Hands-on with the SmallHD Focus Bright: A Review

So today I thought I’d give you my SmallHD Focus Bright Review.  I’m not new to the world of SmallHD monitors, having previously owned the 501 full HD model. At the time it was a necessary purchase.  Quite simply because the rear screens on the A7s & A7sii are not far from unusable.. (Sony, PLEASE rectify this on the MKiii !). Mind you, having had a little play on the new Sony A9 and witnessing the crystal clear screen used on that, I’m hopeful that this upgraded screen will filter down their models.

The Run up to the SmallHD Focus Bright

As expected in our profession, we need to see what we are filming in order to be confident we are exposed/framed correctly and in focus, at the very least! Having already faced a degradation in my video work due to the poor Sony screens, I didn’t want to compromise on a monitor and decided to go straight to the top of my budget and purchased the SmallHD 501 for £770 back in 2017 (I know this is a SmallHD Focus Bright review…I’m getting to it). Now I must say, in my experience, their quality control was massively under par. It took me to go through 3 units before I had one that didn’t suffer from screen issues or have a faulty toggle stick.  Frustrating, but I stuck at it as I really felt this was the monitor for me. Once I was up and running the kit was amazing.  With functions like false colour, focus peaking, LUT overlays it was proving to be one of my most beneficial and valuable purchases…   That was until 9 months later when it broke. Yeah I know, annoying right?

The SmallHD Focus Bright

To cut long story short, still within my warranty period I had the choice of like for like replacement or store credit.. Cue the SmallHD Focus!!

SmallHD Focus Bright Review

So down to the SmallHD Focus Bright review.  Having previously ignored this new slightly lower price point model; it shared pretty much all of the functions and OS of its big brother.  it also has the added benefit of boasting an 800 nit daylight viewable screen compared to the 501’s 400 nits. Now there was one difference, quite a biggy… the Focus was ½ the resolution at 1280×720 as opposed to the 501’s 1920×1080. With a pixel density of 294, SmallHD boasts that this is “more pixels per inch than a retina display”…. A RETINA DISPLAY!? I mean on paper, that’s good enough for me!Opting for the Sony bundle that comes with various extras that help marry up the monitor and camera, having now had a play with the unit I’m pretty confident that I made the right choice opting for this model.  Priced at £579 also meant that I received a nice little refund (sweet).

The Screen

The screen is beautifully bright, and although 1280×720, tack sharp too. Without having them side by side, I don’t really know if I can actually see any difference in resolution between this and my previous monitor…. A massive “tick” straight out the box. In saying this I did up the sharpness a tad and have become accustomed to applying quite a heavy setting on the focus peaking function. I just find it such a useful tool.

Touchscreen

The touchscreen is a really neat function too.  Although, it can be a little unresponsive when you are fiddling through the menus on initial set up.  That said, during day to day use it proved to be very intuitive and useful when swiping across screens. It’s also worth noting that compared to the 501’s toggle stick, the touch screen was sensitive enough to tap/swipe through some of the Focus’s functions without causing the camera to shake during filming.  This is real world feedback people! The included mounting arm is very lightweight and sturdy, making the whole set up feel so much more integrated with my camera rig.

BatteryLife

I’m yet to fully test the battery times, but already prefer using single Sony NPF L-Series batteries compared to the dual LP-E6 on the 501. For starters, I’m not having to pack my body weight in monitor batteries, and hope that a couple of high capacity L-Series batteries to last me the day.

The Alternatives

Given the sharpness of the Focus, I wonder why one would opt for the alternative Focus OLED model which is 1920×1080, but at 350 nits it isn’t daylight viewable… each to their own I guess… but in run and gun situations I can really see the 800 nits of the standard Focus being invaluable. In my opinion, they should have just merged both the features right?. Well, THEY HAVE! And it’s called the 502 Bright, at 1920×1080 and daylight viewable 1000 nits of brightness will cost you around £1,200. Good move there SmallHD, smart way in making us dig our hands even deeper into those pockets.

SmallHD Focus Bright: Hints & Tips

For some super useful tips on calibration and setup, check out the video link below:

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