Build your own DIY field monitor for shooting with DSLRs
Whether you’re shooting video or stills, field monitors can be invaluable. For video the advantages are obvious. Nailing focus is a lot easier on a big screen. That works for stills, though, too. Field monitors get very expensive, very quickly, though.
In this two part video series, YouTuber GreatScott, takes us step by step through the creation of a DIY field monitor. It also doubles up as a great monitor for Raspberry Pi, or to extend your regular computer desktop.
Part 1 walks us through the components. It explains how everything works together to get a video signal from your camera to the screen.
The components list isn’t that long, and you may already have some of them sitting in a box somewhere.
- 1x 7″ 1200×800 LCD screen & HDMI driver board – $66
- 5x Tactile push buttons – $5 (for 50)
- 1x 5mm green & red LED – $7 (for 100)
- 1x Panel mount slide switch – $6
- 1x Single cell charger – $9 (for 5)
- 1x XL6009 Boost converter – $7.50 (for 2)
- 2x Samsung 18650 3.7v 2800mAh cells with tabs – $14 (for 2)
- 1x Tripod Mount (for the plate) – $8
In the second video the case is built. Cases are a very personal choice. So, you may choose to go with something a little different. Perhaps you’d like to 3D print one?
The cost works out to be around $122, plus the case and a small tripod to mount it on. Of course, electronics components often require you buy in packs of 5 or 50 or 500. You may already have some of these components laying around, or you may find them individually for less if you hunt around.
If I look around the components I have available right now, I’m only missing the screen, cell charger and cells. So, this brings the cost for me to around $80.
There’s only really one small changes I’d make, if I were building this.
The first is the tripod connector. MDF isn’t exactly the strongest of materials. I think cutting that much material out for a tripod plate to sit inside would make it too week. If yo go with a wooden case, I’d look at a more secure option.
I got lucky and picked up a huge bag pronged 1/4-20 tee nuts for very little cost a while ago. These only require you to drill a hole. Individually, they’re not expensive, but you usually have to buy in packs of at least 100.
I would also advise being very careful if you choose to go with a different LCD. I bought a Waveshare 7″ HDMI Touch Screen LCD a few months ago for a Raspberry Pi project. For that it works beautifully, and it also extends the Windows desktop very nicely.
For a DSLR, it doesn’t work quite so well. Actually, it doesn’t work at all, really, as it only runs in 1024×600 resolution. It simply can’t handle or convert standard HD resolutions. All you see on the screen is a garbled mess.
There are other alternatives out there, like actual field monitors. Alternatively, you could use a tablet like the Nexus 7 running qDslrDashboard over USB or WiFi. But for those who like to tinker, this is a great weekend project.
If you need more detailed instructions than the videos provide, you can check out the full documentation over on Instructables.
Have you thought about building your own field monitor? Have you actually done it? How did you do it? Or did you just pony up and get a proper field monitor? Let us know in the comments.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.