With the recent increase in affordable large sensor cameras, the demand for external recorders has risen considerably. Atomos is now shipping their highly anticipated Ninja recorder, and I was able to get my hands on one to run it through the paces.
The Ninja records directly to standard 2.5” hard drives as Apple ProRes files. While it will work with standard spinning 2.5” drives, we recommend using SSD drives to avoid any potential issues with dropped frames. In my testing, the Ninja only dropped frames with a spinning hard drive when shaken vigorously — obviously outside most operating behaviors, but it is something to keep in mind.
With an HDMI input, the Ninja is great for cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix GH2, the upcoming Sony NEX-FS100, or anything with an HDMI output, such as the Sony PMW-EX1R. Since the HDMI output of your camera is uncompressed, this is a great way to record a higher quality and bit rate, and skip the compression of the internal recording. The Ninja was able to handle any HD resolution and frame rate I threw at it, including the tricky 1080/60i (not 59.97) from the GH2.
With an easy-to-use interface and a responsive touchscreen, the 4.3″ monitor was sharp enough to check for focus, even when shooting wide open on the Panasonic AF-100 and Sony PMW-F3. The large icons combined with the resistive touchscreen means that using the Ninja in extreme conditions, such as winter with thick gloves, would not be an issue.
At this stage of the firmware, there is no playback function. Atomos assures us, however, that a firmware update to correct this is in the works. The Ninja lists for $999 and is available now.
Atomos has also just revealed the new Samurai recorder, which builds upon the features of the Ninja but adds several upgrades. In addition to the HD/SDI input & output, the Samurai uses a larger and higher resolution 5” (800×480) screen. It also provides timecode and genlock/3D support and can accept a 24PsF signal. Available this Summer with a list price of $1500, we’re looking forward to seeing and testing the Samurai.