Desview R5 – The new low-budget on-camera monitor king of 2020?

The Desview R5 on-camera monitor is one of the new models in the latest wave of low-budget field monitors that packs in a number of high-budget features. It’s a 5.5″ touchscreen monitor that offers HDMI passthrough, DC power output and advanced features like LUT support, waveform and vectorscope.

Its main competitor is arguably the Feelworld F6 Plus (review here), which recently released a firmware update which also adds waveform and vectorscope. They’re both at a very similar price point and offer similar features, so how does the new Desview R5 stand up? Let’s find out.

I recently posted a video setting up my new Panasonic G80 in its SmallRig 1950 cage along with the Desview R5. You can watch the whole thing if you wish, but if you specifically want to find out more about only the monitor, head to 05:42 for the initial unboxing and 14:48 for the full overview of the Desview R5 features and my initial thoughts.

The Specs

The Desview R5 is a 5.5″ touchscreen IPS monitor with a resolution of 1920×1080 but accepts a 4K video signal. It’s designed to sit on top of your camera to provide you with an easy to view screen of the camera’s perspective even if you’re not directly behind the camera.

This monitor follows the trend of offering multiple battery options to power your monitor. You can either use the standard Sony NP-F style batteries, but you can also use the ever-popular (if a little low capacity) Canon LP-E6 batteries.

You can also power the device through a 12v DC input, either from an AC adapter or the (surprisingly) included D-Tap adapter cable from a V-Mount battery (a very thoughtful inclusion), giving you a decent range of powering options. It also features an 8v DC output which you can send along to a dummy battery in your camera or perhaps a small light source.

As for the rest of the connectivity options, you get HDMI input and output, a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio and an SD card slot for installing firmware updates and LUT files. It also offers HDR functions in the form of HLG and PQ modes.

A wide array of assist modes are included in the Desview R5, allowing you to more quickly and easily nail exposure, focus, and get the shots you need. Some of these include…

  • Focus Peaking
  • Histogram
  • False colour exposure
  • Zebra highlights
  • Safety markers
  • Aspect ratio markers
  • Monochrome/individual channel view
  • Waveform
  • Vectorscope
  • Audio Meters

The screen isn’t super bright, at only 450 Nits, but it comes with a sunshade to help aid ease of viewing in brighter conditions. The Desview R5 has 3D LUT support, and you can store up to 28 LUTs internally, loaded from the SD card, that you can apply to the signal coming into the monitor. This is very handy if you’re recording in-camera using a flat or log profile, but want to see a more realistic view of the scene on your monitor.

First impressions

The Desview R5 comes in a small but solid cardboard box. You can see here that mine got a little beat up in shipping, but everything inside survived just fine which shows just how well it’s packaged inside.

On opening it, we see a user manual, with the monitor directly below. On removing the monitor, we get a sunshade, a cleaning cloth, two HDMI cables (Mini-HDMI to HDMI and micro-HDMI to HDMI), a 128MB SanDisk SD card for installing LUTs or new firmware, a swivel bracket for mounting the monitor to your camera’s hotshoe and surprisingly, a D-Tap to DC barrel jack adapter cable for powering your monitor from V-Mount batteries.

I didn’t know they still even made them this small!

Taking the monitor out, it’s has a plastic body like the Feelworld F6 Plus, but it feels different. Not better or worse, just different. Despite being plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap. But, it is still plastic, so I wouldn’t want to risk performing any kind of drop test (although, I accidentally ended up doing a little one, as you’ll see later – or earlier, if you already watched the video).

On top, there is just a single button, which serves as both the power button (with a long press) and a quick enable/disable touchscreen button (with a short press). There’s no dial for navigating the menus as there is on the F6 Plus, but that’s not something I’ve ever really needed to use on the F6 Plus, so it’s not something I’d miss.

On one side of the unit, we have the HDMI in and out, as well the 12v DC input. On the other, just a 1/4-20″ socket. Underneath, we have another 1/4-20″ socket along with the 8v DC output, headphone jack and SD card slot. Unlike the Feelworld F6 Plus, there no 1/4-20″ mount on top of the monitor. So, if you want to mount it from above, you’ll need to hang the monitor upside down and then flip the display in the settings.

For mounting on top of a camera’s hotshoe or the cold shoe in a cage, the supplied swivel mount looks quite good on first glance. It feels like it holds well into the shoe, although it can work itself loose over time as you’re only able to finger-tighten it.

