The NAB 2014 Surprise 4K Camera – The 4K AJA CION

The NAB Show (or the National Association of Broadcasters Show) has been the premiere event for the professional broadcast audio and video industry for many years. Each April, over 90,000 attendees flock to Las Vegas, Nevada for a week of total gear overload.

This year alone, over 98,000 people attended, of which around 26,000 came from overseas, representing a total of 159 countries. There were 1,746 exhibitors in total spreading over 945,000 net square feet of exhibition space in Sin City.

Staggering numbers indeed. And for the last few years, we’ve seen some truly disruptive products announced and displayed at the show. In 2012 BlackMagic Design, a manufacturer of leading post-production software and hardware, announced and presented their first ever cinema camera, appropriately titled – the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera 2.5K.

Their rationale for making a camera was that they already manufactured the post-production tools for Live TV production, editing and colour correction, and they were missing an acquisition tool. So, in a nutshell, they decided to put a lens mount and a sensor onto their external recorder. Priced at the sub $3,000 level, the original BMCC 2.5K quickly became a popular tool amongst indie-filmmakers.

AJA 4k back multi

In 2014, possibly taking a queue from Blackmagic Design, one of their major competitors in the post-production world – AJA announced and presented their first camera as well – The CION. Incorporating a slick and ergonomic design, the 4K capable CION, made waves at NAB and attracted many visitors, eager to get their hands on their latest stunning creation.

It just looks like a proper camera, more like a digital Aaton (there is one) or a digital 16mm ARRI SRII.

Aja 4K Cion side

Aja 4k side 2

The camera is build on a classic shoulder design championed by fellow french camera manufacturer Aaton in past times. The AJA CION features a curved shoulder mount base with a suede shoulder pad, professional I/O on the side, a baseplate with 15mm rods, top handle, and a PL mount.

Here’s an overview of the features of the camera:

  • 12 Stops Dynamic range
  • Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor 
  • Global Shutter
  • Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) and IR Cut Filter (combined)
  • 4K including 4096 x 2160 and 3840 x 2160
  • 120fps 4K – via external recorder via SDI x 4 only
  • All flavours of from ProRes 422 to ProRes 4444 up to 30fps in 4K
  • 4K ProRes 422 up to 60fps
  • 2K (2048 x 1080) up to 60fps
  • Full HD 1080p ProRes 422 up to 60fps
  • Full HD 1080p ProRes 4444 up to 30fps
  • 4x 3G-SDI Main Outputs – for 4K raw capture (external only – 4K AJA RAW) 
  • 2x 3G-SDI outputs – for external monitors/EVF
  • 2x HDMI out
  • Thunderbolt Port 4K up to 30fps
  • Interchangeable PL mount (3rd party only)
  • Records onto AJA proprietary SSD media cards

AJA have announced US pricing of $8,995, which makes the CION an interesting alternative to the new ARRI AMIRA (which costs 32,000 EURO and some change for the slow-motion fully spec-ed version) as both cameras do now shoot raw internally, but can do fast frame rates and can record in ProRes flavours up to, and including ProRes 4444, which is robust enough for heavy grading and/or VFX work, making raw capture redundant to a degree.

Now, looking at the price alone, the CION seems like a no-brainer. However, if you do require the 4K 120fps, you’d need an external recorder capable of recording the 4K stream up to 120fps. The Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q is a recorder, which will be possibly capable of accomplishing the task, although this has not been officially confirmed. In addition, the AJA CION records onto AJA SSD’s so using regular SSD’s is out of the question. You’d need to take into account for V-lock batteries or another heavy duty professional battery solution to make the camera work in a professional setting.

AJA side 4K CION Camera


UK  pricing has not been confirmed yet, and AJA have scheduled delivery of the first units sometime in late summer. In the meantime, check out this NAB video for more info on the camera straight from the AJA representative.

[via NextWaveDV]

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