If you've just started out in video, on-camera monitors may seem like a luxury. Experienced videographers will tell you otherwise.
As well as enlarging the display to make recording easier, lots of on-camera monitors can also improve your camera's video output. Whether you're shooting on a cine camera, a mirrorless, or a DSLR, an external monitor is a necessity if you want to get serious about filmmaking.
You might think you don't want to add weight to your setup or make it any bigger but an on-camera monitor is worth it. The extra big display means when you're shooting you can see a more accurate, live representation of your footage. Should there be a speck of dust on your lens or sensor, you'll be able to tell much easier on a 7-inch screen rather than a 3-inch screen.
Some of the more high-end on-camera monitors not only increase the size of your display but can improve your camera's video functionality. For example, when shooting with a Panasonic Lumix S5 and an Atomos Ninja V external recorder, you can shoot 12-bit RAW instead of 10-bit 4:2:2 with its internal recording option. On-camera monitors are also great additions if your camera lacks features such as a fully articulating screen such as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K.
Even if you have features turned on such as focus peaking, zebra lines, and false colors, an on-camera monitor lets you apply frame monitors which can reveal flickers that smaller monitors might not. They also enable you to proof content and show other people on set without having to cram around a small screen.
In this list, we run through the best external monitors and video recorders around so you can get the big-picture experience before you hit your editing suite and it’s too late to re-shoot.
Best on-camera monitors in 2023
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Since the release of the Atomos Ninja V back in 2018, it has become pretty much the industry standard in monitor recorders. It's a popular choice among both budding and professional videographers and filmmakers thanks to its beautifully calibrated 5-inch HDR display and its ability to support 4K 60p ProRes HQ, H.265, 4:2:2 ad DNxHR.
The Ninja V will also support 6K Apple ProRes RAW and it's the only monitor of this size to do so thanks to a deal between Apple and Atomos. Other features include pro-level monitor tools such as waveforms, false colors, HDR monitoring, and LUT support.
If your camera doesn't support 4K, the Ninja V might be a bit overkill as you won't make the most out of the features you're paying for. If you're just after a monitor so that you can view your video easier, the Atomos Shinobi would be a better option and it will save you money.
Alternatively, if you're shooting some serious projects and need something even bigger, the Atomos Shogun which appears later in this list sports a massive 7-inch screen, perfect for use with the best cinema cameras.
Read our full Atomos Ninja V review for more details
With the built-in camera control for various Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Blackmagic, and even Z Cam cinema cameras, this is a great option for anyone wanting a monitor that will help a filmmaker get the shot and be a very helpful visual aid in the composition process.
For a reasonable price, you get a great package that is built to withstand the vigorous day-to-day life of a filmmaker while on set, in the studio, or for on-the-go shooting.
Paired with a tough travel case for ease of transport between shoots, great monitor features, and the ability for onboard audio monitoring, the PortKeys LH5P II is a great 5.5” monitor for anyone looking to up their game in the cinematography world.
Read our full PortKeys LH5P II review for more details
If you're just looking for an external monitor and don't need recording capabilities, the Atomos Shinobi delivers the display quality of the Atomos Ninja V but at a fraction of the price. It's the perfect choice for vloggers who shoot with a camera with limited screen articulation such as the Sony A7 III or the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K which has a fixed display.
You can easily view waveform and histogram information thanks to its intuitive menu. With its centrally mounted battery, the Shinobi is nicely balanced which is perfect for when you need to shoot with a gimbal.
Whether you're a photographer or videographer, the screen on the Shinobi will be able to accurately display HDR pictures which a camera's native screen won't be able to do. The standard model comes with HDMI connectors but you can choose to go for the Atomos Shinobi SDI which has lockable SDI sockets.
The Blackmagic Video Assist 5-inch is the only recorder in our round-up that can capture Blackmagic's own RAW code video introduced on its Pocket Cinema Camera Range and is an ideal option for any editors who use Davinci Resolve to grade and edit.
Announced at IBC 2019, it excited video enthusiasts given its potential to tap into the RAW potential of compatible Canon and Panasonic cameras - Blackmagic is in talks with both manufacturers to ensure Video Assist works well with their products.