Unlike many other similar mounts that are coming out these days from companies like SmallRig and Nitze that contain holes into which you can place your Allen key to really tighten it down well, there’s no such option here.

Similar cold shoe monitor mounts from SmallRig and Nitze offer holes to really tighten them down using an Allen key.

If you do use the supplied monitor mount to attach your Desview R5 to your cage, find a way to mount it in a way that lets gravity be your friend and not become a victim of it.

The moment the monitor fell off the rig while shooting the video at the top of this review

While there are multiple power options available on the Desview R5, I choose to use Sony NP-F style batteries, as I’m generally using my camera rig away from home where I can’t just plug them into the wall to recharge tiny LP-E6 batteries, and I don’t use a full shoulder rig with a V-Mount battery. The inclusion of the D-Tap cable to be able to power from V-Mount is a very nice touch, though, that will appeal to many users.

Although I don’t really make use of the 12v DC input socket, the 8v DC output is extremely beneficial, at least for me. I power my cameras using dummy batteries. It works well with my Nikons and the Panasonic GX80/GX85, although as you can see in the video up top, the Panasonic G80/G85 has issues being powered by it. The G80 had the same issue with the Feelworld F6 Plus.

But for certain cameras, it allows me to power the camera and monitor from a single power source (the battery on the back of the monitor), with both turning on and off together, and I don’t have to deal with swapping out batteries in the camera as often.

One big issue (for me, anyway) – 3D LUT corruption

These days, I’m shooting with Panasonic cameras. Mostly that means the Panasonic G80 and the GX80. I have all of my Panasonics set to the same default settings each time any of them is turned on. This way, I always have a consistent starting point no matter which camera I grab or what I’m shooting and don’t have to waste time making sure everything is set up properly before I hit record.

I have a default grade that I apply to the footage in DaVinci Resolve to perform some basic correction for things like colour shifts in certain channels (thanks to the X-Rite ColorChecker Video), contrast, slight white balance tweaks, etc. I exported this grade out of Resolve as a 3D LUT file (a standard 33 point .cube file that works fine in Premiere Pro and other applications) and put it onto the R5’s SD card.

As you can see, after loading it in, the results weren’t quite what I expected. It almost looks like false colour, except it’s not. It was just a weird rainbow mess of random colours, with no indication as to why it wouldn’t display and no apparent way to fix it.

After this, it wouldn’t let me install any other LUTs and even performing a full factory reset to remove this seemingly corrupted LUT didn’t resolve the issue. It did remove the corrupted LUT file, although now I can’t load any LUTs onto the monitor at all. So, it seems that the LUT storage itself seems to have become corrupted with no way to “reset” it.

Handling and performance

The Desview R5 does compete pretty much directly with the Feelworld F6 Plus. They’re both the same size screen, they both offer a similar feature set, and their prices are fairly evenly matched. But there are some differences.

The biggest obvious difference with this monitor vs the F6 Plus comes when you turn it on and you need to access the menus and features. While it does offer many of the same features as the F6 Plus, the user interface on the Desview R5 is much more refined and easier to navigate. If I had to pick on menus alone, the Desview R5 would be the clear winner.

The mount that comes with the Desview R5 for attaching it to the top of your camera is the tilt-and-swivel kind that slots into a shoe mount – either your camera’s hot shoe or the cold shoe on a cage. Personally, I tend to only mount monitors to a cage, as camera hot shoes can sometimes be quite delicate, especially if you’re shooting run and gun and moving around quickly with the weight of a monitor and a big NP-F battery on top.

As mentioned earlier, though, the ring can work itself loose if you’re jostling the camera around a lot while you’re using it. So, mount it in a way that lets gravity be on your side. Here I used the SmallRig 1960 Cold Shoe to have the monitor mount in a different orientation that wouldn’t fall off even if the screw worked itself loose.

With the monitor attached and positioned to keep a good balance, walking around with a camera and cage with this monitor on top is a breeze. Being able to adjust the tilt of the monitor means that I can hold the camera at angles that would be otherwise impossible – especially if the camera I’m using doesn’t have any kind of flip-up or flip-out LCD of its own.

