INFO: This post originally apears on my NTown Productions site and was moved here.
Atomos Ninja Blade Review
Because I used to own a Ninja2 from Atomos before, this review will compare to the older / less expensive Ninja2 and it’s features. Although they are very similar in housing, function and quality, there are significant changes and improvements over the Ninja2 portable field video recorder. And as always to remember, this is not scientific, but a personal opinion, an subjective review.
The new Ninja Blade comes in the same housing as the also new Samurai Blade and it is a bit wider and thicker than the older Ninja 2 and Ninja Samurai and also a bit heavier and does connect via HDMI to a camera like the Ninja2 before.
Screwing mounts are the same as on the Ninja2, bottom and top 1/3″ holes and the connections for HDMI in/out, analog Audio & Headphone Jack and a LANC control plug are all on the left side, the two battery mounts are on the back side and makes the device able to run continuously while switching batteries live, even when recording.
Speaking of battery, in the case are a Nikon and a Canon battery addon for the Sony battery slot. You can just plug one of the two battery adapters in the slots and the Ninja Blade can be operated by either Nikon or Canon battery, even mixed! Great option to have.
When operated in hot environments the recorder can get pretty hot, but the special aluminium housing is also a heat sink which dissipates the heat away from the circuits in the housing and it looks like it operates even when it’s really hot, but I would reccomend to keep the recorder out of direct sun and in the shadows, just in case.
The biggest improvement on the Blade series, which are the Ninja Blade and the Samurai Blade is the 5″ 16:9 glossy and reflective SuperAtom IPS screen! What exactly SuperAtom means is not entirely clear but it is a very good IPS screen, maybe even a S-IPS screen which has great accurate colors, a very good contrast and it’s resolution is 1280×720, which is razor sharp on this screen.
Most of Atomos’ recorders are operated via touchscreen. The Ninja2 had a resistive touchscreen which are two layers that contacts on touch and has the disadvantage of less accuracy when compared to capacitive touchscreens which reacts with little electrity flowing to your fingertips when touching. The new Ninja Blade seems to have a newer capacitive touchscreen – it reacts only when touched with fingers, but the strange thing is, it does not react to my Smartphone & Tablet pen, which should work with any capacitive touchscreen. A resistive touchscreen on the other hand needs more pressure to touch, but it can also be touched with the fingernail or the plasic tip from a rectracted ball-pen. Not so the Ninja Blade. The Blade needs a finger to touch, but with a little more pressure than we used to touch a smartphone or tablet and it can not be touched with a plastic stick or alike. A little strange, but otherwise the screen reacts pretty good and the stronger pressure point prevents accidental touches – although sometimes it wont react to touches 5 times in row. But the best thing about the screen is that it can be automatically calibrated with the new Atomos Spyder, which then provides you prestine image quality!
Like the other recorders from Atomos, the Ninja Blade does come with a nice Hardcase (which looks weatherproof), in which there are two 2600mAh Sony-type batteries, a wall charger for the batteries with four different country adapters and also a car charger and even a wall charger with Sony-Battery adapter when you film in studios and dont want to use batteries at all. Furthermore Atomos inlcuded a HDD/SSD dock (ATOMDCK002) which sadly is different then the dock which was included with the Ninja2 (more on this later) and there are two HDD/SSD caddies in the case in which the harddisk or ssd is mounted which will be used to record the videos. Not to forget the Nikon and Canon battery adapters and a y-cinch cable.
The hdd/ssd dock which a different version (ATOMDCK002) than the one which was delivered with the Ninja2. It is smaller and lighter in weight which is good, but is all plastic instead of metal like the ATOMDCK001 which is available from Atomos as optional accessory. The dock that comes with the Ninja Blade is a USB3.0-SATA translator dock which should be fast enough to transfer the big movies files the recorder produces. But I wish that with a premium package like the Ninja Blade the would include the better metal-version of the dock rather than the cheaper plastic version.
Atomos’ new operating system AtomOS v5 has some really great pro features which makes operating the Blade even more fun and convenient. When turned on, the Blade starts directly with a monitoring screen which shows the live video feed, the Ninja2 had the big player icons as start-screen. Overlays show the most important functions and within two touches you can turn on waveform monitor, RGB-parade and vectorscope under the “Scopes”-button and peeking, zebra, false color exposure assistance and blue channel only mode under the “Crosshair”-button. The scopes can be displayed in the bottom-right corner or full-screen or in the case of the waveformmonitor & RGB-parade streched along the whole lower portion of the screen. The vectorscope can be zoomed in, it’s just one step into the center of the vectorscope but a little less detailed. The scopes are good to judge brightness, color etc. but they lag about a half of a second behind which is normaly not a problem. Scopes intensity, transparency and positioning and size can be adjusted via the scopes settings button shown as a little gearwheel-icon.
Peaking is available seven colors on a colored image, a black & white image or a line-art grey image, but no intensity for the peaking. The Zebra’s percentage can be adjusted and there is a field guide with many guide lines which can be turned on here as well.
With the flagging function in- and outpoints can be set with green and red flags even while recording and when playing back the clips in the Ninja Blade.
The Ninja Blade (and Samurai Blade) has a gorgeous high resolution IPS screen which has a very good quality even with factory settings. With the optional purchasable Atomos Spyder the screen can be calibrated to meet D65 Whitepoint at 6500 Kelvin. The Atomos’ screen will be calibrated via the Calibrator software for Mac and PC with the delivered USB-to-LANC cable.
The Conclusion: Very usable, high quality HDMI video recorder for FullHD Cameras.
- Very good 5″ hires screen (1280×720) which can be calibrated with the Atomos Spyder (optional accessory)
- Sturdy and reliable housing
- Reliable Codecs with high bitrates (DNxHD & ProRes)
- Very nice Waveform Monitor, Vectorscope and RGB Parade
- Adjustable Sharpness peeking, Zebra, False Color & Black-White Mode
- Inexpensive Media (SSD or HDD)
- Inexpensive and multiple battery type solution
- D-TAP power possible
The not so good
- Touchscreen sometimes not responding
- No Flip-Screen function (Ninja2 had it)
- Heavier and bigger than Ninja2 (592g with 2 Batteries attached and SSD inserted)
- Still has the Quicktime Gamma shift bug with DNxHD codec but ProRes Codec is correct (DNxHD can be easily corrected)