September 2, 2012

Atomos Samurai Combines an HD-SDI External Recorder and 5 Inch Monitor into One Small Package

Unless you're shooting with cameras like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera or the Arri Alexa, you're probably recording internally to a somewhat (or very highly) compressed format. Even though compression schemes have improved greatly since the humble beginnings of digital video, the image on many cameras can fall apart very easily if pushed too far in color grading or if serious noise reduction must be done. Matt Allard of DSLR News Shooter takes a look at an external recorder from Atomos called the Samurai, which features an HD-SDI input and ProRes recording (along with DNxHD with an optional upgrade).

One of the big advantages to using this recorder over something like the AJA Ki Pro Mini (which also records in ProRes) is the fact that it's also an external monitor. Not only does this help eliminate another device attached to your camera if you only need it for reference, but it gives you the piece of mind to know that what you're shooting is actually being recorded. The new metadata features from Atomos are extremely helpful, and the company is usually on top of the newest camera releases to ensure that the device can record the output correctly.

The only thing that's a bit annoying that Matt mentions is that it actually uses a Mini-BNC connector for the HD-SDI, so you won't be able to use standard cables, you'll have to use an adapter. Even though I would prefer using one of the 5.6" monitors in existence that have 1280 x 800 resolution, the Samurai's 800 x 480 resolution is good enough to get critical focus most of the time. I was able to try one out at NAB and while it's not as good as some higher-end monitors, it's a welcome addition to the process of external recording.

At $1,600, it's actually one of the cheaper external recorders out there capable of ProRes. While you could use an HDMI to HD-SDI converter like the Atomos Connect if your camera only has an HDMI output, you could also take a look at the lower-priced Atomos Ninja 2 ($1000) which has all of the same features except for an HDMI input instead of HD-SDI. If you choose to go the cheaper route, you could always get the opposite converter from Atomos which features HD-SDI to HDMI for cameras that only have the SDI output. Both of those external monitor/recorders are available now, and the converters should be available at the end of this month for $350 each.

What do you guys think about the Atomos recorders?


[via DSLR News Shooter]

Your Comment


Had the Ninja 1 for 29 days, returned it for full refund, just before Ninja 2 came out. Wow, that was close, otherwise I'd have an expensive brick. Badly interlaced coming from HDMI on a GH2. Not Ninja's fault per se, Atomos records what it sees, so be careful what these recorders are being fed.

I won't buy another one. I''d rather fetch a BMCC or whatever the future offers for uncompressed cameras. I wonder if external recorders are a short-term solution headed for obsolescence. The forthcoming GH3 reportedly has 70 or 80 Mbps. Still compressed, but if bitrate chasing is the game, then higher bitrates are being incorporated in cameras. External recorders are cumbersome in the field.

September 2, 2012 at 11:28PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The A99 and GH3 are coming soon. As well as many other camcorders and new releases that every 2 weeks are going to come out. "Samurai" and "Ninja" need something more to not be outdated.

September 3, 2012 at 3:11AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I think it's funny you don't mention the Blackmagic Hyper Shuttle that gives you uncompressed and Prores and DNxHD options (without a monitor). The Ninja looks nice but it's too expensive.

September 3, 2012 at 3:53AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The Hyperdeck Shuttle 2 only records uncompressed and DNxHD, not ProRes - I've seen it mentioned a few times but Blackmagic has not enabled ProRes on this recorder, only on the more expensive and not very portable Hyperdeck Studio.

The Shuttle isn't nearly as fully featured as this recorder - that's the reason for the price difference. If you're simply looking to record and nothing else in DNxHD, then the Shuttle 2 is probably a good choice, but the Atomos is for someone who wants a monitor as well as some more control over the metadata.

September 3, 2012 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

The Hyperdeck shuttle definitely needs a control monitor output in my opinion. All you see is a red light which means it is recording something. But "something" really isn't enough for professional use. I need a monitor signal with overlayed information or I wouldn't use it for anything important.

September 6, 2012 at 3:55PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Does the hypershuttle not require specific hardware for downloading also, or am I wrong? (Hopefully I am)

September 3, 2012 at 8:50AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM



September 3, 2012 at 3:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


How much is the Hypershuttle? :)

September 3, 2012 at 5:18AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Having shot with them I can say that the touch screen didn't function as it should after, literally a few weeks of heavy use (college shoots, +/- two months). It would stop recording, the touch screen wouldnt respond and some corrupt files were found. That said, the price is right and a owner-operator may be gentler with it than a group of students.

Also, the screen is only really for confidence. Angle of view isnt great and it's certainly not sharp enough for checking focus.

September 3, 2012 at 8:46AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I loved the concept when I saw it at NAB. Bought one, used it on a few shoots, and loved it. Then I tried to use it to record a graduation ceremony (about and hour) and it overheated on me 5 times!!! Footage was unrecoverable... I almost lost my gig behind it. Returned it... sadly right before the 3.0 firmware upgrade I'd been looking forward to. Went with a more industrial option for long recordings (Blackmagic Hyperdeck Studio in a 2RU portable rack with a fan on it) I miss having the Samurai attached to my AF-100 recording uncompressed... but oh well...

September 6, 2012 at 3:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


That doesn't sound good. I was planning on buying a Samurai mainly for green screen work with a PMW 350K, but also as an SDI-recorder for an eng truck (when sometimes events from my workplace are broadcast on tv, we can get the footage but we need our own SDI-capable recording device).

If the Samurai cannot be trusted recording long events of 2 or 3 hours, then I will definitely have to look somewhere else.

September 6, 2012 at 3:49PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I will never buy a device that uses mini-bnc. They are very weak. My hyperdeck shuttle 2's mini-bnc failed after a day (and I didn't bang it hard or anything).

I would rather buy a good monitor that also records the image, rather than a recorder that also monitors...b/c the monitor is too crappy.

Looking forward to the new SmallHD 7" pro monitor (that will have a recorder built in).

September 23, 2012 at 6:56PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Daniel Mimura