The Benefits of Working with the Sony a6300 and Atomos Shogun

We found that the new Sony Alpha a6300 mirrorless camera is delivering excellent 4K video at a very low price. Using an external recorder  we can use easier-to-handle and higher quality codecs. In this guest article cinema5D reader Doug Stanford describes his experience working with the Sony a6300 and Atomos Shogun.

— Intro by Sebastian Wöber

Check out our Sony a6300 Reviews:

a6300-and-atomos

The Sony a6300 and Atomos Shogun

As a full time freelance commercial/corporate comm/lifestyle DP living just outside of Washington DC, I’m always trying to balance competitive workflow and deliverables with gear that I can afford as I build my equipment arsenal a year and a half in to self-employment.

I’ve been searching for an upgrade to the 5D mark II that would give me a few key features that have been lacking for my clients – 4K acquisition, a robust codec for color work, external monitoring, and high frame rate shooting – but without making the leap to a cinema body just yet. With the announcement of the Sony a6300, it finally felt like the time to jump to an updated and more modular solution had arrived.

sony-a6300-wide

I selected the Sony a6300 and Atomos Shogun (Note that Atomos recently introduced the Ninja Flame), with the Metabones Speed Booster to be the foundation of my new rig, as I already owned a collection of Canon primes. My 2016 goal has been to grow my commercial/corporate comm business, but for now I still need to be able to shoot on location at weddings that can last 8-10 hours, so I used that as a baseline for my rig’s stamina. I rarely come back with more than five hours of footage from these, so 4x SanDisk Ultra II 480GB SDDs that can record just shy of 6 hours of 4K ProRes 422 (HQ) collectively seemed like the minimum I could stock.

atomos-shogun-back

Similarly, after running some tests it seems like both the Shogun and a6300 can run reliably for an hour and a half per battery (note: Atomos and Sony brand batteries – I have tried 2 varieties of off-brand batteries and found at best they’re about 20-30% quicker to burn out), so 4x Atomos 5200ma and 4x Sony NP-FW50 is the minimum I can bring with me to most likely make it through a full day.

Often times I’ve struggled with low-light during receptions and I’ve grown to love the field of view that a full frame sensor provides, so the Metabones Speed Booster was a no-brainer to add to the setup.

My media management has been challenging to think through – I work off a Glyph 4TB RAID drive that definitely can’t support holding on to too much footage at 4K ProRes 422 (HQ) sizes. My strategy (for now) has been to down-convert on ingest to 1080P ProRes 422 for self-produced projects that don’t demand extensive color treatments or 4K deliverables. I’ll retain the benefit of the supersampled 4k->1080P sharpness and noise but be working in post start-to-finish at the resolution that I’m delivering at 99% of the time.

Shooting with the a6300 and Shogun

I shot this video as my first trial run with the rig outside of the house. I wanted to put it through the challenges of high contrast, bright sunlight shooting and see if it could hold up and provide shadow detail without blowing the clouds – an issue I ran into constantly with the 5D mkII.

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

Some notes on how this was shot: I used PP7 in it’s factory mode: S-log 2, no settings altered. I had a Tiffen 72mm Variable ND filter on the lens to keep my shutter speed at 1/50 and f-stop typically around F/2.8 and ISO 800 (natural ISO/lowest available in video mode).

There are some scenes where you’ll catch some of the unpleasant X-pattern from setting the ND filter to it’s max darkness, I’ve added an additional 0.6 ND B+W filter to my collection since shooting this to avoid having to crank the variable ND as high.

I unfortunately recorded nearly all the footage at 422 (LT) by not remembering to double check my settings before I headed out, but thankfully it didn’t have a lot of impact on the footage, which didn’t receive a very heavy grade in post. I shot in a lot of direct sunlight for about 45 minutes – simultaneously to the a6300 and Shogun, using the a6300 to trigger recording via HDMI – without running into any heat issues thankfully, but it was pretty cool out and I wasn’t shooting clips back-to-back.

I did my 4k 422 (LT)->1080P 422 conversion via Media Encoder CC on import, edited in Premiere, and sent it to Resolve for grading where I used a modified version of Casey Wilson’s REC709ish for A7s S-LOG2. My tweaked version has a lower contrast, a subtle warming in the shadows, and a bit of desaturation in the highlights and shadows, which I was using on the Shogun to preview while shooting. You can download my version HERE.

Throughout the grade I was impressed by how rich and vivid the colors became as soon as I loaded the LUT onto a corrector node. I played with exposure here and there and corrected UV hazing on a handful of shots, but for the most part the footage is pretty un-corrected. The especially impressive parts are the shots of ivy vines and the black bar gate blocking an alleyway, both of these pulled detail out of the shadows that blew me away.

