Using External Monitors for Video Production - SmallHD 501

When it comes to the most essential pieces of gear that videographers and filmmakers should have in their arsenal, an external monitor doesn’t quite make the cut (in my opinion). In other words a camera operator can in theory shoot without one if necessary, though not ideal. Having said all that, lately I’ve been using the smallhd 501 on my video shoots and almost feel “naked” without it. It’s so feature rich, reliable and easy to use that I now have a hard time trusting my cameras’ small on-board monitors.


There are a ton (and I mean a ton) of external monitor options out there which cater to all video professionals’ budgets, and in my experience you basically get what you pay for. Years back when most of my video jobs were a one-man-band videographer style shoot and I didn’t have much disposable income to invest in so much production gear, I bought a cheap 7” Lilliput monitor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing on Lilliput at all and this monitor did have its place on some of my shoots (mostly when I was shooting with a shoulder rig).

Camera Operator With 7" Lilliput Monitor on a Shoulder Rig

However with time I noticed that it simply wasn’t up to par with what I was looking for in a monitor. It was a bit too bulky for me to attach to my camera and the overall image, colors, gamma etc. displayed on the monitor didn’t quite match what was actually being filmed. So after a short time I didn’t see much reason to lug it around on my video shoots and for a long time it was basically just collecting dust at home. As a professional camera operator and filmmaker I needed something more compact, professional and reliable. The Smallhd 501 was my answer.


Camera Set Up With the SmallHD 501

Some Features and advantages:


Smallhd offers a variety of professional external monitors and I ended up going with the 501. Its small form factor and ease of use is ideal for videographers and camera operators who are always on the go. The 501 basically has all the features from the more expensive 502, the difference being it only has HDMI as its in and output. This makes it a great option for HDMI based cameras such as the Canon C100 Mark II, which is one of our video crew’s main go-to camera here in Vienna, Austria.


The monitor has a high number of customizable settings such as backlight, image rotation, DSLR scale, headphones etc…the list goes on. If your video production crew has multiple camera operators or videographers who will be using the same monitor, there’s also an option to customize multiple profiles assigned to each individual cameraman.


Cameraman On Set With the SmallHD 501

I personally like to create custom looks when editing my videos and since the 501 supports 3D LUTs, it’s really easy to import my custom LUTs through the SD card slot in the monitor. You can also capture images straight from the monitor into the SD card when connected to the camera. The 501 runs for about an hour using two LPE-6 style canon batteries, you can hot swap while using, and it can also be powered through micro usb.


Camera Operator Using the SmallHD 501 During a Conference Event

Some Specs:


-Full HD 5” 1920 x 1080 LCD monitor

-Many tools for focusing, framing and exposing. Audio meters, zebra, histogram, vector scope, false color etc.

-Pixel density: 441 ppi

-Brightness: 400 nits

-Build quality is very sturdy, with an aluminum frame and rubberized coating

-SD card slot

-Options for accessories such as a remote control

-The monitor can be calibrated to your preference.


Our camera team however hasn’t given up on the Lilliput completely and on most of our corporate video shoots we use it as a client monitor. This set up has worked really well so far and our video clients appreciate having an extra monitor set up for them on set.


Video Team on Set with SmallHD 501 and Lilliput as Client Monitor

All in all I'm really happy with the 501 and it has become a staple on all of our camera team's corporate video shoots.

Posted by Vitor Goncalves

Vitor is a filmmaker, cameraman and editor based in Vienna, Austria. He is the owner of Reel Arts Media.

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