Check Out the AJA CION

Check Out the AJA CION by filmmaker Michael Head

AJA has jumped from the realm of video capture and post conversion, and into camera design with the AJA CION, a 4K capable camera that looks like it sits right above the Blackmagic URSA in specs and in price.

The AJA CION uses a Super-35 (APS-C) sized sensor to record up to 4K resolution with reportedly 12 stops of dynamic range with a global shutter to eliminate rolling shutter artifacts.

AJA even built in an Optical Low-Pass and IR Cut Filter to reduce artifacts like moire, aliasing, and infrared contamination that many digital sensors experience (smart move!).

AJA CION

Check Out the AJA CION

The AJA CION is well versed in Prores capture, and this camera shows off that expertise.

It records 4K in all of the popular Prores flavors and even achieves high frame rate capture internally up to 60 FPS and 120 FPS through 4 x 3G-SDI outputs.

Internally it records to AJA’s Pak media, which is cost-effective for what it does but might be a bit pricey for some owner-operators. It will allow capture of “AJA raw” through multipe 3G-SDI outputs up to 120 FPS and a Thunderbolt connection up to 30 FPS.

Ergonomically speaking, the AJA CION is a step towards a ready-to-shoot-out-of-the-box camera which can easily be shouldered with the built in shoulder rest – which is great.

The AJA CION is also designed with multiple mounting points around the camera, include Arri Rosettes for handles and 15mm rod support on the body of the camera.

As nice as it is to have a sensor in a box, the ability to shoot without investing tons of extra money in rigging is a welcomed change.

AJA CION – The Good:

  • Super-35 4K sensor with 12 stops of dynamic range and global shutter
  • Built-in Optical Low Pass and IR Cut Filter
  • Records full 4K (4096×2160), Ultra HD (3840×2160), 2K (2048×1080) and 1080P
  • Apple Prores 4444 ( up to 30 FPS), 422 (60 FPS), AJA Raw up to 120 FPS through 3G-SDI and 30 FPS through Thunderbolt
  • 2x 3G-SDI output and 2x HDMI for monitor output
  • Ethernet output for monitoring and control through a computer
  • 2x XLR input with phantom power
  • Nice, almost ENG style design but flexible with multiple mounting points

AJA CION – The Not So Good:

  • No ND filters internally (but the OLP/IR filter is welcome)
  • No raw recording internally
  • PL Mount only (not great for those who are heavily invested in DSLR lenses but pretty easily adaptable)
  • Linear capture only – no LOG recording for now
  • Proprietary SSDs are a bit pricey (but AJA has a good reputation for them)

The Questions:

  • What is AJA Raw and when will we be able to fully use it?
  • Will the sensor be a problem?

AJA has a great reputation for on time delivery, which is a problem that has haunted some of the other camera manufactures.

The decision to go with only linear capture is interesting, but with raw capability it might not be too bad of a choice. AJA is apparently trying to nail the color science so that there is an “AJA Look” that people might try for.

With a price of around $9,000 AJA is aiming for a market above the Blackmagic cameras but still firmly in the realm of the owner-operator and small indie film market. The AJA CION looks to be a great entry into the market.

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Michael Head is a filmmaker and full-time geek living the the Dallas-Fort Worth Metromess. Follow him at @michaeldhead. Check in every Tuesday for Micheal’s “tech-Tuesday” articles. Check out his website at michaeldhead.wordpress.com.

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