Furthermore, the shots where I aim directly at the sun for flaring came out beautifully – no apparent banding or harsh steps out of blowout; the Speedbooster adding a few extra element flares that I’m fine with. Overall I can’t say enough about how happy I am with the sharpness and clarity of the image. Having had the opportunity to shoot on a C100 (with Atoms Ninja) and RED Scarlet with my lenses on a number of jobs in the last year I can say that the sharpness and noise levels of this camera are impressive compared to these workhorses.

The Trade-offs

There are of course some trade-offs to be made with a camera body that offers these features at such an affordable price point. The primary issue I have with the camera is the very noticeable rolling shutter, which has been written about by a lot of people at this point. Unfortunately the reviews are all being pretty fair, it would be challenging to use this camera entirely handheld and fast motion in the frame is going to suffer.

Initial testing with Premiere’s Rolling Shutter Repair effect is promising, but it feels like a bandaid to a fairly large problem. A secondary issue is overheating, which again, has been documented plenty in this body and other Sony mirrorless options. Using the Shogun seems to delay the issue but on a shoot today I finally had the camera shut off from overheating after about 3.5 hours of continuous use.

So the big question is, how important is it to record to the Shogun vs. internally in XAVC? Given that the Shogun is more than the cost of the camera itself (Alternative: Ninja Flame), it’s not necessarily an easy decision, but here’s what I’ve found from comparing a few shots simultaneously shot both ways:

Sony a6300 Internal vs. External Recording

  • The a6300 takes significantly longer to overheat if you don’t record internally at all.
  • The screen on the Shogun is much easier to view, though neither do amazing in bright sunlight.
  • The Shogun adds a handful of precise and easy to use metering tools that can ensure you’re not blowing highlights, which can be a little unforgiving in S-LOG.
  • The Shogun adds XLR in/out – making it finally simple to record and monitor your audio during interviews, and/or increasing your total record channels to 4 when combined with the camera’s stereo over HDMI feed.
  • Despite being a nice 100mbit compression, the internal codec has it’s limitations. For scenes with little or subtle motion things hold up pretty well, but when you have a fast camera move, things fall apart in three areas: complex patterns, edges, and subtle gradients. Furthermore, beyond the compression artifacts you can see a visible difference in color information and an interesting contrast shift between the two versions, which I’m attributing mostly to the improved color space of the Shogun.

I’ve pulled a handful of stills from test shots taken around the house that exemplify this:

obvious color/contrast shift

Sony a6300 Internal (XAVC)

obvious color/contrast shift

note the highly degraded detail in the gradients of the motion blur

a6300-vs-atomos-03

Note the highly degraded detail in the gradients of the motion blur

a6300-vs-atomos-04

note the loss of detail in the handle and speaker area

note the loss of detail in the handle and speaker area

a6300-vs-atomos-06

again, obvious color/contrast differences

again, obvious color/contrast differences

a6300-vs-atomos-08

note the loss of detail in the mic stand base’s center hole

note the loss of detail in the mic stand base’s center hole

a6300-vs-atomos-10

note the loss of fine detail in the wire rack’s supports

note the loss of fine detail in the wire rack’s supports

a6300-vs-atomos-12

color/contrast shift

color/contrast shift

a6300-vs-atomos-14

while you can nitpick the loss of detail in the gradients of the bokeh, this is actually the worst part of the image I could find… the XAVC held up well in this scene, which I’ll chalk up to the lack of motion and the image information being mostly in the mid and highlight tones

while you can nitpick the loss of detail in the gradients of the bokeh, this is actually the worst part of the image I could find… the XAVC held up well in this scene, which I’ll chalk up to the lack of motion and the image information being mostly in the mid and highlight tones

a6300-vs-atomos-16

color/contrast shift

color/contrast shift

a6300-vs-atomos-18

a real loss of definition and smoothness in the bokeh

a real loss of definition and smoothness in the bokeh

a6300-vs-atomos-20

introduction of serious banding in the bokeh gradients, in the Shogun footage the sensor’s noise actually does a really nice job dithering these inside of the 8-bit HDMI feed, where the internal recording destroys the natural look of the Shogun footage with hard banding

introduction of serious banding in the bokeh gradients, in the Shogun footage the sensor’s noise actually does a really nice job dithering these inside of the 8-bit HDMI feed, where the internal recording destroys the natural look of the Shogun footage with hard banding

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to work in a capacity where you’re delivering footage to paying clients publishing to broadcast or projection, the Atomos Shogun (or Ninja Flame) can make this camera a viable option if you’re conscious of and compensating for the rolling shutter problems while shooting.

If you’re working on personal projects or on your own independent film endeavors you have more choice, and you can weigh the benefits of the added image fidelity against your working budgets to decide what you need. At the end of the day, I’ll be continuing to shoot at 4k ProRes 422(HQ) despite the more time consuming post workflow and physically cumbersome production rig, I’m really excited by the results and look forward to continuing to see what this set up is capable of.

