With a higher resolution and a denser pixel count, the SmallHD Focus OLED HDMI offers upgrades and updates to SmallHD’s best-selling product ever, the original Focus. The new Focus OLED is priced at 700 dollars and has a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen display. The monitor connects via HDMI, or upgrades to SDI for an additional 100 bucks. The Focus OLED has 402 pixels per inch and gets up to 350 nit brightness, with a 160 degree viewing angle and 60,000:1 contrast ratio. It’s powered off a Sony L-Series battery with the option to power the connected camera through a dummy battery. Attach the Focus OLED to a camera without a headphone jack, and you gain the ability to monitor your audio with its headphone out, tapped from the HDMI output. Going even further, the Focus OLED has an SD card slot for image capture, overlay or to input a LUT. Lastly, the Focus OLED comes with a super-handy tilt arm that attaches to your camera’s shoe mount.
The big thing that makes OLED different is that, unlike in typical displays, each pixel on an OLED is its own source of light.
As noted in its name, the Focus OLED has an organic light-emitting diode panel versus the in-plane switching LCD panel in the original Focus. The big thing that makes OLED different is that, unlike in typical displays, each pixel on an OLED is its own source of light. This means there is no brightness when displaying black. The darker the display is, the lower its power consumption. This creates a wider color gamut and richer blacks. Additionally, response time is typically much shorter, and because there is no backlight, the display can be slimmer than other panel types.
The Focus OLED is very versatile when it comes to the cameras you can connect it to; just make sure to get the correct connecting cable for your camera. The micro-HDMI port on the Focus has been designed to make the typically fragile connection stronger. However, if you lose the cable, you’ll be in trouble and will need to order another — standard cables don’t fit into the connection point. We put a piece of gaffer’s tape on ours to keep it seperate from the many other similar standard cables we have.
During our review, we shot with three different cameras: the Canon 1DX Mark II, the Panasonic GH4 and the Canon M50. The M50 is a great pairing for this monitor, though the camera and monitor do come in at about the same price. Because the M50 has no headphone jack, combining it with the Focus OLED expands the capability of the camera even before we view anything in the monitor.
Focus OLED was also nice to use with the GH4 since we typically want to shoot in v-log with that camera. Within SmallHD’s OS 3, it was easy to add a v-log to REC709 preview LUT. This was most helpful with getting proper exposure, as log shooting can be difficult to assess.
When using it with the Canon 1DX Mark II, the Focus OLED was a nice addition because the monitor on the camera is fixed and is highly reflective. Though the Focus OLED is also quite reflective, the included articulating arm almost totally eliminated this issue.
Regardless of what camera you use, the Focus OLED has all the shot assist tools you need. It has false color, zebras, LUT preview, a histogram, a waveform monitor and a vectorscope. It also offers overlay frames for different applications for various aspect ratios. It can preview safe area lines, cross hairs and cross hatch guides, too. It has a color picker and focus assists like peaking. Plus, you can overlay an image, LUT or audio meters on the screen. For cameras that require scaling for a full screen image, it does that, too. The best part of all the added tools is that they are easy to apply, access and save into profiles. With the swipe of a finger, you can go back and forth to different customized profiles with any combination of functions for whatever application you need.
On the downside, the screen has quite a lot of glare to it. SmallHD does supply an UltraClear Screen Protector that has more matte finish than the screen, but it shows scratches easily. We prefer to use it without, but worry about the durability of the screen with it off. Additionally, when adding the screen protector, the usually superb touch function response is greatly diminished.
In the Box
The Focus OLED comes with the 180-degree tilt arm mount, screen protector, four cable clips and a microfiber cleaning cloth. You also get an 8-inch micro-HDMI male to HDMI type-A female adapter cable, a one foot micro-HDMI male to micro-HDMI male cable and a foot long micro-USB male cable.
The big thing that is missing is a battery. The L series battery is a very common battery and can be purchased from numerous manufacturers. Depending on what brand you go with, it will set you back anywhere from 50 to 130 dollars. If you are like us, you may already have a plethora of these batteries, so we thought we ought to try all of them out. We tested four different manufacturers at two different sizes, including batteries from Anton Bauer, Sony, Kastar and one that is brandless. The Sony and Kastar batteries are 8700 milliamp hours (mAh) and the Anton Bauer and brandless batteries are 5200 mAh. Regardless of the manufacturer or size, the batteries worked flawlessly. The larger 8799 mAh batteries made the rotation of the monitor on the mount limited because of its size, but it otherwise functioned the same.
