Quick Look: Ikan D7w portable display with waveform monitoring

The D7 is an appealing monitor. If its ‘scopes were accurate, the D7w would be as well.

Ikan’s D7w is a 7” field monitor with SDI and HDMI inputs, 1080p compatibility, and a variety of useful display modes: false color, clipping guide, pixel-for-pixel mode, focus peaking, waveform monitor (WFM), RGB parade, vectorscope, and more. At a mere $1300, it looks like an incredible bargain. Is it? I took the plunge; here‘s what I found.

Ikan showed an interesting lineup of affordable, good-looking monitors at NAB 2013. At Cine Gear Expo LA 2013 in early June, they were offering several of those monitors at show-special prices. I took a punt on a D7w, which had been enticing me since NAB: I’m in need of a decent set of engineering ‘scopes for HD work, and the D7w looked like a great way to get ‘em on the cheap.

(Ikan also has a D7 for $1000; it’s a D7w without the WFM, RGB parade, and vectorscope, but it has all the rest of the features I’ll discuss. There’s also a $700 D5 and a $1000 D5w: smaller, 5” monitors with lightweight plastic bodies that appear to be functionally identical to their larger brethren – though I haven’t looked at them in detail beyond playing with them for five minutes at Cine Gear Expo.)

Design

The D7w is a compact metal slab, roughly 5” x 7” x 1” (13cm x 18cm x 2.5cm), built around a 7” 1280×800 (16×10 aspect ratio) IPS LCD panel. It weighs about a pound (.45kg), and comes with one of six interchangeable battery plates for a variety of Sony, Canon, and Panasonic still camera or camcorder batteries, as well as an AC adapter and a screw-in shoe mount. Mine came with a Sony L-series battery plate, letting me use my existing NP-F960 battery.

D7w, front view.

D7w, front view.

(All my pix were shot with a protective film still attached to the D7w’s screen. This film has a diagonal wrinkle in it, as well as a faint red “B” in the upper right corner; please take that into account when looking at screen images.)

The front panel of the D7w consists of the 7” IPS LCD surrounded by a bezel, featureless aside from the “ikan” and “D7w” marks. The screen is recessed slightly behind the bezel, so it’s somewhat protected from damage and can be placed face-down on reasonably smooth surfaces without fearing for it.

Top view of D7w, screen down.

Top view of D7w, screen down.

Each edge of the D7w has a 1/4”x20 threaded hole for mounting hardware. Six silver buttons and one thumbwheel provide control: the first four button are user-settable function keys; the next is the input select button; the last is the aspect ratio toggle and the menu-exit button. The thumbwheel spins for menu item selection, and presses down to open menus or submenus and to select items.

Rear view of D7w with battery plate attached.

Rear view of D7w with battery plate attached.

The back panel has labels for the controls, a power switch, the centrally-mounted battery plate, and labels at the bottom for the bottom-mounted I/O connectors: HDMI and 3G-SDI in and out, as well as a headphone jack.

Rear view of D7w with battery plate removed.

Rear view of D7w with battery plate removed.

The battery plate is locked in place with a small slide lock, seen at the lower left corner of the mounting slot. It’s a lot more convenient to deal with than the screw-mounted battery plates on some older Ikan monitors, though the tiny retention tabs and small electrical contact areas remain causes for concern.

Bottom view of D7w, screen down.

Bottom view of D7w, screen down.

HDMI input and output ports flank a “factory service use only” USB connector. A 3.5mm headphone jack and 3G-SDI input and output BNCs emerge from the other side.

Yes, there was a screw missing from the HDMI panel when it came out of the box. The scoring around the 1/4” mounting socket was the result of attaching an Ikan articulating arm – once, finger-tightened – and then removing it.

D7w Left Side: power switch, DC input, and mounting socket.

D7w Left Side: power switch, DC input, and mounting socket.

D7w right side mounting socket.

D7w right side mounting socket.

The supplied wall-wart AC adapter plugs in on the left side.

