This is not a anything close to a comprehensive review. I need some more time with the recorder/monitor before I can jump into some of the finer details. But here are my notes on the things that I’ve found so far working with the
- Beautiful, full of clear detail, and can be calibrated. If you purchase the Datacolor Spyder for the Shogun you can calibrate it using your Mac or PC. Attach the colorimeter via USB to your computer, and the Shogun via the “remote” port to USB cable to your computer, then run the Atomos Calibration app. In just a couple of minutes, it makes RGB color readings at various luma levels, reports the delta-E, creates a LUT and loads the LUT into the Shogun. And there you have a rec.709 calibrated, 7” touch screen! My copy of the Shogun had overall decent delta-Es with the highest still under 2.
- Outdoors, like any other LCD screen, you’ll have a bit of a rough time seeing it well enough to shoot, so I’ll be looking into buying the hood that Atomos releases in the next few months. But indoors, it is a very useful display and works great.
- My copy has a little backlight bleed on the top right corner but not so bad that I worry about it.
- The Shogun is particular about which SSDs it will work with. I tried capturing HD footage using an Intel drive that works beautifully in my Ninja II. No go on the Shogun. Definitely get one of the drives that Atomos recommends on its site. My Shogun did NOT work with an OCZ SSD I had on hand. I get the impression that the Shogun is rather finicky in regards to which SSDs it likes.
- Not exactly what I originally expected. I have a Ninja II which has an aluminum case and feels very sturdy. The Shogun has a plastic case. Some have said it is cheap plastic. I’m not sure I would classify it as cheap, but it is decidedly plastic and if you drop this, there is a rather good change it will break. I suspect that Atomos did this for a couple of reasons. It makes the unit very light. In fact, I think it is lighter than the Ninja II which makes it quite a lot easier to mount to your rig. So it is a tradeoff.
- As mentioned above, I’ll be looking to add the hood once Atomos releases that as it offers some protection in the case of dropping. I dropped my Ninja II once and with the hood, it did not sustain any damage.
- The included case is quite impressive and puts my mind somewhat at ease for transporting.
- Still in progress. I experienced the “Blue Frame” issue before they released the 6.02 firmware last week. Playback is not yet implemented but should be by the end of January. Atomos has a good history of providing updates in my experience with the Ninja II so I’m confident we’ll see progress here.
- DNxHD is also not yet implemented. Same with Cinema DNG recording for higher end cinema cameras. Same with 3D LUTs. None of these are an issue for me, personally as I capture ProRes and use the GH4.
- Love the waveforms, false color, focus peaking. They are all responsive and flexible. You can change the focus peaking colors. You can use a luma or RGB parade waveform. You can make the waveforms big.
- The touchscreen is as responsive as any smartphone.
- Runs hot and there is an audible fan inside the Shogun, though not loud enough to cause any issues with audio unless your camera mic is what you’re using to record. If you doing that, why would you invest in a Shogun before putting down a little cash on some proper audio gear?
- You cannot expect to get very far with the included battery. If you plan to shoot away from AC power a lot, you’ll need to have a solution in place, very much like the Blackmagic cameras. I get about 30 minutes with the included 2600mAh battery. With a 4400mAh battery, I get about 50 minutes. I’ll need to save up for a larger Sony L type battery. Fortunately, there are a lot of 3rd party makers of these, but the quality batteries are not cheap. Wasabi power, for example, makes a 8500mAh version that runs for about $40 - $45 USD on Amazon which looks like a nice balance between capacity, quality, and price.
- Fortunately also comes with an AC adapter to power the recorder, a separate AC adapter to charge the battery, as well as a DC cigarette lighter type adapter to charge the battery.
First Test Shots
- There is no WOW factor when comparing 100mbps bitrate footage straight out of the GH4 and comparing it to the ProRest 4:2:2 10-bit out of the Shogun. You can barely detect any difference at all. The main thing I noticed, subjectively, was that the colors looked a little more natural and nuanced in the Shogun footage vs the GH4 footage. But don't expect any big difference. That is not a major benefit of this type of recorder. But there are other benefits.
- Must take into consideration file sizes when choosing your codec and bitrate. For example, UHD 24fps ProRes HQ consumes a whopping 6GB per minute of footage. ProRes 422 is over 3GB per minute. So you need to first consider what is realistic for your workflow. In my initial tests, I went with ProRes 422, the format just below the highest bitrate ProRes HQ.
- What does recording 4K from the GH4 to the Shogun give you?
- First, a better capture and editing format. H.264 was designed for delivery, to be viewed, not edited. All things being equal, your computer has to do more work to decode and playback h.264 footage than it does with ProRes. But on the other hand, ProRes takes a lot more disk space and taxes your computer’s IO channels. But I find that it is smoother to edit and color correct and grade ProRes footage than h.264 footage. So that’s a big benefit for my workflow.
- 10 bit 4:2:2 native footage. How is this different than h.264? It isn’t a ton different. But it is slightly cleaner with more detail captured which is different than camera applied sharpness. But it isn’t that noticeable. It is nice to start with more detail if you can. Not critical for many projects, so I don’t want to overstate this benefit
- In my previous tests with the Ninja 2 capturing 4:2:2 8-bit footage from a Nikon DSLR, I found that it was easier to get a clean, convincing key. If you shoot a lot of chromakey/greenscreen, this can be a big help. You still have to light effectively, but better color subsampling is a piece of the equation.
- If you’re going to do substantial color grading, it seems subjectively to me that the 4:2:2 10 bit footage holds up a little better. You can push it farther without it doing crazy things like turning colors into alien hues
- fewer compression artifacts, though this is not a big problem with the GH4 specifically in my experience
- What it does not get you, at least not directly:
- improved dynamic range
- less sensor noise, in fact, it looks like more noise until you correct for the curve the Shogun seems to apply to the footage
- While the Shogun footage looks more contrasty and like the blacks and highlights are crushed or clipped, in fact, all of that information is still there. I just appears to apply a different gamma than the camera. I think most cameras record sRGB with a 2.2 gamma. The GH4 appears to be rec.709 with a gamma of 2.4. But I don’t really know that or know of a scientific way to measure that. Anybody out there know? Feel free to comment.
My Initial Impressions
I’m not generally shooting 4K for my paid work yet, my clients are perfectly happy with HD. But I want to be ahead of them when they are ready to move to 4K delivery. So for me, the Shogun is a way to get ready, even though I’m still delivering HD in most cases.
The monitor is amazing for getting critical focus, even when you’re not zoomed in. The focus peaking is very effective and flexible as well. The exposure tools are the finest I’ve ever used. I love false color to understand exactly where each element of the frame is falling in terms of luma level. The waveforms are super responsive and flexible as well. The monitor can be calibrated!
So couldn’t you just buy a less expensive monitor? Yes, you could. But you may have to give up some of these features, and most likely you’d have to give up the calibration capability with a less expensive monitor. With the Shogun, you also get a great recorder.
Power is a consideration if you are planning to shoot extensively in the field. It is not an insurmountable problem, but the Shogun’s included battery is not a viable solution for that scenario. You will also need a hood if you’re shooting outdoors and I’m also going to get one for the limited protection it offers in case I drop the Shogun.
Overall, this is a great device, but only you can decide if it is worth the $1500 US plus the additional gear you’ll need to make it practical.