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

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AJA Cion Review – Pro’s & Con’s

This camera has many strong points for it and many equally strong points against it. At the end of the day this is a camera that should be chosen by project type and shooting style. Unlike other cameras this one can be extremely right and extremely wrong for different shooters.

AJA-Cion-YU2A2229

Here is an overview of what we found to help you decide if the AJA camera is suited for you.

Pro’s: Recording & Image Quality

  • ProRes 4444 codec in 12-bit
  • Shoots up to 60 fps internally
  • Global shutter for no-jelly shots
  • Crisp & Clean 4K resolution (+ nice downscale for 2K & HD)
  • Nice colour and skin tones

Con’s: Recording & Image Quality

  • APS-C sized sensor (smaller than super35)
  • The Sony FS7 does 180 fps internally at a lower price
  • Only 8.2 stops of usable dynamic range
  • Weak in lowlight: Flat mode only up to ISO 500

Pro’s: Usability

  • “Open Architecture”, with numerous industry standard connectors
  • 2 balanced XLR Audio inputs with phantom power & boost
  • LANC Control & D-tap power options
  • Interchangeable Mounts
  • Long Battery Life

Con’s: Usability

  • Fan Noise is low but could be a problem in some silent studio environments
  • Need power supply to offload media with Pak Dock (USB 3 or Thunderbolt)
  • No internal ND’s

Pro’s: Ergonomics

  • Body weighs only 3kg
  • Great shape sits nicely on the shoulder with included shoulder pad
  • Many convenient mounting points including ARRI Rosettes & viewfinder mount
  • Playback & media operation is intuitive and fast

Con’s: Ergonomics

  • 31-second boot-up time
  • Camera use requires a “learning day”
  • Menu operation is very unintuitive
  • No user keys for basic cameras settings
  • Menu is not visible in the viewfinder / requires off-shoulder operation
  • An assistant is required to operate the camera
  • Shoulder pad can’t be adjusted according to lens weight
  • Frame rate change requires a restart (bug)

AJA Cion Review – Conclusion

aja-cion-reviewThe AJA Cion has made headlines when the first footage was presented. The 4K (up to 60p) images the AJA Cion delivers are filmic and colours are beautiful. The different Gamma modes included deliver a very nice set of clean looks.

Furthermore the codec options with ProRes up to 4444 are ideal to capture the deep colour range and organic, filmic footage the sensor paints. It is a camera that in the right hands (and with time) can create some stunning results.

However: The difficult operation of the menu, the flaws in ergonomics, the limited dynamic range and weak lowlight performance seem to make this camera much more suited for controlled studio environments.
A single operator shooter like me might find himself fighting both the lighting situations around him as well as the camera operation in his hands. Without an assistant and careful consideration of the right exposure the camera can easily get in the way of capturing your shots.

All in all the AJA Cion is one camera that will only work well in the right hands. If you plan to buy or rent this camera you should definitely weigh all the pro’s and con’s this camera has to offer. For some this camera might be a hassle, for others it might be the best camera around.

At a similar price point it is worth checking out the Sony FS7, which has advantages in some key areas like lowlight, dynamic range, ergonomics and 3x higher internal slow-motion, but lacks global shutter and out-of-the-box organic looks.

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

Thanks to pro.media Vienna for their support and renting the camera to us.

Equipment used:
• Zacuto Gratical Viewfinder
• Wooden Camera UVF mount
Swit 126Wh V-mount Battery
• Zeiss CP2 50mm T2.1 Makro Cine Lens
• Vocas Leather Handgrips
• AJA Pak Dock
• AJA Pak Media 256GB

$4,995.00 exc. VATSpecial Order
 
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PiDicus Rexs fErvaniDan ESebastian Wöber Recent comment authors
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Ervani
Guest

More than three years later I’m testing the Cion and got mixed feelings about it. It got a learning curve and I think some settings used in this review are not the best for this camera. Other settings give much better results. This camera is not an all men friend and needs to be operated with care. But when you do the results are still amazing. I’m working on a set of test video’s that can be found on YouTube just search for hdslr35 + AJA Cion to see my test results. Test is still in proces :-)

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 Cinematographers and not run and gun indie shooters. You can achieve a very filmic, feature film look with careful shooting.

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.

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