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Portable LCD Display/TV (CAR TV 328GL-70TV)

by Giampiero Scuderi, 2005


In the 'old' days we used to pass Polaroids around the studios to clients, art directors, teachers, etc. Now that I have switched to DSRL I really don't feel like passing around my camera nor do I enjoy holding it while everyone has a chance to look at the image(s). So, I set out to find a solution that would allow instant playback with an image large enough for clients & me to view comfortably, without having to take the CF card out of the camera and load the images into a laptop. (I like to keep my shoots as time conscious as possible).

After much researching I have found the solution in the automotive retro-fit market.

As we all know DVD players and headrest displays (LCD TVs) have been making their way inside many SUVs, cars and vans of late. That's where I got the idea of connecting the VIDEO output of my Canon 10D to one of those LCD televisions, so as to have a larger playback display that would be easy to carry, of good quality and most importantly, instant. The device I have found has no brand name (it's simply called CAR TV - model 328GL-70TV)) but, there are many on the market and a Google search for CAR TV or PORTABLE LCD TV will give you plenty of leads. The one I have bought can be found here as of January 2005 for a reasonable $129.00 (usd). If the link doesn't work it means the item has been moved or no longer available. In that case go to www.computergeeks.com and do a local search for CAR TV, just in case.


Portable LCD TV unit

Because this is photo.net my short review will be limited to photo-related use not to its tuner, audio and other features inherent to a television system. Suffice it to say the unit comes with all the expected features a tv set would have such as cable ready, choice of TV/AV inputs, UHF/VHF frequency select, audio volume, channel select, video adjust, clock & timer function with calendar and...a built-in video game (!) called pushing box. In addition, this unit will work great as a rec. monitor with your camcorder as well!

IN THE BOX

Speaking of box, the unit comes well packaged and with a fairly well chosen set of accessories:


What's in the box

Pictured above are: the DC 12V power supply, car adapter, video and audio inputs cables (USB connector on the unit's end), external antenna adapter, a remote control (with supplied battery) and an adjustable stand. Not pictured is the manual which is unreadable for the most part, as in these sample quotes: "to prevent unexpected thing happened, don't let children insert something into the unit". Or, "you can use the output voltage is DC 12V car or ship power, but the output power consumption should be higher than 15 Watt". While one can make out the just of it after a while it becomes tedious. The TV is really easy to use so, the manual is there for reference and specs only.

The unit looks good enough and it is reasonably well made. Surprisingly, perhaps, of relatively solid built and feel. The screen size is 7 inches with 336,960 pixels and it weighs a respectable 580g. Dimensions are 198x122x36mm and the input voltage is DC 11-13V with a consumption rating of appx. 9.5 Watts.


TV front slant

 

TV back

 
TV side view

The four connections you see in the side view are a mini-jack for the headphones out (stereo) and another one for connecting an external antenna. The last connection is a USB plug for the video and audio inputs. Right above it you'll find the power supply input.

The remote control is quite thin (6mm) and measures appx. 2 x 3.25in. It sports a protective plastic membrane and comes complete with all the usual, basic commands in addition to the MENU button which accesses the more in-depth features. It also has a numeric keypad and a dedicated WIDE button for changing display mode on the fly. Finally, it comes supplied with a CR2025 type 3v battery. A nice surprise!


Supplied Remote & Battery

VIDEO CONNECTION

The VIDEO/AUDIO cable consists of the standard RCA male connectors on one end and a USB plug on the other. This solution does save space however, I would have preferred if the RCA connectors were females as my camera video cable has a male on its end. Fortunately, I had an RCA coupler which I used to connect the 10D video out to the male video input of the TV, a minor inconvenience. It was probably done that way to connect directly to portable DVD players, its 'real' intended use.

Those of you residing outside the US will be happy to know that this nice, little unit will playback PAL & SECAM signals in addition to NTSC (2 different modes). You can select those manually or let the unit do it in AUTO mode.


