12.31.2016

A last minute purchase prompted by things I learned on my last video shoot. Yes, it's a new, small monitor.


A couple of years ago I bought a small, inexpensive Marshall field monitor. It had a seven inch screen with a maximum resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. It lacked some features that I found out would come in handy when using an external monitor to use while shooting video and also for still work. It lacked a useful method of focus peaking and it didn't have zebras and a few other controls. 

A few weeks ago we shot some video outdoors on a gray and overcast day and I realized that it was hard as hell to accurately focus my camera accurately. There wasn't enough magnification in the video mode (4x) and the lack of on screen focus peaking eliminated a technique that would have been really valuable. I think it's safe to say that when shooting video
one doesn't depend on an external monitor for color or contrast evaluation as much as one depends on the screen for composition and easier focusing. But that only works if you have the right monitor.

To be able to get sharp focus you really need a screen that renders a lot of detail. And you need focus peaking. Really, you just do.  But the bigger screen is also wonderful for photography shoots when you have an art director, or other species of client, present. Seeing an image bigger and being able to share it is great. In fact, we've used the Marshall monitor more for still life shoots over this year than we've used it for video production. With the still camera I can set up the shot in the camera EVF, punch in for really fine focusing and then turn the monitor on for shooting sharing. 

All things considered though, the Marshall monitor was cramping my style. When we got final confirmation of our still life shoot and our video shoot for the first week of January I decided it was time for an upgrade so I budgeted about $600 for a new, improved monitor and went out looking and researching. 

After seeing a bunch of YouTube videos from known video reviewers and shooters, reading a novel's worth of reviews and spending some time at Precison Camera playing with many different models I finally decided on the Aputure VS-2 FineHD. It's a seven inch monitor with a nice 1080p screen and a bunch of pro features. The only shocking thing was the price....

I went to Precision Camera and picked up the monitor today. I've just spent an hour getting it burned in the way I want it. With my favorite menu settings and my color corrections. I've got as close a match as I can between the VS-2 and my Sony A7Rii rear screen. I have to say that I am utterly amazed at the value proposition here. It's as though the monitor world just shifted like crazy since I got the Marshall. 

The screen on the Aputure VS-2 HD (I keep adding "HD" because there is a previous VS-2 model with a lower resolution screen and you need to make sure you get the "FineHD" version if you go out to buy one...) has a much higher resolution and looks so much sharper. But it's really the additional features that I instantly adored. 

First off, it starts up quickly and interacts with the camera quickly. It has adjustable focus peaking that works very, very well (Godsend). In addition to focus peaking it has a "punch in" mode that will take you all the way down to the pixel level for super accurate focusing. Even better is that the magnification  features is available even while you are filming. You could punch in to see if you are still in perfect focus without having to touch the camera. This is so wonderful that I almost cried when I played with it. 

Another feature that makes me very happy is being able to see big audio meters over on the left hand side of the screen. Big, big meters. You won't have to take your eyes of this external monitor to make sure you've got the sound levels set right. Additionally, there is a headphone jack so if you are using a more primitive camera (Like a Sony a6300 or a6500 with NO headphone jack) you can now monitor the sound coming from the camera via the HDMI connection. Monitoring accomplished. Now all Sonys in our inventory are totally useable for video production. I can't tell you how big a deal that is to me....

But the fun doesn't stop there (although that would be enough already). The monitor is well designed and seems rock solid. It takes a ubiquitous Sony battery for power. It actually comes with a battery and a plug-in-the-wall charger, not a USB, cheapy thing. Happily, I have a half dozen of the same basic batteries sitting around in a case. Presto! A full day of power in the field. 

The unit comes with several different HDMI cables, including: HDMI to mini and HDMI to micro. Oh boy! Free cables. It also comes with an adjustable arm that allows for attachment to a hot shoe or a camera cage. It's stout and directionally configurable. It comes with a hood that fits and works well to keep tangential light off the screen.  Finally, it came with a semi-hard case that's actually useable, and even a cleaning cloth for the screen. I have rarely been so impressed with a product! 

The price at Precison-Camera.com was $259. The price for the same item at B&H and Amazon is $279.  
Yes. My local bricks-and-mortar camera store is $20 dollars lower on price than the big boys. If you shoot video and you don't have a monitor this is the one for us (assuming you want something economical...). That price was not a "special deal" for their absolute favorite blogger it was the price on the sticker on the box. And they have more in stock.

My last purchase of the year looks like it will go a long way toward increasing my productivity both in the studio and on location. And it adds functionality (headphone jack) to one of my favorite video tools,  the Sony a6300. My idea of a bargain anyway you look at it.


That's my last purchase of the year!
I hope all of us have a great year in 2017. 
After 2016 we all deserve it.

4 comments:

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Happy new year again to the Tuck family. And thanks also for reporting about your latest purchases. Wow, what a discipline, even over the holidays.

Askingtherightquestions said...

Great find Kirk!

I am in the market for just such a monitor - had no idea it came with hood and flex arm.
Many thanks for your great reports. May I also compliment your continued efforts at transparency and clarity in your reports - a real standout in a sleaze and conflict ridden 2016! You remain a must read because of this heart!

Happy New Year and Best wishes to you (an hope for a better 2017 for us all!)

Michael

cfw said...

As I get older, my eyes get weaker, and the idea of having a large bright monitor on which to compose and focus is very appealing. I was interested in what you had to say about the Aputure VS-2 FineHD. In your opinion, would this be a good external monitor to use solely for still shooting, landscapes mostly? I have never used a monitor this way before. Camera would likely be the OMD-EM5ii (which has HDMI live output). Thanks.

James Bullock said...

I knew I needed a monitor awhile back and since I'm all about dual use.....opted for a monitor/recorder combo by black magic designs. Hello prores....by by 30min time limit and transcoding!