Best External Monitors For Recording Video (2024)

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External monitor recorders provide better recording quality through higher bitrate and less compression than in-camera recording, along with many other useful tools.

Here is a brief overview of the four best external monitor recorders on the market today.

Key Takeaways

  • The Atomos Ninja 5.2 4K HDMI Recording Monitor offers up to 4Kp60 recording and wireless screen sharing for Atomos users.
  • Atomos Ninja V features a 5-inch HDR display and supports RAW recording in formats like Apple ProRes and ProRes RAW.
  • Blackmagic Design Video Assist 5 provides a super bright 2500nit HDR display and supports HD to 4K DCI formats recording on SD cards.
  • Blackmagic Design Video Assist 7 12G HDR combines a 7-inch HDR monitor with up to 4K at 60fps recording and professional monitoring tools.

1. Atomos Ninja 5.2 4K HDMI Recording Monitor

Atomos Ninja 5 2
  • Input/Output: HDMI (Optional SDI module available)
  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4Kp60 in Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD, H.265 (HEVC), and up to 6Kp30 in Apple ProRes RAW (The Ultra Version supports Apple ProRes RAW up to 8Kp30)
  • Screen Size: 5.2”

The Atomos Ninja 5.2 4K HDMI Recording Monitor stands out because it can record up to 4Kp60 in various codecs, making it an essential tool for professionals.

Its lightweight and sturdy design ensures reliability in the most demanding shooting environments. The introduction of AtomOS 11 has greatly improved memory management, allowing smoother operation.

Additionally, its capability to share screens wirelessly with other Atomos users streamlines the collaborative process during shoots, and it offers new tools for recording and playback.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and durable design suitable for demanding shooting environments.
  • AtomOS 11 provides improved memory management and new tools for an enhanced recording and playback experience.
  • ProRes RAW up to 8K 30P, 6K 60P & 4K 120P
  • Codecs included don’t require extra licenses: ProRes RAW, ProRes, DNxHD & H.265 (HEVC)
  • Capture 4Kp60 ProRes RAW & H.265 simultaneously
  • Wi-Fi 6E

Cons:

  • A bit cumbersome setup process and firmware updates (could be more streamlined and user-friendly!)
  • SDI not included as standard

2. Atomos Ninja V Portable Monitor/Recorder

atomos ninja v bundle

The Atomos Ninja V is an affordable external recorder with a touchscreen that allows external recording in 4K up to 60 frames per second. It supports Apple ProRes and RAW recording over an HDMI cable. If you prefer SDI, you can also purchase a 12G SDI module.

It has multiple exposures and focus assist features to help with recording and lets you bypass camera time limits, which is great for long shoots. The Ninja V supports a variety of log formats and is excellent for monitoring with LUTs loaded.

The biggest con is that the battery life isn’t great, plus it’s only 1000 nits brightness.

Pros: 

  • Great codecs! Apple ProRes, Raw, Avid DNx, H.265 (HEVC)
  • Pre-roll recording
  • 5,2″ IPS screen
  • Wide viewing angle
  • 8-bit+Frame Rate Control (FRC) color depth
  • HDR10, HLG support for a wide color gamut
  • LUT support
  • All the tools you need for monitoring
  • SSD recording
  • Anamorphic De-Squeeze
  • Timelapse recording
  • Remote control possible
  • Good build quality (Aluminum)

Cons:

  • Need a big battery (like Sony NP-F970) to run a full brightness for more than an hour
  • No SDI option as standard
  • Only 1000 nits brightness. If you’re shooting a lot outside, you might want to get a sun hood for the monitor or choose a monitor with a brighter screen.

Blackmagic Design Video Assist 5 12G-SDI HDMI HDR Recording Monitor

BlackMagic 5 inch recording monitor
  • Input/Output: HDMI, SDI
  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4k 60p
  • Screen Size: 5”

Equipped with a super bright 2500nit 5-inch HDR monitor and supporting a wide array of formats, the Blackmagic Design Video Assist 5 12G-SDI HDMI HDR Recording Monitor stands as an indispensable tool for filmmakers seeking unparalleled clarity and detail in their footage.

This device elevates the quality of any SDI or HDMI camera by allowing for professional monitoring and recording in HD, Ultra HD, 2K, and 4K DCI formats.

Its feature set includes 3D LUTs, professional scopes, focus assist, and exposure tools, ensuring peak footage quality. The built-in SD card recorder, which saves files in 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNx formats, streamlines the post-production workflow by eliminating the need for file conversion.

Pros:

  • Super bright 2500nit 5-inch HDR monitor enhances visibility in bright conditions and supports a wide range of formats.
  • The built-in SD card recorder simplifies workflow in broadcast-quality 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNx formats without conversion.
  • Broad compatibility with SDI or HDMI cameras, including professional features like 3D LUTs, scopes, focus assist, and exposure tools, makes it a versatile addition to any filmmaker’s toolkit.

Cons:

  • High battery consumption.

Blackmagic Design Video Assist 7 12G HDR

blackmagic video assist
  • Input/Output: HDMI, SDI
  • Maximum Recording Resolution: 4k 60p
  • Screen Size: 7”

The Blackmagic Video Assist is a great monitor with unique features that may suit your filmmaking. The responsive touchscreen is extremely bright with 2500nits and usable outdoors in intense sunlight.

The monitor supports 10-bit 4:2:2 color and can record in high-quality ProRes HQ or DNxHR formats – and Blackmagic RAW, aka BRAW.

The 7” model has dual UHS-II SD card slots, but you can also record external SSDs. And if you use an SSD, you can edit directly from the monitor, which is a great option for traveling with a laptop.

You can preview your camera’s video output in real-time with your LUTS and import it from the drive or SD cards. It has two balanced 3-pin mini XLR inputs with phantom power support. If you don’t need the large screen, a cheaper 5” alternative has one SD card slot.

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:

  • The BRAW is not as good as Apple ProRes RAW, which is used in the Atomos recorders and ARRI/RED cameras.
  • Heavy/bulky – go for the 5″ if you want a lighter-weight option

Up Next: If you’re new to buying an external monitor recorder for video, I recommend you read this comprehensive buyer’s guide first.

Author

  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, 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.

    View all posts

4 thoughts on “Best External Monitors For Recording Video (2024)”

  1. Great review and thank you. I searched out reviews as I’m likely going to be replacing my BMD Video Assist 12G with something else. I love BMD gear but, the VA has let me down due to a sync problem with audio fed in via the XLR connections. I raised the issue with BMD and they issued an RMA to send the unit in to be looked at. It’s been there nearly two weeks and I received an email yesterday saying they had it but, it hasn’t gotten into their lab yet. I’m a small time producer but, part of professional gear is reliability and quick turn around if it needs to go back. BMD has sorely disappointed me in the latter, to the point where I don’t know that I’ll feel comfortable going forward with them

    Reply
    • Hi Alan. Thanks for sharing your experiences. BMD makes great products at affordable prices, and they’ve really disrupted and democratized the market for indie filmmakers and video production companies. But I see some quality issues with some of their stuff. Especially, when it comes to things like connectivity (HDMI, SDI, and XLR ports seem prone to breaking).

      That being said, the BMD Video Assist 12G isn’t what I would call a cheap product. And with all technology, things just seem to break from time to time. It’s annoying for us, though 🙂

      Best, Jan

      Reply

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