Portable LCD Monitors for cave photography

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Portable LCD Monitors for cave photography

Postby SpelunkerBoB » Mar 25, 2007 9:47 pm

I've recently gotten a small portable LCD video monitor for use in digital still cave photography, and I was wondering if anyone else has any experience with these that they can share. For over a year I had been toying with the idea of using one - mostly because my ancient eyes can no longer see details on the small LCD screen on my camera (even with reading glasses) and I was having a hard time setting up composition and focus in the dark through the viewfinder. There's nothing more disappointing than getting home and finding that what you thought was a good shot through the viewfinder is actually slightly out of focus on a larger screen, or that you have a flash or some other unwanted object in the frame. I thought a portable monitor might help out with this, and after looking for one for nearly a year, I finally got one and have been using it with pretty good results. The model I have is made by Kawasaki, and is intended for use in automobiles with a portable DVD player so the kids can watch movies on those long trips to Grandma's house. I got it for about 80 bucks at Target and it comes with a variety of output adapters that you can match up to the AV cord for your camera (your camera must have an AV output jack for this to work). The inputs on the monitor are standard RCA's. The down side is that it doesn't come with its own power source, and the battery for it was another 35 bucks, so the whole setup wasn't that cheap. The plus side is that the battery is rechargeable and lasts for three or more hours of continued use. If you turn it off between shots you can do a 4 or 5 hour session with it, and I've yet to run the battery down during a shoot. The image size is about 4.5" x 3.5'' when set to the aspect ratio for a digital camera, and this is plenty big enough to check composition and focus and to see details that you might miss on a smaller screen. On the downside, the resolution is not as not as high as I would like, especially on a vertically oriented shot, but it's good enough for my purposes. If anyone has experience with other models, with possibly better resolution, I'd like to hear about it. This is not something I would use on a hard-core photo trip involving extensive caving (it's not heavy, but it is another piece of gear to carry) but for short, easy caves it's not bad and worth the effort to me. I also recently found another unexpected use for it. In this photo I put the camera in a narrow slot filled with straws, at arm's length on a mini-pod, and used the monitor to set up the shot. It worked out pretty well (I think) and would not have been possible without breaking soda straws otherwise. Not everyone will have the need for one of these, but for me it was a good solution to an ongoing problem.
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Postby SpelunkerBoB » Mar 25, 2007 10:01 pm

Well, I couldn't get the pic to go through. I'll re-post when old dog learns new trick!
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Postby hunter » Mar 26, 2007 10:40 am

Hey SpelunkerBoB,
I don't have any experience with these but thanks for the post! I've been mulling over a setup like this since the screen on my SLR is very small and your post gives me some good food for thought. From a practical point, how heavy is your setup and how tough do you think it is?

Thanks,
James
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Postby Dane » Mar 27, 2007 4:56 am

I can't speak to the technical side, but I can say that after pulling out my little P&S and $20 tripod, it was very humbling to see SB whipping out his huge flat panel!

It is amazingly functional, and to your point (inside joke #27), a couple of my shots that I thought were pretty good thru my little viewfinder turned out to be slightly out of focus, etc.

If you are doing any more than taking snapshots, it is well worth the expense and trouble.
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Postby SpelunkerBoB » Mar 27, 2007 8:12 am

hunter wrote:Hey SpelunkerBoB,
From a practical point, how heavy is your setup and how tough do you think it is?

Thanks,
James


It was about 3/4 lb. including the battery. I wouldn't call it rugged. The 7" screen is glass, and there's a plastic stand on the bottom that could be broken faily easily. Right now I'm carrying it in a padded case inside a larger cave pack, but eventually I'll get a hard case for it. As I said, I probably wouldn't take it on a long trip that required dragging it for any distance. For now I'm staying with the easier caves.
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Postby SpelunkerBoB » Mar 27, 2007 8:14 am

hunter wrote:Hey SpelunkerBoB,
From a practical point, how heavy is your setup and how tough do you think it is?

Thanks,
James


It was about 3/4 lb. including the battery. I wouldn't call it rugged. The 7" screen is glass, and there's a plastic stand on the bottom that could be broken faily easily. Right now I'm carrying it in a padded case inside a larger cave pack, but eventually I'll get a hard case for it. As I said, I probably wouldn't take it on a long trip that required dragging it for any distance. For now I'm staying with the easier caves.
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portable LCD monitor

Postby Dave Bunnell » Mar 27, 2007 1:14 pm

When I have a shot I want to examine critically for focus I just zoom in and check it that way.

Another approach would be something like a portable multimedia player such as Archos or Creative makes. I have a creative Zen, which has a high-res 4-inch screen, and it has a built-in power supply. You can pop a compact flash card right into it. On this one you have to download the pix into the unit to view them, but other players may allow viewing directly, or through a cord to the A-V out on the camera.

I hadn't thought of taking it underground, mainly as a device to review and back up photos on expeditions where I don't want to lug a laptop around.

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