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Phil A

Quick unscientific comparison: SmallHD 501 & VideoDevices PIX-E5

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Hey guys,

I'm not sure anyone cares, considering that these are two quite different creatures, but while I have both the SmallHD 501 and PIX-E5 still here I made a rough comparison between the two.

Quick upfront comment: the SmallHD 501 is a pure field monitor while the VideoDevices PIX-E5 can record in ProRes to a Speed Drive (a mSata SSD in a proprietary USB3 case). I have only tested the monitor functions and not the recording. If you're looking for an alternative to a Shogun or Odyssey you will want the PIX-E.
The SmallHD 501 allows to attach the sidefinder attachment, turning it into a not perfect but good EVF.

501vspixe_01.thumb.jpg.68b368f7055029a3f

As most know, both of them are field monitors with 5 inch 1920x1080 pixel IPS screens. Both of them run on dual batteries so you can hot swap during use, the SmallHd using the ubiquitous Canon LP-E6 while the PIX-E5 takes the just as common Sony L batteries. Both monitors have a lot of exposure, focus and framing helps and can load LUTs from a SD card, a great feature to separate them from the cheaper low budget offering when shooting LOG profiles. So far with the similarities, I'll go a bit deeper on the specific stuff and differencies.

501vspixe_02.thumb.jpg.690a1ce5026758064

Models and operation:
The Small HD 501 is the cheaper 500series model, lacking the SDI in- & outputs that the more expensive SmallHD 502 brings, otherwise boasting exactly the same features. There's also more expensive 7 inch models. The SmallHD operates completely over the joystick plus back button, you'll won't have smudges on the screen like with a touch screen.

The VideoDevices PIX-E5 is the more expensive 5 inch PIX-E due to the SDI in- & outs, there's also a cheaper PIX-E5H that only has HDMI . Just like with SmallHD, VideoDevices also makes a 7 inch model. While the SmallHD has a very minimalist operating approach, the PIX-E5 on the other hand features a twist & push know on one side, 13 buttons on the front and touch screen in addition.

I'd give the point here to the PIX-E, it's just more pleasant to set up and toggle the functions.

Operating system logic:
The 501 offers a page logic. You can create multiple pages that you set up with the tools of your choice (in whatever combination you need) and then just left-right jump with the joystick between the pages. So you might have one page with all your tools to set the right exposure and then the next page with your framing guides and focus helps. Nifty.

On the PIX-E5 you can activate and deactivate the different tools with the buttons on the bottom of the screen, configure them by holding the button. Works easy and quick, especially on combination with the touch screen.

I'll give this point to the SmallHD. While I think setting up the tools is quicker on the PIX-E, you only set them up once and then toggle between pages on the 501 while you would always turn tools on and off on the PIX-E. But this is by a hair, I think both is perfectly fine, might be a draw for others.

Exposure tools:
Both have configurable zebras, false colour, histogram, waveform and vectorscope. They feel slightly laggy and pixelated on the PIX-E but that's nit picking. A clear draw.

Focus tools:
They both have colored edge peaking in configurable strength and color.

The 501 features additional edge sharpening that emphasizes in focus edges so it's really easier to pull focus directly from the full screen video without the distracting peaking colors. It works quite well in my opinion and is better than colored edge peaking when using a nice big 5 or 7 inch monitor.

The PIX-E5 features a cool zoom function to punch in on the picture via touch screen, you can even move the zoomed frame area. 

Which is better? It depends. For me I'd say the full screen edge sharpening is better for run & gun where you want to keep an eye on the whole frame while the great punch in is good when shooting from sticks or in a more narrative setting.

Inputs & Outputs:
Both feature HDMI and SDI depending on the model as well as doing loop through. The point goes clearly to the PIX-E5 though as it has 4k via 6G SDI and HDMI while the Small HD only does FullHD. In addition the PIX-E5 can do FullHD up to 120fps (not that most consumer/prosumer cameras would even give that out, they only do it internally).

Image lag:
I've tested this point because a lot of people complained about the image lag of the PIX-E5 with roughly 5 frames of delay. VideoDevices really improved this a lot with the last firmware updates. Both monitors show a comparable amount of delay connected via HDMI to a Samsung NX1 or Nikon D750. If shot the camera screens and monitors with the iPhone in 240fps and both monitors lagged roughly the same behind the camera screens and reality.
Keep in mind that if you do loop through, there will be additional delay. The SmallHD won't work on the NX1 but it works when looping through the PIX-E5 (makes you wonder how SmallHD is incapable to fix this if even that is enough?) but obviously it will lag even more then. This is probably only relevant for the people who want to run multiple monitors/recorders on one camera to have separate view for operator and focus puller (and director).

Recording:
DUH! PIX-E5 because the SmallHD 501 is no recorder. In addition the PIX-E5 comes with the PIX-LR module to high quality audio features such as phantom powered XLR inputs.

Weight and size:
The SmallHD 501 is smaller by quite a margin, I didn't measure them but you can see it on the picture or look it up in the tech specs. 
The SmallHD 501 weighs 205g without batteries and 365g with my two aftermarket LP-E6. These bring 2000 mAh each.
The VideoDevices PIX-E5 is 450g without batteries and reachs 635g with two aftermarket NP-F550 (2900 mAh each) or, if you need a lot of juice, 1050g with two NP-F970 (7800 mAh each).

