April 7, 2014

NAB Video: Interview with AJA on Their New CION 4K Production Camera

The announcement of AJA's first camera, the $9,000 global shutter 4K CION, has camera enthusiasts buzzing. Our team on the floor here in Vegas got a chance to speak to AJA about the new camera, asking important questions ranging from sensor sourcing, RAW capability and availability. Hit the jump to watch the video.

Currently the sensitivity of the camera is unknown, though they are hoping it will be above 400 native ISO. As always, share your thoughts below, and don't forget to check out our master NAB post for a tap into all the latest news.

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Your Comment

78 Comments

WHERE DOES THE SENSOR COME FROM!?

April 7, 2014 at 8:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jon smith

It's probably the same as in BMPC4K.

April 7, 2014 at 8:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

But this one is APS-C sized and BMPC4K is S35mm, I believe.

April 7, 2014 at 8:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
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Mr.Floppy

This is also PL mount, so a different flange distance.

April 7, 2014 at 8:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

I usually equate aps c to 3 perf super 35 mm and full frame sensors to 8 perf vista vision. Remember Alexa is a much smaller sized sensor than say a canon 5d

April 7, 2014 at 10:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
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Doesn;t flange distance only have to do with the lens/month? Not the sensor?

April 7, 2014 at 11:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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David J. Fulde

I worry that the sensor is the same as the one used in the highly problematic Blackmagic 4K. If you compare the sensor size specs from the websites of both cameras you find this:

Blackmagic URSA: 21.12mm x 11.88mm

AJA CION: 22.5mm x 11.9mm

Both have 12 stops of dynamic range and a global shutter, almost Identical size and specs. This worries me.

April 7, 2014 at 11:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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AndrewR

Which problems do you think are attributable to the sensor?

April 8, 2014 at 12:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gabe

The sensors aren't the problem it is the calibration and the software designed to decode the images that's the problem. Take the black spot anomalie on the bmcc this could be fixed via firmware but they fail to deliver as they are too busy building new toys to concern themselves with the ones they have already sold. That's my issue with black magic, they have no pride in their products and no sense of duty to their customers.

April 8, 2014 at 12:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Forget what I said (APS-C and S35 are basically the same LOL). My mistake.

April 8, 2014 at 6:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mr.Floppy

If its the same as the BMCC with only 12 stops latitude this camera seems pointless to me. nicer form factor is great I guess there is space for this camera but for 10K at NAB 2014 I would expect to see something that would atleast compete with the 14.5k red dragon scarlet. We need better images out of theses cameras

April 8, 2014 at 11:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jon smith

The sensor itself has been around a while, several years at least. Which really doesn't mean much because one could take a six year old 24MP FF sensor from Nikon DX3 (the camera itself has been out for 5 years) and build a $50,000 6K cam around it. BMD obviously had firmware problems with streaks and black orbs but it seems to be solved in the later releases/firmware updates anyway.
.
Anyway, I think some people will begin to mod the EF mount onto it as soon as the unit begins to ship. The designs, I am sure, are already in the advanced stages. Given the versatility of this camera, it ought to fly off the shelves.

April 8, 2014 at 1:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Blackmagic CALLS their sensor s35, but dimensionally it's APS-C

April 9, 2014 at 3:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bertzie

Blackmagic and AJA need to team up on a camera! I like the CION's design and ergonomics but wish it had URSA's feature set and price.

April 8, 2014 at 5:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peter Kent

Boot time looks a little long.

April 7, 2014 at 8:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
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Jorge Cayon

Nothing beats the Red One, huehuehuehue.... huehuehuehuehuehue

April 7, 2014 at 11:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

Nice info. This camera is certainly intriguing but can't help to wonder what issues we'll see like its competitor did. (provided they really come from the same mold).

