Late last week, we got our first look at some ungraded footage from the highly-anticipated AJA CION, and we got word that the camera would begin shipping soon. Even though all of the pieces seemed to be coming together, there was still one piece of critical information that was missing: ISO performance.
In a recent video interview published by our friends over at Cinema5D, Andy Bellamy, the product marketing manager for the AJA CION, let slip what the company expects the native ISO of the camera to be once it starts shipping. As most of us were expecting, the CION is most likely going to be a 320 native ISO camera, which almost certainly means that there's not much chance that it will see use in low-light situations. Here's the interview.
And just in case you didn't see the first footage released by AJA, here it is once again.
A 320 native ISO puts the CION in the same category as cameras like the BMPC 4K and the Digital Bolex, at least in terms of ISO performance. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, considering that those cameras produce beautiful images, it does mean that the CION won't likely see much use as a documentary or run-and-gun style camera due to its limited sensitivity. Of course, we have no idea what the max ISO of the CION will be, and whether or not it will produce a useable image, but since it likely shares the same (or similar) sensor as the Blackmagic 4K, it probably won't be too high.
For me, this puts the CION squarely into the category of "for cinema use only." It's almost certainly going to be a light-hungry camera, which means that it will be most useful (and the images will be best) when artificial light is added to your interior and night exterior scenes. For filmmakers not expecting or needing high ISO performance, however, the AJA CION still looks like it will be a tremendous camera that presents quite a bit of value in terms of image quality and workflow options.
Of course, it's important to remember that 320 is not by any means an official number yet. As Bellamy mentioned in the video, the native ISO when the camera was announced at NAB was 200. The AJA engineers are clearly working hard to pull every last drop of sensitivity out of this sensor, and they have definitely made some progress in the past few months. Now the real question is whether or not they will be able to push that number even higher before the camera begins shipping.