 
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Cameron Aanonsen Reply
Cameron Aanonsen March 24, 2016

footage is too shakey

Reply
Ryan Osika March 24, 2016

First, thanks for this article! It’s extremely helpful! This may be a completely ignorant question, but I’m curious about everyone’s thoughts. Wouldn’t you get better quality footage with the original A7S and a Shogun? You’d avoid the rolling shutter and still get 4K. I’m a novice, so it’s possible I’m missing something.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber March 24, 2016

Hi Ryan,
Of course that’s an option, but only for those who already own the a7S. Buying a new a7S still sets you back $2200 vs. $1k for the a6300 which is the thing that everyone is so excited about. Hope that helped. Cheers

Reply
Ryan March 24, 2016

You’re right. That’s my fault. For some reason I thought the original A7S was only $1000.

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford March 24, 2016

I expect there are a lot of benefits, especially in low light, to going with the original A7S, but cost was a factor across the board on this upgrade and as using a mirrorless/DSLR body is more temporary than my recording/monitoring solution I decided to push more budget into the recorder than the camera. The entire purchase was based around going more modular so that I can upgrade pieces as it makes sense in the future.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber March 24, 2016

For all those wondering why there is a difference in contrast between internal and external recordings, we will elaborate WHY that happens and HOW to fix it within the next days.

Tim Olsen Reply
Tim Olsen March 24, 2016

It’s still 8 bit though. Sure the Atomos records a 10 bit file, but you’re not gaining anything. 8 bit 420 is all it can output. To each their own I guess.

Doug Stanford Reply
Doug Stanford March 24, 2016

It outputs at 8-bit 4:2:2 and you bypass the compression, you can check an a/b comparison in the article to see the difference

Tim Olsen Reply
Tim Olsen March 24, 2016

These cameras really need to start including 10 bit outputs. 422 is a step forward, but not enough in my opinion.

Doug Stanford Reply
Doug Stanford March 24, 2016

Tim Olsen couldn’t agree more! At the price point I’m willing to take some compromises, but 10 bit would be at the top of my list for improvements.

 Michaël Marcopoulos Reply
Michaël Marcopoulos March 24, 2016

Low price lol. You forgot to mention the price of the atomos.

Oscar M Reply
Oscar M March 25, 2016

10bit. GH4

Reply
Julien Perrin March 25, 2016

Does the A6300 can output 4k via mini HDMI?

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford March 25, 2016

It outputs 4k 4:2:2 uncompressed over micro HDMI

Reply
Jeff Waweru December 1, 2016

Since it outputs a 4k signal via hdmi, do you get the sharpness advantages of 4k if you record this signal as 1080p? As opposed to recording 4k on the atomos and down converting later?

Oli Braun Reply
Oli Braun March 25, 2016

good read, thanks! :) just got the Shogun and worked with the FS700 on a recent product and I was actually thinking about getting the A7S or something else as a B-cam… still have to decide.

Reply
Edward Andrews March 25, 2016

I use a7s mk2 and Atomos for a lot of my day-to-day work. There is definitely a contrast and luma shift – and slight yellow colour shift -on the externally recorded footage. I did a few tests with colour charts to get to the bottom of it but the codec holds up well for grading so nothing resolve can’t fix.

Clients also love being able to see footage with a LUT on and are generally impressed to see a big screen being used as it smacks of ‘a proper crew and everything’. Perception is reality and all that!

Reply
sanveer mehlwal March 25, 2016

No offence, but I am a little disappointed that the Panasonic G7 was reviewed in a hurry and the reviews was anything but a thorough one. Considering that it handles moire, rolling shutter and over heating issues far better than a lot of its competitors, and is much cheaper than them, by a lot. It also has decent low light upto ISO 3200 (the GH4 dies immediately after ISO 800). And, at $597 (the price nowadays) with a kit lens, it is a steal.
A lot of people feel it had immense potential. Especially the HDMI out, which pushes up the bitrate substantially, and increases the margin for grading.

IMHO it deserves a re-review. This time, more patiently, and more thoroughly.

 Emory Dively Reply
Emory Dively March 25, 2016

My guess is because m43 is polarizing for many people, while APS-C or FF is pretty universally accepted.

Borja Jared Reply
Borja Jared March 25, 2016

Ja te’l llogaré ;P

Reply
Antoine vdS March 25, 2016

Honestly, in those exemple I find the difference between internal and external recording very subtle, even in a side by side comparison I don’t thing most poeple could tell them apart. In the end it makes me think that the xavc is pretty solid, so I think I would stick to it.

