What’s the best way to record and monitor 4K?

In this article I’ll go over new video monitors and recorders that can accept a 4K signal, and record in 4K – specifically for on-field monitoring and recording.

Why is 4K important?

Until recently, most recorders and monitors could only accept a 1080p signal directly. This meant you had to convert a 4K signal to 1080p first before sending it to the monitor/recorder. Not all cameras offered this feature internally, so it was a headache unless your monitor/recorder also offered this feature.

Which is what we’ll be looking at. Even though monitors/recorders don’t have to show 4K, they should be able to directly accept a 4K signal so we don’t have to worry about it.

Before we start, let’s get some of my preferences out of the way first:

  • A small 5″ or 7″ monitor needn’t show 4K, because our eyes won’t be able to tell the difference at the distances these monitors are typically used in (1-3 feet). To really monitor 4K, you need something large. I don’t recommend any monitor smaller than 32″ for 4K work.
  • For pulling focus, and for general 4K work, I recommend 7″ monitors over 5″ monitors. The difference in size isn’t much, so don’t opt for 5″ monitors unless you have a strong reason like you need it for a gimbal or something to reduce weight.
  • I prefer monitors/recorders with both SDI and HDMI inputs, because it will be more versatile, will be more useful, and will have a better resale value.
  • Get monitors that have Zebra, Waveform, Focus peaking and if possible, False Color and Vectorscope.
  • As far as recorders are concerned, I prefer recorders that can record to standard SSDs, no proprietary stuff that’s way too expensive.

To keep this simple, let’s divide this article into three parts:

  • Monitors 5″ and 7″
  • Monitors for video villages
  • Recorders

Monitors 5″ and 7″

Here are the monitors I recommend, in order from cheapest to most expensive:

Low budget 5″: FeelWorld F6 5.7″ (Amazon, B&H)

Low budget 7″: Elvid FieldVision 4KV2 7″ (Amazon, B&H)

Which one do I prefer?

I prefer the Elvid. It has two cool extra features that are useful – physical buttons and anamorphic desqueeze.

Medium Budget 5″: Atomos Shinobi SDI 5″ 1000 nits (Amazon, B&H)

Medium Budget 7″: SmallHD 702 Bright 7″ 1000 nits (Amazon, B&H)

Medium Budget Super Bright 7″: SWIT 7″ 3000 nits (B&H)

SmallHD702

Notes:

The SmallHD 702 is tough, proven and has all the professional features. It outputs 1000 nits so it will be great outdoors. The best thing I like about SmallHD is that you get adjustable false color tools.

If you’re getting the Shinobi opt for the SDI version which has both SDI and HDMI.

Professional 7″: SmallHD 703 UltraBright 2200 nits (Amazon, B&H)

Why I like it:

Custom frame guides, scopes and focus peaking. Tough and durable. The best 7″ monitor you can buy right now, period.

Monitors for Video Villages

These monitors have to be bigger, and the low budget options are really not worth it for 4K work. At larger sizes, you need a true 4K panel, and the in-between sizes (9-25″) is just neither here nor there. This is probably why there aren’t any true 4K monitors in this range that I would trust for critical video village work.

Professional 32″: FSI XM311K

I own an FSI DM240 and I can tell you this is probably the best bang for your buck available today. I would pick FSI just for the customizable false color option. However, their software and toolset doesn’t there. And the service is fine (if you’re in one of the countries they support).

I paid the price of a DM250 for my DM240 due to import duties and shipping, etc. The worst thing is I can’t even avail of their annual calibration check because they don’t have anyone to do it in India. The monitor is amazing and I highly recommend it, but you need to be aware of the lead time for shipping accessories, support, etc.

Industry Standard 32″ Sony BVM-X300 V2 4K Monitor (B&H)

Why is this the industry standard? Simple, nobody has the range worldwide that Sony does. They’ve been doing it for decades, and which is why professionals and broadcasters worldwide trust them. They have service and support in almost any country that has broadcast.

Recorders

Post NAB 2019, do we still need video recorders? Yes, but only in the mirrorless and DSLR market segment where you don’t get internal 10-bit 4:2:2 recording. Sooner or later, these cameras will offer this feature, and that will be death of the 4K recorder as we know it.

But, those days are still a couple of years away, as major manufacturers like Sony, Canon, Nikon, etc., still only offer 8-bit internally on their mirrorless cameras.

Here are two of my favorite recorders:

Best bang for your buck: Atomos Shogun 7 (Amazon, B&H)

The newly announced Shogun 7 really ticks most boxes. Since nobody else has announced any recorders recently, this is your go-to guy. Also, if this is too expensive you could always pick the cheaper Ninja V.

Alternative: Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ (B&H, Amazon)

They haven’t updated their recorder in a long time. But still, it’s great and has proven itself over many years. There are certain features you might not get with the Shogun 7:

  • Dual recording.
  • Inputs at the bottom!
  • RAW support for cameras the Shogun doesn’t support.
  • Proven over many years of use.
  • Adjustable false color.
  • Customizable framing guides.

That’s it! I hope you find my recommendations useful. Let me know if you have any preferences of your own in the comments below.

Join the Conversation

6 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    1. Haven’t tried it. A 15″ monitor is an odd size, maybe useful for jib/crane operators, etc., but otherwise that size is more limiting than a 7″ or a 21″.

  1. Hi Sareesh,

    Thanks a lot with this amazing and post with great recommendations. It helps a lot to think about extra gear.

    “The difference in size is not much, so do not opt for 5” you wrote.

    “A player-recorder consumes a lot of energy refreshed by a fan. And a 7 “even more than a 5”. In the context of energy self-dispatch without recourse to the sector, the question of energy autonomy is a question of digital life or death. If I can ship an inverter generator and a hundred liters of gasoline Super 92 as in July 2018 in Urals Polar (Iamal, Russia), the question would not arise. Next summer, I go to Siberian Arctic tundra (also Iamal) to stay amongst Nenets reindeer herders during four full weeks. I will take GH5, GH4R, LX100, Mavic Pro 2 and DJI Smart Controller.

    Shinobi is also very readable in full sun thanks to a slab of 1000 nits well superior to an iPhone XS Max (660 nits).

    Finally, at last but not least, the battery of the Shinobi has kept its promise: with the screen turned on, I shot from 9:30 to 18:00 and it still had a little battery, which is quickly recharged only in 30 minutes.
    That’s very good for me for the price and the confort to shoot.

    Best regards,
    Michel from France