Review: Panasonic BT-LH1850
An 18.5-inch LCD Monitor about Half the Price of the Larger BT-LH2550
There are some products that manufacturers are indisputably better at than others. AJA, for example, produces extremely well-made, reliable broadcast devices. Sony excels in the construction of hardware, its cameras and gear invariably featuring a superior build quality. And Panasonic, for its part, continues to manufacture switchers and monitors that are remarkably well-designed, high performance, and cost-effective. These products, found ubiquitously in control rooms and TV trucks around the world, are and have been tops in the business for years.
The Panasonic BT-LH1850 is an 18.5-inch (47cm) LCD monitor intended for general broadcast applications. With a 16:9 pixel count of 1366 x 768 (WXGA), the monitor falls short of the 1920 x 1200 companion monitors in the Panasonic stable like the BT-LH2550. Still, at $2,595 MSRP, the 1850 is about half the price of the larger 2550, while offering a few new interesting high-end features.
For example, the new monitor features a 3D-LUT color-correction function, the intention of which is to reduce or eliminate the color drift typical of LCD panels at low light levels around 10%. I found the monitor to be effective at this minimal illumination level when shooting a series of urban night scenes (seen below). The color held up nicely and quite robustly in a very challenging environment. The 1850 also features the expected Panasonic amenities like a waveform and vectorscope (seen at top), still frame display in split screen — and now new with this model, closed caption support via the SDI or VIDEO input.
The Not So Good
The Panasonic BT-LH1710/1760 and 910 models are recognized champions and veritable workhorses that continue to earn their keep in studios and field work day after day. These units are relatively expensive and understandably so: they are worth every penny.
In contrast, the relative low price of the BT-LH1850 is bound to raise eyebrows. The 1760, at almost twice the price, is perhaps the best all around monitor in the Panasonic line up. We have to wonder, therefore, what exactly we are not getting?
In the 1850 we see, uncharacteristically so, a clear compromise in build quality. Despite the monitor’s high performance and outstanding feature set, the 1850’s case, display, and controls, are not up to Panasonic's usual high standards. The flimsy buttons and panel may be simply part and parcel of the unit’s lower price point, but the compromises to the physical integrity of the product are apparent nonetheless, and they are notable. In my view, manufacturers must stay true to their mission, their brand, and their core capabilities. Panasonic’s monitors are known, rightfully, as the production monitors in the world, and so it is imperative that each new product introduced conform to or exceed this lofty expectation.
There is one advantage of a less robust monitor, however: A low power draw of only 22W. That's about half what it takes Panasonic 's 1710/1760 models to operate.