Review: Atomos Ninja2

For my short film Over Fjellet I had the pleasure of testing out Atomos Ninja2. If you’re not familiar with it; the Atomos Ninja is a small HDMI video recorder. It records in Apple ProRes files onto a harddrive or SSD.

By sending an uncompressed* HDMI signal out of the camera, in my case Nikon D800*, I could record it as Apple ProRes 4:2:2 files on the Ninja. This is much better quality than the built-in recorder gives me (h.264, 25mbit/s). For this project the main advantage of the higher bitrate and color sampling comes in post production when it comes to color correction and grading. For others it will be important when it comes to incorporating CGI and special effects.

All you need to get started, beside the Ninja-kit, is a HDMI-cable and a 2,5″ storage drive. The Ninja can use both regular spinning hard drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD) I used a regular spinning hard drive and this worked perfectly. Though I did not have any intense camera-movement or bring the camera on a bumpy car ride or anything. For that you would probably be better of using a SSD. As for the HDMI-cable, I picked up a cheap one at a local electronics store. Only requirement is that it is a mini-HDMI (Type-C) to regular (Type-A) cable as the camera has a mini-HDMI connector and the Ninja uses a regular.

The Ninja is really a joy to use! It’s just plug and play and it’s so intuitive and simple. It took me no more than 5 minutes to get comfortable with it, and know every function there is. This simplicity is truly one of it’s strengths. It doesn’t have mile-long menus and a lot of extra functions you never use, and you don’t miss it. You control everything through the touch-screen. I’m no fan of touch screens actually, but for the Ninja it really works. They’ve built a user interface from scratch and made it specifically for touch screen and not just converted a regular one like most cameras do. Because of this it’s really fun to use the Ninja and it’s quick to navigate.

In addition to being a recorder, the Ninja also functions as a monitor. It’s not really a high-quality monitor, but it works just fine. The main advantage is that it has some important functions most DSLRs lack, like zebra-stripes and focus peaking. You can also switch between black and white and color. It can also double as a monitor for the camera assistant when pulling focus.

I didn’t really miss anything with the Ninja. It has a good system of naming clips where you set scene and shot and it automatically adds number of take. I don’t think you can give the clips names of your own though. While there were sufficient with accessories in the kit I did miss some sort of mounting-device for attaching the Ninja to the camera. A simple cold-shoe mount would’ve been enough. Also I wouldn’t mind a better build quality. It’s plastic and got a few bumps after only two days of regular use. On the plus, side the battery capacity is really impressive. Handled an 8 hour day with intense use  with no problems at all!

All in all the Atomos Ninja2 really impressed me! It’s powerful, and really useful when shooting on a DSLR, yet it’s just so simple, playful and really fun to use.

*Well it’s a 4:2:2 signal and not a 4:4:4 raw RGB signal. It’s labeled uncompressed because in the TV-world 4:2:2 color sampling is considered uncompressed as it has no visual quality-loss.

*One note on setting up Nikon D800: During set-up I found it a bit illogical and difficult to set up the D800 to output a clean, high-quality HDMI-feed. However, if you just follow the steps described on the Atomos website it should work just fine!

It’s a wrap!

We finally wrapped principal photography for Over Fjellet today! After three intense and busy days of shooting on locations in the middle of nowhere. It was an interesting shoot in several ways. For one we were a small crew on demanding locations and on a tight schedule. Second, I tried out some new equipment like Atomos Ninja 2, Wondlan camera rigs and Sirui tripod. I’ll try to do some posts about my experiences with the different equipment in the upcoming days!