Church Production

Review: SmallHD AC-7 OLED Video Monitor

"...has to be seen in person to be really appreciated..."

By Mark Hanna
April 15, 2013 10:40 pm EST

Topics: Video,
Tags: church, monitor, OLED, video,

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Great for circumstances where the monitor is being used during the week on a DSLR and then pressed into service on the weekend for studio configuration for IMAG.

I remember the first time I saw a camera with a flip out display. I thought it was the coolest thing ever invented, until I started using cameras more regularly. Then I realized they were too small, too dull, and not really as helpful as I had hoped. Since the novelty has worn off, they often now leave camera ops like me calling for more. More brightness, more sharpness, more size, just more. SmallHD answered the call with its most recent release, the AC-7. This monitor has it all: more brightness, more options and more software, just plain more.

On top of that, the 7.7-inch monitor itself is rugged, well-made, and feels like it could stand up to a little abuse. It also has 4/20 mounting receivers on both the top and bottom, giving you a variety of mounting options. The AC-7 comes with HDMI, but SDI models are available, making them equally good for post or live production environments. The kicker here is the AC-7 utilizes organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology at a price that is comparable to traditional LCD monitors.


The clarity of the screen is one of the things that really makes the AC-7 stand out from other monitors. The OLED has to be seen in person to be really appreciated, but trust me: it’s awesome. The colors are vivid and the blacks are black because of the use of OLED technology. The reason OLED is important in this application is the advantage it has over regular LCD. While the advantages are numerous, most of them hinge on the difference in how an OLED monitor produces light or, in the case of black—doesn’t. Typical LCD monitors have a contrast ratio, which is the monitor’s ability to produce black against its ability to produce white. The difference with OLED monitors is that the color black is a result of turning off the diodes rather than blocking the backlight the way LCDs do. Since LCD backlight is always on, regardless of how much black or white they are producing, there is always some light leakage. This is easily noticed when turning on a traditional LCD monitor—they glow even if there is no source data and the monitor is black. On an OLED this lack of light results in the contrast ratio being almost infinity to one. This also increases the perceived brightness, as the eye becomes accustomed to such vivid dark values, the white values seem extremely bright.

When you add to the contrast ratio the fact that the AC-7 also has a high color depth or bit depth, resulting in fantastic looking gradients, you really start to get an appreciation for just how good this monitor is. Bit depth determines how many increments of value (lightness) there are between the brightest and darkest shades of red, green and blue. For example, six-bit panels reproduce 64 levels of color per “channel” (or color). These numbers multiply together to reach the total number of colors the panel can reproduce. 64x64x64 = 262,144. Eight-bit panels have four times the amount of R,G,B shades as six-bit, meaning 256 colors per channel. This means an eight-bit panel achieves 16,777,216 colors—64 times more colors than a six-bit panel. Next page