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Atomos Ninja Blade 5" HDMI On-Camera Monitor & Recorder
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- 1280 x 720 On-Camera Monitor & Recorder || 5" IPS/325 DPI Touchscreen Display || Waveform, Vectorscope, Focus Peaking
- Records 1080p30, 1080i60, 10-Bit, 4:2:2 || ProRes or DNxHD Encoding and Playback
- HDMI Input and Loop-Output || Records to 2.5" HDDs/SSDs
- Cut and Tag Editing Tool || 2x Master Drive Caddies || Canon, Nikon Type Battery Adapters
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The Atomos Ninja Blade 5" HDMI Monitor & Recorder features a 1280 x 720 resolution display with 325 dpi providing a sharp image, in a small monitoring package. It records up to 1080 30p/60i resolution via HDMI to an available HDD or SSD using either Apple's ProRes or Avid's DNxHD codecs. Recording at 10-bit with 4:2:2 color sampling, this unit provides you a monitoring and recording solution in one compact battery powered unit.
The Ninja Blade features an on screen display system that allows you to select the functions you wish to control with a touch of your finger. Select from waveform or vectorscope overlay to view the signals, focus peaking helps you to see what is in focus in your shot.
Blade accepts 2.5" HDDs/SSDs, which are sold separately. This is the full version, which includes a docking station that offloads these drives to your computer via USB 3.0/2.0. You also get a Sony-type NP-F570 battery, a charger, an AC adapter for continuous power, and two master caddies for available HDD/SSD It features two 1/4"-20 threaded mounting holed, one each top and bottom.
* 325DPI, 5" IPS 1280 x 720 capacitive touchscreen monitor/recorder.
* Waveform RGB & luma parade, vectorscope with zoom, and test pattern generator.
* Adjustable gamma, contrast and brightness.
* HDMI input and output.
* Real-time monitoring, playback, playout to a PC or Mac with QuickTime, and edit logging.
* Focus peaking, 0-100% zebra, and two modes of false color monitoring.
* Records 10-bit, 4:2:2 in ProRes or DNxHD.
* S-Log / C-Log recording.
* Trigger REC/STOP from camera (Canon, Sony, ARRI, Panasonic, RED, JVC)
* Timecode from camera.
* 2.5" HDD/SSD media storage.
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*Black Magic Video Assist (unit only) - $500
*Atomos Ninja Blade/Samurai (hard case, docking station, two hd caddies, two battery adapters, one battery, battery charger, car/wall charger and audio breakout cable) - $500
That should almost be enough info right there, but let's continue. I'll compare the features of both units first.
Both have focus peaking (Atomos came with it, VA after the update). The big diffence here is that the VA has one color for the focus peaking: green. The Atomos is user selectable with SEVEN colors to choose from. Honestly, with all monitors I've used, until could select the color myself, red and white seemed to be the most useful, not green. Case in point, if you do much video outside, what's probably the most prominent color around? Look at the mountains, trees, bushes... It's green. And being able to select the color peaking is a boon. I recently shot an event where a team was wearing all green. Good luck pulling focus on that with green peaking. I picked purple, money! You can also use peaking on the Blade in black and white. It really stands out.
Both recorders have Zebra. Same as before, you need to update the VA to get this. How bout just make a complete product form the start? I can't seem to find any info on the VA's zebra, other than it has it. The Atomos has a selectable strength from 35%-105%. Both are probably about equal in this feature, unless you can't select the intensity on the VA.
What about histogram? Both have it also (added with firmware in VA). This difference here is that you can select the intensity of the overlay on the Atomos, and if you want a full screen histogram, one across the bottom or one on the side. The VA, ya get what ya get.
So what about the essentials of video monitors for serious work? I'm talking about False Color, VectorScope, Luma Overlay, RGB Parade and Blue Gun. These are ESSENTIAL tools for anyone serious about video. If you don't know what they are, just skip the rest of this review, buy the Vidoe Assit and think you just bought the best monitor/recorder on the market. What you don't know won't hurt you. For everyone who's serious, you're probably reading this review because you already knew what the VA lacks and knew it was useless for your needs. I won't even go in depth about all the settings for these features, just know that the Atomos has them... and the VA doesn't.
