September 12, 2014

The Highly Anticipated 4K AJA CION Is Shipping Soon: Here's Some New Footage to Savor

AJA CION with Mattebox
A multitude of exciting cameras were announced at NAB 2014, including Sony's A7s and the Blackmagic Ursa. The most exciting of the batch, however, was arguably the AJA CION, a 4K global shutter powerhouse priced with independent filmmakers in mind. New footage and an announcement that the camera will begin shipping soon leaves us with even more than ever to be excited about.

Here's the first reel of ungraded footage from the AJA CION:

And here's all of the technological information that you might want to know about the above clip.

The UltraHD 23.98 fps normal speed shots were acquired in camera as ProRes 4444; the slow motion shots were acquired as ProRes 422 with the camera operating at 59.94fps and files saved in-camera as 23.98fps.

Every shot is presented exactly as it was photographed; no exposure adjustments, color correction or image manipulation of any form took place in post-production. The studio shots were captured using three point lighting utilizing both the supplied PL lens mount as well as a third party EF lens mount. With the exception of the umbrella shot, which utilized a single 1K light, the remaining shots were captured with available light. CION’s white balance values were specifically selected to match the needs of the scene and, in certain cases, auto white balance was also utilized. CION’s in-camera color correction modes were also employed during the shoot. In the scenarios presented, ‘Skin Tones’ and ‘Normal’ settings were selected throughout the filming. The version in the reel is the 1080p downconversion of the UltraHD ProRes 4444 master file.

Despite the fact that the video is heavily compressed for presentation on Vimeo, it's clear as day that AJA is really on to something in terms of color science. The skin tones in the above video are incredibly beautiful on both of the actresses, although there might be a very subtle shift towards magenta in some of the shots with the caucasian actress. It's also very difficult to tell how well the camera is performing in terms of dynamic range because none of the shots (with the exception of the shot pointed directly at the sun) were capturing anything too difficult luminance-wise. With all of that said, the footage still looks great.

In case you missed AJA's original marketing video for the CION, which contains another brief look at some footage, here it is again.

And here are the specs that we currently know about the camera.

  • 22.5mm x 11.9mm Super 35mm sensor with a global shutter
  • 12-stop Dynamic Range
  • Lens Mount: PL (positive lock), replaceable
  • Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) and IR Cut Filter (combined)
  • Removable Storage: AJA Pak media (proprietary SSD)

    Recording modes
  • 4K (4096×2160), Ultra HD (3840×2160), 2K (2048×1080) (2K limited to 60p)
    • Progressive 23.98 to 120 fps
    • Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 to 30 fps
    • Apple ProRes 422 to 60 fps
    • SDI output support for 119.88/120 fps (SDI 1-4 Raw) (2K limited to 60p)
  • 1080 HD (1920×1080) progressive 23.98 to 60
    • Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 to 30 fps
    • Apple ProRes 422 to 60 fps
    • SDI output up to 60p

      Output
  • 4x 3G-SDI (main), 2x 3G-SDI (Monitor) (AJA RAW 4K at 120 fps)
  • 2x HDMI
  • Thunderbolt (limited to 4K at 30 fps)

    Audio Input
  • 2x 3-pin balanced XLR connectors with dedicated line/mic/48v phantom
  • Audio Output
  • 1x 3.5mm Headphone Jack

    Inputs
  • 1x Reference Input (BNC)
  • 1x LTC (BNC for Timecode)
  • 2x 2.5mm LANC connectors
  • 1x LAN RJ45 connector 1 Gbps

    Weight
  • 7.4 lbs / 3.4 kg (with top handle attached)

    Power
  • AC Range: 100-240 VAC 50/60Hz
  • DC Range: 12-18Vdc, 5A maximum, 4-pin XLR or 2-pin input connectors
  • Power: 38-42W typical, 45-47W maximum
  • (Note: does not include power draw from 2-pin output connector)

Despite being one of the most exciting cameras on the horizon (and definitely the most beautiful), there are still a few things that we need to know about the CION, the most important of which is ISO performance. Currently the AJA website has no information regarding which ISOs the CION will be able to shoot, though from talking to them at NAB it may be in the 200-800 ISO range. The CION is likely sporting the same sensor as the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, so it might be sensible not to have expectations that the CION will be a stellar low light camera. With that said, the fact that the ISO information hasn't been released yet indicates that the AJA engineers are still hard at work trying to pull every last bit of sensitivity out of the sensor. If they can manage a clean 800 and maybe even a usable 1600, the CION will definitely be one of the most well-rounded cameras on the market.

In terms of availability, a representative from AJA informed me that the camera will, in fact, begin shipping soon. As for what that actually means, I have no idea. It could be two weeks or two months. However, AJA as a company has a solid track record of delivering products on time, so I don't expect the wait to be all that long. However, considering the fact that this is their first venture into camera manufacturing, there could very well be some unforeseen obstacles, as there were with the Blackmagic cameras. Either way, keep your eyes peeled, No Film Schoolers, because the arrival of the AJA CION is imminent, and it will almost certainly take the independent filmmaking community by storm.     