While Blackmagic RAW video has to be captured using the SDI ports, rather than the HDMI ports, for now, the monitor’s excellent display and recording credentials coupled with its dual-SD card slots should appeal to anyone who wants the convenience of SD card capture with their video recorder, more ports and a brighter screen than that offered by the excellent Atomos Ninja V. Naturally, though, you’ll be paying extra for the privilege.
This is essentially the 7-inch version of the Atomos Ninja V and is the perfect solution for those who need an external video recorder with a large built-in screen for monitoring footage. Offering real-time recording to 4K formats including ProRes RAW and CinemaDNG, the bigger screen will help you monitor the footage better – allowing you to check focus precisely right across the frame.
You can also monitor exposure accurately, thanks to built-in presets that allow the screen to give an accurate translation of the camera manufacturer's Log video formats. With a bright 1500nit and over 15 stops of real dynamic range, this screen is suitable for use on location as well as in studio settings. This a powerful unit for both cinematographers and multi-camera streamed productions.
If you want the most affordable big-screen option around, then the Lilliput A7s offers sensational value, ingesting 4K content despite costing less than £200. It includes all the overlays and features you’d expect from an external monitor like focus-peaking, levels, histogram, and more. In the box, the A7s come with a silicone case for added protection, a sun hood, and a sturdy metal ball mount.
Unlike the pricier monitors in our list, its screen isn’t touch-sensitive, so all interaction relies on the buttons, though thanks to an ergonomic scroll wheel, it doesn’t feel too cumbersome. In turn, if you’re okay with old-school inputs and want the biggest screen-to-dollar ratio to proof your footage or photos, the Lilliput is a no-fuss option that’s both functional and affordable
This 7-inch monitor gets desert-viewable levels of brightness with its 1500-nit, Full HD display, complete with 160-degree viewability and 100% DCI-P3 color gamut. With a dual Sony L-series battery plate, it’s easy to get the SmallHD 702 Touch powered up for a day-long shoot without the need for wires.
Its aluminum unibody is rich and rugged, and the hardened glass display only adds to its appeal. With a 3G SDI input/output and HDMI input/output, the chances are it’ll work perfectly with whatever you’re shooting. Despite everything it can do, it’s still relatively compact and lightweight, making it the top dog for outdoor shooters in need of a high-quality, easy-to-view, 7-inch external monitor.
The most affordable monitor we’d recommend is the Feelworld FW568 5.5, a compact monitor capable of displaying 4K content on its 500-nit Full HD display. Complete with a sun shade and tilt arm in the box, at under $200/£200, it represents fantastic value. Just like the Lilliput A7s, with no touch display, it’s less intuitive for indoor shoots, but the benefit of buttons can’t be overstated when out and about and shooting with gloves on.
Additionally, the FW568 has plenty of tricks up its sleeves, from the histogram, false color, and exposure-peaking overlays through to an Anamorphic mode and a headphone output. Weighing just 175g, its plastic construction doesn’t feel super-premium, but the low weight does make this monitor a great addition to a run-and-gun gimbal setup.
If you’re looking for a bright, 7-inch, Full HD monitor with a touchscreen that costs less than £300/$300, meet the Desview R7II, a big-screened beauty that delivers 2600 nits of brightness, an incredibly intuitive touch interface and a host of accessories in the box at a great price.
Ideal for outdoor shoots even in the freezing cold, it isn’t just bright, it also offers a combination of touchscreen and button input, so even if you’re wearing gloves, you can still swap custom profiles and change key settings without having to interact with the tap and swipe-centric display.
Given the Desview R7II’s greater than 400 pixels-per-inch sharpness, it’s one of the crisper displays around, and while it doesn’t have an HDR screen, it can still preview HDR content.
This is the big brother of the original Shinobi, offering a much larger 7inch display - and billed as the movie directors and focus directors, but also as a great presentation screen for vloggers wanting to see clearly what they are recording.
Its bright 2200-nit screen is the key attraction here - but it also does much more than just monitoring your image. With HDR capability - it offers built-in Log conversion, so you can see what your raw footage is likely to look like when edited, and you can even load up your own LUTs via the built-in SD card slot.
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