this screen sharp and bright and suitable for outdoor filming.

The monitor comes with HDMI in/out, and you can connect 4K HDMI cameras and DSLRs. It has a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and a built-in speaker for easy sound monitoring.

The screen isn’t a touchscreen. Instead, you can set two manual button shortcuts for features such as focus assist, histogram, false colors, exposure, aspect ratio (it even has anamorphic modes), zoom, safe area, etc.

Again, you’ll have to buy the battery separately regarding power options. The monitor works with an F970 Series Battery, but you can also choose other battery plate options.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • 16:9 IPS display
  • High brightness of 2200 nits
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Easy-to-control menu system
  • Thin and lightweight design

Cons

  • Need a big battery (like Sony NP-F970) to run a full brightness for more than an hour
  • No Touch Screen
  • Only 8-bit color support
  • No LUT support

Check the current price on Amazon.

3. SmallHD Indie 7

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B08KSDRH9T&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 7,02″ IPS screen
  • 1920*1200 FullHD resolution
  • 1000nit brightness
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Wide viewing angle of 160°H
  • Touch screen
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, etc.)
  • 10-bit color
  • HDR support (HLG)
  • Wireless connectivity (2.4Ghz) with camera control for selected cameras
  • Wired camera control port
  • SDI/HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • LUT support
  • Weight: 737g
  • Aluminum Alloy chassis

The SmallHD Indie 7 is an excellent monitor from SmallHD. SmallHD has the best and most intuitive menu system among all the monitors.

The SmallHD Indie 7 is one of the more expensive options on this list, but you get what you pay for.

The Indie 7 is the slimmed-down version of the 702 Touch further down on this list because it is 1000 nits instead of 1500 nits. It also has room for only one battery instead of two.

However, because it is 1000nits, you can run it for a long time on a single battery, especially if you get a large-capacity battery like the Sony NP-F97.

You can buy the optional Gold mount or V-mount battery plates to mount even bigger batteries if that’s not enough.

The quality is top-notch, with a 7″ IPS display with a 16:10 aspect ratio of 1980*1200 pixels.

Of course, you get all the tools you need for checking your image and anamorphic de-squeeze.

LUTs can be imported via SD Card or USB.

The SmallHD Indie 7 is one of the best monitors at this price point, but it’s one of the more expensive options on this list.

Pros

  • 16:10 IPS display
  • High brightness of 1000 nits
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Touch screen
  • Pixel zoom: 2x and 4x with pinch-zoom
  • HDR Support
  • Best menu system in the business
  • HDMI and SDI ports
  • Slim design
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Medium-heavy at 737 g (26 oz)

Check the current price on Amazon.

4. Feelworld F570 5.7″ IPS Full HD On-Camera Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B0768B36BW&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 5.7″ screen
  • IPS display
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 1920*1080 FullHD resolution
  • 460nit brightness
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, anamorphic de-squeeze, etc.)
  • HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • Lightweight: 310g

Our list continues with another excellent monitor from Feelworld, an excellent choice for beginner filmmakers on a tight budget.

The Feelworld F570 has a 5.7-inch display that accepts 4K input and has a Full HD resolution of 1920*1080 pixels. However, it doesn’t support pixel-to-pixel zooming for 4K video.

The panel is an IPS one that allows 170-degree viewing, which is impressive. This means that you’ll see crystal-clear and vivid images

The panel has a contrast ratio of 1400:1 and a maximum brightness of 460nits. A sunshade is included for shooting in bright daylight, but I say this is still a monitor that is best for indoors.

This monitor includes numerous image features and options such as histogram, image freeze, peaking filter, checking the filter, image flip, and more.

The hot shoe mount and 1/4″ mount allow you to safely attach this monitor to DLSR cameras, handheld stabilizers, or tripods and stands.

The flexible battery system allows you to use different rechargeable batteries, such as LP-E6 and U60. However, you can also run this unit on the 12V DC input port without worrying about batteries.

