Review: SWIT S-1070F Monitor Review
The digital cinema world is changing by leaps and bounds. 35mm, the one time feature film king is slowly ceding its dominance as more and more films are shooting digital. At the high end there is Sony with the F65, Red with the Epic and Arri with Alexa. But the lines in that market are also blurring as the digital revolution continues. Case in point, Canon and the EOS 5D Mark iii. A recent announcement by hackers Magic Lantern promise RAW 14bit 24fps files from this camera, which already shoots 1080p 24fps iframe h.264. Also, let’s not forget Canon’s new 1.2.1 firmware that allows uncompressed 8bit 1080p output to an external device in mirroring mode.
The one constant in the digital age, no matter how expensive or inexpensive the camera is, is you will need a good field monitor. Not only do you need a monitor for framing if you are not using a built in EVF viewfinder, you can’t really operate or focus a video DSLR without one. They are indispensable! And more and more people use the monitor to light as they provide Waveform, Vectorscope, histograms and Zebra Stripes.
Which brings me to the point of this review. I use a 5D Mark iii among other cameras but I don’t have a field monitor and I cannot focus with the built in screen. At NAB 2013 I came across a catalogue for a company called SWIT, (http://www.swit.us). I had heard of them as a battery manufacturer, but I did not know they made monitors. A quick call to their U.S. corporate offices in San Jose and they agreed to lend me a 7” monitor for my Canon. It came configured to accept my Canon LP-E6 batteries, but you can have it configured with the battery of your choosing as the plates just snap on and screw into place.
Let me quickly get to the specs of this monitor:
• 7” LCD (TFT screen) with a resolution of 1024x600, 900:1 contrast ratio with a 160-degree viewing angle (Horizontal and Vertical).
• 16x9 and 4x3
• 400 nits or 400cd/m2
• HD/SD-SDI & HDMI input and loop through output and CVBS input
• HDMI converted to HD/SDI output (What I really wanted in a monitor)
• Waveform – Y/Cb/CR, R/G/B and full scale (SDI & HDMI)
• Vector scope (SDI & HDMI)
• Histogram – R/G/B (SDI & HDMI)
• SDI 16-ch / HDMI 2-ch embedded audio meter display
• SDI/HDMI embedded audio output via 3.5mm earphone
• SDI timecode display
• Peaking focus assist (SDI & HDMI)
• False color (SDI & HDMI)
• Zebra stripes (SDI & HDMI)
• Blue only (SDI & HDMI)
• Internal 100% color bars (SDI & HDMI)
• Underscan / Overscan, safety mark
• Canon DSLR scale zoom-in (Not really needed with Canon’s new 1.2.1 firmware with HDMI Mirroring)
• Image flip
• Front and rear Tally light
• V-mount, Gold mount or snap-on DV mount: F/P/J/C/U/E/B/V/I
• Power ≤15W
• A range of battery mounts from Sony, Canon, V-mount and Anton Bauer, to name a few
So as you can see there are a host of features.
My biggest concern was the resolution at 1024x600 when many other companies offer 1280x800. I spoke to SWIT about this and they explained it is all in the quality of the electronics and conversion done. And I have to say they are correct. I see no discernable difference. In all honesty when looking at a 1920x1080 image on a 7” screen you aren’t going to see the image in full resolution. The S-1071F allows you to zoom in in two steps to a 1:1 ratio if you need to check critical focus. It is sharp and clear and I had no problems focusing. With the addition of Focus Peaking in Red or Blue, critical focus was a snap.
Unpacking the monitor, the first thing that stood out was the build quality. The monitor feels solid, not flimsy. It reminds me of the JVC monitors so I called SWIT and asked, “Do they make the JVC monitors?” Their response: “We make the 7” and 9” monitors for JVC, not the larger sized monitors.” It has ¼” 20 mounting holes on the sides and bottom of the monitor. The side holes double as support for the well-built sunshade. The monitor comes with two large thumbscrews that allow you to screw down the sunshade. It also comes with Velcro but I hate gluing things on monitors. The box also held a cold-shoe mount for the monitor; a screen protector also comes standard, as well as a 4 pin XLR to wall wart adapter and power chord for power if you don’t want to use a battery.
When I turned on the monitor, the first thing I noticed was how crisp and clean the image looks. You can feed a SMPTE color bars signal to the monitor and because it has Blue Gun only set up properly. The built in 100% color bars don’t lend themselves to setting up with Blue Gun only.
