5D MKII Gear Tips: LCD Monitors

One of the most important accessories that you can purchase to help you get better results with the video from your Canon 5D MKII is an external LCD monitor (a video assist monitor.)   

The Canon 5D MKII was designed as a still camera first, therefore when you shoot video you will often find that the placement of the LCD screen, not to mention the ergonomics of the camera body itself are not ideally suited to shooting video.  Being able to hold the camera below your eye-line (or any angle for that matter) become quite important when shooting video vs stills.

I’ve had a chance to play with a variety of monitors out there – and for now Marshall Electronics’ V-LCD70P-HDMI is the clear standout both for the quality of the image it displays, as well as all of the extra features it offers.  This is a 7″ lightweight monitor that comes in at just over a pound, and offers an 800X480 resolution image.   I was able to work with a prototype of this monitor in January for 3 weeks of the Jamie O’Brien shoot and it was simply fantastic.  I should also mention that I am also testing out Ikan’s V5600 5.6″ TFT LCD Monitor and will write about that at some point as well – it’s small size may be very attractive to some. (I’ve yet to put it through it’s paces, but I plan to do so in the upcoming weeks.)

First, it should be noted that when you actually start to record video on the 5D MKII, the video signal that is being output from the camera is not true HD – in fact it is limited to around 480 P (as opposed to 1080 P.) In effect it is not putting out the same full resolution image to the external monitor that is is recording to the CF Card.  This makes is considerably more difficult to focus critically while you are filming.   Having a sharp and contrasty monitor becomes a huge factor if you are trying to focus the camera as you shoot – and this is the only LCD monitor that I’ve tried out so far that allows me to do so consistently. (The fact that a less than full resolution signal (even in preview mode)  is being output from the camera also makes it impossible to capture an uncompressed video signal from the camera – many have asked me in the past if it was possible to hook the camera directly to a dedicate I/O external device capable of recording uncompressed footage – unfortunately this is not possible – all video that comes from the 5D MKII is ultimately compressed as H.264 in the end which leads to compression artifacting and a slight degradation of the final video as a result.)

 

The Marshall Monitor mounted to a RedRock Micro rig with the 5D MKII on the North Shore, HI.

The Marshall Monitor mounted to a RedRock Micro rig with the 5D MKII on the North Shore, HI.

 

 

You can find a lot more information about the specifics of this monitor and the numerous features this monitor offers on their site – in fact there is a great video that explains most them on the following link.

The two features that I found particularly useful are the Peaking Filter and the False Color features.   Given that the 5D MKII is not outputting a full resolution signal as it records – focusing is definitely a challenge and the Peaking Filter can be a life saver.

The image will switch to a black and white display and thin purple lines will appear on the area of the image that is in focus.  This makes critical focusing much easier – especially when you are on the move.

The second feature, False Color, can become pretty invaluable when you are working in bright sunlight – as many of your know, judging correct exposure off of any monitor can be a challenge when you are in a bright environment. 

 

This feature in effect allows you to judge the exposure “by the numbers” and it also allows you to more closely keep track of the proper exposure for skin tone – which is in the 56 IRE range – and colored GREEN and PINK within the false color key.   

The monitor is well built, full of professional features (multiple video in and out ports, ability to calibrate the monitor’s brightness and contrast with specific tools) and accepts a wide variety of batteries, as well as a 4-pin XLR power jack.  If the Canon 5D MKII were to at least output 720p while recording – I would say that many monitors out there would be more than adequate to help achieve critical focus.  However, given that the 5D MKII is outputting a lower resolution signal – the incredible clarity and contrast of this particular monitor give it a clear edge.

 

A view of the rear inputs and output ports of the Marshall LCD monitor.