Has BenQ found a way to make it possible for photographers to bring along a large editing monitor during their travels? Read on to find out…
Laptop screen technology has evolved a lot during the last years, with brands making sure they have some models with proper IPS panel displays which cover at least 99% of the sRGB color space, so now you can edit images when you are not at home with a certain degree of confidence in your colors. Still, nothing compares with editing your images on a proper desktop screen, not only because it shows greater levels of detail and better color definition, but also because the much larger screen real estate makes the whole experience of editing more pleasant, smoother and effective.
When you travel there is always the option of trying to carry your desktop monitor with you, but that involves extremely complicated logistics, including finding a way to protect the fragile screen from impacts, as well as unmounting and carrying the heavy stand. The bottom line is that most photographers do not carry their desktop screens, and they end up trying to make do with their laptop screens, which might be ok for quick edits, but can ruin an assignment if you are trying to produce professional quality images.
Fortunately there are well established companies which still like to think “out of the box”, one of them being BenQ, who decided to find a solution for photographers who would like to be able to carry their desktop monitors in a more comfortable and suitable way. This is how the “On-The-Go” line of accessories was born, and I had the big honor and pleasure to be the first European photographer to thoroughly test it, during a three week Iceland photo-trip in September-October.
The kit travelled directly from BenQ Australia, where it was envisioned and developed, straight to the BenQ Europe Headquarters and then directly sent to my home in Portugal. Two weeks before that, I had already received the BenQ SW240 monitor (review here), which is the first monitor compatible with the On-The-Go kit, so I had everything I needed to finally be able to carry and use a proper monitor in one of my photo-trips.
It is very important to mention that this is the absolutely first working “On The Go” prototype that BenQ created, so the final version will certainly carry some differences and improvements. This review had the exact goal of testing the product on the field and provide constructive criticism to the brand for future improvements.
As I previously said, right now the “On The Go” kit is specifically designed for the SW240, which is lightweight and uses a very simple stand attachment mechanism, making it a perfect companion for this kit.
Even though I have received all the “On The Go” accessories range for testing, you can order them separately. Right now the kit is divided into:
- Soft Case
- Rigid Case
- Battery Pack
- Tripod Mount
- Portable Shading Hood
The soft case is a specially designed padded case, where you can put the SW240, its stand, the battery pack, power cords, display cords and other accessories you might find important to carry with you. It is not too heavy (around 1.5kg) so it is a good way to transport your monitor and use it in any circumstance where you do not need ultra sturdy protection.
The rigid case has a very interesting design. It feels like it could survive a nuclear bomb, with a strong resemblance to some Pelican and Vanguard case models. It comes with a trolley handle, making it easier to transport, and it is closed through six easy to operate latches. On the inside there is a clip on mechanism where you can mount the SW240, and to remove it you just need to use the monitor’s “One Press” quick release button. As you can see in the images, the clip-on mechanism is attached to the case through what looks like an elastomer suspension system, to reduce vibration and ensure that the screen does not get damaged during transport. This case is just perfect when you need to transport the SW240 on an airplane, or if you are going to travel to places with extremely hostile environments, where you need all the protection you can get. Such sturdiness comes at the price of significant weight, as the case alone weighs around 12kg.
The battery pack is the heart of the kit when you are planning on editing images with no access to electricity. It is a specially designed powerbank which will allow photographers to use the monitor for about 15 straight hours before needing to recharge. I´m not including an image of the final for-sale powerbank, as I used a prototype.
The tripod mount is a great alternative to mount the screen when you do not want to transport the monitor stand, when you do not have an available desk or when you are not using the rigid case. The prototype mount still needs some tweaking, as it has some plastic parts and the adjustments could be more precise, but it works and is a great option for the above mentioned situations.
The portable shading hood is a very cleverly designed folding hood which will prove useful both in outdoors and indoors. It comes with a velcro adhesive which will make sure it stays put in place.
During the trip I posted a video on my social media pages presenting the On-The-Go kit . I got lots of interesting feedback, ranging from photographers who did not understand the usefulness of the concept, to many photographers who realized this could become a part of their workflow. I have just uploaded this video to Youtube so you can also view it:
After three weeks using the kit in Iceland, I can definitely see that there is a potential market for this product, as it can easily adapt to a large range of situations. First of all one must assume that you find great advantage in carrying a larger screen with you, so that this offsets the trouble of having to carry the extra weight. There are many photographers editing their photos with their laptops while travelling, but for specific professional assignments, where editing quality is critical and where you need access to larger screen real estate or 100% AdobeRGB coverage, a solution like the “On The Go” kit makes perfect sense.
After extensive testing, and being this a prototype, I naturally found out that there are still some things to improve, namely:
- The fit of the SW240 in the padded case is not perfect, needing a bit of tweaking of the case dimensions/foam interior for a better fit.
- I would love to see a lighter version of the rigid case, with an intermediate weight between the current rigid and soft case, for bumpy travels which do not involve harsh impacts.
- It is difficult to use the rigid case on top of a table, as the monitor sits too high, so you need to stand while editing, which can easily become uncomfortable. Using the tripod mount is much more ergonomical for this situation.
- The tripod adapter needs improvement, with too many plastic parts, and adjustments are not easy as in a classic tripod mount. A converted ballhead tripod head would probably be an interesting solution.
- Both for the padded case and the rigid case, there is no way to specifically protect the delicate screen surface. I used a large microfiber towel to protect it, but perhaps a protective cover should come included with the kit.
- The SW240 has a good level of maximum brightness, but for outdoors editing I do not think it is bright enough, so I think the On-The-Go should mostly be used indoors. I did most of my editing with it inside the camper.
BenQ definitely listens to photographers, so I´ve already communicated with the brand regarding the aspects mentioned above, so I´m looking forward for improvements in the future.
So what did I learn about the kit and what are my final thoughts about it after the epic Icelandic trip? The answer is that even though the “On The Go” kit might not fit everyone’s needs, I can see a lot of potential customers for this product, myself included. Until now there was not a dedicated way to use a large monitor in a large range of situations beyond your own home desk, but BenQ has listened to requests and created an extremely versatile solution. From the hardcore photographer who works with a large team, travels by airplane and needs to edit and send his images on location, to the photographer who wants to use his SW240 outside his home, at a studio, in a camper, anywhere, the “On The Go” kit offers a solution to virtually any situation. In my specific case, I find the soft case solution very attractive, as well as the option to mount the monitor on its stand or on a tripod, but there is no doubt the rigid case and its clipping mechanism is an engineering marvel that will withstand the toughest challenges.
I hope you have enjoyed this review and, to finish, as usual, here are some images I edited during my trip. I usually never ever edit final images during my trips, but the On The Go made it possible this time.