On top of that, this monitor is less than 2 centimeters thick, so it’s easy to manipulate and doesn’t weigh a lot. Many filmmakers love to work with this device because it’s not cumbersome, even when shooting handheld.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Lightweight option
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Not very bright
  • No touch screen
  • No SDI
  • No pixel-to-pixel zoom support in 4K

Check the current price on Amazon

5. Atomos Ninja V 5″ Touchscreen Recording Monitor – RECORDER

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07C2QQGM3&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 5″ screen
  • IPS panel
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 1920*1080 FullHD resolution
  • 1000 nits brightness
  • Touch Screen
  • Great codecs (ProRes 422, HQ, LT, RAW, RAW HQ 8/10-Bit)
  • LOG support
  • LUT support
  • Pre-Roll Recording (2 seconds in 4K and 8 seconds in FullHD)
  • 8-bit+Frame Rate Control (FRC) color depth
  • HDR10, HLG support
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, etc.)
  • HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • Single Slot: SSDmini/SSD with Master Caddy II/III
  • Battery Plate included (Sony NP-F or Canon LP-E 6 battery supported)
  • Can be controlled via the AtomRemote App (iOS only)
  • Optional 12G-SDI module available
  • Lightweight: 360 g (12,5 oz)

Our first external recorder on this list is the Atomos Ninja V, an awesome little monitor. This is a great option for cameras that don’t record ProRes or RAW internally.

This external monitor can add ProRes and RAW format to the Sony A series (fx A7S III) and Sony FX series (fx FX6) or Panasonic Lumix cameras over HDMI for the best possible picture quality.

It has a great 16:9 touch screen with 427 pixels-per-inch (PPI) and a brightness of 1000 nits, which is good enough for most outdoor recording except for very bright sunlight.

If you’re going to the desert or something, you’ll need a sun hood like this inexpensive one from SmallRig.

The Ninja V can record up to 4Kp60 10-bit HDR video direct from your camera’s sensor over HDMI 2.0. In other words, it will bypass your camera’s internal compression codecs and record time limits (if any).

The monitor display supports 10-bit color by simulating for viewing HDR by using FRC (see the guide below).

It comes with good codecs such as ProRes HQ 4:2:2 and DNxHR HQX.

The Ninja V supports recording DCI or UHD 4K at rates up to 60 fps, including true 24 fps for a more cinematic aesthetic.

Of course, the Ninja V comes with all the tools you need for monitoring your image, like LUMA waveform, RGB parade, vectorscope, focus peaking, zebras, false color, etc.

And you can import LUTs and monitor your audio as well.

The Ninja V supports many different log formats (e.g., Slog, Arri Log, Clog, Vlog, and Red Logfilm) and HDR Monitoring formats (gamma & gamut) from Sony, Arri, Panasonic, etc.

If you want, you can even record your video games in 4Kp60 or HDp240. So if you run a YouTube gaming channel, this is also a great choice.

It has HDMI in/out, a line-in, a mic-in, and a headphone out for audio. But you can get an optional SDI module if you need it.

I particularly like the Ninja V because it is a high-quality external recorder but isn’t big and bulky. The 1″ body is made from aluminum, weighs just 11oz (320g), and easily attaches to any camera rig.

You can record to both normal SSD drives and mini-SSDs, and 1TB will give you approximately 150 minutes of 4K footage. You can even record preroll.

I also like that you can edit directly from the SSD. You don’t have to transfer your files from your SD cards to your computer. Because you’re recording to an SSD in the first place, you can read from that and start editing right away.

For the most compact and lightweight option, you’d want to use the AtomX SSDminis.

Pros

  • Great codecs!
  • Pre-roll recording
  • 5″ IPS screen
  • Brightness of 1000 nits
  • Wide viewing angle
  • 8-bit+Frame Rate Control (FRC) color depth
  • HDR10, HLG support
  • LUT support
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, etc.)
  • Touch screen
  • Good build quality (Aluminum)

Cons

  • Need a big battery (like Sony NP-F970) to run a full brightness for more than an hour
  • The many features make it less beginner-friendly
  • More expensive than a similar-sized monitor

Check the current price on Amazon

6. Atomos Shinobi 5″ Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07N7LHJ6V&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 5.2″ IPS screen
  • 1920*1080 FullHD resolution
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 1000 nits brightness
  • Wide viewing angle of 170 degrees
  • All the tools you need for framing and checking your image, including anamorphic de-squeeze
  • HDMI ports
  • 10-bit color support
  • AtomHDR for LOG support
  • Headphone Output
  • Battery Plate included (Sony NP-F or Canon LP-E 6 battery supported)
  • Lightweight: 196 g (8.5 oz)

If you don’t need the recording option of the Ninja V, but still want the Atomos menu system and great screen, then the cheaper Atomos Shinobi 5″ is for you.

