Have Blackmagic just blown the Atomos out the water?

ProRes and DNxHD, Full 1080p screen and records to SD Cards AND captures outputs of 50/60p… Have Blackmagic just blown the Atomos Blade out of the water?

Shooting video on DSLRs has come a LONG way since the first DSLRs allowed photographers/videographers to shoot video in 2008. The Panasonic GH4 is the most recent example of just how video focused DSLRs have become with a broad array of acquisition options and bitrate options.

However, as much as the internal workings, codecs and sensors improve one thing has stayed the same throughout. The ergonomics of DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras has remained almost completely unchanged, and I think I speak for most when I say the screen size of DSLRs is still a hindrance. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to swivel the screen is great, touchscreen is for me a little gimmicky, especially on sub 5 inch screens but useful none the less – but the size? No way you’re keeping critical focus without assist or a monitor. Bottom line? You need an external monitor.

The GH4 codec is great and the bitrate captured is a real breath of fresh air when it comes to grading, but for sheer tactility, ProRes is where it’s at. I’m not getting into the RAW debate – yes RAW is incredible but at a substantial added cost and certainly for most projects RAW is unnecessary. So why spend £200 on an external monitor when you can spend £400 and access that lovely ProRes? Well now you can spend even less AND get more bang for your buck, with the Blackmagic Video Assist.

At NAB 2015 Blackmagic announced their Video Assist product; a 5 inch full 1080p touchscreen display that records ProRes 422 and DNxHD direct to SD Cards which is retailing at £360 inc VAT. That is incredible.

To give it some perspective, Atomos have superb line up in varying flavours for varying budgets and needs.

Atomos - Ninja Star

The Atomos Ninja Star is a portable recorder with no screen which retails for around £200 but you’ll need to invest in at least one super fast CF card which retail at around £80 for a 64GB card. So that’s £280 without a screen.

atomos-ninja-2

The next level up for £324 inc VAT, the Atomos Ninja 2. It’s a 4.3 inch SD screen (800×480). It records onto SSD which is around £50 for a 128GB drive. Total of £374.

Atomos Ninja Blade

Next is the Atomos Ninja Blade, which provides a similar experience to the Ninja 2 but has a 5 inch 720p screen and allows monitoring of focus peaking, waveforms etc. Again, records to SSD and the unit retails for around £650, so thats £700 including the SSD.

I won’t touch on the Atomos Shogun as that is a different beast altogether. I am just focusing on 1080p ProRes and DNxHD capture.

All of Atomos products above capture a ProRes or DNxHD output at no greater than 30p or 50i. That means no slo-mo capture at all unless you want to capture it interlaced.

As the Blackmagic Video Assist records to high speed SD cards which you need anyway with cameras such as the GH4, there is no added media cost.

So to summarise: for the price of an Atomos Ninja 2 you can get the Blackmagic Video Assist AND have 50/60p output from the camera, a larger and higher resolution full 1080p screen and no added media cost. No details on if the screen supports histogram, focus peaking etc but given that this ‘Video Assist’ is designed to be used with their line of cameras specifically the newly announced Micro Camera which has no built in screen, my money is firmly on the YES it will include all of these features.

I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these soon and see if the answer to my question “Have Blackmagic just blown the Atomos Blade out of the water?” is a resounding “Yes”.