AJA Cion Review – All You Need to Know About the AJA Camera

Last year AJA surprised us with the announcement of a high quality, affordable, 4K shooting, cinema camera. The AJA Cion was a tool we were looking forward to use and now, after a long wait and after the public release we could finally analyse and test it thoroughly.
Here is our complete AJA Cion review with some awkward surprises and a long list of pro’s and con’s. This is a camera that needs careful observation before the shooting can start. Read on to see all our findings.

If you plan on shooting with the AJA Cion we recommend you read our new article:
10 important tips to help you master the AJA Cion

In this review we will present objective test results from our labs, compare the camera to other contenders, and try to give you a subjective observation of how the camera worked for us.

aja-cion-review

We will look at the following aspects:

AJA Cion Review – Features at a Glance

Sensor:
The AJA Cion’s sensor has some great technical features. It is a 4:3 APS-C sized global shutter sensor that upon closer inspection had a striking resemblance to the sensor we find in the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K (We do not claim it is the same sensor). The sensor also performs very similarly in terms of lowlight and dynamic range. More on that later.

  • Global shutter CMOS sensor
  • 4K pixel readout
  • 22.5mm x 17mm 4:3 APS-C sized sensor (a little smaller than super35)

Recording Formats:
The camera records in the ProRes format. This is fantastic, a great recording format, easy to edit.
Additionally the Cion does 120fps RAW via the 4 SDI ouputs on the back. This didn’t work with the Atomos Shogun in our tests.

  • Apple ProRes 4444 (up to 30fps) 12-bit
  • Apple ProRes 422 (up to 60fps) 10-bit
  • RAW externally (up to 120fps)

Useful Connectors:
The AJA Cion is a camera that gives you lots of connections. The idea of an “open architecture” camera, that is highly compatible is one that any operator will welcome.

  • 6 SDI outputs in total
  • 2 hdmi outputs (one of them supports 4K)
  • 2 XLR balanced analog inputs (with phantom power + dedicated boost), 24bit 48khz
  • Well positioned headphone jack for audio monitoring
  • Thunderbolt for direct recording via PC (up to 30fps)
  • 2 LANC connectors for remote control
  • D-tap connector to power an accessory
  • and more

Battery (life):
The AJA Cion comes with a 2-pin battery connector behind its back plate so you can install your own V-mount or Anton Bauer battery plate. Battery life is extensive on the Cion. It lasts forever.

  • Standby time on our fully charged 126Wh V-mount battery: 3h 15m

GO TO PAGE 2 → Sensor Tests

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Joseph Tammel
Member
Joseph Tammel

Great review! Lots of usefull information here.

I really cant believe they have used the same sensor as in the blackmagic camera. It is a many times cheaper camera. Now they have the downsides of it in this camera.

James Ignaz
Guest
James Ignaz

They got the playback part right :)

Lance Bachelder
Member

Nice review! I had the CION for about a month to test and we found the best image is to always use Normal Expanded vs. Expanded 1. The flat profile of the CION is not the same as other flat profiles like Sony or Canon. Using Normal Expanded gives far better color, skin tones and even right shots. You are right about highlights though, you absolutely must protect for highlights on any shot and a lot of ND is required for bright exteriors etc. I agree there is a learning curve and the camera is probably better suited for experienced… Read more »

Iain
Guest
Iain

Under 9 stops dynamic range? I had high hopes for this camera! I’ve just checked their website and they are claiming 12 stops. Could there be something wrong with the sensor you used? Have you asked AJA to comment on you’re findings? Here’s a link to their brochure and ’12 stop dynamic range’ claim. Or does you’re test confirm it is the BM sensor and owners will suffer the same inconsistency of results that BM 4k owners have witnessed.
Really disappointing result when a 5D with H264 is producing a greater dynamic range than a ‘professional’ video camera with ProRes 10bit!

Oscar Goldman
Member

Lots of of information missing. WHAT MEDIA DOES IT RECORD ON? From your mention of this “Pak Dock”, I’ll assume it’s some proprietary thing.

This article also doesn’t describe lens-mount options.

This thing is three times the price of the BlackMagic 4K, but offers no advantage over it except ProRes 4444 and a higher max frame rate. It has no raw recording, and uses overpriced proprietary media. Does Aja offer a Canon mount? If so, how are the lenses controlled?