But wait, how about Punch In for focus? Ah yes, the VA has this... the Atomos does not. The one winning feature of the VA. I'm not a huge fan of the Atomos, as it has it's pitfalls and shortcoming as well. I'm just trying to show the other devices out there and discredit the fanboys who laud the praises of an inferior product. Let's proceed.
How about powering the unit? Both can be powered by wall outlets. The Atomos includes a 12v car power outlet adapter as well. Now for the difference. The Atomos is battery powered by Sony NP series batteries. Maybe not industry standard, but awful dang close. I have portable LED lights, external monitors and other devices all running on Sony NP batteries. The VA runs on Canon LP batteries. One "reviewer" of a free VA stated, "Not a problem with Canon batteries, who,doesn't have a bunch of those laying around?" Um, me for one. When I shoot with a DSLR, it's a Nikon. The Atomos also ships with two battery plates (one Nikon and one Canon) and others can be purchased (albeit at a premium, a gripe of mine). VA users, congrats if you shoot with anything other than Canon, because your pockets are about to become a little lighter. And how so? Two Canon batteries are gonna get you a out 1.5-2hours of run time. Hope you have deep and big pockets for all the batteries you'll be carrying. Sony makes several varieties of the NP with various mAh. The largest they make (7800 mAh) will get you about 5-6hours run time on the Atomos, but there is the weight trade off that could be a concern. Here's a reality check. You can buy a Sony FP-770 (4400 mAH) for half the price of the Canon LP-E6 that has half the run time (1800 mAh). Cha Ching. That's the sound of your money going into Canon's bank account. But I digress, onward.
Ah, how about the media. One reviewer remarked that the VA uses the readily available and inexpensive SD cards. Now, I love SD cards and have for years. I think it's one of the best mediums out there for photography. I have CF cards too, but SD are so dang small and easy to. Plus every PC on the planet these days seems to have a reader already built into it. However, here's the big caveat to this. The Atomos can take almost any type of 2.5 inch HD or SSHD. The cost of a Sandisk Extreme Pro SD 128gb is (at the time of this writing) approximately the same cost as a Sandisk Extreme Pro SSHD... 240gb. Woah, that's almost twice the storage for the same price. But, wait... there's more. The transfer rate on a Extreme Pro SD is 95gb/sec. Pretty respectable, for an SD. What about the Extreme Pro SSHD? Barely more at 6 GIGABYTES/sec!!! Mega vs Giga. You be the judge. Well, any limitations on storage size? Video Assist... well we compared the 128gb, cuz that's it. The Atomos, go for it. Buy the 2TB drive. What does that translate as far as record time. 128gb = 1.25 hours. 2TB = your whole short. Idk, it don't have time to do the math, but you get the idea. No limitations.
Well, I've come this far so may as well just cover it all.
Hey, the VA has SDI. Cool, do I think the person who's looking for a monitor without VectorScope, etc has a rig running SDI? Maybe. It's mini SDI, btw. Not the sturdiest of connections out there. Why not full size SDI? Oh, and the Atomos Samurai has SDI, but if you need both (which maybe there's some applications where you do, like maybe a sound recorder or something) Atomos make an adapter for the Blade that adds two full SDI connections.
How about other connections? The Atomos has LANC. The Atomos has a separate 3.5 audio jacks for IN and Out. All the audio on the Video Assist comes through the HDMI. The Atomos has adjustment for the audio line level, gain and balancing. The VA has none. Oh, and you can monitor up to TWELVE channels on the Atomos, if audio is your thing. Both have HDMI In and Out, however you can't trigger record on your camera with the VA... You can with the Atomos.
Finally, we get to the two big selling points of the Video Assist.
The Video Asssit can record at 1080p 60fps whereas the Atomos cannot. Personally, I typically record at 24/25fps. 60fps is traditionally used to shooting slow motion. Shoot at 60fps, drop down to 30fps in editing, or whatever. Is this a game changer? Not for me. Make me a list of major movies, indies or shorts that were shot at 60fps. Not a deal breaker for serious filmmakers.