Again, the scoring on the right side was the result of screwing in an articulating arm a single time. Neither the durability of the surface finish nor the general quality of the aluminum chassis casting inspires a great deal of confidence regarding long-term robustness; still, the D7w’s body is a step up from the flimsy plastic housings of earlier Ikan monitors.

Features and Functions

Both the D7 and the D7w offer a useful selection of field-monitor features, and the D7w adds engineering ‘scopes to the mix.

The D7w in its normal display mode.

The D7w in its normal display mode.

First and foremost, it’s a picture monitor. The 1280×800 IPS LCD renders a crisp, color-accurate image with feeds from 480/60i through 1080/60p (including both true progressive and PsF modes; check the D7w’s documentation for specifics).

You can select three aspect ratios using the dedicated button: 4×3, 16×9, or full-screen (16×10, for those so allergic to letterboxing they’ll put up with some distortion instead… also, it’s probably useful for the HDMI menu feed from a RED ONE, though I didn’t test that). Additionally, DSLR scaling lets you tweak the display for the various HDMI feeds from certain DSLRs; I only tested with the 16×9 native output from my GH3, so I didn’t explore these.

There’s a 1:1 pixel-for-pixel mode. You can use the thumbwheel to scroll the magnified image side to side, and with a press down on it, from top to bottom as well, so you can look at any part of a 1920×1080 image in full resolution. The picture has tweaks for brightness, contrast, saturation, tint, and sharpness. Three color temperature presets are provided, plus a manual setting with separate R, G, and B controls.

There’s a safe-area guide frame at 90% or 80% coverage, and (in 16×9 and full-screen modes) a 4×3 guide frame. You can also enable a center-screen crosshair.

The D7 and D7w let you switch to a monochrome image, or a single-channel view of only the red, green, or blue channels.

Peaking-in-color on the D7w.

Peaking-in-color on the D7w.

A peaking mode highlights sharp transitions in the image with a color of your choice, superimposed on a monochrome picture. Peaking level is tweakable, too.

False-color mode on the D7/D7w. This image was already graded, so no highlight exceeds 100% and turns red.

False-color mode on the D7/D7w. This image was already graded, so no highlight exceeds 100% and turns red.

Ikan offers a very detailed false-color mode with multiple color bands – perhaps more than are strictly necessary for quick interpretation. However, both the top (red) and bottom (purple) bands are adjustable, so you can set them to levels of your choice: very handy.

There’s also a “Clip Guide” mode, superimposing a flashing purple highlight warning on overexposed areas of the normal image display. You can set the clip level as you see fit.

All of these modes are available on both the D7 and the D7w.

The D7w goes further with three sets of engineering ‘scopes: a luma waveform monitor (WFM), a vectorscope, and an RGB parade. These ‘scopes can be viewed full-screen, in a quad-split with the source image, or overlaid on the bottom of the source image.

Quad-split ‘scopes.

Quad-split ‘scopes.

Overlaid ‘scopes. The ‘scopes’ background transparency can be varied as desired.

Overlaid ‘scopes. The ‘scopes’ background transparency can be varied as desired.

Next: Usability and Performance; Conclusions…

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About The Author

Adam Wilt

Adam Wilt is a software developer, engineering consultant, and freelance film & video tech. He’s had small jobs on big productions (PA, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, Dir. Robert Wise), big jobs on small productions (DP, “Maelstrom”, Dir. Rob Nilsson), and has worked camera, sound, vfx, and editing gigs on shorts, PSAs, docs, music vids, and indie features. He started his website on the DV format, adamwilt.com/DV.html, about the same time Chris Hurd created the XL1 Watchdog, and participated in DVInfo.net‘s 2006 “Texas Shootout.” He has written for DV Magazine and ProVideoCoalition.com, taught courses at DV Expo, and given presentations at NAB, IBC, and Cine Gear Expo. When he’s not doing contract engineering or working on apps like Cine Meter II, he’s probably exploring new cameras, just because cameras are fun.

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