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[…] post AJA Cion Review – All You Need to Know About the AJA Camera appeared first on […]

Che Broadnax
Member

When the CION was first announced, I was overjoyed because it looked as though somebody had finally figured out that an ergonomic design and the appropriate professional input/output options were what we all wanted and weren’t getting from cameras in the DSLR form factor or all the little boxes (BMCC, RED Scarlet/Epic, etc). AJA seemed to be taking a play out of ARRI’s book and designing a camera that looked, felt, and behaved like a camera. The discovery of a bad menu system that can only be operated from the smart side is a huge strike against this camera. How… Read more »

Rakesh Malik
Member

I suspect that Aja is assuming that an AC would be using a web interface to update camera settings, rather than the on-camera menu system.

Mattia Santino Merli
Member

Not a tipical run and gun camera, the lack of nd filters, proprietary recording media, frustating menu are all disavantages that make me think if the guys at AJA had ever tried other cameras… The ergonomic seems fantastic but at this point is more a cinema camera then a doc style one, so I don’t understand the chose to make it so ergonomic, a this point make a cube like others… Anyway, thanks for the review, very exaustive (the missing infos can be easily retreived on the web…). I love the image that produce but in this case I would… Read more »

Attila
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Attila

Hi Sebastian! I could not find this info on your site, did you measure the NX1 with this test chart? I wonder how it compares to the mentioned cameras.

Tim Naylor
Member

A bit disappointing in all especially in light of the FS7 and perhaps Kinefinity for low cost 4k. The DR and low sensitivity for my uses make it feel dated before it’s out. Regarding ergonomics, while I see the attempt to make it shoulder friendly, I find this and the FS7 still have the shoulder pad too far back in what looks to me to be a front heavy design once you load it up with MB, FF, etc. Proprietary cards and no internal ND’s also relegate this. I just can’t think of a good reason to get this over… Read more »

Daniel Curtean
Member

Because it now (as of recently) costs $4K? But even still, the URSA Mini has the same sensor, and far improved features, as well as even cheaper price. Hard sell, I was super excited about this camera before, but with the latest batch of bat-shit crazy camera designs, its a tough world for competitors.

Still a fantastic image, one of the best outside of Arri or RED or Sony F series.

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[…] To quell curiosity until the ProductionWorld.net review, check out Cinema5D’s review. […]

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[…] the AJA Cion and found out a great deal about its strengths and weaknesses. See the video review HERE. In the course of our extensive lab tests we put the Cion through its paces and got the feeling […]

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[…] Profile/WB/SSD (activating and formatting)/Shutter speed/and IRIS.  So much easier then AJA’s CION we’ve tested just a while ago. (Try dealing with CION’s menu without reading the […]

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[…] and quality of footage. The dynamic range of is 12 stops , however when looking at reviews from https://www.cinema5d.com/aja-cion-review-all-about-the-aja-camera/2/ it only had 8.2 Stops of dynamic range where as the ARRIA AMIRA had 14+ stops of dynamic range. […]

PiDicus Rex
Member

In regards to the Single Operator vs 1AC/DP operation and ease of access of menu operations by the 1AC, I refer you to page 65 of the Cion user manual..

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[…] colleague Sebastian Wöber reviewed the camera earlier this year with very mixed results, with cinema5D being the first medium to cover the camera extensively. In a surprising move, AJA […]

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[…] insult to injury, when Cinema5D did a comprehensive review of the Cion it was revealed that the camera only had 8.2 stops of dynamic range instead of the […]

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[…] insult to injury, when Cinema5D did a comprehensive review of the Cion it was revealed that the camera only had 8.2 stops of dynamic range instead of the […]

Dan E
Guest
Dan E

I’d be interested in knowing if the new firmware update (1.3) changes this review at all. Would the camera fare better in sensor tests now? This review was the kiss of death for me buying this camera.

PiDicus Rex
Member

Given some of the sample frames from some users, I’d say the answer is a big yes.
Still not the ’12 stops’ that both Aja and BMD list for that sensor, but certainly more detail in both highlights and shadows.
Check this sample out that popped up on Vimeo, wait for the the shots with light fittings in the backgrounds, huge improvement.

https://vimeo.com/164867795

PiDicus Rex
Member

@ Sebastian,… Has C5D had the opportunity to retest with the v1.3 firmware ?