The Shinobi is an excellent and lightweight monitor with all the tools you need in an inexpensive package.

The 5-inch IPS display has a 1920*1080 resolution and is plenty bright at 1000 nits, although you might want to get a sun hood if you’re shooting in bright sunlight.

The monitor has a touch screen, but Atomos has managed to keep the weight at only 196 g, which is impressive. This makes it a breeze to have the Shinobi mounted on your camera or a gimbal.

Even though this is the entry-level monitor from Atomos, it’s still a high end screen at an affordable price point.

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Inexpensive
  • Wide viewing angle
  • 1000 nits
  • Touch Screen
  • 10-bit colors
  • Thin and Lightweight option
  • Support for Sony L-series batteries
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • No SDI

Check the current price on Amazon

7. SmallHD 702 Touch 7″ On-Camera LCD Touchscreen Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07RHQHSKR&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 7″ IPS screen
  • 1920*1200 FullHD resolution
  • 1500nit brightness
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Wide viewing angle of 179°H
  • Touch screen
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, audio meters, etc.)
  • HDR support (HLG)
  • Wired camera control port
  • SDI/HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • LUT support
  • Interchangeable battery plates (ships with dual L-series battery plate)
  • Optional camera control kit available for RED DSMC2 and KOMODO cameras
  • Weight: 536g
  • Aluminum Alloy chassis

The SmallHD 702 Touch is a 7″ monitor with a brightness of 1500nits which is plenty for most filming outside (except for the most extreme circumstances).

The highly responsive 16:10 touchscreen has a resolution of 1920×1080 and a full DCI-P3 color gamut for accurate color rendition.

Like other SmallHD monitors is a high-quality built monitor. It is made from a solid block of aircraft-grade aluminum, and the screen is from hardened glass and a screen protector that reduces glare.

It has all the professional tools you need for video production, like false color, focus peaking, pixel-to-pixel zoom, RGB Parade, waveform, and even anamorphic de-squeeze.

It comes with one SDI input, one SDI input/output, one HDMI input, and one HDMI output. It also supports HDMI/SDI cross-conversion.

And it also has an SD card slot, a headphone output, and a micro-USB slot.

It can be powered by 6 to 16.8 VDC or batteries and has an interchangeable mount, if you don’t prefer the Sony L-series mount, it comes as standard.

Despite being a 7″ inch monitor, it is still slim and light-weight. It is only 1.29″ (3.28cm) thick and weighs 18.0 oz (535.81g).

In short, this 7″ monitor offers a lot of bang for the buck, but it’s also one of the most expensive in this price range of smaller monitors for professional video production.

I use this particular one with the camera control kit with my RED KOMODO camera.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Best in the business user interface
  • Bright screen at 1500 nits
  • Touch screen
  • Wide viewing angle
  • SDI/HDMI ports
  • Thin and Lightweight option
  • Interchangeable battery plate
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Expensive

Check the current price on Amazon

8. Blackmagic Design Video Assist 12G Portable All-in-One HDR Monitor – RECORDER

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07XZLMY6V&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 7″ TFT screen
  • 1920*1200 FullHD resolution
  • 2500nit brightness
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Wide viewing angle of 179°H
  • Touch screen
  • All the tools you need for monitoring (histogram, waveform, pixel-to-pixel, frame guides, anamorphic de-squeeze, audio meters, etc.)
  • HDR support (HLG)
  • 10-Bit 4:2:2 ProRes and DNxHD recording
  • Blackmagic Raw recording for selected cameras
  • Dual UHS-II slots for recording to SDXC/HC cards
  • 12G SDI / HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • mini-XLR inputs with 48V phantom power
  • LUT support
  • Interchangeable battery plates (ships with dual L-series battery plate)
  • Optional camera control kit available for RED DSMC2 and KOMODO cameras
  • Weight: 825 g (29.1 oz)
  • Aluminum Alloy chassis

The Blackmagic Design Video Assist 7″ 12G Portable All-in-One HDR Monitor is a high-end external recorder with a reasonable price.