We don't have to discuss this, it's clearly in favor of the SmallHD 501. This was when using them as pure monitors, if you add the Speed Drive to record to the PIX-E5 will get even heavier. So when shooting with a A7s with a vintage lens, the PIX-E5 with batteries and media is as heavy as the camera. This is actually on the level of the bigger Shogun. One reason clearly is the superior build quality. While the SmallHD 501 is in no way flimsy, the PIX-E5 has a massive metal housing used for robustness and to dissipate heat (it also has an active cooling fan but the volume is perfectly fine).

Start up time:
Here comes the last point in my list and the absolute deal breaker for me. Everything above would be perfectly fine with both monitors and I think both are great choices but depending on how you want to shoot, the start up time of the PIX-E5 will be unacceptable. 

I've stopped the time between pushing the button / shoving the slider and the image appearing on screen for both monitors multiple times.
SmallHD 501: 3 seconds
PIX-E5: 32 seconds

For me that was just not workable as I like to pull the camera out of the bag, flip it on and shoot. I often won't want to stand around 30 seconds and wait for the monitor to power on. If you're shooting a music video or a narrative that might be fine though, it's more some documentary & travel style situations where I see this as a problem.

 

So this is my rough and brief impression of the two monitors (slash recorder). To be honest I think the VideoDevices PIX-E5 is the more extensive product, especially with the recording function, but due to the difference in weight and start up time I see the SmallHD 501 as more usable in my personal opinion and goals.

 

I'm sure I forgot something and will then add that later. If you have any questions, just ask.

[edit] There is further information about the startup time of the PIX-E5 further down in this thread.

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I've searched YouTube for videos to cross check my observations and I found one rather weird unboxing video where the PIX-E5 gets mounted and powered on. The video shows the splash screen at the end for over 10 seconds when they power it on, then the unboxing abruptly ends without the PIX-E5 ever arriving on the regular screen. I considered mine defective but it seems that is regular behaviour. I think it's sad because it's otherwise a really impressive gadget, it seems amazingly solid in build and reliable, I'd consider that a huge oversight for a device retailing at 1600€ sans batteries or media.

I've noticed how basically no unboxing videos show the powering up of devices and the review videos typically already have them running or are cut between the footage. It's hard to find such kinks without actually having the device in hand. I found a video where someone powered the Atomos Shogun and it seamed close to instantaneous, like the SmallHD. What a pity that Atomos makes no up-to-date 5" monitor/recorder.

Seeing how there was a PIX-E5 vs Atomos Shogun comparison on Cinema5D a while ago I'm somewhat surprised how that didn't get commented on, I think they're rather thorough normally.

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1 hour ago, Jpr said:

Holy crap 30+ sec start up!? Thanks for the heads up!

Still faster than my Atomos Samurai Blade I think? That takes foreeeeevvveeeerrrr!!

So we can give the PIX-E5 a bit of slack, as it is a recorder after all. Not just a monitor. 

Ditto the extra size, if you look at the picture you can see the small increase in size is entirely thanks to the extra direct buttons (& a little bit because of its more rugged build, also a good thing). Something which many of us would greatly prefer over the SmallHD UI inputs!

Thus I don't see the PIX-E5 as the loser here at all, just "different".

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1 minute ago, IronFilm said:

Still faster than my Atomos Samurai Blade I think? That takes foreeeeevvveeeerrrr!!

So we can give the PIX-E5 a bit of slack, as it is a recorder after all. Not just a monitor. 

Ditto the extra size, if you look at the picture you can see the small increase in size is entirely thanks to the extra direct buttons (& a little bit because of its more rugged build, also a good thing). Something which many of us would greatly prefer over the SmallHD UI inputs!

Thus I don't see the PIX-E5 as the loser here at all, just "different".

As I've said, if I could live with the start up time I'd actually prefer the PIX-E5 over the SmallHD. It's a great thing. Just a bit disappointing with the start up time as I'm sure that could have been circumvented with a bit better optimized software or more capable/optimized hardware. I thought I made it clear that in the end you chose between the monitor with included EVF versus the recorder with included monitor, no matter the decision you won't lose.

I actually considered keeping the PIX-E (because I wanted to keep it, the SmallHD doesn't work with the Samsung NX1) so I tried to come up with a workaround but due to the fact that it gets hot to the touch to dissipate heat over the metal housing and uses active cooling via fan, it probably won't survive long if you put it into your camera bag (i.e. killing air circulation) without powering it off.

 

And before the question comes, I wouldn't consider the BM Video Assist. It doesn't do LUTs, it doesn't do 4k recording, the monitor panel is apparently not on the same quality as Atomos, SmallHD and VideoDevices.

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Yep if CD or Atomos made an awesome 5 inch recorder/monitor i'd be all over it in a heartbeat. 7" is just too big for the fs5 I've found unless its for interview/sticks only. I need to be mobile and small501 or 502 is perfect but I really would like the recorder option in the future.

