As a wedding photographer, I don’t often put much of a focus on video. Therefore I had never put any real thought into what accessories I might need to outfit my Nikon D800 as a proper video-producing machine. That being said however, the Chinese company Aputure may have just started me thinking more seriously about video.
Video equipment is expensive. Plain and simple, there's just no getting around it. Or at least that's what I thought before I was handed the V-Screen. The V-Screen, which retails for $180 in most online retailers, is shockingly cheap when compared to even the most basic of models from Marshall Electronics and Convergent Design. It is made by Aputure (no that's not a misspelling), which makes all manner of inexpensive video equipment for the videographer or hobbyist on a shoestring budget. I'll be honest, before having any experience with a company like this, I would have given them a wide berth. Most inexpensive companies have gotten a reputation for cranking out cheap knockoffs that do not stand up to any sort of scrutiny, but Aputure seems to have broken the mold.
First, let's look at build quality. Like most people, I had always associated off brand Chinese companies with cheap, substandard products. This time I think they proved me wrong. The V-Screen, while very basic is actually quite solid. I don't feel like it's going to fall apart in my hands every time I pick it up, and it's not so delicate that a short drop will completely ruin it. That being said, it IS made almost entirely of plastic and it's certainly not weather-sealed or able to stand up to the elements so your budget version of Apocalypse Now will require a different screen.
The screen is also very light, so it won't throw off the balance of the camera when you are hand holding it. It is also quite thin so it's not going to be too bulky.
Next, we'll look at what the Aputure V-Screen gives you in terms of features.
The Aputure V-Screen has a 7" WVGA LCD screen with a resolution of 800 x 480px. The screen is very bright and although it doesn't support full HD resolution, there is still enough resolution to be able to monitor focus and lighting. Color seems accurate, but it's not a super-high quality monitor, so if you have to have a perfect representation of what you're filming, this may not be exactly what you're looking for. The screen also has a built in speaker and headphone input so you can easily monitor and play back your videos recorded sound.
In addition to this, the screen has the option for 3 different inputs, HDMI, yPbPr and AV which allow for plenty of flexibility depending on your needs. Depending on the aspect ratio of your camera, you also have the option to change the screens viewing ratio from full screen to 4:3 and 16:9.
In addition to this, through it's menu options you have the opportunity to adjust color balance, flip the image vertically and horizontally, adjust brightness and contrast and shoot in grayscale. Again the screen is very basic and lacks the functionality of higher end screens, but for $180, you more or less get what you pay for.
You have the option to power the monitor in two different ways: the first being an AC plug on the back of the camera, and the second being a Sony battery, which unfortunately is not included with the video screen. This is one of my main complaints against this device because when I was testing this video screen out, I had to remain stationary near an outlet, OR I had to carry around the battery pack that I use for my flashes in order to power the screen. This could have easily been solved by finding a Sony battery to fit into the back of the screen, but I did not have access to one.
The camera is mounted on an included swivel head mount that screws into the bottom of the camera and allows you to mount it in the hotshoe of your camera. For bright conditions, the video screen comes standard with a canvas sun shade. This may not be the case for all shades, but when I received mine it seemed to be covered in something ever so slightly wet and smelled strongly of glue or other chemical products, it went away after a few days (or the chemicals ate away my ability to smell). It's not a huge deal, it's just something that came up.
The menus on the V-Screen are very easy to use and are well thought out. I was able to set up everything I needed too in just a few clicks. There aren't many buttons, but the buttons that are there are useful, well marked and give a satisfying click when you press them.
Overall though, the video screen is straight forward and does exactly what it says on the tin.
Now, let's look at price and how that relates to the features you're given.
At $180 the Aputure V-Screen is a bargain. If you're looking for a basic video screen that has most of the features that you would need for basic video production, this is a very good option. There are plenty of options out there if you're looking to spend more, they're probably a little more solid and may have more inputs, but the Aputure V-Screen delivers lots of bang for your buck and with that in mind, I would recommend picking one up.
Overall though I think that this is a very good product for the money. It has plenty of features and it's flexible enough to be used in most situations outside of anything involving inclement weather.
What I liked:
Speaker and Headphone input
What Could Be Improved:
Lack of an included battery
Sunshade was coated in a strange chemical
So that's that! Aputure has taken a step into proving that not all Chinese "knockoff" products are that bad. I'm not saying that it's the perfect product, but for the amount of money that you're putting into it (only $180), it's worth it. This is the perfect product for the beginning videographer or those wanting to get into video production on a shoestring budget.
If you're interested in seeing more information about the Aputure V-Screen, take a look at the Aputure Website!