And biggest marketing statistic for the Black Magic Vidoe Assist. FULL 1080p monitor. The Atomos is 720p. Now, the jump from the Atomos Ninja into HD on the Blade/Samurai was huge. The difference on a 5" screen of 1080p vs 720p, not so much. In fact, I have a 7" monitor at 1080p and the Atomos works every bit as well as that. In fact better if you rely on focus peaking as my 7" only has white peaking. But here's the big, well kept secret from Black Magic. What type of screen is in their monitor? You can't find that info ANYWHERE. Look at their website. They boast "bright viewing screen" and "135 degree viewing angle". But what kind of screen is it? It's the same cheap design of most cell phones. Search, you can find it out there if you dig. Atomos clearly states "IPS screen" on there website. Think IPad, iPhone, or any other high quality, small screen device. And one more thing about screens. Atomos include two LUTS with their devices (Clog and Rec 709). How many did that other reviewer on this page say the VA has? Oh, I just remembered... Zero. And is color correction important to you? Would you like your monitor to display true to life colors? What if I told you Atomos makes a color calibration tool called the Spyder for use on their monitors for $150... because they do.
C'mon folks. The best value for this price point? Sadly, no. Not even close. Now, I mentioned "serious" filmmakers. Ok, maybe more like Indie. Maybe some small studios. Most high dollar production houses probably aren't using an Atomos, in fact I can almost guarantee it. But if you want to learn the essentials of film making for a great price, buy a Blade/Samurai. All others, buy the VA and put it on your Canon Rebel. You'll be happy that you can swap batteries and use the same sd cards. Sorry to sound harsh, but the VA is just a sub par recorder/monitor and I feel Black Magic is just using their name to sell a product.
So now a little more about the Blade. For one, I have a little gripe with the recording trigger for Nikon. I've downloaded the firmware from both Nikon and Atomos. Nikon added the feature like they promised, but I still can't get the dang thing to work. I've even seen where someone had the same issue with the same camera (Nikon D810) and posted it on the Aromos forum...no response from Atomos. I currently have a ticket filed with them and am unenthusiasticly awaiting a reply. Gripe two. The .35 cent HDMI cord from China with the Atomos name on the cardboard costs $22. Seriously guys? I've written a review about that if you care. Also, additional plastic battery plates ($25) are stupid expensive as well as the master caddies ($35). For cheap molded plastic. Wow. Of course these things don't effect performance, but wow (all I can say). Now, check the deal you're currently getting. When I first bought the Blade on Amazon, it was "bare bones" for $795. That included one master caddy and a soft case and basically noting else. Like two weeks after I bought it the price dropped to $495. Now, that wasn't just for the Blade, that was for the entire kit. I was lucky in that was still in Amazon's return window. I returned the bare bones and for $300 less, got the case, TWO master caddys, docking station, car charger, wall charger, Nikon battery plate, Canon battery plate, a battery and a break away audio cable. To say it mildly, I would have been pissed if I had just missed that deal. But now it's the deal for everyone. In fact, a few months ago B&H had the kit WITH the color calibration Atomos Spyder for $495. Killer deal. So that's about it. Would be nice to get the trigger working and Punch In would be a welcome firmware update. If the sun screen came down about $15, that may be a nice purchase, but glare hasn't been a real issue. All in all a solid, FULL featured, serious monitor/recorder and in not just my opinion but the facts stated above, the best if not only option at this price point.
I had written the above review as a comparison between the two monitors listed. It wasn't "exactly" an Atomos Blade review, but I suppose it get the job done. And I'm too lazy to write up a review for the Blade, since I've already written this. I will add that since the writing of this, Aromos has released another firmware update that adds and HDR feature. Also, I guess they fixed the trigger feature for Nikon, because it works now (now that I use it anyway). I do want to mention two things that may be issues for some. Since the Blade uses a touch screen for all of its adjustments and settings, you WILL end up with fingerprints on the screen. Also, there is a latency issue with my Nikons when HDMI out is set to 1080p. No issues at any other setting though.
Other than that, a solid product. I'm not in the market yet, but I suspect there may be some cheaper/better alternatives soon. The Blade is getting a little long in the tooth.
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