The AJA CION was released into the wild last December, and we've now got our first look at what the hotly anticipated cinema camera can accomplish in a real world setting.
First up, the folks over at Cinema5D recently took the CION out for a spin, and wrote an incredibly in-depth review of the camera. Here's their condensed video version:
While there was never much doubt that the CION would be able to produce beautiful images in the hands of a good cinematographer (almost all cameras can these days), it's surprising and frustrating that the camera seems to have an incredibly limited dynamic range. Cinema5D measured the dynamic range for the CION at 8.2 usable stops using Imatest. This matches right up with the Blackmagic 4K, which also measured at 8.2 stops.
What's important to note here is that this test tends to show all cameras as lower than stated by the manufacturer. ARRI rates the AMIRA at 14+ stops, though this test pegs it at 13.1 stops. A little over a stop might not seem like much, but the CION and Blackmagic are both claimed to be 12 stops by the manufacturers. So it's a little unclear what's going on here, as all cameras seem to be coming in lower than what their specifications state.
Here are a few more early examples of footage from the CION, both of which look fairly good in terms of their color rendition and motion, but which also display the same dynamic range issues, especially in the way the highlights roll off (or don't). The first example is from the Pacific Producers Group and the second by Creagen Dow and Taylor Randall.
Ultimately, it's hard not to be a little bit disappointed with these first impressions of the CION. When it was first announced, it seemed like the CION would fill a niche in the low/middle end cinema camera market by combining high-end image quality and features with proper ergonomics, thus becoming a poor man's Alexa if you will. Unfortunately, despite the lovely naturalistic color rendition and its plethora of features, it doesn't seem like the CION lives up to that description. It's an incredibly capable camera no doubt, but it's going to be most useful in controlled lighting situations. For me, that makes the CION more of a rental option more than anything else.
What do you guys think of the first review and footage from the CION? Where does this camera fit in the current mid-range market for cinema cameras?