Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder Review

Sony A7S + Shogun 4K at night - watch my "Spectrum of Lights" 2 minute short above in 4K, or here on Vimeo

I received our Shogun Recorder from Atomos just before Christmas, 2014, and may post a better review/some additional information after the holidays. I have to say however that while usable and it does what it says it will do... it feels quite cheap. It's also a bit of a risky proposition to use as your A camera with the Sony A7S. Does that mean it's not worth purchasing? Well, read on to find out.

These are my thoughts after spending many hours using the unit, attached to the Sony A7S. [Note: I have updated this review at least four times - most recently in March of 2015, with further reliability (SSD and battery) testing, and links to comments, major firmware updates, and FAQs from Atomos. I added a film (above) and a bit on the Go Creative Show.] I will also test it with the Sony FS7, but primarily as a field monitor as the FS7’s internal recording is already quite robust (and one of the main reasons I bought the camera.) Please pardon the photos being from the iPhone with my ugly hands in the shots; I didn't have a lot of time. :)

This is a written review. There are many sample examples of footage and tests in 4K with the A7S and Shogun available online (try here, and here, and this nice one, and that nice one). 

Much thanks to Texas Media Systems by the way for getting me this unit within a day. I did not even pre-order. I did pre-order with B&H, but they oddly have not shipped and I cancelled the order.

First of all, what is a Shogun Recorder?

It is well known that most Digital video cameras compress their image in order to record onto internal media. Until recently, only cameras like the Arri Alexa/Amira (which shoots ProRes) and Sony F55 (which shoots 4K XAVC-I) at the high end, and Blackmagic’s camera line at the lower end, had any decent kind of compression built in. Most other cameras shot in very highly compressed AVCHD (a low bit rate form of H.264 at 4:2:0 8-bit) or MPEG2 4:2:2 at 50Mbit (a broadcast standard) for HD production. Even fewer shot in full 4K. 

As time has progressed, the cameras have gotten computationally more powerful. This has led to relatively affordable cameras such as the Sony PXW-FS7 that shoot 4k XAVC-I at up to 600Mbit with 10 bit color in a 4:2:2 color space. Blackmagic Design cameras as well have supported Raw and ProRes recording. 

But what about many of the rest of the cameras out there? And what if you want a quality production monitor on top of it? This is where products from companies such as Atomos and Convergent Design come in. They are dedicated monitor/recorders that not only give you far higher quality monitors to shoot from - with professional aids such as waveforms built in - but also let you record much less compressed image data directly from the sensor, bypassing the camera’s own compression.

In cameras such as the FS7 or the Alexa, there’s really no need for the better compression (unless you really want to cut in ProRes) as the XAVC-I built in is visually the same as most flavors of ProRes. And the Alexa/Amira of course shoot ProRes internally.

In other cameras however, such as the Canon Cinema EOS C100 Mark 1&2, an external recorder is mandatory for high bit rate, less color-compressed 4:2:2 footage. And most recently, with the introduction of the Sony A7S mirrorless large sensor camera - another benefit has been added to the fold: the A7S does not record 4K internally at all. But it does output 4:2:2 8-bit 4K (UHD) video out of its fragile micro HDMI port. That is where the Atomos Shogun recorder comes in: allowing you to turn your A7S into a highly sensitive full frame 4K camera, and getting a much nicer monitor in the process.

The Shogun is primarily meant to record from cameras that output a full 4K signal via HDMI or 12G SDI. It will eventually record raw video as Cinema DNG (Q1 2015) from cameras like the FS700, and perhaps even transcode it to ProRes (maybe someday), but if you want a fuller more developed suite of raw 4k video recording options - the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ is a better choice with more flexibility. (And a higher quality build, but more on that later.)

The Shogun (announced at NAB 2014 in April & released around Christmas of 2014) wasn’t designed strictly for the A7S, but Atomos worked closely with Sony and you can tell that was the target market. You can read all the specifications here on Atomos’ site. Suffice to say, the Shogun is both a very high end professionally color matched 7 inch “retina” quality director’s/field monitor with many exposure and focus tools - and a robust 4K recorder. It unlocks the full potential of the Sony A7S in resolution (both increased overall and in colorspace), and allows cameras like the Panasonic GH4 to record their full range of 10 bit color as well as in a 4:2:2 colorspace.

The Shogun also adds full XLR sound inputs (with phantom power) via an adapter, which is a huge addition for those with cameras with no XLR inputs.

The Shogun also adds all the benefits of Atomos’ other recorders such as the Ninja Blade and Samurai Blade for HD production, and it has a (very nice) benefit of being able to cross-convert to/from SDI and HDMI all the time. It is also raw-ready, for cameras such as the FS7 and FS700 from Sony that output raw over a single SDI port. And future 12G SDI cameras can output 4K to it as well. This is a very forward looking device. 

Atomos had however a bunch of issues getting this thing out the door. Setback after setback hit them as they ran into counterfeit parts problems, then software problems which continue through release. It also seems they unnecessarily sacrificed some much needed build quality to hit a price point. Let’s take a look at my first experiences and what I’m seeing.  This will focus on general impressions; I don’t discuss the image much because it’s quite good as you can see from the linked videos above.

 

First - the good.

There’s a lot of goodness here, though much of that relies on firmware updates to be determined from Atomos in the future.

"Stuff"/Value

One thing Atomos does not do here is nickel & dime you for a feature set or accessories. They throw it all in, right from the start (ok, software is coming but it'll be free.). The cost is $1999 for all of it, and firmware is (apparently) free moving forward.

