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AJA unleashes the 4K monster

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 12:00 AM

Finally the CION, AJA’s much-anticipated and long-awaited 4K production camera, has a delivery date. The first units will ship at the end of December, and some cameramen may already be dreaming of their 4K Christmas. Cameraman and WTS Production Specialist Patrick van Weeren shares his pre-launch views.

AJA CION 4K/UHD and 2K/HD production camera

Amazing specs, crazy interfaces and newcomers who think that putting a sensor in front of a large computer builds you a camera. It doesn’t. So why do I give the computer giant AJA a chance with the CION?

The first reason to be excited about it actually occurred to me while talking to WTS’ workflow specialist, Michael Byrne. Sitting at the desk next to mine in our self-christened ‘Specialists’ Room’ in the WTS Soho office, Michael explained that AJA is known in his side of the industry as a solid and reliable brand. That’s a strong selling point for the company.

Secondly, the fact that AJA delayed the launch – even until late December – because “it wasn’t ready and the engineers wanted to work on it a bit longer” might actually be reassuring. This sounds strange and not a selling point at all, but after experiencing many new cameras offering amazing specs at the launch and then making you wait for years of firmware updates to actually get them, the AJA tactic sounded more positive to me.

A major concern I had was the interface and crop factor (One might wonder which manufacturer disappointed me on that front….) Having paid regular visits to AJA’s booth at IBC, both to play with the CION and to bore their very helpful staff with endless questions, I must admit that I now trust the idea behind this camera a bit more.

AJA CION 4K images show reel screenshot (Not an actual 4K image: frame grab from the Vimeo video, see below)

For me, this frame above was the most impressive frame that I saw in the 4K theatre at IBC this year. The contrast range seems to be good and the skintones register nicely.

That said, I was worried about the lack of movement in the presentation. Presumably this was one of the reasons for the delay. The CION could prevail over its competitors if the company’s claim for a competent electronic global shutter proves true. This would probably deal well with most motion artefacts. Most competitors in the price range of the CION have rolling shutters. 

Funnily enough the camera doesn’t come with a viewfinder – a strange choice but it seems to be difficult for manufacturers to build good viewfinders. Even though you’d have to buy a third party viewfinder, the Pak media will get you your money’s worth compared to more expensive media such as XQD cards.

Technical Specifications

  • CMOS sensor with electronic global shutter and 12 stops of dynamic range
  • 4K APS-C sized 22.5mm x 11.9mm sensor
  • Removable PL mount (third party EF, B4 and G-mount)
  • One filter for optical low pass and IR cut
  • Pak media
  • 4x 3G-SDI main outputs
  • 2x 3G-SDI monitor output
  • 2x HDMI Outputs v1.3 and 1.4
  • 2x 3 pin XLR balanced analogue inputs with line/mic/48v
  • LAN start stop triggers
  • Data output via Thunderbolt and 3G-SDI AJA Raw up to 120fps
  • Weight 3.4 kg or 2.9 kg without top handle

The camera will provide you with a lot of recording options, including 2K and external outputs:

4K

  • 4K (4096x2160) progressive 23.98/24/25/29.97/30/50/59.94/60/119.88/120
  • Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) up to/including 30 fps
  • Apple ProRes 422 (or a lower data rate ProRes version) for 50/59.94/60 fps
  • SDI output support for 23.98/24/25/29.97/30 fps
  • (SDI 1-4 YCbCr, SDI 1-4 RGB or SDI 1 Raw)
  • SDI output support for 50/59.94/60 fps (SDI 1-4 YCbCr or SDI 1-2 Raw)
  • SDI output support for 119.88/120 fps (SDI 1-4 Raw)

Ultra HD

  • Ultra HD (3840x2160) progressive 23.98/24/25/29.97/30/50/59.94/60/119.88/120
  • Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) up to/including 30 fps
  • Apple ProRes 422 (or a lower data rate ProRes version) for 50/59.94/60 fps
  • SDI output support for 23.98/24/25/29.97/30 fps
  • (SDI 1-4 YCbCr, SDI 1-4 RGB or SDI 1 Raw)
  • SDI output support for 50/59.94/60 fps (SDI 1-4 YCbCr or SDI 1-2 RAW)
  • SDI output support for 119.88/120 fps (SDI 1-4 Raw)

2K

  • 2K (2048x1080) progressive 23.98/24/25/29.97/30/50/59.94/60
  • Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) up to/including 30 fps
  • Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) for 50/59.94/60 fps
  • SDI output support for 23.98/24/25/29.97/30 fps
  • (SDI 1 YCbCr, SDI 1-2 RGB, or SDI 1 RGB)
  • SDI output support for 50/59.94/60 fps (SDI 1-2 YCbCr or SDI 1 YCbCr)

1080 progressive

  • 1080 HD (1920x1080) progressive 23.98/24/25/29.97/30/50/59.94/60
  • Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) up to/including 30 fps
  • Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) for 50/59.94/60 fps
  • SDI output support for 23.98/24/25/29.97/30 fps
  • (SDI 1 YCbCr, SDI 1-2 RGB, or SDI 1 RGB)
  • SDI output support for 50/59.94/60 fps (SDI 1-2 YCbCr or SDI 1 YCbCr)

1080 interlaced

  • 1080 HD (1920x1080) interlaced 25/29.97/30
  • Apple ProRes 422 (all versions) up to/including 30 fps

SDI output up to/including 30 fps (SDI 1 YCbCr)

So the specs are good, the price ridiculous – presuming we can take the US price of $8,995 as indicative of the UK cost – and the company has a good brand name to protect.

I’m curious to see what the first tests will bring…

AJA CION 4K/UHD and 2K/HD production camera

Find out more about the CION, including pre-order details, on the WTS website

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