Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Swivi 5.6 External Monitor for DSLR in-depth review

So you are thinking about buying a Swivi 5.6 external monitor for your DSLR Camera?

Reasons that I thought about buying… 
If you have watched my review on the Canon 7D or the Canon 5D Mark III, you know that one of the hard things about using a DSLR for video is focus.  I went down the path of getting a viewfinder that attaches to the back of the camera in my review of my viewfinder.   With that review, I also talked about how it exposed the quality of the LCD quickly becomes the issue of being able to really see focus.  I also found that watching things back on the same small 3 inch LCD. especially when I was trying to share the video with those around me became a huge issue.  So for shooting things that I wanted the ability to see focus, as well as play things back, I needed something that would be large enough and of course battery operated.  Along came the Swivi... I read several reviews of people who got pre-release over at Cheesycam and Oliviatech who liked what they were seeing.  I also found the price to be within reach.  Honestly at the time, I didn't understand focus peaking but it seemed like this would be something that would come in very handy.  It really really did make a huge difference to be able to see where the focus really was.

Here is what I actually use it for.....  
I have found that this is very useful for almost every situation shooting video.  The Swivi attaches to the camera mount at the bottom of the camera and swivels either to the side or just overlays the back of the camera.  I found the resolution to be a huge jump from the LCD of the back of the 7D.  When I take it out in public, people tend to be in awe of it, and other photographers tend to be jealous of it.  The monitor sun hood comes in very handy when trying to deal with blocking the sun.  Obviously, this is not an super bright LCD or OLED screen, so being able to see in direct sunlight is a must.  Also being able to attach the sunhood in either direction gives some great flexibility.  It is plastic so the durability is worry some.  I have been very careful with being hard on it.  I have always left it behind when shooting on hiking shoots.  The focus peaking that is built into the monitor is pretty good.  I have seen other high end monitors that do a much better job, but it is very useable.  Indoor shots are usually the ones where I use it the most.

Here are the things I didn't expect or didn't like
So probably the biggest problem that I have had is getting it to stay tightly connected and not swivel when attached to the camera.  The wheel that allows you to screw to the mount at the bottom of the camera takes a lot of force to get a tight enough fit to really stay put.  I have found that pulling the right edge up against the camera is the only way to really make it not swivel on the 7D.  For what ever reason, this didn't seem to be the case with the 5D Mark III.  The other strange thing that I noticed is that if I leave a battery in, which it takes the same LP-6 (the video says EP-6, whoops) Canon battery as the camera, it will actually drain the battery within a day or so.  Even if the monitor is not turned on, it seems to suck battery power. My fix for this is to always place the battery that I am using in upside down when not in use.  This way it doesn't drain the battery.  The power button is a little strange as well.  Turning it off takes holding it down for a full second or two before it powers off.

The color reproduction is good.  Good enough that I rarely find enough color difference between the back of the camera and the monitor, although there is some.  Brightness is good as long as you are not in direct sunlight. The sunhood helps but it isn't quite enough to really see well in that much sun.  Sunsets work well though.  Bootup time isn't great.  It does take a while before the camera recognizes the signal and switches to the monitor.  Some of that is the camera though.  It has a button that allows it to go full frame or cropped.  It is mostly useless on the 7D.  The menu and rocker wheel to select and modify settings like brightness and contrast works well enough.  Swiveling the monitor feels like you might break it off.  The fact that it is made of plastic makes it feel cheap but as long as you don't twist it the wrong way, you should be fine. When it is not rotated, and even when it is, access to the buttons on the left side of the screen are hard to get to.  But, access to the scroll wheel on the right is.  So recording is easy, but playing back is not because the play button is on the left side.

Here are the super cool things that I love about it
I have to say that it was really nice to be able to see a level of detail that I could not see just looking at the back of the camera.  The resolution bump from the LCD of the back of the camera to this monitor is enough that it adds a huge value.  Having the focus peaking available, at least before Magic Lantern started working on a 7D, was worth the money alone.  For the price, this was a great addition that allowed me to step up to a level of cinematography that I expected.  The fact that it uses the same batteries for me was a huge plus.  It meant that all my power options were sharing the same type, so in a pinch, I could swap things around if needed.

I like the ease of mounting and the cable that is rotate-able to prevent it from getting messed up by rubbing or pushed sideways.  I have also gotten several adapters and a longer HDMI cable to be able to mount on a jib/crane away from the camera.  Although it doesn't help with being able to remotely focus the camera, it does help to be able to see the shot as you are shooting from the back of the crane.  

Let me know what you think.  Send a comment.

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