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
After much researching I have found the solution in the automotive retro-fit
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 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
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'
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
Audio & Video connections
USB connector and ext. antenna connector
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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