Your Comment

26 Comments

Can't believe they released this camera without built in ND. They are even advertising it as an doc style camera with the cabrio lens. Even the form factor is set-up for run and gun. I emailed them and they said I was one of the only people to ask why they left ND out. I have a hard time believing that...

September 12, 2014 at 6:57PM

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Matt Day
Director
79

Yea if it had built in NDs I would definately purchase it. I do a lot of RnG work.

September 12, 2014 at 7:36PM

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Matthew Emmanuel
Camera Operator
515

I feel like I would be way less disappointed if I had not watched CaptainHook's Ursa footage last week. Comparing the two videos, I feel like the Ursa takes the cake easily. And maybe its just me, but at 1:31 the highlight roll off on the leaves looks pretty terrible. And while that shot is an extreme case, the dynamic range there doesn't look very impressive. Anyone else feel the same way?

September 12, 2014 at 7:38PM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
307

Yeah, I'm not impressed. It looks cold and brittle all around. But it's also a chilly night on the east coast so maybe I'm projecting.

September 12, 2014 at 8:05PM

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Matt Day
Director
79

Keep in mind that this footage is ungraded. Hook's footage, while extremely beautiful by comparison, had quite a bit of color work done on it in Resolve. I don't think it's fair to compare the two.

September 12, 2014 at 8:16PM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4538

Considering that this footage is completely ungraded, the crushed shadows are serious problem. There is no detail in them at all. Fine as a final graded image, but I would hate to use this a starting point...

September 12, 2014 at 9:32PM

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Jamie LeJeune
Director of Photography
214

Agreed. That's what caught my eye immediately. If this is your starting point for quick delivery great. If not you're in trouble.

September 12, 2014 at 10:13PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1757

I would be very concerned if this is the 'ungraded' footage. Blacks are very black, the skin tones are very saturated, and the highlights seem to be unrecoverably overexposed. Not saying the footage is bad, but if this is what I get to work with in post I would be very concerned.

September 12, 2014 at 10:06PM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
307

This is utilizing the cameras internal color processing tools, so I'm going to assume that it's not representative of any sort of "log" footage that most film makers would most likely be shooting. That being said, I agree - this is definitely an example of how *not* to use the camera. ;)

September 12, 2014 at 10:22PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
952

Before all you guys go apeshit on the Cion.

This was shot in Rec709, not in a flat profile, Rec709 is always ultra contrasty.

I spoke to them at IBC, there will be Log Gamma's available.

Keep in mind that this is also still production footage, probably not a fully calibrated sensor.

The guys at AJA told me that their test units have the LOG gamma's but the test units on IBC dind't.

Hope this clears up alot.

September 14, 2014 at 2:54PM

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Very contrasty for ungraded footage. Is this the equivalent of Red Gamma 3 over a Log image? Is there a flat, Log version of that footage?

Image looks nice though. Very excited to see more of these in action.

September 12, 2014 at 10:53PM

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Ben Howling
Writer / Director
551

This is just terrible...apart from 2 good looking models there is nothing much to like in this promo...the skin tones are magenta like - cold and unlikeable....the blacks are crushed...the lighting is poor...the colors overasturated ---- and stating that this is ungraded footage makes it even worse - because they can't even blame it on a poor color grading....it is such a pity that aja has made a collective social suicide by releasing this type of promo video after 6 months of hype building around the aja cion - amira look alike camera...such a missed opportunity...I can't beleive they couldn't hired some skilled professionals to make a decent job with the demo unit of aja- cion....and I am not even mentioning not adding the internal nd filters....aja you were such a promising camera...but not anymore

September 13, 2014 at 4:39AM

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Drazen Stader
Director, director of photography
209

All the footage in this video was filmed in the shade .. Except the clipping paper trees and sun shot .. I think this camera has a problem in highlight Such as 4k Black Magic Camera

September 13, 2014 at 4:37AM

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Arthur
181

Oh, come on... Did you read the video description? It says that the footage wasn't graded in post-production, but is also clear that in-camera color correction was used.
You can'

September 13, 2014 at 11:29AM

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Oh, come on... Did you read the video description? It says that the footage wasn't graded in post-production, but is also clear that in-camera color correction was used.
You can't say the blacks are too crushed to be used as a starting point for grading, as this was obviously not intended for grading in post. The same for saturation. Its not possible to say what the raw/flat/log files will look like.
And if the camera have a large amount of settings for a good look straight out of the camera, plus log and raw options, this is going to be just great.
Too soon to judge, I think your are making a mistake. The camera is still promising for me.