I am feeding the monitor a mirrored HDMI signal from the Canon 5D Mark iii (with firmware 1.2.1—mirroring mode) using an HDMI A to HDMI B cable. The picture is great. Framing is easy with a nice big 7” monitor and the framing lines also help. The frame lines come set as default to 85% but I changed it to 95%. They also include 4x3 dotted lines to protect for 4x3. Why we still have to do this in the age of 16x9 televisions is beyond me.
The monitor also supports DSLR zoom mode if you don’t want to use Mirroring with the new firmware. DSLR Zoom basically blows up the image to fill about 80% of the monitor leaving room for the information the camera normally would display—ISO settings, f-Stop, shutter speed, etc. In this mode you have to record to internal media, Compact Flash or SD cards.
The S-1071F is highly configurable. Ten buttons pepper the front as well as a push button audio volume dial that acts as a menu item select button in the menu mode. The buttons include: Menu, Display, (turns on/off display info and frame lines), Vector (for Vectorscope), Waveform, F.Color (for False Color), Focus (for Focus Assist), Source (to set HDM, SDI or CVBS input) and three customizable Function Buttons. I set the custom Function Buttons as follows, F1- Zoom, F2 – RGB Histogram, F3 – Zebra stripes; but you can customize them any way you see fit and there are a lot of options including Image Flip, Color bar, timecode, 16x9 vs. 4x3, Overscan & Underscan and on and on.
The back of the monitor has the battery mount and 4 pin XLR power input as well as two each, HD/SDI inputs and HD/SDI loop through. There is also one HDMI input, one HDMI loop through, and one HD/SDI output which gets converted from the HDMI signal and one CVBS input. There is also a 9pin tally light control and the actual tally light.
I did a test taking the HDMI signal from the Canon 5D Mark iii to the HDMI input on the monitor and then took the HD/SDI output from the monitor to a 24” broadcast monitor using HD/SDI input and the image looked great. The conversion was excellent with no apparent artifacting as far as I could tell. I don’t have external scopes so I used my eyes to judge the picture. But what I was seeing on the 7” SWIT monitor was showing up on my 24” HD production monitor with out the need to throw into the mix a converter from AJA or Blackmagic.
So far I have been very happy with the overall performance of the S-1071F monitor. I’ve tested it indoors and it works flawlessly. Outside is a slightly different story and it is not the monitor’s fault but that big, bright orb in the sky called the Sun. With direct sun hitting the monitor, I had a hard time seeing a great picture, even with the sunshade. If you take a few minutes and set some C-stands and flags, this alleviates the problem, but it is a problem all monitors seem to have—they looked washed out in sunlight. In situations like this, one has to default to using an EVF with an eyepiece.
I did not test the audio capabilities of this monitor— and it has a lot from the specs— as I usually shoot double system and Canon’s implementation of the new mirroring in firmware 1.2.1 does not support audio over HDMI.
Putting it through the tests, I set up a scene and framed with the monitor. This was easy as a 7” screen lets you see what you need to frame. I had no problems focusing or judging focus, even without using the 1:1 zooming function. The monitor is pin sharp! I used the zoom feature as well as focus assist and I was spot on every time. The Zebra stripes were also handy for exposure as was the Waveform and RGB Histogram. But a light meter is also handy!
I got about an hour and ½ of power from the LP-E6 battery and swapping the battery is as easy as pushing a button and sliding it up and out of the battery mount. The monitor works on a power range from 7.4V (LP-E6 output) to 12V DC (4 pin XLR to D-Tap or 12V barrel connector).
I have to say I really like this monitor. I like that it has the built in conversion from HDMI to HD/SDI. This means I don’t have to buy an additional converter from AJA or Blackmagic—just one more thing to buy and power up. You don’t need it with the S-1071F.
I feel confident using this monitor knowing not only can I frame the camera accurately, but focus will also be spot on. No more guessing from the 3” built in Canon Monitor. If you need a monitor for your productions, I would seriously consider the SWIT S-1071F.
So what is the price of the S-1071F? It retails on their website for $1680.00. I’m sure once the monitor hits the supply chain you will find it for less.
Items include: SWIT S-1071F monitor, (with appropriate battery connector), carry case, monitor support arm, cold shoe, power adapter, sun-hood, Screen protector, HDMI cable (optional).
Warranty Period: 2 years conditional.