How to capture great looking camera LCD screenshots

One of the challenges with explaining about cameras is making it simple for people to understand what the specific camera settings are and how they should be set. A key tool in helping this explanation is clear LCD screenshots of the camera menus.

The LCD screenshot machine

Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme for capturing LCD screenshots

Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme

Over the time I have been running this blog I have tried several methods of making LCD screenshots, including photographing the LCD with another camera.

It’s helpful if both the camera being photographed and the capturing camera are mounted on the same tripod. I use Manfrotto Cross Arm, Double End and Double Head Support (131DD) with two tripod heads on it.

More recently I have moved over to using a device that captures the screen displays using the camera HDMI connection. The device I use is the Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme. With the Intensity Extreme plugged in to a Thunderbolt port on the Mac I can capture stills but also movies of the camera menus at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution.

LCD Screenshot captured from EOS 7D

EOS 7D LCD screenshot captured with Intensity Extreme

LCD Screenshots and capture frame rate

In my initial trials I found there to be one major hurdle to overcome – finding the correct frame rate for each camera. The Intensity Extreme needs to be set to the same frame resolution and frame rate as the camera outputs. Well different cameras have different outputs.

Perhaps the most obvious is the EOS 5D Mark III, it actually has a menu option to set the HDMI frame rate. If your camera is set to PAL video standard then there are three options 50i, 24p and AUTO. Among the other cameras I had to hand there was no such menu to set the HDMI frame rate.

EOS 5D Mark III HDMI framerate

Choice of HDMI frame rates on the EOS 5D Mark III (set to PAL)

So if you want to capture from the EOS 5D Mark III you need to match the frame rates as shown in the table below. For good measure I also tried with the camera set to NTSC video mode, and the displays show AUTO, 24p and 60i.

PAL video mode

  • 24p – 23.98p
  • 50i – 50i
  • AUTO – either of the above two options work

NTSC video mode

  • 24p – 23.98p
  • 60i – 59.94i
  • AUTO – either of the above two options work

Setting frames rates to capture LCD screenshots for other cameras

Setting the frame rate to capture LCD screenshots

The Intensity Extreme offers a wide range of settings for frame rate and so with some trial and error it is possible to work out the settings for each camera. So far it certainly seems that the odd one out is the EOS 5D Mark III.

Other cameras I have tried including the EOS 7D, EOS 70D and EOS 650D all work the same, and even in PAL video mode the Intensity Extreme needs to be set to capture at use 59.94i or you get nothing.