Because it’s an HDR monitor, it supports 10-bit 4:2:2 color and can record in high-quality ProRes HQ or DNxHR formats.

The responsive touchscreen is extremely bright with 2500nits and usable outdoors in intense sunlight.

It comes with dual UHS-II SD card slots, but you can also record external SSDs if you prefer. And if you use an SSD, you can – like with the Atomos Ninja V above – edit directly from the monitor, which is great – especially if you’re traveling a lot with a laptop.

The monitor supports both SDI and HDMI and will record in HD, 2K, 4K UHD, and even 4K DCI. You even get two mini XLR connections with 48V phantom power for high-quality audio recording, which is nice!

And, of course, it has all the professional scopes you need for monitoring, like waveform, RGB parade, vector scope, and histogram.

You can use an external 12V power supply, which is also compatible with 2 x Sony NP-F style batteries (not included).

Pros

  • Great codecs (ProRes and BRAW)
  • Bright screen at 2500 nits
  • Touch screen
  • Wide viewing angle
  • SDI/HDMI ports
  • mini-XLR inputs (although I had preferred full-sized XLR inputs)
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Check the current price on Amazon

9. Lilliput A7S 7″ Full HD Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B074SGNC2X&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 7″ IPS screen
  • 1920*1200 FullHD resolution
  • 16:10 aspect ratio
  • 500 nits brightness
  • Wide viewing angle of 170 degrees
  • All the tools you need for framing and checking your image (but no anamorphic de-squeeze!)
  • HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • Silicone rubber case with sun shade included
  • Battery Plate included (Sony NP-F or Canon LP-E 6 battery supported)
  • Lightweight: 320 g (8.5 oz)

The next monitor is the Lilliput A 7 S 7″ monitor. It’s the entry-level model from Lilliput.

Despite being lightweight, the monitor packs incredible features in terms of tools for monitoring your recording. Notice, however, that it doesn’t support anamorphic de-squeeze.

The 7-inch IPS display has a 1920*1200 resolution for those wide cinematic views. But unfortunately, it only has a brightness of 500 nits, which makes it best suitable for studio work inside or for shooting outside at night.

The monitor also doesn’t have a touch screen, which helps keep the price and weight down. Not having a touch screen isn’t necessarily bad since you won’t get greasy finger marks all over your screen.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Silicone rubber case with sun hood included for extra protection
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Thin and Lightweight option
  • Support for both Sony and Canon batteries
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Only 500 nits
  • No LUT support
  • No touch screen
  • No SDI
  • No anamorphic de-squeeze

Check the current price on Amazon

10. SmallHD Action 5″ On-Camera IPS Touchscreen Monitor

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B09VRNHJCH&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=filmdaft 20&language=en US

Key features:

  • 5.5″ screen
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 1920*1080 FullHD resolution
  • 2000 nits brightness
  • Touch Screen
  • Frame guides, false color, focus peaking, and LUT support.
  • HDMI ports
  • Headphone Output
  • Battery Plate included (Sony NP-F or Canon LP-E 6 battery supported)
  • Lightweight: 241 g (8.5 oz)

The next monitor is the SmallHD Action 5.5” on-camera monitor. It’s the entry-level model from SmallHD.

It’s the next generation of the extremely popular SmallHD Focus. And while it is an improvement on some points (especially brightness), SmallHD has made some sacrifices as well, which I’ll get back to.

Despite its small size and lightweight, the monitor packs incredible features.

The 5.5-inch display has a 1920*1080 resolution and a brightness of 2000 nits, which makes it easy to shoot outside in bright daylight.

The monitor features an excellent touchscreen and the user-friendly interface you’ve come to expect from Small HD, securing unparalleled ease of use.

The monitors also let you upload 3D LUTs for real-time color-grade viewing while you record.

The monitor attaches to a DSLR or mirrorless camera using the cold shoe mounting bracket and supports HDMI connectivity.

In the package, you’ll also find a tilting arm that lets you incline, rotate or twist the monitor in various ways during the filmmaking process.

