The author sets up for backyard wildlife shots using the Plura PBM-307-3G monitor. (Photo: Mary Ellen Dawley)
As the resolution of cameras increases, getting sharp focus gets more difficult. No camera that I know of, either HD or 4K, has an eyepiece viewfinder with full HD resolution, much less 4K resolution. And very few cameras in price ranges affordable to government organizations have flip-out viewfinders that have full HD (1,920 x 1,080-pixel) resolution.
Meanwhile, nothing is more disappointing that sitting down at your editing desk only to find out that one or more critical shots have been ruined with soft focus. Trying to get good focus using a 3.5-inch flip-out display can be a crap shoot—sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
After having been personally disappointed with poor focus on critical shoots, there’s no question: Using a larger camera monitor with good resolution is the best way to ensure your focus is spot on.
And the Plura PBM-307-3G I received to review definitely has the goods to confirm that camera focus is exactly the way you want it.
The Plura PBM-307-3G is a seven-inch display with 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. It is housed in a quite sturdy steel case about two inches thick and eight inches wide, bigger in both dimensions than typical seven-inch accessory displays.
One reason for the wider size is that the PBM-307-3G has small speakers on either side of the screen. You can playback audio from an HDMI input or from a separate 3.5mm audio input.
The unit’s front has a range of buttons and controls to quickly select any input and many other settings.
Which brings up the connections: On the back of the unit is a recessed area with plenty of input/output connectors for surprising signal versatility. There are two sets of looping SDI inputs, an HDMI input (no looping on the HDMI, however), a DVI input, three BNC connectors for component analog (either RGB or YPrPb) and 3.5mm audio in/out jacks. There’s also a nine-pin RS232 port and two network connectors.
Mounting options are versatile, too. The unit I received has a steel mounting bracket so that the PBM-307-3G can sit on a tabletop. There’s also a steel 1/4-20 threaded mount that can be installed on any side of the monitor, so that you can support the unit on a tripod or other standard studio support gear.
The Plura PBM-307-3G has an optional battery mount that I did not receive. The unit I had included a power supply that locks into a port on the back of the monitor. Despite the fact that this is a locking connector, it’s quite easy to insert and remove.
As for the display, the PBM-307-3G uses in-plane switching technology that results in a wide viewing angle. The unit can display audio level for up to 16 channels, and it also has built-in waveform/vector display, but only when using the SDI inputs. It can also do picture-in-picture, and has extensive screen sizing capability for overscan and underscan. It can also do false color for focus assist, a nice touch if you got the PBM-307-3G to assist with focusing.
The Plura PBM-307-3G monitor makes very pretty images. It is also built to withstand the roughest abuse, in a heavy steel case. I mounted the 1/4-20 threaded mount on the bottom and usually had the PBM-307-3G on a tripod when I used it.
There’s a surprising array of connectors on the back, and there are also optional battery mounts for professional batteries.
With its 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution and ample screen size, it made it easy to see if a camera was focused properly.
However, this is not really the monitor you want to take into the field on nature shoots in the woods. It is heavy and bulky when compared to other monitors that better target that sort of shooting.
On the other hand, the Plura PBM-307-3G is the perfect display to have at the engineer’s or camera shader’s location in a control room or production truck. Connected with SDI cables, you can get readable waveform and vectorscope displays at the press of a button, as well as confirm audio signal levels. After using it for a couple of weeks, I came to think of the PBM-307-3G as the ideal display for the engineering location in a production truck, as it is rugged and versatile.
Another great use for the PBM-307-3G is on top of a large studio camera as its viewfinder. It has terrific versatility for this application, as well as many features that factory viewfinders usually don’t have.
One of the first things I noticed when firing up the PBM-307-3G is that it has a fan to keep the unit cool. The fan isn’t loud but you can hear it in a quiet room, so you probably don’t want to be shooting scenes with dialog within a few feet of the PBM-307-3G. You’ll never notice the fan noise at a music performance or if you’re more than eight feet or so away.
I used the Plura PBM-307-3G several times in my backyard getting wildlife shots. Connected via the HDMI port, it was much easier to focus using the PBM-307-3G than it was with the three-inch flip-out display on my camera. This was during the day and there was some glare on the monitor’s screen, but it was still bright enough to easily see the camera’s image and nail the focus down.
MORE INFO PRODUCT: Plura PBM-307-3G
Using an HDMI input source, audio is weak from the tiny speakers on either side of the PBM-307-3G’s screen. Even with all volume controls turned all the way up (and the on-screen level display solidly in the red), the sound from the speakers was soft. However, there was plenty of volume when I plugged headphones into the rear-panel 3.5mm audio output jack.
If you are building a control room and need a small monitor for the engineering position that can do it all, the Plura PBM-307-3G is a terrific choice. It is clear, has SMPTE standard color rendition, built-in waveform/vector displays, can display levels for up to 16 audio channels and is rugged enough to withstand years of abuse. It also has an exceptionally wide range of input formats, from SDI to HDMI to analog component and more.
I hoped that the Plura PBM-307-3G would be more practical as a field production monitor, especially for the wildlife and guerrilla video that is my specialty. Although the PBM-307-3G does have an optional battery mount, this is a monitor that is most at home in a control room. This unit would ideal as a small monitor in production trucks, news vans and other locations that need a rugged and precise display with excellent input flexibility and a locking power connector that won’t accidentally fall out at the wrong time.
If you plan to take video on the road and need small precision monitors, the Plura PBM-307-3G is what you want.