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13 hours ago, Phil A said:

I've stopped the time between pushing the button / shoving the slider and the image appearing on screen for both monitors multiple times.
SmallHD 501: 3 seconds
PIX-E5: 32 seconds

Not completely correct.
The initial startup -after a long time of not using it- is 30 sec. After that it starts up within 8 sec. I waited for half an hour and startup time was still 8 sec. I'll do a test with an hour later on.

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9 hours ago, Phil A said:

Just like with SmallHD, VideoDevices also makes a 7 inch model.

Yes, thanks a lot for the review. A more general question as this seems also to be Jpr´s view: Dou you prefer 5-inch due to its better mobility? Was thinking about a 7-inch model myself but this makes me re-think again...

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57 minutes ago, bunk said:

Not completely correct.
The initial startup -after a long time of not using it- is 30 sec. After that it starts up within 8 sec. I waited for half an hour and startup time was still 8 sec. I'll do a test with an hour later on.

That's interesting, thanks so much for the input. I started it up multiple times within a few minutes but it always took long to start.
Might it make a difference if using it with a Speed Drive connected or not?

46 minutes ago, Mars said:

Yes, thanks a lot for the review. A more general question as this seems also to be Jpr´s view: Dou you prefer 5-inch due to its better mobility? Was thinking about a 7-inch model myself but this makes me re-think again...

I guess it depends. If I would shoot narrative or in a controlled setup I'd go for 7 inch and mount it directly to the tripod head instead of to the camera. But if you want to stay mobile and a bit more subtle, with the monitor on the hot shoe or a small cage, I think 5 inch is better to handle. Guess it comes down to personal preference.

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3 hours ago, bunk said:

Not completely correct.
The initial startup -after a long time of not using it- is 30 sec. After that it starts up within 8 sec. I waited for half an hour and startup time was still 8 sec. I'll do a test with an hour later on.

This didn't leave me alone so I researched some more. You're right, apparently after it was running for a while it will not take as long to boot up again the next time (the review I found after quite a bit of searching specified cold boot to between 25 to 45 seconds and just said warm boot is much much faster, didn't give a specific time frame).
My guess now is that the time frame I used to run it for (I often shoot 10 - 30 second snippets for travel videos so run time probably below a minute each) wasn't long enough to get into the "run warm" zone. I've mailed to the VideoDevices support to ask about this, perhaps they can give a definitive answer.

I'm sure people would be thankfull if you could test a bit around this. Compared to how much information is out there around all the cameras the information over field monitors and recorders, especially comparing different ones to each other, is still rather scarce.

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To complete today's monologue, I already got the answer from VideoDevices:

PIX-E monitors have a very powerful processor and operating system, so it takes up to 45 seconds to boot the first time. However, the QuickBoot™ feature reduces subsequent boot times to just a few seconds. QuickBoot is enabled for two hours after powering down the monitor. Each time the monitor is turned off, this timer is reset. During this time, boot times are reduced, but after two hours, QuickBoot is deactivated and powering on the monitor will result in a normal, longer boot process.  This information is listed on page 8 of the user guide.

Obviously I missed the fact that it's in the user guide even though I quickly read through it. Dumb, sorry about that. It doesn't mention if there's any "minimum" time to be powered on to activate that. Could you test it @bunk ? Like, cold boot, wait 30 seconds, turn it off, wait a few minutes, turn it on again.

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Quote

PIX-E monitors have a very powerful processor and operating system, so it takes up to 45 seconds to boot the first time.

I am sure the PIX-E is great, but this "explanation" is some hilarious BS. :)

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@Phil A Tested both with and without speed drive ...around 8 sec to boot up. My "shoots" were no longer than 10 sec. time between shoots was 10 seconds as well ...in the end the on/off switch started to feel loose (no it didn't). Reason I only waited for 10 sec to reboot was that it rebooted fine after a couple of minutes or even half an hour. Btw didn't know about the quickboot either, should read manuals more often.

If that is not your experience there might be something wrong with your recorder or ...it's a bug with the E5, I have the E5H.

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Just now, bunk said:

@Phil A Tested both with and without speed drive ...around 8 sec to boot up. My "shoots" were no longer than 10 sec. time between shoots was 10 seconds as well ...after that the on/off switch started to feel loose (no it didn't)

If that is not your experience there might be something wrong with your recorder or ...it's a bug with the E5, I have the E5H.

Might be. I sometimes got some image glitches in the splash screen when powering on like a whole bunch of other people reported in reviews and on the Video Devices Facebook page. One review said they had that with the 5 but not the 5H. Hard to judge.

The PIX-E5 is already gone again, but I'd consider to rebuy it if I'd need an external recorder. I think it's the best offer at the moment.

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The PIX could be very nice if you want the best sound with this add-on http://www.newsshooter.com/2016/03/15/video-devices-pix-lr-audio-interface-adds-xlr-inputsoutputs-to-the-pix-e-series/

Basically it makes it a Sound Devices recorder, an industry standard in filmmaking. Those start at $3k while you can get a PIX-E5 for $1k (the HDMI version) and the PIX-LR for $500

It also seems much more durable than any other monitor/recorder out there

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