SmallHD 502 + SmallHD 702 On-Camera Monitor Review!

Now at $1200 for the 502 and $1500 for the 702, why spend such a big chunk of change on an external monitor? Well with most cameras, the size, resolution and features of their built in monitors just don’t cut it for nailing focus, exposure, composition, etc. These sleek and sexy SmallHD monitors are just chock full of the tools you need to nail your shots – at a full 1080p!

So we’ll be running around the streets of Downtown Fullerton today, and trying out some of the features of the monitors. Now, because the SmallHD 702 uses the exact same firmware and interface as the 502, we’ll be reviewing the 502 for the most part, but noting the differences between the models.

We filmed Emily walking down the streets of downtown Fullerton to put the on-monitor tools to the test.

These monitors are really sexily designed, with really thin bezels to keep the overall size small, and feature super hardcore metal frame construction so they can take a beating. The 502 and 702 both have HDMI and SDI inputs and outputs, for multiple source and pass-through options. What’s really handy is that they have built in battery mounts that are compatible with both Canon LP-E6 and Sony NP batteries. For external power, there are dummy battery options available for both.

Other than being a seven inch monitor instead of 5 inches, everything about the 702 is pretty much the same as the 502, except that its outer edge is metal, not rubberized like the 502. Both monitors have ¼-20 holes on the bottom and back, but you’ll notice that the 702 has holes on both sides while the 502 has a hole only on one side.

Unlike the 502, 702 also has heat sinks on the back, presumably because it’s overheating from its own sexiness.

Let’s look over the interface. So these monitors have an ingenious “page-based” interface, that allows you to create pages with different tool combinations that you can quickly flip through instead of manually switching each tool on and off like before. For example you can create a page that’s all about getting things in focus and another page that’s about getting the right exposure, and yet ANOTHER meant to get the right composition.

In the recent firmware update, you can even scale the image down and add tools around it. Now, there is a gotcha, where you can’t have two different types of waveforms side by side, like a luma waveform next to an RGB parade, also I’m waiting for the firmware update that will bring the all powerful Vectorscope, which is supposedly “comming soon”… “comming soon”?

Additionally, with the 2.0 firmware, there’s the advent of the Output Preview page, which is a page you design to send to the HDMI or HD-SDI outputs independently of the other crazy pages you’ve set up. For example, you can create a clean page with just a LUT applied so clients don’t think you’re filming shit with your log curve.

Here’s an interesting feature, “shared tools”, where you create tools that are applied to ALL pages. So if you want a LUT on every page, just click down when you go to the tool plus sign to make it apply to all pages. Word of caution, toggling the tool on and off on one page will affect its status on ALL pages.

Now there’s supposedly a limit of 8 tools for each page, but there’s this interesting little hack. Add those 8 tools, you tool whore, you. THEN, add a crapload of shared tools in addition to that, the sky’s the limit! I don’t know why anybody would want this many tools on the screen at once, but it’s good to know it’s there I guess?

A minor annoyance is that, at the time of the 2.0 firmware, we can’t rearrange custom pages. So the order that we created them is the order we have to sift through them. We’re guessing that that should be an easy fix in a firmware update though.

Here’s something really cool. These monitors allow the transfer of all the settings and pages you created from one 500 or 700 series monitor to another. We just save the profile we created on the 502 onto an SD card, put the SD card into the 702 and load the profile and BOOM! Every setting is replaced with those from the 502. Some tweaking is needed for our rigging but we just saved a lot of setup work.

Okay, enough of the interface, let’s take some of our favorite tools and use them!

The favorites that we put on our pages is Focus Assist with black and white background enabled, exposure assist with the fun Predator colors, and good old fashioned waveform. We filmed Emily aimlessly walking around DTF all by herself.

I thought I was having a horrendous off-day with focus pulling, but then realized that our old FD lens aperture was locked to a wide open 1.4. Which then I realized that the focus assist actually made it much less of a debacle than it could have been if I relied on the A7s’s built in monitor.

We then flipped the A7s to shoot in S-Log 2 and applied one of our favorite LUTs from Filmconvert to a page. Along with the false colors page, this let us get the right exposure when shooting super flat.

One thing of note is that while shooting with a LUT, your scopes all show the original footage’s levels, so that you get to gauge exactly how much detail you’re really capturing.

When shooting out in the sun, glare is naturally an issue.

Let’s take a look at the 502 versus the 702 in operation outdoors. The 702 screen is listed as “bright” and daylight viewable, and it definitely shows – being brighter in the outdoors than the 502. Additionally, the 702 has a much wider viewable angle range, with the 502 becoming unviewable at 45 degrees angle, while the 702 is still perfectly visible at that angle.

This makes the 702 great for sets where several crew members need to peak at the monitor from different positions. While the 502 is best for a single operator, so I look at its limited viewing angle as a privacy screen. Perfect for reviewing the footage of your latest porn masterpiece.

Now I bet a lot of you are asking the question of whether the 502 or 702 is better. The simple answer is that they’re just plain different, but at the same time awesome in the own ways. The 702 is more geared towards Directors of Photography and Assistant Cameramen, while the 502 is great for small scale run/gun shooters, as well as those looking for a monitor for their gimbal.

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