Looks Like a Camera Should, Feels Just Right, Delivers a Full ProRes Workflow

Nick Rashby, President of AJA Video Systems, unveiled a host of new products for the mid to high end video production world. But jaws dropped at AJA's announcement and unveiling of Cion, the company's new entry into the motion-picture camera market.

The Steve Jobs-like keynote presentation started with mild-mannered announcements of new PCIe video cards like the Corvid88, Aja's new 8-channel HD-SDI I/O card geared for developer partners ($2785), and the new Kona 4, boasting support for all frame rates and sizes up to 4K dual-stream 60p ($1995). 

Rashby followed up with announcements of updated mini converters, including the new LUT-box ($695) that would operate as an inline color transform converter for LUT application on set or in post. The converter family from AJA also has a new "big daddy" in the FS1-X ($3995). The "anything in to anything out" rack-mount converter now supports 64 channels of audio I/O via MADI and higher frame sizes and frame rates, including an upgraded version offering frame-rate conversion ($5495)

But without a doubt, the NAB 2014 show-stopper is going to be AJA's Cion camera. Designed by AJA's resident genius Jon Thorn, the Cion appears to have leaped technical hurdles that have stalled other camera manufacturers. AJA has created a truly ergonomic and well-thought-out camera design, which includes traditional ENG styling, a suede contoured shoulder pad, and a 6 lb. magnesium body. It looks like a camera should, and, after holding it, I can say that it just feels right. 

But it's not a case of form over function. AJA has a lot going on under the hood. Cion boasts a true 4K CMOS sensor, PL mount for standard lenses, global shutter, and manual back-focus adjustment. The images we saw were stunning.

AJA has focused on a ProRes workflow, clearly building on the success and popularity of the ARRI Alexa. Cion, boasting 12 stops of dynamic range, supports 60p in ProRes 422, and up to 120fps via the four 3G-SDI outputs, all at TRUE 4k down to HD. 

Of particular interest to DITs and DPs alike, the Cion's image can be seen easily in a variety of places. Confidence monitoring is built in via the on-board LCD display, while the HD-SDI and HDMI outs are also always active. Multicam users will rejoice in the camera's ability to also display its image via the built-in ethernet connection, as up to eight Cion cameras can be chained together, sync'd, and previewed via a simple LAN configuration. 

And the price? A fraction of the cost of an ARRI Alexa or Sony F55. Aja announced that the Cion will be shipping (this summer) for $8995.

It looks like Aja has hit a home run with the Cion. It represents a giant leap forward in camera technology while the inspired design and abundance of standard connectors and "docks" represent an obvious show of respect to the great cameras of the past. Kudos to the team at AJA. 

Nathan Adams is a freelance Post Supervisor and Production Technology Consultant in Los Angeles specializing in camera to archive workflows. Nathan is the owner of  Cinematomic, a popular post production company specializing in "facility free" post production for television, theatrical and web projects.