Reply
Anonymous March 25, 2016

Exactly my conclusion. I have a Ninja2 that works brilliantly as a FullHD external SSD/HD recorder with my A5100 for $200. But, I see no reason to buy $1000 recorder just to be able to record onto HD.

Reply
Anonymous March 25, 2016

PRORES 422 HQ is a huge file and will not result in better footage inside or outside even with heavy color grading vs straight PRORES, UNLESS you are using high quality controlled lighting, background composition and extremely controlled conditions. Then it can definitely be worth it. We have experimented with this extensively and you will not see any JND’s (a JND is a perceptual measure of just noticeable difference a psychophysiological standard). And the increased storage and load on the computer in grading is seriously large.

If it was 10 bit, perhaps, but even then we have found basically the same results controlled perfect lighting ok, otherwise no.

Joachim Richter Reply
Joachim Richter March 25, 2016

I agree, this is also my experience.

Reply
Edward Andrews March 30, 2016

You can record ProRes LT on the Atomos. Still rather hefty but you get 3x more footage on an ssd and I cannot see any difference between that and HQ in general day-to-day work

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford May 29, 2016

Mostly interested in the additional data for color grade and noise reduction, for more minimal post work LT is certainly pretty robust.

 Christopher Dobey Reply
Christopher Dobey March 26, 2016

Thank you for the review, this is literally the rig I’m going for. The biggest reason I would buy the Atomos is for the ProRes which is so efficiently optimized for OS X and FCPX/Resolve. I mean you can edited it on a new MacBook Intel Core M at 4K. Editing H.264 is a CPU Nightmare in comparison.

 Sottile Matthew Reply
Sottile Matthew March 29, 2016

Thanks for the writeup, Doug.

Follow up questions for you.

When using the HDMI out from the A6300, the only option is a “clean” feed without any on screen information displayed, and on camera monitor is shut off?

I know things like histogram, focus peaking, and zebras can be set up on the Shogun to replace, but is there some information from the camera that can be displayed only on the on-camera monitor that is lost with such a setup?

I use manual lenses so Aperture settings from lens aren’t read by the camera anyway, but how would you monitor information like ISO settings, Shutter Speed, etc?

Finally, if you decided not to trigger HDMI recording via the A6300, in order to keep heat down as much as possible and maximize shooting times, would there be any way of even telling that the movie recorded had stopped if there’s no on-camera information displayed?

Thanks again for your help.

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford May 29, 2016

Hey Sottile, sorry for the late response! When you set the camera for clean hdmi output the on camera screen still displays all of the usual information, it only turns itself off when using the Shogun (or any external monitor) and actively recording internally. I don’t use hdmi triggering as there was an unpredictable amount of delay for the Shogun to start recording and I have few scenarios where I need to roll in both places. The Shogun has its own record indicators that you can use to tell when recording is engaged. Good luck!

Alejandro B. Martin Reply
Alejandro B. Martin March 29, 2016

Are there no other recorders, every time the same. Only publishing articles from companies that spend money on the website ? Why nothing about our newest recorder just annouced, is the world first with a QHD or UHD screen and you guys simply have no interest ¿?
Thats the world we live in, unfortunately.

Reply
Hamid Shams May 27, 2016

A 6300 is not compatible with Atomos products. If you run the footage for few minutes the clips would break up to smaller sections and will miss few seconds in between.

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford May 29, 2016

Not sure where you’ve heard that, I’ve run a number of record sessions over an hour long that come out as single clips on the Shogun, the combo has continued to work wonderfully for me since writing this.

Reply
Hamid Shams May 27, 2016

I contacted the Atomos tech support and all they mentioned was A6300 and Sony RX10 mark2 are not on the recommended list!!!
Not a good choice to use Shogun and Sony A6300!

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford December 1, 2016

I’d be interested to learn why, the setup has worked well for me over the last 9 months.

Reply
luciano cervio September 2, 2016

Thanks for The interesting review! What i didn’t understand is if it is possible to have The Camera der to 4K and get a hdrecording to The atomos and Bypass The poor hd quality of The Camera?

Reply
luciano cervio September 2, 2016

Thanks for The interesting review! What i didn’t understand is if it is possible to have The Camera set to 4K and get a hdrecording to The atomos and Bypass The poor hd quality of The Camera?

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford December 1, 2016

The Atomos records at the resolution it’s being fed, so if you’re shooting in 4k, it will record in 4k. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to down convert during capture, however I have appreciated having the 4k files on hand a few times to provide high resolution stills to clients and reframe shots on occasion.

Reply
David Johnson November 19, 2016

Great read. I grew up just outside DC and love visiting Winchester. I’ve got a corporate video coming up and plan to use my a6300 paired with the Ninja Flame. First time recording externally. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Doug Sanford Reply
Doug Sanford December 1, 2016

Hope it went well! Post your results if you get a chance!