Audio & Video connections


USB connector and ext. antenna connector

ADJUSTABLE STAND

The supplied stand is quite sturdy but, it was really designed to attach the unit to a car interior (be it the roof, dashboard, seat, etc.). However, its base works well when placed on a table or floor. The base itself is made of light metal with a double-stick tape on the bottom (to position it prior to drilling holes in your car) and has 5 holes for the mounting screws (not supplied).


Supplied, adjustable stand

The adjustable section of the stand is made of good, hard plastic (not the brittle kind) and sports a quick release plate, very solid and sufficiently smooth. Once you attach the plate to the back of the TV all you have to do is slide the unit into the stand until it snaps. To release it, just push the release pin and the unit slide off. For us photographers this is very much like a camera quick release plate.


Back plate

Just for kicks I removed the metal base from the stand and found that there are three protruding pins which lock into the base to help keep the unit from rotating. I was hoping to find a 1/4 in. thread to possibly connect to a stand but, no such luck. In practice, I wouldn't necessarily want to use a stand but, you never know what needs may arise.


Base removed

DISPLAY AND VIDEO SETTINGS

After turning on the unit the first thing to do is to adjust the settings for proper picture playback. Because it is capable of 16:9 playback (its default setting) this setting has to be manually set to match the camera's playback format. That's very easy to do in the MENU by changing the MODE number from 1 (wide) to 2 (standard 4:3). Mode 3 makes the picture go all the way to the edge (FULL SCREEN) while maintaining the normal aspect ratio. However, because the camera ratio is different part of the image will be cut off. I set mine to default to MODE 2 (normal).


Mode 1 (16:9 WIDE)

Mode 2 (4:3 NORMAL)

Mode 3 (4:3 FULL SCREEN)

Another adjustment that needs to be made is the video settings (color, sharpness, etc.). The unit provides a fair number of adjustments and for the moment I have found the illustrated settings to work as a good starting point for my Canon 10D. With time I am sure I will fine tune them as you probably will too.


Video preferences

IN USE

Alright, let's use this thing!

Now that we have setup the unit and adjusted the display we are ready to connect the camera to it. All that needs to be done is connect the VIDEO output of the camera, in this case a Canon 10D, to the VIDEO input of the TV. Again, this will likely result in two male connections which will require an RCA coupler (unless your camera cable has a female RCA connector). The unit will detect the input automatically as soon as it senses a signal. Therefore, as soon as you place your camera in playback mode (or take a picture with instant review ON) the TV will display the image(s).


Canon 10D connected

As expected, the playback is very clean and flicker free. Nice colors and contrast and very satisfying to view from a distance as well. No more chimping, finally! The angle of view is relatively generous but, there is an optimum position, for sure. When moving about you will notice some loss of contrast and saturation but, you'll still be able to see the image.

If you thought zooming during playback was cool on the camera wait until you do it with this unit connected. Now, you are talking very large images! Useful for checking blur, focus, blemishes, etc.


Zoom OUT

Zoom IN

Even the thumbnails view now looks very usable and easy to view and navigate comfortably.


Thumbnails view from a Canon 10D

WHAT ABOUT BATTERY POWER?

Personally, I would find limited use for battery power at the moment but, for those of you who require mobility the unit can be powered by a battery pack of your choosing (or your making). Without spending too much time I have found this power pack which will work great with it. You may be able to find better, cheaper packs or even build your own.

My CAR-TV has found its permanent place inside my camera bag and it has already been working as I wanted it to, with excellent results. I am now able to view images at a comfortable size and distance and I can do so instantly, my no.1 requirement.

It will work for anyone who wants a bigger very portable display that is fast to setup and can provide instant, high-quality playback from their DSRL (or DV camera).


All Rights Reserved (c) 2005, Giampiero Scuderi

Article created 2005

Readers' Comments


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Gerry Szarek , January 20, 2005; 09:02 A.M.

For those looking for cheap battery power, I use a UPS APC Pro unit. To use it hold the I button down for about 10 seconds and it will power on, of course you have that nasty beeping sound to listen to. I use this to power medical devices in an emergency at home or in a car. The down side of this method is that the units tend to be heavy, expensive if you don't already own one, and they are not small (however they will fit under a mini van seat).

