Review: AJA CION camera first look

It’s not long now until AJA’s CION 4K camera finally hits, and for me (and majority of video professionals), this is VERY EXCITING NEWS. Having got my hands on the CION back in April, I’ve been waiting for a chance to really put it through its paces, and start grading some footage. 

For anyone who’s looking into the AJA CION, or thinking about updating their video production workflow in general, this is why we’re all getting so worked up…

What is the AJA CION camera?

The AJA CION is a brand new professional camera from AJA – their first foray into actual cameras. Put simply, it’s a fantastic-looking shoulder mount production camera that’s designed to give a cinematic look to your footage. It’s able to output 4K raw data at up to 120fps via 4x 3G-SDI outputs (shoot directly to edit-ready Apple ProRes 4444 at up to 4K 30fps over Thunderbolt, ProRes 422 at up to 4K 60fps, or output AJA Raw at up to 4K 120fps), and records directly to AJA Pak SSD media at up to 60 frames per second.

Sensor-wise, you get an APS-C sized 4K CMOS image sensor with an electronic global shutter, 12 stops of dynamic range, and there’s a PL lens mount with manual back focus adjustment for attaching your glass.

What I first thought…

We first got our hands on the CION back at NAB 2014 in Vegas, and I had another chance to check it out just after too. The first thing you notice about it is the form factor and build quality. AJA are renowned for their design, and the CION is no different. Its sleek black body is complemented by a nice suede shoulder mount and wooden handles, which make it a real looker as well as being fantastically ergonomic.

Without compromising on quality, AJA have also managed to make it as light as they possibly can. The body weighs in at just 6.4lbs/2.8kg, but that will obviously ramp up once you start to add viewfinders, battery packs and a lens (the amount of glass in your lens especially affects this).

What I do really want to see is the actual quality of the footage. There has been some speculation around the ISO on the CION, with native ISO put at 200 on the pre-production camera. But AJA have put people’s fears to rest and let out that the final camera which ships will crank the ISO up to a more respectable level, making it brighter and better for shooting in low light. This should put it on a par with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and close to the EOS C range at 850 ISO.

Lewis from Jigsaw24 gets hands-on with the AJA CION

Why the CION is special

The real selling point of the CION is its all-in-one, all-purpose ethos. While similar cameras like the Sony FS700, PMW-F5 and Canon C500 match it in terms of specs and similar pricing, the CION is really designed to give a more traditional ergonomic feel, with each section such as audio and option menus allowing for multiple users. The audio inputs are strategically placed so that a sound engineer can visually monitor the sound directly on the side of the camera without the camera getting in the way.

It also already has a built-in recorder, so you can shoot directly to AJA’s Pak SSD media – the same as you get with the fantastic Ki Pro Quad.

Perfect for large sensor lovers

I can see the AJA CION being perfect for the large sensor market. So anyone working in advertising, music videos, documentaries or that sort of thing, will benefit from the cinematic look and feel that the CION’s 4K CMOS sensor will afford them. The shoulder mount also gives it a bit more flexibility, and makes it much more portable than some other large sensor cameras. I wouldn’t say it’s the ideal option as a run and gun camera, but we’re almost into ENG-style ability and form factor here.

My recommended peripherals

When you buy the AJA CION, you are essentially paying for a chip and recorder based in a very stylish production camera body. Everything else is modular. With an expected price tag of $8999, it’s a big investment, so you should really think about your options before you take the plunge.

First of all, it’s a good idea to think about audio. Although the XLR and preamps are the same as the ones from the Ki Pro and are top-notch, considering your audio monitoring options is a good place to start. Because the CION already has its own recorder built in which records to Pak SSD (again, from the Ki Pro), you don’t need a separate recorder.

You will, however, need a lens and viewfinder. Lenses will vary depending on what you want to be doing with the CION, but I can definitely recommend the Cineroid EVF-4RVW EVF with retina display as a really good option, as well as the Alphatron EVF-035W-3G hi-res 3.5″ LCD EVF with 3G HD-SDI input. Battery-wise, I would go with the Anton Bauer or IDX battery plate. Lastly, you’ll need something to carry the whole lot around in. We’ll soon be looking at putting together special shooting kits with everything you’ll need to get up and running.

Shut up and take my money!

Hold on just a minute – the AJA CION isn’t actually shipping just yet, but we are taking pre-orders now. AJA’s official line is that it’s shipping in ‘Summer 2014′ which, judging by the length of British summers, should be imminently. As one of the UK’s largest AJA partners and biggest stockholders, it’ll be a good bet to get in touch with us for more information when it does drop though.

AJA CION on Jigsaw24

Want to know more about AJA and pre-order the AJA CION 4K production camera? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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