There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack for listening to audio while filming and a Sony-compatible battery plate.

This model works with Sony NP-F and Canon LP-E6 Series batteries, which must be bought separately. Still, you can get several bundles and a dummy battery (e.g., for Blackmagic Pocket, Sony, Canon, or Panasonic cameras) which can power both the monitor and cameras.

To keep the monitor at an entry-level price point, SmallHD has sacrificed the SD-card slot. But they’ve also sacrificed in-built tools such as histogram, waveform, and anamorphic de-squeeze.

All isn’t lost, though; you can simply send the histogram and waveform from your camera to the monitor. However, I wouldn’t buy this monitor if your camera doesn’t support these features.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Very user-friendly for beginners
  • Bright screen at 2000 nits
  • Touch screen
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Thin and Lightweight option
  • Support for both Sony and Canon batteries
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • No Histogram, waveform, or anamorphic de-squeeze
  • No SDI

Check the current price on Amazon


external monitors
A couple of my older camera monitors on Panasonic cameras.

Guide: How to choose the right camera monitor

Most prosumer video cameras have a screen for viewing what’s in your frame. However, the standard DSLR cameras, mirrorless, and camcorder screens aren’t very big.

Also, the screen on your camera might be unable to flip and turn so that you view your frame if you’re standing in front of the camera, which is not very good for vlogging or setting up lights.

And lastly, it might not be powerful enough to show you your picture if you’re filming outside in the field under the bright midday sun.

To combat these faults, professional videographers use an external monitor. An external monitor acts like an external viewfinder – or electronic viewfinder for your camera but gives you a much larger screen making it easier to achieve better results.

An external camera screen offers a higher screen resolution and helps you see finer details when filming. This makes it easy to create the best video quality possible.

They are more powerful in terms of brightness than your normal screen and more suitable for a sun hood, so you can see what you’re shooting if you’re filming outside.

External monitors can also display a range of tools and scopes, such as zebra patterning, histograms, focus peaking, waveforms, and true colors, which might not be available in your video camera. And more expensive options even have their own SSD storage and codecs (such as ProRes and RAW) installed.

So I’ve created this guide for you, explaining what you should look for when buying your first external screen.

All external monitors come with different specifications and features at varying price points.

Here’s a breakdown of the most important features you need to know about when buying an external monitor for video production.

Important factors to look for

The quality of the display is the most important aspect you need to pay attention to.

After all, when it comes down to it, an external monitor only has one job: to represent what you’re capturing in the best possible way.

Regarding monitors, here are some specific things to look out for.

External monitor vs. external recorder

The first thing to consider is if you need an external monitor or recorder. External recorders are monitors, but they come with additional features that aren’t found on external monitors.

External recorders come with extra storage space. Fx external recorders can have extra card slots and even the possibility to install an SSD disk to record hours of footage with high-quality codecs.

Speaking of codecs, that’s the other major advantage of having an external recorder. They offer high-quality codecs and frame rates that are impossible to achieve in-camera.

Fx many cameras don’t offer you to record Apple ProRes RAW internally, but only through HDMI or SDI to an external monitor recorder. This is especially true for a lot of mirrorless hybrid cameras.

So if ProRes RAW for maximum color grading and flexibility in post-production is important to you, and your camera doesn’t support this internally, then you need to buy an external recorder and NOT an external monitor.

The Atomos Ninja V, for instance, offers 4K capture at 60 fps and can record in ProRes HQ 4:2:2 or DNxHR. You can also record in 10-bit color space and capture log footage.

However, external recorders are often bulkier, heavier, and more expensive. So if your camera already has good codecs and a good storage solution such as dual slots for SD cards, then an external monitor can be the better solution.

Some external monitors like the Atomos Ninja V also function as a recorder and give you more storage space and sometimes even better codecs than in-camera.

Screen size

Monitor displays come in different sizes, ranging from about 5 inches to 7 or even more.

A larger screen lets you see what you’re looking at in more detail while filming, making it easier to see if you’ve nailed that focus.

Moreover, a larger display will also let you access the functions of your monitor easier, especially if you have “fat thumbs.”

Remember that if you mount your monitor on your camera, the monitor’s size and weight matter.

