Do you get a $2,000 better image?

Atomos Shogun Pricing

Questions I had before getting this unit:

The Panasonic GH4 already records in 4k, so do I really need the Shogun for it’s 4:2:2 10bit ProRes files?

The Sony a7S does not have 4K, so will the Shogun be a welcome addition to that camera?

Tools (Scopes) What I love about this unit

  • Vectorscope! In realtime you can correct the white balance, especially with the zoom feature!
  • Love the 2:1 zoom on the image, great for getting focus in 4k.
  • Love RGB parade makes white balance easy. Realtime feedback. The camera’s parades are useless because they are not in real time.
  • Peaking is great!
  • I loved using false color to light my green screen evenly.

Things I Don’t Like

  • Shogun recorded image has more contrast than the Slog2 version from the internal recording, I think that is a Sony issue
  • Sometimes it made the image worse, a7S skin softening, perhaps that is a benefit for me. Notice how it starts out fine and then adds the skin softening effect.
  • Gh4 has Luminance Level issues, 16 255 appears to be working like 0-255.

Update on Skin Softening

This following is from Wolfgang Andrae:

Hi Dave, this is Wolfgang from 1meter60 Film in Germany. I “solved” the problem with the soft skin tone: It’s only happen when you don’t start the recording directly from the a7s. When the a7s is in standby mode and the person in the picture doesn’t move, the a7s picture-processor begins to soften the person/picture. (Maybe it’s for the time compressed internal recording?) But when you start the recording on the a7s the softness go away and all the details stay (in 4k mode the a7s doesn’t record internally but it shows in the display, that the Shogun records). When you start the recording only on the Shogun, the a7s doesn’t recognize that the Shogun is recording and still produce this strange softness. Maybe this is the same with your a7s/Shogun. Greetings from Germany Wolfgang

4:2:0 vs 4:2:2 XAVCS vs Atomos Shogun

Steve K wrote in the comments:

I think the skin smoothing thing is a Sony thing — happens as well with Odyssey 7Q+. Unfortunately, as of now, I can’t get Odyssey to trigger with A7s record button.

Where or When Do You Use the Shogun?

  • Is it too big for my run and gun style with the a7s? Yes, but it would work nicely for my interview shoots. Too big for my style most of time. Mostly because of the tools and the monitor and not the Prores recording. Missed Nebula 4000 Lite, the Shogun heads in the opposite direction in terms of moving the camera.
  • You can see when lights are flickering and you need to play with the shutter speed, hard to see this issue on the camera display.

ProRes CPU Usage (averaged over 20 seconds)

Tests done on my computer I call The Beast with 8-cores.

  • Shogun HQ 4K from GH4 4:2:2 8-bit: 28% CPU
  • Shogun 422 4K from GH4 4:2:2 8-bit: 28% CPU
  • Shogun LT 4K from GH4 4:2:2 10-bit: 28% CPU
  • GH4 internal 4k 4:2:0 8-bit: 24%
  • The GH4 4K files are almost 3 times smaller than the Shogun LT 4k files.
  • Huge files take time to transfer.
  • The ProRes files dropped frames sometimes, I thought they were supposed to be very edit friendly? Perhaps this is only for Mac people. Or it is that the files are so large my fast SSD just can’t handle the speed.

Construction

  • Don’t drop it and crack the screen: $200 to replace. Plastic back cover don’t drop!
  • Will the fan last 3 years during the warranty period?

Cost to Quality Ratio? Does $2,000 Give You a Better Image?

  • Many before me have tested the camera to Atomos product. The general outcome is not much difference, followed by “unless you push the grade really hard”. Well that’s just it I don’t typically add a crap load of contrast and saturation or have a beautiful blonde women with long hair and a wind machine in a sheer dress against green screen.
  • Feel like a fool wasting a lot of time already pixel peeping at no difference. I should be out shooting. But I will show some tests and you will comment how I did it wrong so we can keep this trend going.
  • I could not see any difference with the GH4 using green screen 4:2:2 vs 4:2:0. I tried looking at all the different channels in Photoshop to see which one had more detail, but I couldn’t see any difference.
  • It’s really hard to tell the difference between all the flavors of ProRes even when you push the image hard.
  • I think spending $2,000 on lights and light modifiers would give you much better bang for the buck than this.