April 7, 2014 at 8:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Anthony Marino

That's the thing ...Aja puts out quality products every time ..... You never hae to second guess with them. Their stuff works and work well ...... That's the main reason I'm leaning towards this camera

April 7, 2014 at 9:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nigel

There's no question about it, Aja is a leader for sure. I'm just hearing horror stories, mostly on the bm user sites about the new 4k, I'm positively sure BM will iron it all out, they're a great company too. But I can't help to think if these cameras share the same sensor will they display the same problems? How's the low light? Is a reviewer gonna say "this is not a low light camera"? Even if it's just ok and the image is as good as the BM4k minus the FPN I will definitely look into this camera. I think it could be a good fit for me, like the form factor. Can't wait to hear more about it.

April 7, 2014 at 10:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Anthony Marino

A lot of people would have said that about BMD before they started releasing cameras too. Not saying that the AJA story will be the same, but I would caution against blind confidence.

April 7, 2014 at 10:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brian

I wouldn't say that, black magic made bad hardware before they made cameras. Aja is a more trusted brand and always has been.

April 8, 2014 at 12:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

7
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its an amazing year for 4k acquisition indeed!

April 7, 2014 at 8:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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brian merlen

"You give me $9000.00, I'll give you five bucks change."
This guy right here. Killing it.

April 7, 2014 at 9:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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haha yeah he is.

April 8, 2014 at 10:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Juan Lindo

I love how you're all amateur sensor experts (and to a degree I include Joe in that. Sorry Joe).
Its like reading a bad mopar/F1 forum.
I think the difference between this camera and the BM4K will be the same as it is generally between AJA and BM.
For years a lot of us have used AJA as the top grade in interfaces/encoding (they are the main reason FCP took off professionally), and BM products were the 'cheap/fast' option. Make of that what you will.
If its as good as it looked/felt on the stand, with the build factor of their IO boxes, it will be a hell of a camera, and it would surprise me enormously if they shipped a product with *cough* firmware issues.
Having said that, I still like/love the BM products for what they are, and find the carping (especially from non-owners) slightly baffling.

April 7, 2014 at 9:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

You're doing a fantastic job giving us the 411 on this camera. I read all your posts today, some good first hand info, you confirmed a lot, (so did Joe) thanks. I really like this camera and love AJA as a company and by no means I profess to be an expert on sensors but I heard in the interview when joe hinted to the fact that the BM4k and the cion could possibly share the same sensor. Like I said I don't know much but couldn't some of the issues that plagued the BM4k be present in the cion? FPN is a bitch, forget DR I've seen posts where it was present in the 4k unit, I can even create some with my BMPCC, though I have to try a little. Idk maybe having different processors, color science etc make all the difference on how a sensor performs. The footage on The Aja site look great, definitely something special going on. Thanks

April 7, 2014 at 10:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Anthony Marino

This vs. Blackmagic URSA?

April 7, 2014 at 9:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Yep - just had a LOOONG chat about that here while watching the 1st half of the NCAA championship.
They both have strong things to recommend them, and we haven't seen final footage of the AJA yet.
We all agreed the CION's ergonomics counted for a lot, as did their 'PL only' vibe.
But the URSA is the first BM unit where you think, yes, you could build a career as a working cameraman from that, as opposed to making your first film or using it as a crash cam. And the user-swappable thing? Very cool IF you do get offered other sensors down the line. We've heard that story before :-) Also, non-proprietary media.
However, if you have the cash and access to PL glass I think the CION wins unless they blow it somehow footage wise. Its a little bit iPhone 5s vs the new HTC ONE - the Apple just feels better in your hand, even if it doesn't quite have all the widgets or cost benefit of the Android machine.
Saying all that, I'm a Nexus 5 user. :-)
Both are fantastic indie drama ( up to say $3M budget I'd guess), doco, high end corporate, music video cameras at UNBELIEVABLE prices. These are cameras where there's real reason to leave DSLR hybrids behind.

April 7, 2014 at 10:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

I personally think the CION looks better on paper than the URSA... Yes you can update the sensor and change the mount, but it's specs just lack a lot of features, while the CION has HFR.

April 8, 2014 at 5:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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NDB

Excellent summary. I'm looking forward to footage from both of these... but man. Rental houses are turning into candy shops more and more as prices go down and the number of great cameras go up.

April 8, 2014 at 9:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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And of course, it's not just the footage we're waiting for. It's the actual user experience. Black Magic taught us that no matter how good something is on paper, if they screw up the small details, they screw up the user experience. We still don't know if you can format media in-camera in the URSA, for example.