For example, if you’re shooting handheld, a larger 7” monitor will make your rig heavier and more difficult to balance than a 5” screen.

You can get even larger monitors, aka field monitors, but if you mount the monitor on your DSLR or camcorder, buying a 19” external monitor doesn’t make sense. Those beasts are mostly used for studio work or larger-scale productions.

Display resolution

Another important aspect related to the display is its resolution.

Higher display resolutions let you see your video in higher resolutions. And many high-quality monitors come with a full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels, a.k.a. 1080p resolution).

Higher resolution 4K displays are still rare. You don’t need a monitor with a 4K resolution to play back 4K footage because there’s a good chance that your camera will also provide a downscaled 1080p version through HDMI.

Scaling the footage can introduce some artifacts that may become obvious when you replay the footage on your monitor.

Luckily, many on-camera monitors provide a 1:1 pixel mode, letting you zoom in and view part of the frame at full resolution without any artifacts.

Display technology

The display technology of external monitors varies. Some monitors feature an IPS display, while others use an LCD, LED (or a combination of both!), or an OLED.

Each technology has pros and cons, but IPS, a combination of LCD/LED or OLED, is a good thing to look out for.

Technologies like OLED and IPS let you enjoy a wide viewing angle without altering the image quality.

The also offers better contrast and deeper blacks than, let’s say, a monitor using a simple LCD screen.

Contrast ratio

The contrast is a measurement of the ratio of the luminance of the brightest white and the deepest, darkest black that the monitor can produce. It is often written as, e.g., 1,000:1.

Don’t get fooled by the sometimes outrageous claims made by the manufacturers of monitors when it comes to contrast.

There are two different ways to measure contrast: static and dynamic.

The static contrast ratio measures the distance between the darkest blacks and the brightest whites the monitor can produce at a given brightness.

For example, if you’re shooting indoors, you might have turned your brightness down to 50%, but when you shoot outside in the bright sun, you have the brightness set up to 100%.

The static contrast ratio will most likely be different at each brightness level.

Dynamic contrast ratio, however, is measured as the darkest blacks and brightest whites at different brightness levels. So, in essence, the manufacturer can set the monitor brightness level to 1% where everything is dark and measure the blacks. And then, turn the brightness level up to 100% to measure the whites.

Naturally, this will give a much higher ratio, but it will not be what you can see on your screen at any given time.

But because of this, manufacturers often use the dynamic contrast ratio in their marketing material because it sounds much more impressive to claim that a monitor has a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 than 1,000:1.

In short, you should always take the dynamic contrast ratio with a grain of salt. It isn’t a standardized number.

If possible, compare one monitor’s static contrast ratio with another’s static contrast ratio at a specific brightness level. That is – IF you can find the number.

Display brightness

Lastly, each display also has numbers related to the monitor’s brightness.

Brightness is usually written as either cd/m2 or NITS, which is the same thing. Fx 1000 nits or 1500cd/m2.

A higher number means a brighter display and vice versa.

A monitor with a brightness of 1500 nits is usually enough for filming outdoors, except maybe in direct sunlight. If you’re shooting in bright sunlight, you can either put on a sunshade (which is sometimes included), put a jacket over your head and the monitor or purchase a brighter monitor.

This guide lists some ultra-bright monitors.

OLED displays offer much more brightness than an LCD, but they are also way more expensive.

Touchscreen or not

Some on-camera monitors feature a touchscreen. But with a touchscreen, the price also increases

There are pros and cons to having a touchscreen. If it is a good one that is fast and responsive, it can make the whole user experience more efficient and intuitive. If it is a bad one, you’ll hate that it doesn’t respond well to your touches.

Touchscreens are also prone to greasy fingers. So it’s really up to you what you prefer.

Power Options

The external monitor can be powered by different types of batteries.

In some cases, the battery might be designed by the manufacturer and sold together with the monitor. In the package, you’ll find the rechargeable battery and a compatible AC adapter for recharging it.

At the same time, some monitors require a different type of battery, usually made by Sony (L-Series Battery Mount for NP-F550 batteries) or Canon (LP-E6 Battery Plate for e.g., LP-E6 batteries)).