Misc Thoughts on the Atomos Shogun

  • I got out of sync audio issue with the Sony a7s but I think there is a way to align them in the Shogun which I did not test.
  • With the GH4 you can record at same time as the Shogun while in 8 bit (not 10 bit). A7s can’t do that.
  • The red dots issue I was getting with my Ikan is not happening .
  • 4k is nice and clean even at ISO800 on the a7s, but who wants to bet that the Sony a7s Mark II will not have 4k?
  • I find when I use it I work slower because I really fine tune the focus the exposure and nail the WB! Confidence is much higher during shoot, doing important interview all those tools and the nice screen make a diff for client. However you won’t notice much diff in the codec it’s still 8 bit a7s but you can push it?
  • Supplied battery goes fast?
  • Long lens with wind they panel will cause movement
  • Why clog? Why not slog made for the a7s?
  • Aliasing on GH4 display but not on shogun.
  • Easier in the sun to see than the cameras display but needs a sun shade.

Atomos Shogun vs Internal GH4 Codec

Buy Now or Wait? Conclusion

  • Don’t really need the Shogun with the GH4 because it already has 4k and it is really hard to tell the difference even at 400%.
  • Unless you are adding just a ton of contrast and saturation to your images and you are not adding a ton of VFX you will not be able to see any difference at all.
  • It is nice to record in 4K with the Sony a7S finally, but who wants to spend $2,000 on the Shogun when you know the Sony a7S is bound to have internal 4k on the next release.
  • But I loved having all the advanced monitoring tools.
  • I would like to use this when I record my courses so you can see the menu overlays.
  • If you study Atomos price drops on Camel Camel, it will drop in price about 10-12 months later.
  • Perhaps I will wait a year until the $2,000 price tag drops to $1,600, and sell my Ikan monitor.
  • These are very early days with many firmware updates to come with Atomos working with Sony to solve these issues, I am sending it back.
  • It is nice to know these internal codecs like XAVCS and GH4 high bit rate are getting better and it is really hard to tell them apart from the ProRes files?

a7s vs GH4 at 4k

Sorry this was not a comprehensive review based off the 6.01 firmware, I ran in to too many issues and will look at it again perhaps after the price drops. Watch Stefan Czeck Video he did a great job if you want more information on the Shogun.

11 comments

  • Hello Dave,
    Good review, I was looking for an external recorder for GH4 to avoid a mountain of SD Cards. But for 2000 dollar I get a lot of SD card I think.

    Is there a way working around to record on SSD directly?

    I wanted to buy a HD or 4K videocamera but your reviews made me thinking of buying a G4.

    What is wise, a 5000 dollar 4K videocamera with fixed lens or a nice set of lenses and a 4K camera?
    I used to have analog olympus cameras (35mm). But now I use a panasonic lumix with a huge fixed zoomlens, that works nice.

    The same goes with video, grab and shoot (videocamera) or assemble lenses and shoot five minutes later.

    thanks
    Peter Bosman who is going to spend a lot of money soon but doesn’t know yet on which system.

  • Hi Dave, this is Wolfgang from 1meter60 Film in Germany.
    I “solved” the problem with the soft skin tone:
    It’s only happen when you don’t start the recording directly from the a7s. When the a7s is in standby mode and the Person in the picture don’t move, the a7s picture-processor begins to soften the person/picture. (Maybe it’s for the time compressed internal recording???) But when you start the recording on the a7s the softness go away and all the details stay (in 4k mode the a7s doesn’t record internaly but it shows in the display, that the Shogun records). When you start the recording only on the Shogun, the a7s doesn’t recognize, that the Shogun is recording and still produce this strange softness.
    Maybe this is the same with your a7s/Shogun.
    Greetings from Germany
    Wolfgang

