Monday, May 28, 2012

2.5" LCD Monitor (for GoPro) review

This inexpensive, lightweight generic CCTV monitor, has a 2.5" color active matrix LCD display that makes framing video easy even in bright sunlight. This monitor is sold by different retailers, with various connections for different camcorders, and at a huge range of different prices.  It retails anywhere from $255.95 (B&H Photo) to as low as $49.95 on eBay including shipping, direct from Asia.

It is powered by an internal 3.7 V battery giving you 4 to 6 hours of view time, that reportedly needs only 45 minutes to recharge. It has dials to adjust brightness and color on the side, above an on/off switch, and an LED light to indicate on/off and charging.   The monitor is not waterproof. 

The diagonal screen size is 2.5 inches, with a 4:3 TFT screen ratio.  The resolution is 480*230 and both PALand NTSC compatible.  The video input signal is 1.OVp 75 ohm.

Originally designed to help CCTV security camera installers to adjust the aim and focus of cameras, these also makes a nice, inexpensive monitor for action cam shooting. These monitors even come with simple wrist mounting strap, but the strap system is pretty lightweight, and the Velcro will almost certainly need adjusting to actually work as a wrist mount.  The monitor also has a small, removable, folding, wire stand for table display.

The monitor is 5/8" thick, 3 3/8 X 2 1/2" and It weighs only a few ounces, being largely made of plastic.  It is not particularly robust, and won't take much abuse, in my estimation.  Just be a little careful, and it should prove an otherwise pretty good piece of kit for the low price.

Don't expect HD.  The picture quality is only fair.  I just wanted something to help me frame shots, and that's what this monitor does for me.  But I'm happy to report that with the GoPro attached, it also displays the mode you are shooting in: video, video, stills, etc.  It shows a red recording light, and also indicates the mode you are shooting in - r1 through r5, plus a running clock timer of the film event.

No more film runs, only to find out later that you had inadvertently advanced the menu to find yourself shooting stills.  Or find that the camera wasn't turned on at all. 

The monitor also shows a battery level indicator.  (Of the monitor only, unfortunately).  But when the camera is out of juice, it flashes NO POWER and the screen goes blank. 

Another useful bonus: When you enter the SET menu, the display is in perfectly comprehensible English.  It will say, for example, not jus bL0, but Blinking Light OFF (bL0) or, Resolution: 720p - 60fps - r3.

This is now a standard feature on HD2, that is so welcome, that I'm sure some people upgraded from the HD1 just to have it, instead of having to deal with the frustrating, coded, short-form abbreviations of the original versions.  This is great.

CAVEAT EMPTOR - NOTICE: There appear to be two versions available on eBay that differ only in their respective AV-in cabling.

One has a standard 2.5 mini-plug jack, and the other, (shown below) some kind of odd ball, possibly unique, micro-jack system that looks like a very small, micro-sized BNC connector. (Shown below). I recommend the 2.5 mini-plug system given the choice.

For comparison, here is a 3.5 mini plug, a GoPro 2.5 mini plug, and one of these micro-sized, mini-BNCs.  Below, is one eBay seller's micro BNC on a cable with a regular BNC (male) on the other end.

Mini-plug AV-in cabled monitors are sold by several eBay sellers, including Ragecams, and Buyincoins.  Ragecams charges twice as much, for what seems to be the same monitor, but does also include a couple of extra connectors, to interface with the BNC male and BNC female ends.

Because these monitors were intended for CCTV use, both versions have BNC connectors on the ends of their AV-in cabling.  Usually BNC female, but possibly both male and female.  You will need an inexpensive BNC male to RCA connector, to mate with the standard RCA video out cables from whatever camera you you plan to use.  Shown here is a BNC female, to RCA female connector, bought on ebay for $1.99 incl. shipping. This will allow  you to use your GoPro video out cables with this monitor.  

The big advantage to the monitor with the 2.5mm AV-in plug, is that you can opt to use only an inexpensive, and  lightweight patch cable with 2.5mm plugs on both ends.  This will eliminate the need for the heavy BNC bypass, and the relatively long, and heavy AV out cables that GoPro provides.  You can't do this with the other style of monitor with the unique, micro-sized BNC connector, so my recommendation is that you be sure of which of the two, seemingly otherwise identical monitors, you intend to buy.

Otherwise, you'll end up with something like what's shown below, an OEM original, GoPro mini-plug to RCA cable, attached RCA to BNC connection, leading to Micro-BNC cable.  Everything works, but what you have is long, heavy, and unwieldy.
On the other hand, if you have, or end up with the micro-BNC cabled version, it isn't the end of the world, it just means that you can't wire the thing up with a light-weight mini-plug patch cable direct to your camera.  You can still reduce weight by substituting a short, lightweight 2.5 mini-plug to RCA male cable (if you can find one) to interface with the BNC/RCA connector shown above.  This will be significantly lighter than using the long, bulky cables GoPro provides.

As it happens, the smallest, lightest, 4-pin mini-plug to RCA cable I could find was this one"2.5mm TRS plug to RCA female adaptor" (sic)  $2.88 from from eBay seller flyjoy2009.  You will need a different BNC to RCA adapter, however, you need a BNC male to RCA male.

One of the big advantages of this monitor, is its own internal power source.  These monitors use a  readily available, rechargeable, lithium-polymer  BP-6M cell phone battery, with a capacity of 1000mAh and a standard voltage of 3.7 V, with a recharging voltage of 4.2 V.

Generic BP-6M batteries are are available on eBay for as low as $3.99 including shipping.  OEM Nokia BP-6M batteries can be had on eBay for $4.99.  And desktop chargers to keep your spares topped up can be picked up for $5.99.  A battery charger will save wear and tear on the camera while you're charging. The camera is pretty delicate, and the DC power in connectors will wear out on you pretty quickly.

In my next post, I'll describe the helmet mounting system I use for hands-free viewing of this monitor while flying PPG (Powered Paragliders).

If you have any doubts about the input on the monitor you are looking at, you might try to contact the seller to confirm.  It's caveat emptor with Asian eBay purchases.  It usually costs more to return an item than it does to buy another.

You are looking for the connection like the one that is shown above with the buyincoins logo superimposed over it.  Watch out for pictured cables like one below, from seller globalsucceed01, (and a few others), which appears to be a mini plug to RCA male, and supposedly included with it, seen in the adjacent picture, an RCA female - BNC connector to make it work with a CCTV.   It's not. The connection as pictured would be fine, but its not what you'll get.  They substitute the mini-BNC rig-up instead.

If you want improved daylight efficiency, this eBay item works great.  Listed as: "Digital Camera 3.0" Screen Hood Pop Up Shade Protector", it perfectly covers the screen, and shades the viewscreen from all four sides.  $9.78 plus shipping.  It comes with two self-stick magnetis srips, that the screen clips into and holds it in place.  


The monitor will display the GoPro HD Hero (Original) settings menu  
in detailed, plain English.  No more code.  Instead of SET you will see, (above)

Press shutter button

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