December 22, 2014

The AJA CION Is Now Shipping, Plus New Footage Detailing the In-Camera Color Correction

AJA CION ISO Performance
AJA announced today that their highly anticipated CION digital cinema camera has finally begun shipping to resellers worldwide. The company also released a camera test detailing the CION's internal gamma settings and in-camera color correction abilities.

When AJA released the first showreel of ungraded CION footage earlier this year, many people gave the footage a big "meh" in terms of the overall image quality. However, the footage wasn't your typical ungraded log footage, as many people were expecting, but instead an example of the CION's ability to apply basic color correction in-camera. This has always been one of the more confusing aspects of the CION, but a newly released test video shows the many ways in which the CION can interpret luminance and chrominance information and manipulate them in-camera. Take a look.

Here's what AJA says about the above video:

The CION Technical Video 1 shows in precise detail the Exposure Index, Gamma and In-Camera Color Correction options available with the CION 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD production camera from AJA. The video is split into two sections; the first shows these comparisons at 5600K and the second section details the same comparisons at 3200K. No grade or color correction has been applied to this 4K footage although some scaling and resizing has been made to create the side-by-side comparison images you see within the video.

Click here to find out more information about these functions.

In the eight months since AJA surprised the world with the announcement of the CION at NAB 2014, a few things have changed in the digital cinema camera game, chiefly Sony's release of the FS7, a camera that compares well with the CION in terms of specs and price. Despite the fact that many were quick to declare the CION irrelevant after the announcement of the FS7, I'm convinced that these are two completely unique cameras that will dig out their own niches in the digital cinema camera market. 

On one hand, I see the FS7, which utilizes the same sensor as the F5, as a truly formidable documentary-style camera with a few features (like RAW) aimed at narrative filmmakers. For me, if Sony sees the F5 and F55 as competitors to the ALEXA, then the FS7 is their answer to the Amira. The CION, on the other hand, is not a low-light camera. With an expected base ISO of 320, the CION is a camera that will need external light to produce its best images. For that reason, the CION will be right at home in a more traditional narrative filmmaking atmosphere where external light sources are a given. It may find use in run and gun narrative work if it can pull a clean image at 800 ISO or higher, but primarily its niche will be in lighted narrative situations.

The CION is currently available for pre-order at B&H, and will likely be shipping from them within a few days.

What do you guys think about where the CION fits into the current digital cinema camera market? Is it fair to compare it with the FS7? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

13 Comments

With the FS7 and the URSA (yeah I know, the firmware) already out, I think there is little the CION adds to the game. Especially with the very low ISO. Also, I don't consider the in-camera color correction a big plus that is going to sell it. It can be useful, but it can also turn your project into a post-process hell when things go wrong.

December 22, 2014 at 4:00PM, Edited December 22, 4:00PM

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KerosinStudio
DP, Editor and Sound Engineer
69

I'm fairly confused by how Aja is marketing this camera. I feel it could have landed a niche market that wants the look and versatility of blackmagic camera's paired with the ergonomics and design of the alexa, all for a decent price. The FS7 is interesting, but I personally don't care for the look of sony's sensors. If Aja marketed this camera as the indie filmmakers secret weapon, I feel there would be much more excitement for it.

But until now they've released relatively lackluster videos and updates. They are marketing it like a supped up jvc camcorder from what I can tell. Maybe I just need to wait for it to be on the market for a bit and some indie filmmaker will release a promo video like Captain Cook did for the blackmagic cameras. Who knows, that may actually be Aja's brilliant marketing campaign.

A man can dream....

December 22, 2014 at 5:28PM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
300

I completely agree that AJA's marketing of this camera has been pretty lackluster. When you add the fact that the URSA and FS7 have been picking up steam and gaining in popularity over the past few months, it's no wonder why people aren't as excited about this camera as they were at NAB. With that said, I still think this camera is an incredibly exciting proposition for indie filmmakers and cinematographers, especially those who are frequent handheld shooters and who could really benefit from the ergonomic design.

December 22, 2014 at 8:51PM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4503

I agree. This was (is?) by far my most anticipated camera to come out of NAB. I love the images coming out of my blackmagic cameras, but I am tired of the 'tinkertoy' style building them up to look like alexas. I enjoying shooting handheld, and I already own all of my own accessories so the Ursa's weight and 10" screen become burdens more than benefits.

December 23, 2014 at 9:15AM

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Taylor Camarot
Director of Photography
300

It is hard to market cameras to everybody, but there are places for each and every camera. It's not best to shoot a documentary with a Sony F65, where a C300 would do just fine.

