If you find yourself wondering 'why would I even want an external monitor/recorder' then I'd suggest you spend a few moments reading our article on the topic. The short answer is that it's a great way to expand the tools for, and maximize the quality of, video capture on your current camera.
The Video Assist 4K is the larger of Blackmagic Design's current monitor/recorders. It features a 7", 1920 x 1200 pixel display and the ability to capture up to UHD/30p video in 10-bit 4:2:2 quality. It can accept video across HDMI or 6G-SDI inputs and offers outputs for when you want to include it in a more complex setup.
It's been on the market since April 2016 so it doesn't match the spec of the latest 4K/60p capable competitors, nor can it cope with the wider-screen DCI flavor of 4K but, through a series of firmware updates, Blackmagic has been adding features to this sub-$1000 monitor/recorder.
And, since it's likely to be a while before a majority of brands offer cameras capable of 4K/60p, its age doesn't weigh too heavily against it, unless you want to shoot the more cinema-like 1.85:1 DCI aspect ratio.
The Video Assist 4K can record in a variety of popular codecs, so that the files are immediately ready for use in Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro or AVID Media Composer. All the Apple codecs and the 220 and HQX versions DNx are captured in up to 10-bit detail.
It's also a fairly well-connected little beast, though, which makes it easy to hook up to most cameras.
Batteries and storage
Unlike the Atomos recorders, which tend to use Sony L-series-style batteries and write to SSD drives, the Blackmagic uses Canon LP-E6 batteries and writes to SD cards. This use of more photographer-friendly formats has both advantages and disadvantages.
The obvious advantages are that, especially if you already shoot Canon, you may well already have the equipment you need to start shooting. No messing around with cradles to mount the SSD on your computer, you just use the same SD reader you use for stills photography.
The downside is that, until V60 and V90-rated SD cards become more common, even the most expensive U3 cards, for all their promises of transfer rates in the hundreds of MB/s, only guarantee to sustainably write at up to 30MB/s (240Mbps). If you're capturing video, it's this sustained write rate that you need to worry about and 4K can easily exceed this figure.
|The Video Assist 4K uses common, Canon-style batteries and fast SD card, both of which you may already own and which are very widely available.|
As a result, Blackmagic has to publish a list of SD cards it recommends for its higher frame rates and codecs. For most of the better ones, you'll need a UHS II, U3 card. Given the company's history of adding features to the Video Assist via firmware, the hope has to be that it's possible to offer proper support for V60 and V90 cards, but they wouldn't comment, when asked.
The downside of using the common LP-E6 batteries is that, although pretty powerful in comparison with other DSLR batteries, they're tiny compared to some of the huge L-series blocks you can get. Consequently, you'll need a handful of them if you're planning an extended shoot away from a power supply. I found I was getting 20-30 minutes of capture out of two fully charged batteries. The batteries can be hot-swapped while recording, in the unlikely event of you needing a single clip to last longer than that.
What's it like to use?
The first thing to get used to is how much size and weight shooting with any external recorder adds. The use of such a big screen immediately limits your ability to 'run and gun.' If you're just trying to grab some quick, on-the-move, on-the-fly footage, the Video Assist will slow you down. However, if you have the few extra moments to consider each shot, it increases the chances of you getting it right as well as increasing the quality of your footage.
Its weight means that it's not easily mounted on your camera. There are plenty of hotshoe-to-tripod mount adapters available and, given the Video Assist's 928g (2lb) mass (with batteries), we'd recommend the use of the most sturdy ballhead-type adapter you can find. It's much happier if you have some kind of arm to attach it to your tripod or have your camera mounted in a rig, to which you can then add the Video Assist.
However, one of the benefits you gain for this weight is pretty rugged construction. The Video Assist's metal and rubber build doesn't promise any level of shockproofing, but our review unit survived an accidental fall onto pavement and has worked flawlessly since, suggesting it'll stand up to the rough-and-tumble of shooting in the real world.
In terms of actual use, everything on the Video Assist is operated by touchscreen. It's pretty responsive, with only the slightest hint of lag and there are few enough options that you very quickly find your way around and learn it in no time at all.
|The Video Assist gives you access to adjustable zebra highlight warnings as well as focus peaking, regardless of whether your camera offers these features.|
However, the more you think about the way the interface works, the less sense it makes: three of the six button arrayed along the top of the main screen take you to the same menu, some options have left/right arrows with the Off option at the far left, others just have On and Off buttons, with Off on the right. The monitor and audio setup menu is accessed by pressing the 'Card' button. Even by the standard of camera menus, it feels like more and more has been added onto the system without any thought given to what a blank-sheet design would look like.