  • Personally i didn’t try comparing the deferent between 4 2 2 10bit and 4 2 0 8bit, but what i learn about the deferent between them is the color correction and grading stage, it looks like the 10bit is holding detail much better, especially handling high lights and shadows, i suggest to do a review about how 10bit handling high light and shadows comparing with 8bit ..
    i really like you’re reviews, and i think your reviews is the most helpful videos in film making 🙂

    Best regards from yemen

  • Great review, gonna rethink buying the recorder and investing into lights or lenses instead.
    4k is a good selling point for some clients that haven’t got mucj tech knowledge.
    Also I wanted to have an external monitor for a long time and having one that can recordas well is even better.

    @aimen If the camera outputs 8bit like A7s you don’t get absolutely anything by recording 10bit
    There is some misleading info on this on Atomos website….

  • I have been using one of our company Convergent Odyssey 7Q recorders as a monitor off my GH4. (I was able to record to the Odyssey via the four SDI quad-HD outputs on the GH4’s YAGH adapter but what a pain. Went back to simple internal recording.)

    I thought about getting this Atomos Shogun for my personal GH4 just so I could record fatter ProRes files.

    But after seeing your GH4 internal vs Shogun recording tests, I don’t really see why.

    I must say that the Odyssey 7Q’s 7″ monitor is very helpful for focus, color and exposure because of all its overlays. I’m sure the Shogun would be a good monitor too.

    And if its monitor is good — and by good I mean great — it’s a good deal. PRO 7″ OLED monitors from SmallHD run from $1500 to $2500. Their lower end 7″ monitors start at $600.

    Also, don’t discount the Shogun’s ability to convert to and from HDMI/SDI. SDI is very useful in a pro environment where you need to run your monitor signal on a single coax cable any distance. It also comes in a very complete kit with everything but the SSDs.

  • Hi, Dave I have a black magic cinema camera. I like the images the camera produces but the camera lacks a lot of functionality no slow motion insane memory usage and hard to handle handheld outdoors.I was thinking of getting the gh4 or a7s. Should I get one of these camaras or wait for the Sony a7s 2 to come out with internal 4k and stabilization? William

  • Hi Dave, dropped frames usually occur when your hard drive is not fast enough to keep up with the media. The ProRes files have a much higher bitrate than the GH4 or any DSLR H.264 type file, and your hard drive is struggling to keep up with that high data rate.

  • Hi Dave,

    I have just read this on Alister Chapmans website and maybe this might offer up an answer to the extra contrast you have been seeing.

    “The problem is that the HDMI output gets interpreted as a limited range signal (16-235) when in fact it’s a full range signal (0-255). If the signal is interpreted correctly (you can change this in your editing software), the internal and external clips match 100%.” – http://www.xdcam-user.com/2014/10/using-s-log2-from-the-a7s-in-post-production/

    hope this helps shed some light.

  • Thanks dave for the review, I was seriously considering the Shogun until I saw it. I shoot mostly with the GH4 and was hoping that it might help in the resolution or quality of the image, but sounds like the difference is negliegable at best.

  • Hey Doug. I appreciate another thoughtful review.
    You have done a great job learning dslr shooting.

    I have one input. Basicaly. The point of the external recorder is not to take the footage it records internally and compare it to the footage the camera records. Rather it’s incase something in your exposure or color balance is unsatisfactory. Basicaly it leaves you more room in post production to make corrections. This is a trait that’s extremely valuable once you get into color grading. If for example you had pulled the exposure down on the landscape shots. I think it’s likely you would have wound the internal camera footage “clipped” in the highlights. But the external recorder should be far more robust and “keep” those highlight details better.
    That is why I use the odyssey 7q with my fs700. Because the internal codec on that camera is even weaker than the gh4 and Sony a7s. But they output extremely robust codecs for external recording. Think of this as the difference between shooting JPEG and raw. In camera they look the same but if you need to change something there’s no substitute for raw. Maybe a better example would be JPEG and tiff. It’s not everything you shot but it’s way more than JPEG.