April 8, 2014 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This camera looks beautiful! The body is kind of similar to the arri Alexa. But for the the price and the features I hope it delivers a beautiful image.

http://www.aja.com/en/products/cion#techspecs

April 7, 2014 at 11:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Aaron

A 5 time Emmy winning DP put it on his shoulder today and said it was the most comfortable camera he's ever tried... I concur.

April 8, 2014 at 1:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
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Lance Bachelder

Does anyone know the ISO of this camera? It's not on there webpage

April 8, 2014 at 12:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
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Aaron

Currently the sensitivity of the camera is unknown, though they are hoping it will be above 400 native ISO.

April 8, 2014 at 12:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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avatar
Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

I love the fact that they're going for their own CION look. From what he said (talking about Arri look and Red look) I understand that he wants to have a very very pro look... something that BM failed to do.

April 8, 2014 at 12:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peter

Huh? I understand the FPN issues and black sun but watch these

https://vimeo.com/86378280
https://vimeo.com/90049558
https://vimeo.com/79845153

Then tell me Blackmagic failed to get a pro look.

April 8, 2014 at 10:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joseph

Somebody is going to make a fortune here ... off cheap (but still quality) PL glass. Current PL lenses are priced for $50,000 cameras - $3,000-$20,000 per piece - and is out of range for most users of these new sub-$10K 4K cameras. I suppose one could also make adapters - there are plenty of the PL-to-whatever pieces out there and these would have to be in reverse - but they'd have to be pretty high quality as well. One plus here is that there'll be less of a weight consideration since PL is made for very heavy, robust products.

April 8, 2014 at 3:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

In an interview with Matt Allard, AJA's rep said that they will leave it to the third party to change mounts but that, regardless of that, they expect the PL lens prices to go down with newer models coming out.
[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c_d_WUXs5Q ]

April 8, 2014 at 5:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

I can confirm some MUCH cheaper (Canon L prime price) PL mount lenses coming; spherical and anamorphics.
Initially quite high T stops (3.9 at the low end). No accident certain companies are pushing high iso capability in camera.
NAB 2015 might be all about the glass, which would be a nice change. :-)

April 8, 2014 at 11:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

Canon anamorphic glass?? Makes a lot of sense to me and I would be ALL over it.

April 9, 2014 at 12:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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But a T4 lens on an ISO 400 camera is cutting it close. Fine for being on the set where you can blast the scene with lights but you won't be shooting in the twilight with them. Of course, since BMD is releasing URSA with both EF and PL mounts available at different price points, it seems like an easy job for a reasonably competent tech firm. And then you can add anything from the inexpensive Rokinon-Samyang-Bower cine primes - which, by the way, comprise the entire "most popular" cine lens page at B&H - to the $45,000 Canon servo zoom.

April 9, 2014 at 1:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Can't wait to see some images from this thing. This and the URSA are really going to be pushing down the prices this year, I presume. And I wouldn't be concerned about the Cion using the same sensor as bm4k, seems to me they really know what they're doing with it!

April 8, 2014 at 4:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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johnny

Did anyone find out any more specific news on how the cion 120fps recording works in real life situations...what kind of external recorders would support 4 x 3g ddi output....does it mean dragging a tons of additional gear and cables? if yes...then it means that this is something we can do in run and gun and medium budget filming situations....if anyone has any input on this subject please share...thanks

April 8, 2014 at 4:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I was wondering the same thing.

April 8, 2014 at 5:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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NDB

Good, informative video. Very interesting announcements this year. Any chance of seeing a report on the new Kinefinity camera's, Joe?

April 8, 2014 at 5:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ADC

This camera is absolutely beautiful! It's well thought out, well designed... but! As much as I prefer the design over the BM URSA, the URSA offers onboard monitoring on a big screen plus it can display waveform on a completely separate display! It has three display modules and all of them are user replaceable, plus the recorder seems to have the screws as well. The piece de resistance however is the user replaceable SENSOR! A replaceable sensor seems like a no brainer these days when the technology changes every day. I wish the CION had a replaceable sensor, it would've been a no brainer for me.