Some of this may be down to my inexperience, of course. Perhaps more experienced users constantly need to change which input triggers recording or change codec mid shoot, but I find myself needing to toggle False Color on and off far more frequently, and I have to visit a separate menu page each time I want to do so. Revising this design would speed up operation of the Video Assist considerably.
It's also a little disappointing to see that you can only magnify the central portion of the scene: there's no way of moving the focused region around, which is awkward if your composition requires an off-center point of interest.
|The Video Assist 4K can capture Log footage but apply a LUT to the image it displays. This GIF approximates the effect of applying the F-Log/F-Gamut -> WDR/BT 709 LUT available from Fujifilm.|
Overall, though, the Video Assist is really easy to use, even for a novice like me. It was easy enough to upload a LUT using the desktop-based software, meaning I can shoot Log but with a comprehensible preview. Equally, once you get used to shooting with False Colors, it's awkward to live without them. Which brings us to...
In keeping with its history of adding features via firmware, Blackmagic Designs recently released the long-promised update that brings 'scopes to the Video Assist. This is a big deal, since scopes are a very powerful way of interpreting the tonal and color distribution in the footage you're capturing.
|The Vectorscope shows you how the color in your image is distributed.|
The latest update brings a luminance waveform, an RGB waveform/parade (though only represented in white, so a little hard to interpret) and a vectorscope.
The implementation is not great, however. All scopes are accessed by tapping the histogram at the lower left of the panel and they all take up the whole screen. Two tiny, tiny buttons inconsistent with the rest of the interface let you control over how the waveforms and video appear. The right-hand button brings up two sliders that adjust how bright the video feed is shown in the background and how bright the waves are displayed.
|Waveform||Waveform overlaid||Video PiP|
The second acts as a toggle to show the video feed as a small picture-in-picture window, but no way of showing the scopes themselves on anything but the full width of the screen, so you may find you have to toggle them on and off, rather than leaving them open to monitor as you shoot.
Despite this slightly rough-round-the-edges implementation, the addition of scopes is a significant addition to the Video Assist, especially as they're tools that are generally lacking from the cameras we tend to review. They're also a free upgrade to any existing owners and coincide with Blackmagic Designs offering a significant temporary price cut on the device, so we're not going to be too critical of the slightly imperfect integration.
For many people it won't be obvious why they should go out and spend $900 on an accessory that does something their camera tries to do already: preview and capture movies. However, for a certain kind of videography, the Video Assist makes life a lot easier (and the peace of mind it brings, in terms of knowing that your footage is going to be correctly shot is immense).
|With a simple L-shaped bracket, you can make a relatively hand-holdable combination with some small cameras (though you'll need to think pretty hard about stabilization).|
And, despite a couple of gripes about its operation, the Video Assist 4K is still a very easy-to-use, well specified device. It means that, for less than the cost of a new camera, you can maximize the quality of the footage you're capturing from your current one while also gaining access to a host of useful tools it almost certainly hasn't got.
In addition, shooting in formats such as ProRes and DNx means your footage is in and edit-friendly format, straight out of the recorder, potentially removing a time-consuming transcoding step from your workflow.
$900 isn't a trivial amount of money but, for a great many photographers, it's an amount they'd be happy to spend on a new lens. And, like a lens, it's a purchase that will probably outlive your current camera and work happily with whatever you're shooting in a few years time. Only the lack of 4K/60p or DCI 4K capture and the uncertainty over fast SD card support casts a doubt over its future-proof-ness.
What we like:
- Captures the best of your camera's output
- Adds hugely useful tools to support video capture
- Durable build
What we don't:
- Question mark over future SD card support
- Increasingly convoluted interface
|.....the ROYAL LOTUS 2017/08/25-NEW YORK..... by Chiwat|
from Wild flowers
|Coffee and Mango cake by clicker88|
from Another cup of coffee
The new iZugar 3.25mm F2.5 super fisheye lens offers an insane 220-degree angle of view. That means it can basically see behind itself... good luck keeping your feet out of the shot.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll remember that time you took a picture of the frozen pizza baking directions.
