Andrew McGovern’s first impressions on using the latest additions to SmallHD’s popular FOCUS range, the OLED and OLED SDI
SmallHD added to its existing line-up of excellent products by announcing a whole bunch of new monitors at NAB 2018. The FOCUS HDMI, in particular, has proved very popular with fans. Its bright display, professional monitoring features and compact design give filmmakers the options to accurately monitor what they’re shooting. And now, they’ve made it available with an SDI input for those with a 3G HD-SDI output.
SmallHD FOCUS with SDI Input.
It’s a great choice for those using super 35mm cameras like the Sony FS7, Panasonic EVA-1 and Canon C200, or even cinema cameras from the likes of RED and ARRI. The original FOCUS has been a solid performer and it’s great that SmallHD are giving filmmakers more options for monitoring solutions, whatever camera they’re shooting on. For everything else, the FOCUS SDI has stuck to the formula that is so successful on the standard FOCUS HDMI. However, one of the more appealing monitors on offer at NAB was SmallHD’s new FOCUS OLED.
SmallHD FOCUS with OLED display.
SmallHD has taken what’s great about the FOCUS and given it a shakeup. It’s replaced the 5in 720p screen with a 5.5in 1080p screen, and the results are just gorgeous. It’s still powered by a Sony L-Series battery and will still allow you to power selected smaller cameras. In addition, and like the standard FOCUS, it’s available in both micro-HDMI and SDI variants.
SmallHD FOCUS SDI (top) and FOCUS OLED (bottom).
While the OLED is slightly larger, it’s also slightly thinner and still very light. Photographs of the screen won’t do the OLED justice, but in the shot above you can see how the blacks melt impressively from the edge of the display and into the panel. The wide-gamut display is also capable of displaying 105% of NTSC. Everything looks sharp and vibrant; it really is a pleasure to look at. Simply put, the screen is outstanding. The resolution bump to 1080p at 400ppi makes the monitor incredibly sharp. The 720p display on the FOCUS HDMI is stunning and this builds on the incredible panels SmallHD are producing.
An OLED panel can route power to each individual pixel. Unlike LCD screens – that require power for the whole display – OLED screens can choose to shut the power off individual pixels for darker blacks. The result is incredibly accurate blacks and no light leakage (which you may find on LCD screens). This makes the colours absolutely jump off the display – they’re super rich and super detailed. The other advantage of this, of course, is that it should impact battery life positively. I didn’t have the screen long enough to test this thoroughly, but what I can tell you is that I had one NP-F970 battery power the monitor all day.
Still included is the hotshoe mounted arm, which rotates 360 degrees, making it a great choice for vloggers. The difference something like this makes on top of your camera is incredible. The ability to pre-load LUTs into the monitor means that any of those preset bundles from Peter McKinnon, Sawyer Hartman or Jake Bowens that you have, can be loaded directly from an SD card into the monitor.
My usual go-to monitor is a Feelworld F7 – a monitor I bought cheap for the sake of having a cheap monitor… It boasts a 7in 1920x1200 resolution, which does an adequate job. The larger screen is useful, but the additional 2in of screen space isn’t essential. In fact, I prefer the extra pixels per inch that the SmallHD FOCUS range gives me.
The thing I really like about the FOCUS OLED is how compact it is. Remove the arm and there are no awkward areas that stick out – everything is lovely and flush around the unit. The micro-HDMI port is set into the system and there’s no awful bulkiness to the battery plate. The edge-to-edge glass covers the front, and everything else is coated in a rubbery plastic and feels super solid.
The FOCUS OLED has proved to be a very adaptable device. Even with its additional size and the presence of a larger Sony L-series battery, the monitor didn’t feel heavy when fixed to a gimbal handlebar – I lacked any smaller arms or a longer micro-HDMI cable. It proved a great tool for use on a gimbal.
SmallHD FOCUS OLED mounted onto a Zhiyun Crane 2.
Outside, the monitor copes admirably. At 350nit, this isn’t quite as bright as the other SmallHD monitors (other FOCUS models reach 800nit and the 502 BRIGHT reaches up to 1000nit), but it’s definitely usable outside. You may encounter a bit of trouble when in direct sunlight – I’d recommend fashioning a hook and loop fastener hood to counter the glare – but it’s much better than the stock offerings provided by camera manufacturers. The main advantage of this monitor really is the incredible picture, contrast and vibrance that you get from the display. Pair that with the usability of the SmallHD OS and you won’t find anything like this anywhere else.
SmallHD has created an incredible display that’s a joy to use; I feel this made my experience filming more enjoyable. The OLED screen is a great addition to the FOCUS line. If you’re looking to expand your kit with an incredible all-round device, I’d have no trouble in recommending the SmallHD FOCUS OLED.
About the Author
Andy McGovern works primarily as a freelance videographer but also likes to focus on photography. As a former rental-house guru, he’s been involved with kit and crews ranging from large to small budget productions for a wealth of large clients and events. Head over to his online dwelling to see more of Andrew's work: www.AndrewMcGovern.co.uk