As we make more and more videos, our need for a field monitor grew and we finally got Aputure’s VS-3 7″ field monitor.
It is a sub $400 monitor that pact some serious punch and we are quite happy with it. Hit the jump for the full review.
What Is A Filed Monitor?
One way to think about a filed monitor is to think LCD on steroids. Aside from having a bigger screen, it does not have to go on the back of your camera, making it easier to use for some applications (like on a Slider or a Jib).
But a field monitor can provide more that just bigger display (which in itself can prove to be valuable). Some monitor (VS-3 included) actually enhance the power of the LCD by providing some extra features, like live histogram, false color, focus peaking and even audio levels.
Most monitors connect to the HDMI port of the camera, replacing it’s live view and so does this one (box includes a 90 deg HDMI cable). We hooked it up.
And this is where we started with Aputure’s ‘ VS-3.
In terms of specs, the VS-3 comes with some big boys features:
- 7″ 1024 x 600 display with 800:1 contrast ratio – supports input resolutions up to 1920 x 1080
- Multi-coated anti-reflection coating, Wide viewing angle + included sunshade
- Full suite of on-screen scopes for focus, histogram, & exposure assist; Real-time VU meter for monitoring audio levels; User configurable shortcut buttons
- Multiple video inputs, including HDMI loopthru; Built in speaker & headphone jack; Operates on Sony NP-F style battery or AC power
- 24 Month Manufacturer Warranty
I do not have the tools to measure color accuracy, but Aputure claims that they are 100% on spot. Also, note that they are providing 24 months Manufacturer Warranty. While it is not a technical feature, it definitely signals some seriousness about quality.
As I said before, the VS-3 comes pretty packed for a >$400 monitor. I am not going to review all the features but only the ones that I find most useful for my work process.
False color, Zebra marking and Histogram
Those are three features that help you nail your exposure, and all performed wonderfully on the VS-3.
While you are probably familiar with histogram and Zebra lines from stills False Color is significantly more convenient than either. (Zebra lines are very similar to that blinking patterns you get on the LCD when you over expose).
In false color more, the scene changes to reflect not what you see, but what luminosity levels (also called IREs) are present in the scene. This takes a lot of the “art” found in exposure compensation for bright or dark color.
If you have a grey card on set, you know that it has to show yellow when it is correctly exposed. Or you know that blacks has to show blue on the monitor. This allows for a very quick verification of exposure and quick identification of badly exposed elements.
The VS-3 felt on dot with how it represented visual data, and after switching to false color, I don’t want to go back to histogram ever again :)
Focus Peaking (called Focus Assist on VS-3 docs)
Focus assist is a convenient way to get indication on what objects in the scene are in focus. Similar to how zebra lines highlight things that are over exposed in the frame, Focus Peaking marks the areas in the frame that are in focus.
On the good side, this feature really helps nailing the focus on some scenes. The place where we were shooting was ideal for turning this on.
On the flip side, like many other focus finding algorithm, it only works with certain patterns, so some scenes are more suited to using this feature than others. Similarly to how the camera focuses, focus peaking needs sharp lines to set its markings.
In terms of setup, the VS-3 was a breeze to handle. It takes 2 minutes to set it up and two additional minutes to tear it down.
The box included a small Giottos ball head like attachment that can go on a 1/4-20 3/8 or the hot shoe mount on a camera. It does take a special key to change between 1/4-20 to 3/8 but once you nailed your workflow you will probably never use it again.
We were pleasantly surprised with how the monitor performed under bright light, but the box included a fabric/Velcro sun shade just in case. This too was easy to set up.
Our last favorite feature is the quick menu. The VS-3 does feature the usual heavily loaded menu. I would think that most photographers probably don’t use half of it. But the front has a small 4-ways button that you can set with 4 of your most used features and easily turn each feature on or off.
In terms of power, you can either power the monitor from a wall socket with the included power converter, or you can use Sony NPF type batteries that when fully charged should probably last forever and then some.
The only two caveats in terms of usage are the instruction booklet which is not very detailed and the fact that the monitor shipped (at least mine) with Chinese as default language. It was quite a fiddle to turn it to English again.
In The Box
In the box you get the following items:
- 7″ monitor
- Medium sized cleaning cloth
- power converter
- 90 degrees HDMI cable
- ballhead/hotshoe mount
- Instruction booklet
Sadly there is no bag. I will probably re-purpose of the fine bags of the Amaran lights. hehe.
This is the second product by Aputure that I am using (first were the LED lights) and with both products I was pleasantly surprised on the price/quality ratio. The monitor feels solid and is feature packed as you would expect from the big boys. Definitely worth the ~$400 they are asking (and you get some spare change for a light stand). If only they would have included a bag, it would have been perfect.
[Aputure VS-3 7″ IPS Field Monitor | $380 @ Amazon | B&H]