In some cases, you might need to buy the battery separately.

However, the good thing is that those batteries are designed to last for hours, allowing you to record video footage indoors or outdoors continuously.

You can even get a dummy battery kit, which allows you to power your monitor and camera from a single battery. However, if you run your camera and monitor at full brightness from a single battery, expect the battery to be drained quickly.

Unless your camera batteries quickly run out of power, you won’t gain much by using a dummy battery in terms of battery life.

LUT support

Some monitors also feature an SD-card slot for loading LUTS. LUT support allows you to test different color grading options while filming. That way, you can better see how the final result might look.

In some cases, you can even record – or “burn in” the LOT to the footage as you record. This can help you get closer to your finished result – even when you’re still in production.

Burning in the LUT is usually only available at higher-end monitors and should be used with great care.

8-bit, 10-bit, fake 10-bit support

Some monitors can show 8-bit color, others 10-bit color, and some use a special technique to simulate 10-bit colors called Frame Rate Control.

8-bit color supports 16.77 million colors, and 10-bit supports 1.07 billion hues.

Frame Rate Support (FRC) fakes 10-bit color by flashing two alternating colors (the last two bits) so quickly that it looks like any of the shades in a billion-color experience. This is sometimes also written as 8+2 bit.

HDR support

Another thing to consider is if you need HDR support. If you know your clients will view your footage in HDR, getting an external monitor with HDR/HLG support is a good idea.

I’d say that HDR is nice to have, but not a need to have, though, since most people still don’t have an HDR screen.

Mounting Options

There are numerous ways you can attach the display to your camera regarding mounting options.

For example, most external monitors come with a cold shoe mounting bracket that fits most DSLR and mirrorless cameras. This means that the monitor will sit on top of the camera, and you can adjust its inclination, viewing angle, and height.

You might find an adjustable arm for more sophisticated external monitors in the package. This device, also known as a magic arm, gives you even more freedom when mounting the display.

For example, you can position the monitor at an angle, rotate it at 360 degrees, change the viewing angle as well as the height of the arm, etc.

Cables and Connections

Each external monitor can be connected to your camera through various cables.

The most popular one for DSLR and mirrorless cameras is the HDMI cable. Some monitors come with a standard HDMI port, while others use a mini one.

The industry standard SDI port is the most common if you move on to more expensive cinema cameras.

I’d recommend getting a monitor with SDI if your camera supports it. If not, a full-sized HDMI is the next best option.

If your camera has a micro HDMI port, you need to be careful not to break it since it is known to be fragile. You can get micro HDMI protectors – also known as cable clams – from companies such as Smallrig to help protect the HDMI port on your camera.

Read more about the difference between HDMI and SDI here.

When it comes to connectivity options, there are numerous ports you can use.

For example, most external monitors come with a USB upgrade port, an Audio/Video port, the HDMI or SDI input and output ports, a 3.5mm jack for your headphones, and a DC port.

In some cases, the display will also come with a 1/4 -20 thread hole, which lets you attach this device to a tripod or stand.

Accessories

It’s also important to check out the accessories included in the package by the manufacturer to know exactly what you’re spending your hard earned money on.

For example, the HDMI and AV cables shouldn’t be left out of the box. Most manufacturers also include a carrying bag for your external monitor and a warranty policy for one or more years.

Sometimes, you’ll find a wrench in the package, which will help you with the mounting process, so you can easily attach the monitor to a tripod or your DSLR camera.

The package might also contain the sunshade, which attaches to the monitor so you can see what’s on the screen without being obstructed by very bright sunlight. However, sometimes this is something you have to buy separately.

The box should also contain the rechargeable battery and the AC adapter. Sometimes, the battery and charger are something you need to buy separately. Read the small print before you buy.

These are the basics when it comes to buying an external monitor for your video camera.

One set of features might be perfect for one filmmaker, while another is perfect for another. Only you know what you want from your monitor.

Which One Caught Your Attention?

I tried to create a simple selection of multiple external monitors and recorders for different purposes and budgets.

They all offer an incredible bang for the buck but offer different features that suit different needs.

I hope you found this guide helpful. If you got any questions, please share them in the comment section below.


Me myself and I profile

About the author:

Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.