April 8, 2014 at 7:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jeff G

BM's big selling point is the interchangeable sensor. What the big issue is how well they've planned the hardware to match non existing sensors. In a year will the non changeable hardware be able to handle what the latest sensors are spitting out.

April 8, 2014 at 8:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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MB

The biggest difference for me is supposively the weight - the AJA Cion weighs I think 7 lbs while the Black Magic USRA weights 15 lbs?

7lbs is already fairly heavy but any more - and that makes it less useful in the field.

But agree - interchangable sensors are really nice!!

April 8, 2014 at 8:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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For people (owner/operators) looking for an entry point into 4K acquisition, these (Ursa, CION) cameras are obviously big developments. When comparing them (from an Ops POV) there is MUCH to be said about ergonomics and how much you have to 'build' up a camera to make it functional. More parts means more possibilities of failure. Also, thank heavens we're making cinema cameras again (designed to shoulder mount, duh!). I found it laughable when Red released a camera with more of photographic camera form factor. (really?)

What ends up being the 'deal-breaker' for me is media costs. Ursa costs 1200 dollars per 20mins of ProRes and 6mins of RAW. YIKES! so much for 'indie friendly'! In that sense even the AJA underperforms as they're going to make their money on their AJA Paks much like printers make their money on ink cartridges and not printers themselves.

So, until that detail gets ironed out, the BM 4K that shoots to SSDs is still, seemingly, the most affordable 4K acquisition camera? (if BM pulls their heads out of their arses and addresses those issues before releasing new product of course... *shakes finger at BM.

April 8, 2014 at 10:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Juan Lindo

This is what it says on their web page - "The Blackmagic URSA features standard broadcast connections so you don’t need to worry about buying expensive custom cables! You get 12G-SDI output that can be down converted to HD or used directly at amazing Ultra HD quality."
.
So, if this is a signal going out at an "amazing Ultra HD quality", which is 10-bit 4-2-2, I don't see why someone couldn't connect an external recorder to it. Run the line onto Atomos Shogun - which also has a 12G SDI in - and then you just need to buy a few SSD's, as Atomos claims two hours of recording onto a 2 TB off-the-shelf SSD. Done and dusted.

April 8, 2014 at 11:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

also BM claims the limit on their frame rate is based on cooling concerns. if so, not sure how well future sensors will play with it as it seems already limited to the internal liquid cooling? can anyone make me understand if i'm looking at this wrong?

April 8, 2014 at 10:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Juan Lindo

Does this camera have a log mode?

April 9, 2014 at 12:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Speaking of PL mounts - http://cinemaglass.com/
.
These aren't exactly Rokinon-Samyang prices but certainly more affordable than CZ, Cooke, Schneider, Arri. etc. Five primes for $10,000 package sounds like a deal.

April 9, 2014 at 1:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

This camera comes so close to being perfect. It's a very well though-out package and I love the fact that someone is finally thinking about the ergonomics of hand-held shooting. It ticks every box on my "perfect camera wish-list" except for one--there are no built-in ND filters. That is a huge omission in my opinion. What does everyone else think?

April 9, 2014 at 6:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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StivVid

Usually, if you shoot with PL mount lenses and a S35 sensor camera, you are using a mattebox anyways.

This is not really a docu/tv camera, so there is no real need for built-in ND filters, because you can better choose your own filters and put them in front of the lens.

Because, you know, what's the point of a built-in ND filter when your lens is a fixed focal length? You can't react quickly with it anyways!

There's a reason documentaries and tv have always been shot with S16 and 2/3" cameras: you can use lightweight super-zoom lenses on them so you never have to change your lens. For such a camera, a switchable built-in ND makes a lot of sense. But for a S25 PL Mount cinema camera? Not so much.

April 10, 2014 at 3:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

...meant to say S35, can't edit...

April 10, 2014 at 3:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Looking forward to getting my hands on one. One thing that stands out to me is the placement of the media slot on top of the camera. Sudden rain is a problem in FL and having an opening in the top of the camera seems like a bad idea.

April 17, 2014 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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