AJA Cion, a cost-effective 4K cinema camera

4K production accessible to increasingly broad sectors

Ever since it was presented, less than two years ago in NAB 2014, AJA CION has carved out a niche for itself. Its options have expanded through a substantial cut in its price to almost half, making 4K production accessible to increasingly broad sectors.

What does AJA put in our hands for less than $5,000? A genuine 4K camera (4096×2160), with a global shutter (no rolling-shutter), and an APS-C sensor, that internally saves files in Apple ProRes format in 12 bits, with AJA RAW output to 120 fps. These are big words.

We see everything packed in a magnesium alloy body, with a shoulder support, many connections and threads for different accessories, and an exchangeable mounting to use direct optics with different standards. We can now confirm its open architecture and extraordinary adaptability.

Although we will have to add lenses, batteries, viewfinders, storage, etc. according to our production needs, let us see in detail what can this camera offer.  As we always say, if we know how to choose and handle the appropriate tool, our work will be much easier and the results much more successful for our customers.

Beginning with the physical appearance, the first thing that draws our attention is the classic ENG shoulder strap with suede and wood finishes.  Yes, you have read it correctly: suede in the shoulder strap and wood in the top handle.

While it can be used by a single operator, after having tried it, we believe that it is geared more towards a cinematic style.  It’s not a “point-and-shoot” camera, and having an assistant providing support to the main operator is very much appreciated.  Depending on the viewfinder that we decide to use, we can have large amounts of information such as peaking, zebra, histogram, etc. However, the setup information and the available menu options on the help screen cannot be controlled through the external viewfinder.

This makes it difficult for a single player to work on its own, though it is not impossible.  In fact, once everything has been set (optics, matte-box, viewfinder, handle, battery, etc.) balance is really good. Magnesium alloy components used for the body mean that it’s lightweight (3.5 Kg.), without compromising either reliability or robustness.  The high number of screws to attach the different accessories helps to maintain balance and suits virtually any requirement.

The camera body capitalizes all AJA’s experience and know-how. Its design gives priority to open architecture in its interaction with the real world.  So, we can easily change ourselves the optical support (4 screws) to use natively any product that we may have: classic Arri or PL; and even Canon EF or Nikon, so popular lately in digital cinema. As for the battery support, it can also be chosen and changed for gold-mount (Anton Bauer) or V-lock (Sony). We can custom-made the camera, and change anything in it when it suits us.

The only owned element is the solid state recording cards, AJA Packs, identical to those used by KiPro Quad, which are now available in capacities of 256 and 512 GB. They are equivalent to SSD disks but we were surprised to see that the body only has one slot for a single card, and this limits the internal recording capacity. Though that is not a problem either, because it has external recording options, and they are broader.

What about its recording options?  Its internal support always uses Apple ProRes format: DCI 4K (4096×2160), UltraHD (3840×2160), 2K (2048×1080) and Full HD (1920×1080). It also uses ProRes 444 12 bit up to 30 fps, or ProRes 422 10 bit up to 60 fps. Frame-rates can be set: 23’98, 24, 25, 29’98, 30, 50 and 60. If we have external recording units we can use RAW format with frame rate up to 120 fps.

As to the sensor that records our images, it uses an APS-C global shutter. This means that all images are read at the same time and there are no rolling-shutter effects. Its size, similar to Super-35mm, guarantees full compatibility with PL optics.  It incorporates low-pass and infrared optical filters.  Sensitivity is not exactly spectacular, as it apparently has a limited margin, ISO 320-1000, but the 12 f-stop dynamic range is very interesting.

Txt: Luis Pavía

The camera body capitalizes all AJA's experience and know-how. Its design gives priority to open architecture in its interaction with the real world.
Broadcasting Magazine TM
The level of detail is extraordinary. This, together with its excellent color rendition, makes it a really suitable tool in any scope of work, under the sole condition of taking care of lighting.
AJA Cion, 4K Broadcasting Magazine TM
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