SmallHD helps cinematographers of all types with their tiny yet full-featured DP4-EVF field monitor and viewfinder combination.
One of the biggest issues filmmakers have is dealing with often sub-standard displays on their cameras. If they are using a DSLR, the rear display is seldom useful to pull focus, see accurate exposure levels, or even frame a shot if the DSLR is shoulder mounted and off center from the operator’s vision. If you are using a DSLR outside in the daylight, it might be almost impossible to even see the display due to the glare. Likewise, even on video cameras with side-mounted viewfinders designed for film use, an overzealous director can cause logistical challenges if they have a tendency to hover over the operator to make sure they can see every shot as it’s taken. SmallHD helps solve these issues with their great combination field monitor and viewfinder the DP4-EVF.
The DP4-EVF is a two part system, containing a 4.3″ stand-along field monitor and the snap on EVF viewfinder attachment. THE DP4 Monitor is a lower power 4.3″ 800×480 217 PPI monitor with plenty of inputs and features, and at 16 ounces, it can easily be held freely or mounted on a camera without adding significant weight to the rig. The DP4 has an HDMI input with an additional HDMI passthrough output to send to another monitor or recording device, and it can also accept composite and component inputs.
On the back, the DP4 was designed with a removable battery bracket which allows it to accept Canon (LP-E6), Nikon (EL15), Sony (F970) or AA batteries and can accept standard 7V-18V DC power. Using about 5 watts of power, the dual pack system allows for about 4 hours of continuous use.
What sets the display apart though is the plethora of software features often not found on non-movie studio quality cameras. The DP4 touts focus assist sharpening filters for setting accurate focus. False color modes are similar to zebra stripes, but in this case, “paint” the image to allow the operator to see both over and underexposed parts of the image. Framing guides give operators a reference to know if their shot is frame correctly not only for standard movie frame sizes, but also television action and title frame sizes.
The DSLR scaler compensates for the crop factor common to some DSLR outputs, giving you a fuller image in the display. Furthermore, the 1:1 pixel mapping shows you exactly what the camera sees without any scale, helping to check focus accuracy. For focus pullers, the DP4 even includes monochrome modes.
To reach any of these modes, the DP4 includes a two user-programable buttons and a menu selection dial which brings up the system menu. The menu system itself is well laid out and easy to understand, though I found selecting and changing settings with the dial a bit finicky at times, even with my small hands.
The second part of the DP4-EVF system is the viewfinder itself, consisting of a high-quality loupe-type viewfinder that snaps to the display. When in use, the viewfinder holds to the display via magnets attached to the snap on frame, and when not in use, the EVF can simply flip up to be held in place by another set of magnets. I found that this system works well to go between using the EVF and not using the EVF versus some more conventional systems that require tightening and loosening bolts and screws to install and remove the viewfinder.
The quality of the viewfinder itself is great, and has the option for -1 to -3 diopter lens inserts.
Overall, I think the DP4-EVF is a great product at a reasonable $599 retail price. The display itself is very high quality, though some would argue it is too small for field-only use and only slightly bigger than the 3.5″- 4″ screens on most DSLRs. To me, though, it’s the software features that set it apart and make it valuable over a standard DSLR screen, especially the false color exposure measures.
The display is very light and compact and even though the viewfinder itself is of very high quality, the bulkiness of it does raise some handheld stability issues sometimes. When attached with a standard tension arm on rails, the display and viewfinder combination can’t really be used as a stabilization point like an attached on-camera viewfinder can.
Still, having an external monitor and viewfinder can be invaluable to the DSLR film maker, and the light, compact, and fully-featured DP4-EVF is a great addition to the film maker toolkit.
The SmallHD DP4-EVF is available from their website for $599