September 13, 2014 at 11:36AM, Edited September 13, 11:36AM

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No you are right, maybe my posts were a little quick to judge. Don't get me wrong, I am still very hopeful for this camera. However, I find it odd that this is the first footage they released. They have been quiet for months and then this is what we get? I'm kinda shocked we didn't get something similar to what we got from the release of the Ursa or the Dragon, you know?

September 13, 2014 at 12:38PM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
307

Some of you guys are jumping the gun, relax. This footage looks good to me, the Caucasian talents skin looks magenta because her skin was probably actually magenta, some people have reddish pigment in their skin. To me the colors look nice and detailed here. For everyone complaining about crushed blacks watch the ursa samples again and start complaining there too. If you want clean blacks with this sensor it will be what you have to do. Also this footage looks like it was with a gamma applied so calm down. Its looks like a great starting place for a grade, you only really need a first light.

The real question is how many bits is the 4k prores 444, if its 12, thats a big deal. No need for raw.

September 13, 2014 at 11:47AM

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Indie Guy
1284

I think its safe to say this footage is incredibly underwhelming, but that is my personal taste.

September 13, 2014 at 12:41PM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
307

Spoke with one of the engineers via email a couple weeks back and he said it was In fact 12 bit 4444, and therefore there will be no need for Raw. So this video shows skin tone and colour reproduction. I think it showed what they wanted it to show. Nice depth of field fall off, fabulous skin tones and very pleasing filmic feel ...... Yes it is a bit contrasty but I see no need for all the panic ..... If you read Aja's post you will see they said they tweet a couple shots with their in camera colour corrector, which means you can manipulate your corrector to give you a flat gamma curve. And with that I'm sure you will be able to save a preset or two ....... The image quality even tho compressed looks great to me .....
BMD went and shot a sunrise ..... Sunrises are always beautiful even if you shoot it with an old cell phone. Don't be fooled by a gimmic. Aja were working on their colour science and they were showing you the fruits of that. I can't wait to get my hands on a Cion.

September 14, 2014 at 6:48AM, Edited September 14, 6:48AM

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Nigel Thompson
Director / Editor / Producer
238

I'm more of referring to Captain Hooks Ursa video (which showcased vistas, day/evening exteriors in harsh conditions, interior lit narrative set ups, handheld and dolly moves, slow-mo and 24fps, etc.)

I agree there is no need to panic, and maybe I've been building unrealistic expectations for it in my head, as the CION was definitely my most anticipated camera from NAB. I just hope that they show off something a little more robust showcasing what this little beast can do. Hopefully some of that makes sense.

September 14, 2014 at 12:29PM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
307

Will agree with you where they need to light up a storm and put the camera through some heavy paces make that stuff look spectacular but im sure we will see that soon. My only concern is having a (LOG) setting in the camera, at least i need it LOL. And i hope the ISO goes to 1600 and usable

September 14, 2014 at 1:06PM

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Nigel Thompson
Director / Editor / Producer
238

Just get the camera in your hands and test it when it's available watching other peoples footage won't give an accurate assessment. All this test shows me is that its something I would try out.

September 14, 2014 at 1:32PM

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Indie Guy
1284

>Spoke with one of the engineers via email a couple weeks back and >he said it was In fact 12 bit 4444, and therefore there will be no need >for Raw.

I'd be a little concerned if an engineer told me that uncompressed RAW and Prores444 were the same thing.

September 15, 2014 at 2:14PM

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Ed Jones
288

Not bad for a work in progress. Certainly better than the first footage they released.
A few thoughts

- From what I know the URSA and CION share the same sensor. They aren't going to be radically different in performance. It's all down to the color science.

- If they shot QT without a LOG curve, then it's rec709 and there is no highlight recovery like in RAW. Once you hit a value of 1.0 that's it. You get what you expose for. REC709 footage can be a little on the contrasty side.

- Rec709 can only hold 10 stops. You can cheat fit more than 10 with a LOG curve, but in this case if it's linear rec709, you're seeing only 10 of the 12 stops the sensor is capable of capturing.

Forget about Black Magic. The biggest problem for this camera is the new Sony PXW-FS7.

September 14, 2014 at 9:28PM

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Ed Jones
288

I don't find the footage so great. The highlights look very 'video', overall it's crunchy, and the skin tones look pretty off to me. I know it's 'ungraded' - but come on. This is the first footage released. Shouldn't it be impressive?

The camera itself I think is hideous looking. Proprietary recording media. For a few thousand more you can get a C300. And for three times less, a blackmagic 4k. So, it seems like it might have a hard time finding the right market.

September 16, 2014 at 3:06AM, Edited September 16, 3:06AM

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David Fernandes
Director
125

The models look great....too bad the "ungraded" footage doesn't. How about showing some 120fps of people actually MOVING (more than just turning their head) I'm with the consensus of "If this is the ungraded footage you have to work with, I'll pass"

September 18, 2014 at 5:27PM, Edited September 18, 5:27PM

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Drew Staniland
Actor/Videographer/Writer/Director
261