A Craigslist poster has discovered the worst possible way to photograph a car: taking pictures of pictures displayed on a cracked and scratched up smartphone screen.
With the iPhone X coming out soon, the title probably won't last, but the iPhone 8 Plus is officially the best smartphone camera DxOMark has ever tested, and the iPhone 8 is second.
Kodak's new Facebook Messenger chatbot is trying to bring back the 'Kodak Moment' by digging up your old social media photos and trying to sell you prints and custom coffee mugs.
Affinity Photo for iPad was touted as "the first full blown, truly professional photo editing tool to make its way onto the Apple tablet." This update makes it that much more convenient.
Yashica has released a new teaser video, and this one claims they'll be releasing an "unprecedented camera" in October on Kickstarter. Ready... set... speculate!
Storage solutions company Synology has just released its very first 6-bay NAS tower. Combined with the DX1215 expansion units, it can hold and control up to thirty drives.
We're always expanding our collection of product overview content, and we've just added videos for the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, the EOS Rebel SL2 and EOS M6.
The venerable Canon PowerShot G1 was announced seventeen years ago this week, marking the start of a line of enthusiast-focused compacts that's still alive and kicking.
Super macro photographer Can Tuncer captured these incredible close-ups of a single peacock feather using a special setup and three different microscope lenses.
After successfully crowdfunding the Biotar 75mm F1.5, Oprema Jena is at it again. This time they're bringing back the Biotar 58mm F2: the world's only lens with a 17-blade aperture.
Adobe's move to a subscription model is treating it very well indeed. The company has posted record revenue for the second quarter in a row, hauling in a mind-boggling $1.84 billion.
More details have emerged about the potential sale of Blackstone's 45% stake in iconic camera brand Leica.
Popular mobile editing app Snapseed just got a major update that includes a new interface and 11 new presets for both Android and iOS, as well as adding the Perspective tool to the iOS version.
It might sound like a strange idea, but taking macro photos of boiling water can actually result in some really cool photographs. A good photo experiment for a rainy day.
The database was created to "break with the narrow lens through which history… has been recorded" by equipping those who commission photography with "the resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments.
Lensbaby has released two new optics for their special "optic swap system." The Lensbaby Sweet 80 Optic gives you that trademark sweet spot of focus, while the Creative Bokeh optic gives you 9 different drop in aperture plate options to play with.
TechCrunch has already posted their review of the upcoming iPhone 8 (not yet the iPhone X), and they're calling it "a look into the augmented future of photography."
Affinity Photo is a $50 photo editing software with no subscriptions. That's it – pay for it once and you're done. And we think it's actually pretty darn good.
Instagram is currently testing a major change to the app's profile layout: replacing the 3-photo across grid with a 4-photo grid... and some users are NOT taking the news well.
A report by USSRPhoto is shedding some light on the return of the famed Zenit camera brand. It seems the full-frame mirrorless camera they're working on will be made in part by Leica using components from the Leica SL.
According to a reliable Korean report, Samsung is developing a smartphone sensor that's capable of super slow motion. Translation: Samsung's next batch of Galaxy smartphones may be able to shoot 1,000fps.
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.
After a massive leak last week, Profoto has officially debuted the Profoto A1: the company's first on-camera flash system that they're calling "the world's smallest studio flash."
"When the first hyperfocal distance charts were designed, someone decided that an acceptably sharp background contained some blur — enough to notice in a medium-sized print [...] After that point, nearly every other hyperfocal chart followed suit."
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (also known as the EOS 200D) is the company's impressively compact entry-level DSLR. Packing a 24MP APS-C sensor, DIGIC 7 processor and Dual Pixel AF, it promises a lot of bang for the buck. And while not mind-blowing, it handles most tasks very well.
Correct these four common composition mistakes and your photos will be more balanced, tell a better story, and lead your viewer's eye where you want it to go.
The rugged, compact 360° action camera Kodak unveiled at Photokina in 2016, the Kodak PixPro Orbit 360, is finally available in the United States.
iOS 11 launches tomorrow, and it'll save all of your pictures in a new high efficiency image format called HEIC. Fortunately, there's now a converter that will let you turn those photos back into JPEGs.