Atomos Ninja Blade Review by Steve Oakley

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Special thanks to Mr. Steve Oakley for this detailed review on the new Atomos Ninja Blade. In this vid, Steve records ProRes from the Canon C100 with the Ninja Blade.

Hi, this is Steve Oakley for the DVE Store and today we are going to take a look at the Ninja Blade, the HDMI recorder from Atomos. Here it is, we are recording to it right now.

The Ninja Blade represents a step up from the Ninja 2, their original HDMI recorder. It takes HDMI directly in. Of course, if you want you can use an SDI to HDMI converter. What's the big deal here? Well first of all, the quality of the screen. This is a really good quality monitor. It might be a little bit small but it is a true 1280 by 720 HD Monitor, so it looks very sharp, it looks very clean. It also has some good calibration. For example, you can adjust more than just brightness and contrast; you can also adjust the gamma, so it's easy to get a very good close adjustment. Of course, the best adjustment comes from using their spider calibrator. They sell the calibrator for $149, which I didn't have the opportunity to check out. I did check out my Spider 4 Elite Calibrator, which I bought separately, but it didn't work with the calibration application. Wish it did, but what can you say? Still for $149 to know that your monitor is accurate, it's not a bad deal.

You can record four tracks of audio on this unit: two coming in off the HDMI port; and two coming off the side here. Of course, there might be a frame or two of delay because of camera processing, but you deal with that going in. And it's not a big deal to slip the sync once you get into post.

Out of the box it records various flavors of ProRes: LT; 422; and HQ. Once you register it online you can also record to DNxHD in both 8 and 10 bit. Included in the kit are two drive slats. You can mount your choice of drives (whichever ones work for your application- SSD or spinning disk). I have been using a SanDisk 256 gig SSD, I have had excellent results and it's been rock solid. I've got 3.5 - 4 hours of record time depending on which codec I pick. You can also using a spinning disk in 750, 1 terabyte, or even 1.5 or 2 terabyte of capacity. That works great if you are sitting on a tripod and you are not going to subject the unit to vibration. Personally, I find 4 hours of record time to be plenty - so I just went with a 256. You have to look at market prices, even 512 Gig SSD have come down in price for them to start to make sense.

The case was an interesting story. First of all it looks great, I liked it. I was thrilled to get it because it's better than just having a retail box and you say, 'Well what am I going to do with the monitor, the power supply, and all the other little bits that come with it?' It's great, it all fits together. The problem is once you add more than say, two batteries, where does it fit? So for example, I had to say I have a couple of HDMI swivel cables that I use from camera to this recorder connection. I just kind of had to coil them up tight, and put them up top. I wish they would have had a little bit more room in the case to allow you to store cables. It's a minor complaint. I trimmed one of the foam areas to fit the SDI to HDMI converter that I also have. So when I use this on an SDI camera, like an HPX 3000, it works just fine. Hey, the case is still basically a good value because it's free and you didn't have to go out and buy one.

One of the cool things about this is that you can get a full screen size waveform, vectorscope, or RGB parade. This is really invaluable when you are shooting instead of looking at something that might only be a quarter of the screen down in the bottom, where you can't always tell necessarily whether you are getting the best exposure or not.

One of your big questions may be [about the] record trigger, 'If I hit record on the camera will this thing go into record"? Yes, you have to pay attention to settings of course. For example: Cannon, Sony, all have specific settings that this recorder will pick up on. Of course, if none of that applies to you and the only thing you are going to get is Time Code for example, when you hit record the camera starts rolling Time Code. You can set it, record time code RAW on this recorder, and as soon as it sees that Time Code rolling, it goes into record and it just works!

Field quality is really very solid. Everything seems to fit more solidly- the quality of the screen, even the fact that the SSD is just a friction fit now (instead of relying on a locking knob, that wasn't necessarily very affirmative in whether it was locked or not). I've been using this recorder with my Canon C-100, and have had really great results. It's definitely better than the internal AVC 24 bit codec. You can see that the AVC codec just kind of mushes things together, almost like a noise reduction for these high gain shots. It's not ideal, but it still doesn't look that bad. On the other hand, recording in ProRes records basically every single pixel. I'm really impressed with ProRes and how well it does with such difficult-to-compress material.

Battery consumption is pretty easy, if you use an SSD. A unique feature about the Atomos recorder is the dual batteries. You can run it on just one, and you could certainly swap batteries live back and forth. The idea here is, when the first battery is dead it automatically switches over to the second battery. You can also use larger 4 and 6 cell NP-970 style batteries.

One of the cool features that they added is this tally light on the side which lets you know you are also in “record”.

With the addition of the SDI to HDMI recorder, you have a lot of other options of adding this onto different cameras.

I highly recommend that you use a ¼ 20 or even a 3/8 thread, wherever it is on the handle of your camera, to mount this. Because if you use the hot shoe, it's more than likely --got some bad experience here-- that the hot shoe mount or cold shoe, whatever you want to call it, will actually end up slipping and, “Oops…”, you are not going to be happy.

This recorder really works very, very well with my Canon C100, and I have to say I really love it.

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