Master Guide to Rigging a Nikon D800 or D800E (Part 6)

In this part I’ll cover viewfinders and external monitors for the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E.

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What and why

Why do we need external monitors, and what size should they be in for best results? Loaded questions, but I’ll still try to answer them. We use external monitors for:

  • Framing
  • Focusing
  • Checking Colors and Exposure
  • Testing video quality with Waveforms
  • Satisfying clients


The built-in LCD monitor on the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E is 3.2″ at a resolution of 1280×720. It’s great for still photography in live view mode, but hardly makes the grade if you really need critical on-set monitoring of video.

Your monitor must ideally:

  • Have the same resolution, frame rate and aspect ratio as your video feed
  • Have compatible connectors
  • Have a separate battery/power supply
  • Be visible in sunlight
  • Be rugged and at least 6″ in diameter to be better than the in-built LCD


Suggestion for focusing only:
To focus accurately, you need resolution. A lot of people opt for small-resolution monitors but then pay the price later. If you’re thinking of going cheap here, you’re better off not using an external monitor at all!


This is what your focus puller could use while you looked through a viewfinder.

Suggestion for focusing and basic color exposure checking:

Small HD DP6

Suggestion for critical monitoring

Marshall V-LCD651STX-HDMI-VM 6.5″

Suggestion for critical monitoring, waveforms and best quality

These monsters can’t be clipped on to the cage or attached to the shoe mount. Ideally, you’d want to position them in tents or a shaded area so your eyes can see the colors well. It has to be a big monitor with full colors – no compromise. I prefer:

24 Pofessional Studio Monitor With HDSDI


Most external monitors come with their own battery kits or packs. Two often overlooked pieces of gear are:

If you don’t have a cage, you can still attach an LCD monitor on a camera with a arm attached to the hotshoe.

ePhoto 11-Inch Articulating Magic Arm

The LCD Hood

The cheaper ones might not come with a hood, so be careful when buying 3rd party hoods – they need to fit perfectly.

Marshall V-H50 Sun Hood


When in shoulder mount or handheld mode, the operator needs a Viewfinder to look at what he or she is shooting. The back of the LCD isn’t good enough, since your eye will be too close to it and can’t focus on it properly. There is one company that makes a perfect viewfinder:

Zacuto Z-Find-Pro3 Optical Viewfinder

The viewfinder might need an adapter plate to fit securely on the rig, with something like this:

Zacuto Z-Finder Mounting Frame

This is an optical viewfinder that can take many configurations. Zacuto also makes an electronic viewfinder:

Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro 3.2 inch

The Electronic viewfinder (EVF) has the advantage of being positioned in a different place – they don’t have to be fixed on the back of the camera LCD. This is helpful if you want an viewfinder in tripod-mode – a regular scenario in filmmaking and broadcasting.


If you’re using the camera’s optical viewfinder, especially for photography, you might find these helpful:

Nikon DR-5, Right Angle, Screw-In Finder

Nikon DG-2 2x Eyepiece Magnifier

Nikon DK-22 Eyepiece Adapter

Nikon DK-19 Rubber Eyecup

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of options when it comes to monitoring your footage, and you need to make an educated guess on the kind of scenarios you are going to encounter, your rig configurations, and your health before you zero in on the perfect solution.

If Part 7 I’ll cover external recorders and cables.

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7 replies on “Master Guide to Rigging a Nikon D800 or D800E (Part 6)”

  1. Sareesh Sudhakaran RobertvHallYes it does, and that’s why I wanted the Camranger! :) My eyes are not so good, and it is a real help in focussing. You tap on the screen, which zooms in on the image and then you focus on the point by touching the screen. Impressive… What I would like to have though, is a follow focus, following your finger on the screen, but unfortuneately, that trick doesn’t work. ;)

  2. After having done some research over the web, i found out that is the best option available. It is available in 1080 resolution, provide peaking among many other features, is very big and makes the AC confortable for critical focusing…and best of all, very affordable (less than 400 bucks). I dont think anything better that that is available out there.

  3. One thing you may want to add to the list is POWER PLATE solution. Tilta among few others have built a little plate that can be attached behind your shouldermount on the rods to take Vmount battery or GoldMount battery. Those plate can also output various voltage to power additional accessories. Finally, some of them include an HDMI splitter so you can output to a viewfinder and an extra on camera monitor.

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