Stuart Dennis takes a look at SmallHD's 503 Ultrabright monitor at BVE 2017
The DSLR revolution inspired a lot of changes in professional video. Not only did it inspire the large-sensor camcorders that we know and love today, but also it heralded a raft of changes in accessories: rigs became more modular, microphones got smaller, and compact external monitors grew in popularity
A key brand that sprouted from the heady days of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was SmallHD, an LCD monitor manufacturer from the USA that began life in a garage where it produced one of the first classic 5-inch monitors: the DP4.
This was a small model with an optional, short-lived loupe attachment to aid focusing, but key to its success was its quality and size: it worked particularly well for DSLRs and kicked off the 5-inch monitor market that we see used for similarly small camera setups and focus pulling.
The follow-up to the DP4 took years to emerge but was well worth the wait: the 502 and 501 series were Full HD models with optional loupes, LUT support and an image quality that was unparalleled in this size of monitor. SmallHD then added the 7-inch versions, and the high-bright 702 model has become something of an industry standard.
As we go towards a future where HDR delivery is becoming more commonplace, the brightness of monitors has had to increase, and this BVE we got see the next generation of SmallHD’s 5-inch monitor line: the 503 Ultrabright, which is a Full HD 2200Nit 5-inch monitor with HDSDI Input/Output, HDMI Input/Output and an HDR preview tool to help expose log, etc.
We picked up the sample at BVE and what struck us immediately was the build quality. This series of monitors takes its chassis design from SmallHD’s larger P3 range, and feels completely different from the previous small monitors, being weighty and made from durable milled aluminium.
Noticeably straight away is the heatsync on the back of the unit – obscuring where you usually find battery slots on the previous models but understandable for an LCD pumping out so much brightness. Battery plates will follow in due course, but what is clear is that the 503 Ultrabright is designed for broadcast and cine use and will most likely be powered with the 12v power output from the likes of an Arri Alexa or Red Dragon camera.
A 7-inch version has also been announced – although it wasn’t available to see at the Expo, it promises to be equally rugged and again designed for the top-end of camera uses. Both models go to show just how far SmallHD have come in terms of quality and level of work their kit can be used for.
Further to their small field monitor offerings, SmallHD demoed some larger on-set models. On display were both the 13-inch and 24-inch HDR models, which again were built like tanks, but most impressive was the new 17-inch P3-DCI gamut-capable model which is colour-accurate for grading. Again this demonstrates that SmallHD are now a far cry from their humble days of simple DSLR monitors, and are indeed leading the way in rugged, simple-to-operate field and on-set monitoring.