Production

SmallHD Focus 7 Review. Is 1000 Nits Bright Enough?

You can power your camera with this monitor if you want.

A 1000-nits. A 7-inch touch screen. An affordable monitor at home on either a high-end camera system or accompanying a solo-shooter and a mirrorless camera. The SmallHD Focus 7 is a highly visible and extremely versatile monitor I found to actually helped me better nail my in-camera exposure, specifically, skin tones. First, the details:

  • 7-inch screen diagonal
  • 1920×1200 screen resolution
  • 323 pixels per inch
  • 1000 nits bright
  • Full-size HDMI input
  • 2x Sony L Series battery slot

Focus 7


According to SmallHD, “the FOCUS 7 equips filmmakers with all the benefits of a large on-camera display without making the camera set up feel cumbersome. With a high resolution, daylight viewable LCD, the 7-inch FOCUS monitor is ruggedly built and unexpectedly light.” This is all true, of course. But, how exactly did the FOCUS 7 do with daily shooting outside, in the hot and very bright Southern sun? How did it handle Southern humidity, which can be oppressive at times? Focus 7

The FOCUS 7 build is solid without being heavy. The new mounting L-bracket, SmallHD calls this a Tilt-Arm, is a nice accessory for the FOCUS 7 and other monitors. This L-Bracket keeps the monitor in place without the “droop” that can happen with other mounting hardware. So, this is a much-appreciated detail from the SmallHD FOCUS 7.

A Little Exposure Help

Exposure. Accurate Exposure. Difficult at times to get exactly perfect. Throw in a less than bright on-camera monitor display and you, as a shooter, may have little confidence in your image acquisition. Other on-camera monitors, I have used measure a screen brightness of around 350 nits. 350 nits is a perfectly fine screen brightness when shooting inside buildings, in a studio, or during night shoots. Outside, in full summer sunlight 350 nits is just not enough to use confidently. Focus 7

At a 1000 nits the FOCUS 7 is just barely bright enough to be used outside.  In full summer sun? The FOCUS 7 is just not beating the sun. I think a brightness of 1500 to 2000 nits is the full sun sweet spot for on-camera monitor viewing in full sun in my opinion. Those 1500 to 2000 nit monitors are considerably more expensive than the $699 FOCUS 7. If you are shooting out in the bright sun every day? Then go with SmallHD’s brighter and more expensive options.

Yet, the FOCUS 7, in most situations, performed well enough for me. When the sun was not shining directly on the screen the FOCUS 7 helped me nail my exposure and adjust my camera settings to best nail my in-camera exposure. How so? The 1000 nit brightness from the FOCUS 7 meant I was more confident in the picture the monitor delivered. So, when I quickly selected to see a False Color view, very simple and quick to select, I felt like the normal image best matched the colored false color. I know this reads a little funky. Let me explain. Focus 7

With a less bright monitor, I may calibrate my workflow and exposure using the monitor’s exposure tools like False Color, but when was finished and wanted to see a straight picture the monitor was not bright enough. This caused, what I like to call, exposure hunting. You hunt for what looks best on the monitor. I do not mean to do so. This is not a conscious choice. This is just what happens to me when shooting run and gun and I end up slightly over-exposing my image to compensate for the lack of screen brightness. Stupid, I know. With the 1000 nit FOCUS 7 I found the screen to be bright enough to stop the bad habit of mine.

Full-Sized HDMI Input

This full-sized HDMI input supports 4K up to 30P.  The slightly recessed HDMI input is a solid and secure connection. The depth of the HDMI input is deep enough to be slightly frustrating to connect HDMI to while the FOCUS 7 is mounted on a camera. Once the connection is made it is solid. Real-time 3D LUTs, monitor profiles, and screen overlays can be loaded via a full-size SD card slot. Audio output is also available using the monitor’s stereo headphone jack.

All in the SmallHD FOCUS 7 is a great on-camera monitor for most situations. It is a big 7″ screen and the SmallHD Tilt-Arm helps deliver a small footprint. I am confident in the FOCUS 7 as my go-to monitor on either a Nikon Z6, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, or any Sony I tend to use in my day-to-day. Bonus points to SmallHD to allow the FOCUS 7, and its Sony L Series batteries, to power cameras like the Nikon Z6, Sony Alpha series, GH5, Canon LP-E6 or LP-E8 powered cameras, Fuji, and even maybe even the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, though I have not tested this yet.

 


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Brian Hallett, is an award winning cameraman, editor, and producer. He has shot everything from Network broadcast news, promotional image campaigns, music videos, short films, and documentaries. Check out his reel at hallett-brian.com

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