Sony Alpha CLM-V55 movie monitor hands on

Since movie modes appeared in Sony’s latest DSLR cameras it’s become one of the company’s foremost focuses. Keen to see where the latest Alpha cameras are going, Pocket-lint went and had a preview browse around Sony’s CES stand. The company’s latest Alpha accessory, the CLM-V55, is a 5-inch movie monitor that’s certainly testament to a movie-focused future. 

Although we’d initially anticipated yet more news of the forthcoming Sony Alpha A700 replacement (that will be a single lens translucent model like the A33 and A55), we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with the latest Alpha accessory instead: the CLM-V55 is a large 5-inch movie monitor that mounts on your latest (and movie-capable) Alpha DSLR for a real time view in super-size.

It’s certainly what more pro-grade videographers may be looking for and seems to offer a variety of high-end features that are otherwise largely missing from many competitors’ movie-capable DSLR cameras.

First and foremost there’s going to be a software update to get this screen working. Why? Because the CLM-V55 screen connects from the camera body’s HDMI port and is able to pick up a real time live stream. This wasn’t possible before in either the A33, A55, A560 or A580 models and is a nod towards what Panasonic has done with the Lumix GH2’s HDMI out live preview mode.

There’s a good reason to point this out: even if you don’t purchase a V55 screen for your Sony Alpha, you’ll still be able to update the software and, even though it’s not going to be wildly useful for everyone, you’ll then be able to wire up the camera to your 50-inch HDTV if you wish.

As well the physically large screen size, the unit includes a headphone jack so that live monitoring is possible and the monitoring volume can be amplified or turned down. The only slight element missing here was that no decibel meter is available on-screen to monitor clipping – but otherwise this is far more advanced than most movie-able DSLR cameras can offer.

Elsewhere the screen has a push-wheel that can bring up independent screen controls. This includes brightness, contrast and colour temperature to adjust settings as you see fit. But there’s also more detail: a 1x magnifier for fine focusing, a screen brightness level control and aspect ratio adjustment are also present and all easy to adjust without needing to interfere with the physical camera body itself.

As a device such as this would usually be rather power-consuming, it’s good to see a slot for a Sony M-series battery on the front of the V55. Although this may not be the most elegant place to pop the battery and the HDMI cable between the device and camera can get a little bit in the way, we’re sure that serious movie-shooters aren’t going to get overly fussy about such things. Add a steadycam and this’d look like a seriously beefed-up piece of kit.  

The way the CLM-V55 unit connects to the hotshoe means it can be easily fastened using a tightening wheel and the neck is able to swivel through multiple angles to set up the right view. The hood provides good shaded coverage from top and sides and although that won’t be enough for all conditions, it’s a standardised solution that’s done well here.

Although there was no further information on the screen’s resolution, the images played back looked pretty decent. Though, it has to be said, the low-light conditions didn’t lend themselves entirely well due to a fairly noisy display – this is more an issue with both the A33 and A55’s electronic viewfinders in low light conditions however, so is hardly an unexpected issue (and not one that will be easy to resolve at this stage).

the display, while certainly edge-to-edge over the 5-inch size, has a lot of space eaten up with mode displays and information. As this wasn’t a final release it’s entirely possible that this will be adjusted to allow for yet more customisation, but we won’t know until the final product ships – which is expected in February of this year.

At $399 it may sound fairly expensive, but go to the next-nearest third party competitor and you’d be looking to considerably more and that’s without the adornment of a Sony badge.   



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