When it comes to the colours and contrast, the Desview R5 has a 1000:1 contrast ratio and features HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) and PQ (Perceptual Quantizer) HDR modes. The goal, Desview says is to display “a wider colour gamut and a higher brightness range” on the screen. HLG, they say, works best with non-HDR cameras, while PQ helps to improve visibility in the highlights and shadows. Of course, neither of these actually changes the quality of the footage recorded by your camera, just how it’s displayed on the screen.

Outdoors, the monitor will almost certainly require the sunshade in bright conditions, but for me, this isn’t a problem. I tend to have the sunshade on all the time anyway, even when shooting indoors. It allows me to focus on just what’s on the screen without being distracted by what’s going on beyond it in the backgroun – unless it’s included in the shot.

But the sun shade works well, it lets me see what’s on the screen and thanks to the assist modes, I can easily check focus peaking, waveform and vectorscope to make sure that my focus, exposure and colour are where I need them to be.

Waveform and Vectorscope are relatively new features to monitors at the $200-250 price point. Typically, they’ve been reserved only for the more expensive monitors. But as customers are starting to see the benefits of these features and buying more expensive systems like the Atomos Ninja V and Shinobi, especially as their prices have started to become more reasonable, the other manufacturers have started to take note.

A little while ago, we saw Feelworld release a firmware update that added both of these features to the Feelworld F6 Plus and the Desview R5 shipped with these features right at launch. They’re invaluable tools for filmmakers, and for those with more modest budgets, it’s fantastic to see them coming to lower-priced monitors.

The touchscreen is very responsive, and the user interface is definitely easier to read over many of the competing monitors at this price point. And even though some of the interface options on the menus use smaller graphics than other systems, it’s easy to hit them accurately. I cannot recall a single time when I tried to tap a particular item and it thought I’d tapped something else instead. So, this is very impressive.

I tend not to delve into the user interface of on-camera monitors while shooting all that often. Once they’re set up, they’re set up. But turning features on and off like the waveform, vectorscope, zebras, peaking, histogram, etc. is a breeze through the Desview R5’s touchscreen UI.

There isn’t a swipe-up display like there is on the Feelworld F6, but instead, you double-tap on the screen to bring up a menu down the left-hand side of the monitor. At the bottom a least of each of your assist features. Tapping any of them brings up the options relevant to that mode to let you quickly adjust your settings and then you’re good to go.

Beyond this, working with the Desview R5 is pretty much like working with any other. It takes an HDMI signal in from the camera. It also has an HDMI output in case I want to plug in a second monitor for a focus puller or a transmitter like the Hollyland MARS 400s. It has its own battery and can also send power to my camera (I’ve switched pretty much exclusively to on-camera monitors that can power my camera as well, now), it’s small, but not too small, and lightweight easily mounting to the top of my camera rig.

Conclusion

There seems to be an ongoing battle between Desview and Feelworld right now to capture the lower price point users right now, and they both offer something that’s a little different from the other and unique to them.

If you’ve seen Pulp Fiction, you’ll know what I mean…

But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?

It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same sh*t over there that they got here, but it’s just… just there, it’s a little different.

At least, that’s how I feel when it comes to Desview and Feelworld. They both sell comparable monitors at similar prices, but they’re just a little different from each other.

Of course, like all touchscreen monitors, it has its issues. It’s a fingerprint magnet, so you have to regularly clean the screen in brighter conditions if you’re regularly touching it and sifting through menu options. I really hope that some of the smartphone screen protector manufacturers (especially the ones making fingerprint-repellant screen protectors) start turning their attention towards on-camera monitors one of these days.

The truth is, though, everything I loved about the Feelworld F6, I also love about the Desview R5. It’s got nice vibrant colours, 3D LUT support is an awesome feature (assuming you don’t install one that corrupts it), HDMI passthrough, 8v output to power the camera (most cameras), and it’s a great size that lets me easily see my scene but without being quite as big and bulky as a 7″ display. And, it has my two favourite features in a monitor – the vectorscope and waveform.

Ultimately, if you’re looking at monitors in this price bracket, I’d definitely recommend adding the Desview R5 to your list of possible options. It’s a tough call between this and the Feelworld F6 Plus, to be honest, and will largely depend on personal preference. While the overall feature set might be similar to other mothers around the same price now, you may find that those little differences that one has over the other are ideal for your needs and preferences.

The Desview R5 is available to buy now for $229 and is shipping now.



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