T T , January 20, 2005; 02:00 P.M.

Do any portable DVD players have an RCA video input? If so, it seems to me this might be a better solution since they run on battery power. Plus you can also play DVD movies on them.

It seems that most have a mini plug video input so I am not sure how easy it would be to hook that up but it seems doable.

carnagex carnagex , January 20, 2005; 06:13 P.M.

Try this instead from canon, http://www.zgc.com/zgc.nsf/active/1F4288E7AA79046185256CAF005B6375

Bob Atkins , January 21, 2005; 12:00 A.M.

But only if you have $500 to spend...

Wilson Tsoi , January 24, 2005; 02:34 A.M.

You can patch a mini-RCA cord to another with one (for video only,) or two (with audio,) RCA coupler (female-to-female.) That should take care of the hook up issue.

Contrary to Mr. Atkin's comment, IMHO, if you have a DVD player laying around, you can certainly put that into work in a similar manner as the featured screen above. Meanwhile, the retail prices for 7" screen portable DVD players had dropped quite a bit. It's just another viable option to consider.

Bob Atkins , January 25, 2005; 12:03 P.M.

The Canon product cited (LCD screen) is $500, not portable DCD players.

Wilson Tsoi , January 25, 2005; 03:03 P.M.

Bob, my bad. I miss the detour to the Canon screen above.

Nick G , January 26, 2005; 01:07 A.M.

Would it make more sense to use a Mac PowerBook with a Cinema Display transported in a pelican case? Wouldn't this be more cost effective not to mention very impressive for clients?

Giampi . , January 29, 2005; 06:46 P.M.

The Canon display is actual 5", that's 2" less than this one, but about $400 more by the time you get the accessories to make it work as a stand alone unit. Also, it won't play back as many formats as this one.

I think the attraction to this one (and others like it) is that they are very, very portable and light and the prices are dropping relatively fast as more and more vehicles are being equipped (or retrofitted) with them.

Also, with a long cable, an Art Director or Client can be viewing the pictures as YOU take them while sitting down on a couch, sipping a beverage of their choice...They'll really love your work then! ;P

Ryan Joseph , February 21, 2005; 08:56 P.M.

Just as a sidenote too the portable DVD player option. I recently bought my mother a Toshiba portable DVD player with a 7" LCD screen for 230 dollars. I hooked up my 300D to it and the image displayed with no problem. So for those of you with portable DVD players, consider this option first before plunking down more cash on a redundant LCD screen. It is also very portable and already has a built in battery.

Wilson Tsoi , March 27, 2005; 10:17 P.M.

Yes Joseph. I did just that, using an existing DVD player (9" screen) to review the images hooked up to a digicam.

On a separate issue, I wonder if the new Sony PSP (Playstation Portable) at around $200 will do the job as well with its 4.3" screen. Pretty darn slick, if it can hook up to a digicam and at least be used as a preview. Hmmmm.....a great excuse to get a PSP for oneself, don't you think? ^_^

reimar juul , April 03, 2007; 06:26 A.M.

I need a stand alone LCD display about 7-9' where I also can thrust exposure.

I have trying the same with a Jensen Link 7500 DVD player and allthough the rubbery feel of the housing, the size and the stand thread makes it perfect there is a problem: the screen itself.

It has a tendendy to burn out the highlights in very contrasty pictures whereas they look fine on the camera LCD.

And maybe overly saturated.

How was your screen regarding exposure?

Was it possible to calibrate the screen to make it look like the camera LCD.

Have you since used other displays?

Thank you

Giampi . , June 17, 2007; 02:45 P.M.

I haven't used any other brands so far. This one has been a real workhorse for me!

The settings I posted in the article seemed to look the most natural. I did a pseudo-calibration using an appropriate target and placing the LCD next to my calibrated PC Monitor. It's good enough for checking images during shoots. I do NOT use the LCD (this one of the camera's) for judging anything other than composition and lighting.


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