If you're looking for a 4K recorder/monitor combo unit for your hybrid mirrorless or DSLR, Blackmagic's 4K Video Assist deserves to be on your short list. It has a bug that needs to be addressed (see below), but the price, display, build quality, dual card slots, dual batteries, and dead simple touch interface make it a unique value in the market.
There are cheaper monitors; there are cheaper recorders.
There are also more fully featured, more expensive monitors; and more fully featured, more expensive 4K recorder/monitors.
But Blackmagic Design's 4K Video Assist with 7" 1900x1200 touch screen display is a unique set of tradeoffs, and no other combo recorder/monitor offers as compelling a value proposition for most hybrid mirrorless/DSLR shooters.
With this written, Blackmagic needs to fix the intermittent black-out I experienced with my Sony a6300 and with the loaner Sony FS5 I had on hand [UPDATE: fixed in firmware version 2.1], and you need to know that the 6G SDI connector in is only good for 1080p -- a surprising choice given its 4K capability via HDMI.
If you need to record frame rates in 4K higher than 30fps or in HD higher than 60fps; want to record RAW; want to use LUTS; want to use an SDI connection for 4K; want false color; or rely on anything more sophisticated than a basic histogram, you'll have to look elsewhere.
There's a lot to like about the 4K Video Assist.
- At $895, it is the lowest price 7" monitor/4K recorder combo of which I'm aware.
- The case is made of metal and is more robust than any combo monitor/recorder I've personally used.
- It can record all the way up to ProRes 422HQ
- The screen is bright and crisp.
- The touch screen interface is simple, intuitive, and works well.
- It has dual card slots and uses inexpensive SDXC cards, but be aware that you'll need SDXC UHS II -- right now, only Transcend and Lexar are on Blackmagic's certified list.
- It has a pair of balanced mini XLR connectors for audio with phantom power - unique, to my knowledge, at anywhere near this price point and a good reason to leave your field recorder at home.
- It has a headphone jack.
- It has a LANC port.
- It has a mini-USB port for updates.
The intermittent screen blanking I experienced during testing the 4K Video Assist with both the a6300 and FS5 (though it didn't seem to affect recording - odd) has now been fixed, but there are a number of features which are limited or missing altogether that may or may not be deal-breakers for you:
- No false color
- No LUT support
- No tools beyond a rudimentary histogram
- No frame rates above 30fps in 4K, 60fps in FHD
- No 4K recording via SDI
- Limited magnification and magnification positioning
- Limited color choice (only one) in focus peaking
- Doesn't work with Sony RAW on FS5
- Image quality isn't going to be noticeably better than what your camera records internally in most cases
The 4K Video Assist offers robust build quality, a lovely display, a great touch-screen interface, and strong audio capability. The trade-offs necessary to bring all of that to market at $895 will make the most sense if you're a hybrid mirrorless/DSLR shooter looking to go beyond the basic limitations of most cameras in this category.
On the other hand, I wouldn't count on superior footage as a valid reason for getting this or any other recorder for most hybrid mirrorless/DSLR cameras: these kinds of cameras generally send out the same 8-bit 4:2:0 signal that they record internally (the Panasonic GH4 being a notable exception). It's not like you're going to have more signal to work with.
And if you're using a higher-end dedicated video camera like the Sony FS5 or FS7, there are other monitor/recorder combo units (admittedly more expensive) better suited to the frame rates and outputs of which they are capable.
All in all, the 4K Video Assist is a lovely product upon which Blackmagic can build. Personally, I think they'd be smart to create their own little app store and make LUTS, false color, and other monitoring tools like RGB parade available as downloads.
But hey, that's just me.
If you like what you've read here, please subscribe; visit our YouTube channel and subscribe there too and give us a "like"; and if you're in the market for gear, consider using our affiliate links at B&H and Amazon (once you click on them, any purchase will help out) - they don't cost you anything, but they help me stay caffeinated.