SmallHD: understanding Canon HDSLR monitoring and using the full screen

by planetmitch3 Comments

SmallHD makes monitors for HDSLRs and they've just released a great article and video called “The TRUTH about Canon DSLR Output Signals” which you must read if you ever wanted to know about how the current Canon HDSLRs put out HDMI to a monitor. planet5D has been given early access to this very informative information and we thank SmallHD for helping our readers understand this often misunderstood facet of the current HDSLRs.

And, one of the amazing things about their new SmallHD DP6 monitor is that it is the only monitor currently on the market that has the ability to display Automated Canon DSLR “fullscreen” HDMI Monitoring – yes, full screen – “without the imbedded pillarbox and letterbox seen on other monitors.” You can see that being done in the DP6 promo video below.

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First, it is very important to understand what is happening with the Canon HDSLRs in terms of how they're sending out video via HDMI (and they don't all do it with the same resolution). In the article, “The TRUTH about Canon DSLR Output Signals“, there is a TON of detailed information describing exactly what is coming out of the Canon HDSLRs.

The article begins by reminding us that these HDSLRs were designed for photojournalists:

“So who were these cameras designed for? Photojournalists, primarily (with some potential for wedding photographers)—people who would be in the middle of snapping a great photo and suddenly decide to capture a quick video clip of the moment as well (or do both at the same time) without the need to make any manual adjustments (ironically with the exception of focus).

This “photography” geared thought process set in place the foundational elements for Canon’s entire “HD DSLR” product line.”

And, what I never fully realized until this article is that because of this photographer bias, the Canon HDSLR monitor actually is based on the traditional 3:2 photograph ratio and that the 16:9 video output is forced to have ‘pillarboxes' on the left and right in the HDMI signal as well.

Canon DSLR signal showing 16:9 wasted space - from SmallHD article

Even with this ability to (somewhat) manipulate the output image, there’s no dedicated 16:9 “video preview” output mode that fills the width of an external video monitor or TV with the image from the camera—a setting that would only be used if the operator was planning to shoot video using the DSLR, not photos.

As a result, 15.6% of the width of any external 16:9 monitor/TV is wasted due to embedded pillarboxing from the camera during video preview (i.e. “Live View”).

Ok, so with that little bit of background, watch the video attached to the “The TRUTH about Canon DSLR Output Signals” article (and I strongly urge you to read the whole article!). The video is over 9 minutes and unless you're completely knowledgeable about the HDMI outputs, it will go by in a flash and you'll probably watch it several times because there is a lot of material packed into this video!

Ok, now, if you haven't read the article, please go read it: “The TRUTH about Canon DSLR Output Signals


Here's the DP6 promo video:

Here's the PR from SmallHD about the new DP6 and fullscreen monitoring:

SmallHD DP6 – First to Provide Automated Canon DSLR “fullscreen” HDMI Monitoring

With its unique ability to add features via firmware download, the SmallHD DP6 5.6-inch 1280 x 800 on-camera field monitor has become the first to display HDMI output from Canon EOS DSLR cameras without the imbedded pillarbox and letterbox seen on other monitors—made possible by DP6 firmware version 1.1.

Cary, NC (PRWEB) October 7, 2010

With its unique ability to add features via firmware download, the SmallHD DP6 5.6-inch 1280 x 800 on-camera field monitor has become the first to display HDMI output from Canon EOS DSLR cameras without the imbedded pillarbox and letterbox seen on other monitors—made possible by DP6 firmware version 1.1.

The DP6 is able to zoom, stretch and squeeze any input signal using a unique image manipulation feature called “CustomScale”. Specific settings from this feature have been programmed into a quick-access preset, allowing hands-free “full-screen-width” viewing of Canon DSLR output signals for the first time ever.

To see a live demonstration of the DP6′s “DSLR Preset” in action go to:

In addition, this custom DP6 preset overcomes a second major issue found only in the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 550D. Now with the ability to detect when these two DSLRs switch from “Live View” (1080i / 16:9) to “Record” (480p / 4:3), the DP6 automatically adjusts the image to fill the entire screen, even though both the resolution and the aspect ratio of the signal changes. See a side by side comparison at

“This monitor is compensating for the camera in an unheard-of way”, says Weston Phillips, SmallHD’s Co-Founder and CEO. “Live View mode on a Canon DSLR sends a 1080i 16:9 HDMI output. Unfortunately, two black pillars of pixels are imbedded into the signal by the camera itself, and only 1620 of the full 1920 horizontal pixels are used to display an actual image. Monitors think the image is filling the screen because they are deceived by these black pillars on the left and right. Currently, the DP6 is the only monitor with the ability to automatically scale this 1620 x 1080 image up to the appropriate size so the DSLR’s pillarbox disappears completely. No pixel is wasted, and every inch of screen is used.”

By providing this true “fullscreen” view, the DP6 uniquely presents a larger physical viewing area of the actual Canon DSLR image than many competing monitors with larger screens—giving the 5.6-inch screen of the DP6 a wider viewing area of the DSLR signal than even a 7-inch 4:3 monitor.

“The best part is, no resolution is lost during this upscale process—actually, you get the opposite effect”, says Dale Backus, SmallHD’s Co-Founder and Lead Designer. “In this mode, the DP6 is simply scaling the 1620 x 1080 DSLR image to its 1280 x 800 screen. Similar to 1:1 pixel mapping, you’re actually gaining visual detail by zooming in a bit. Much like the DSLR’s ability to zoom into its sensor to check critical focus before a shot. The bottom line is that finding critical focus with the DP6 just got easier.”

“We built the DP6 specifically to address many of the challenges facing the DSLR shooter. Its bleeding-edge raw components, combined with the ability to add such unique features via firmware download has allowed us to essentially ‘future-proof’ the DP6″, Backus adds. “In fact, we can’t wait to show you what we’ll be adding to it next.”

SmallHD’s DP6 is the world’s smallest HD monitor. With a screen size of 5.6 inches and a resolution of 1280 x 800, it exceeds the minimum standard for HD resolution of 720p (1280 x 720) and comes in two flavors:
-DP6-SLR (HDMI, Component, Composite)
-DP6-SDI (SDI, HDMI, Component, Composite)
-DP6 Product Info:
-DP6 Product Video:

Canon DSLR Cameras Supported
EOS 5D Mark II
EOS Rebel T2i
EOS-1D Mark iV

Canon and EOS are registered Trademarks of Canon, Inc.

[Source – original DP6 full screen tip came from Photoxels – all additional info comes from SmallHD]

Blogger's Disclaimer: I have no current relationship with SmallHD – tho they are sending me a DP6 to evaluate (which will be returned).

(Photo credit: snap from SmallHD)

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  1. This has been really useful, so thanks guys for putting in the effort and time to bring people like me up to date with all the monitor issues.

    many thanks Philip Powell _ UK

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