I work in broadcast sports, and I see Aja boards all over the place, and they use the Aja Ki Pro. A ton of sports is shot in MJPEG or ProRes. There are places for every camera, and maybe broadcast is where this camera will fit in. By having a camera with a Ki Pro recording pretty much built in, it will look really good to those production houses that already Aja everything.

There is one thing to say about the camera, though. From what I've seen of the FS7, the Blackmagic, and the Aja, I'd say the best color is coming from the Aja. They are vibrant, clear, and very balanced. It'll be nice to see more footage from the Cion shot in a film setting. I'm not saying that the FS7 or the Blackmagic are bad, it's just that sometimes getting the look you want is more important than having all the best specs in the world. Do you want enormous dynamic range only to give up chrominance? This camera will surely find its niche. I shoot on a Sony FS100, sure it's not the best, but for shooting 1080p, it looks sharp, and is better than when I shot on my DSLRs.

What do you think?

December 23, 2014 at 12:21AM

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Mason Hunsicker
DP, Writer, Director
153

I am not sure I see what you are saying about the colors. Most of the footage coming from this camera seems to be okay. I haven't seen anything yet that I couldn't already achieve on any of my other cameras. I feel like both the FS7 and the URSA are pretty much on that same level though. I think I remember hearing that The CION and the URSA share the same sensor... not sure if that is true but it would be an interesting comparison once units reach their respective owners.

December 24, 2014 at 9:19AM

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People are forgetting that when we shot film the ASA/ISO rating was about the same as this camera. Also a lot of other cameras, especially the F's require that bit extra in post to get an image therefore distancing the cinematographer from the final image. This camera looks skewed towards creating a baked in look which is not a bad thing if the controls can actually do that and the cinematographer is confident and knows that they are doing (which in the days of film they HAD TO).

December 23, 2014 at 4:57AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1743

I think what I'm seeing out of the Cion is very, very promising. Now if the thing can boot up faster than the AJA Ki Pro - that thing took 2 minutes to boot up and was literally the worst external recorder I ever owned- bulky, huge, power hungry, bizarre menus, and no lcd. But I have faith in AJA. But everyone we must remember - this is the first camera from this company. Do not expect miracles. I'll be excited to see this once it is in my hands and other people's hands. Hyping up cameras that do not exist in the real world is just basically not the best use of one's time.

December 23, 2014 at 6:45AM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1669

EVS can offer great Los Angeles support for the Cion and has been in discussions with AJA for almost a year regarding it's capabilities. AJA has very high standards and the Cion has been designed with a tremendous amount of thought. The EVS sales staff is very excited about this, and we are planning a Cion event for Mid January at our Glendale location. We will announce the event as soon as we know when...
Give our sales staff a call anytime to discuss further.
http://www.evsonline.com/aja-cion-4k-2k-production-camera.html

December 23, 2014 at 4:23PM

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Ben Pitts
104

Great ergonomics, but the CION really needs a better sensor, unless you are always shooting under controlled lighting conditions. It would be iteresting to see how the price of tricked out BMC compared to the CION (they use the same sensor)

I think that no matter how you slice it the FS7 with the F5 sensor at $8-10k complicates things immensely for AJA and everyone else.

Personally I'll stick with my Sony F3L. Lousy camcorder ergonomics, but one of the best sensors on the market. And it's paid for.

December 23, 2014 at 7:46PM

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ISO 320 ? thats pretty much a deal killer right there. most features shooting film are ISO 500 & 800. canon C series are 850 - C500, F5 & FS7 ? a crazy ISO 2000. so really… I'm still using lights with the new cameras, just an awful lot less in terms of levels, all LED & HMI, and using more passive controls like silks, nets & solids which use no power :) so unless they can get a ISO 800 out of the camera thats acceptable not sure this camera has a market….

December 24, 2014 at 12:08AM, Edited December 24, 12:08AM

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Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist
433

I am with you there. I really like the design of this camera I just wish the technology inside of it was more relevant to modern day sets. New technology should enhance what we already have not give us something that we have had for the 6 years.

December 24, 2014 at 9:15AM

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I do mostly narrative film (and light) but the Sony FS7 would still be my first choice. While I always light, I'd like a break sometimes...I don't always want to light. I want lighting (sometimes) to be a choice, not always a necessity. I use the GH4 and it needs light....The CION's poor low light performance, just Like the Blackmagic 4K cam (they are rumored to have the same sensor) is a real dealbreaker for me - frankly, I ought to pickup the Sony A7s asap. Now thats low light performance!

December 27, 2014 at 12:29AM

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Ed Wright
Director, DP, Writer
424