There is one accessory that, if compatible with your camera, should be a no-brainer — a power adapter to let the monitor power your camera. For just 60 bucks, you can power your Canon, Panasonic, Nikon or Sony directly from the monitor using the adapter that connects to your camera via a dummy battery. If your camera runs off the Canon LP-E6 and LP-E9, the Panasonic DMW-BLF19, the Nikon EN-EL14 or the Sony NP-FW50, the adapter is for you. You’ll get a longer battery life, and because of the dummy battery, you’ll also reduce the heat build-up in the camera.
Focus vs Focus OLED
Because the Focus OLED is only 100 bucks more than the original Focus and offers most of the same features, we thought we’d talk about the differences between the two models directly. The Focus OLED has a .5 inch larger screen but is 450 nits less bright. However, when in the sun, we didn’t experience any benefit from the additional 450 nits on the original Focus over the OLED. The Focus OLED resolution is 1080 versus 720 on the original Focus, and you get over 100 pixels per inch. The most notable improvement is that the OLED has 105-percent NTSC gamut coverage, whereas the original Focus only has 70 percent. Lastly, the overall dimensions are a bit larger at .15 inches taller, .29 inches wider and 2.9 ounces heavier.
We looked at several other 5-plus-inch OLED monitors with at least 1080 resolution that offered shot assist functions. Some of the options are also recorders. Let’s look at monitors from TVLogic, Convergent Design and Transvideo.
The TVLogic VFM-055A 5.5-inch OLED High-Contrast 3G-SDI & HDMI monitor costs 1,500 dollars. It has a 5.5-inch 1080 monitor with 3G-SDI and HDMI inputs. This monitor features waveform, vectorscope and audio meters and has a 160 degree viewing angle and a 17,000:1 contrast ratio. It offers multiple safety area and marker functions and supports popular camera LUTs. It comes with a 3.5 millimeter stereo audio jack and gets USB-based firmware updates.
The Convergent Design Odyssey7Q+ OLED Monitor and 4K Recorder costs 1,495 dollars. It’s a 7.7-inch 1280 x 800 OLED touchscreen monitor with DCI and UHD 4K recording over HDMI or SDI. It captures to ProRes 4444 12-Bit RGB, ProRes 422 and uncompressed DPX 10-Bit and 12-Bit. It includes image analysis tools and has built-in LUTs and custom 3D LUT support.
Last up is the Transvideo StarliteHD 5-inch Monitor and Recorder for 1,600 dollars. It’s a 5-inch SDI monitor with waveform, histogram and vectorscope. It records in H.264 and has a 1-to-1 pixel zoom. It has HFLIP and VFLIP with 3G-SDI input with reclocked 3G-SDI out. Lastly, it supports Sony Metadata via HD-SDI.
We really liked the Focus OLED. The operating system has all the bells and whistles you need to improve your shots, and depending on what you shoot on, it can extend your camera’s capabilities as well. The screen is a quite reflective, but because it can be repositioned, this isn’t a big issue. Lastly, its price is good for a touchscreen OLED. If you are shopping for an easy-to-use, quality monitor, you should consider the SmallHD Focus OLED.
- Can power a camera
- Uses common battery
- Easy to use operating system
- Reflective screen
- Proprietary HDMI cable
The SmallHD Focus OLED is small, easy-to-use and can expand the capability of your camera. Although it has a few flaws, it might just be the right tool for the job.
- Enthusiast filmmakers
- Documentarians & Indie filmmakers
- Commercial & Corporate filmmakers
- Journalists & Travel videographers
Panel Type: Touchscreen OLED
Diagonal Size: 5.5″ / 14 cm
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Pixel Density: 402 ppi
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Brightness: 350 cd/m²
Contrast Ratio: 60,000:1
Color Gamut: 105% NTSC
Color Depth: 8-bit
Viewing Angle: 160°
Inputs: 1 x Micro-HDMI
Audio Out: 1 x 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack
Other I/O: 1 x Micro-USB
Anamorphic De-Squeeze: 1.33x, 1.5x, 1.66x, 2.0x
Audio Metering: Up to 8 channels
Power Input: 1 x NP-F (Sony L) battery bay
Power Output: 1 x Barrel: 3.5 mm outer, 1.1 mm inner
Storage: 1 x SD card slot
Mounting Threads: 3 x 1/4″-20
Dimensions (HxWxD): 3.45 x 0.77 x 5.54″ / 8.76 x 1.96 x 14.07 cm
Chris Monlux loves to whistle when he is happy and finds it odd that some can’t whistle at all. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.