There's a very high quality case from Italian maker HPRC (though not really needed for this device it's appreciated),

And inside the box neatly placed on two levels of foam you get:

  • 1x Atomos Shogun
  • 1x Atomos AC/DC Adapter for Shogun
  • 5x Master Caddy 2 
  • 1x Atomos 2600mAh Battery (Sony NP-570 compatible), soon to be doubled in size
  • 1x Battery Charger
  • 1x Lemo to XLR break-out cable
  • 1x Atomos USB 3.0 Docking Station
  • 1x Car Charger
  • Multiple international electrical adapters

Note there are no GH4 or A7S battery plates included as previously mentioned by the company. There is no HDMI cable. There is no PowerStation (though a place exists for it in the case). There is no cold shoe mount. There's no sun hood, which I think is mandatory. You have to add all of those yourself. But the fact is the thing is pretty much ready to shoot out of the box. 

Processing & Image

Well, it does the job, and when it works it does it well. That is actually the biggest bit of praise you can give a product: a tool that does precisely what it promises. The internal image processing used seems top-notch, and images coming out of my A7S are anywhere from quite nice to truly amazing. Late in the development cycle, Atomos decided to use a more robust application processor - and it shows. It is future ready (more to come on that) and does a very good job. The interface is very responsive (much more so than the Sony FS7’s menus, by comparison). The revised UI is also very well thought out, and the 1:1 and 2:1 punch in (that is movable) is a great addition for getting critical focus. The device is a joy to actually use.

Does the Shogun turn the Sony A7S into the Sony FS7 (and beyond?)

Of course none of how the cameras look has anything to do with the Shogun itself, except the Shogun unlocks the full potential of the Sony A7S, but I thought you might be interested. 

I do not have video footage to share yet of this but I did briefly record 1 hr of 4k footage from the Sony A7S. My initial thought (and general consensus from others) is that while the Sony FS7 is virtually identical image wise to the excellent F5 and many respects the F55, the A7S at 4k isn’t quite there. Don’t get me wrong: it’s still an amazing image, similar to a Canon C500 I'd say. But it looks like the FS7 has slightly more usable DR in the highlights, and a slightly sharper and definitely cleaner image overall, with less noise.

Still, it's really, really good.  Do think the FS7 and A7S could cut together in 4K with FS7 (or F5 or F55) 4K footage fairly well. It's in the same ballpark. You also get the same color resolution out of the A7S as the FS7 when recording to the Shogun too, but not the same color bit depth. That extra 2 bits of color does help make the FS7 a bit more natural looking when graded, as you have more to push and pull. But to the layman? They are very close. The Sony F55 is used to make Hollywood films these days, and you could easily use an FS7 or an A7S with a Shogun in its place if you wanted to (image wise; not operational/risk wise.) The images are in fact that good, when you have a shooter and colorist who knows what they are doing.

I always thought the A7S looked quite filmic/cinematic in part because while detailed, it is (ever so) slightly softer than the FS7/F5. Don't expect the A7S to be an exact mini copy of FS7 or F5... it is not, even with the Shogun. But it’s still really damn good, and I doubt your audience will notice, even if your colorist might. Yes, even in 4K/UHD.  The image out of the A7S is a stunner, and when downsampled to 1080 in post does in fact look more detailed than the camera's native 1080 XAVC-S 4:2:0 recording. 

I will post my own video once I have something decent to show. The initial consensus here from laymen when seeing the graded 4k A7S footage from our Christmas was "that looks even better than it did in real life." That's saying something. Even me, the eternal pixel peeper, was surprised at how good it looked. It's not an FS7 or F5, but image wise it doesn't have to be. Some people might even think the 4k-ized A7S looks nicer. 

Is the A7S more noisy in 4K? Is it pushing out "true" Slog2 out of the HDMI port?

One thing I see people complaining about is more noise showing up on the A7S when recorded to 4K vs internally recorded HD. This is to be expected, because the Shogun bypasses all internal compression and noise reduction to give you the exact image coming off of the sensor. That’s a technical distillation but that is what is happening. I don’t think the images look that much noisier but you may have to apply some noise reduction in post to get to what you expected when shooting internally. I saw the same thing on the Canon C100; it’s just the nature of these recorders; they aren’t adding noise, they are subtracting the camera's internal processing tricks. The A7S is noisier than the FS7 at the same ISO, however, to be sure. I think part of this comes down to the 10 bits of the FS7 vs the 8 bits of the A7S, which allows for much smoother graduations in area with not a lot of detail.

Another complaint is that the Sony A7S seems to show a more contrasty/clipped slog2 image out of the HDMI. I am not sure I saw this but I need to do more digging. Apparently many applications read the A7S HDMI footage as 0-255 when it should be 16-235 I believe (which hurts the Slog 2 image.) That said, I found when I shot +2 over-exposed, and brought it into FCPX and applied a LUT or Filmconvert - I reduced my exposure and all was well. Nothing artificially clipped. [It continues to look fine in March, 2015.]

Shogun on a Varavon A7S cage with A7S inside

Shogun on a Varavon A7S cage with A7S inside

The Screen!

The screen on it is the same quality as a color-calibrated iPad Air 2 - right down to the Corning Gorilla Glass that covers it. It seems bonded to the glass, and is extremely bright with a shockingly good contrast ratio.

This is a very, very good screen - if used indoors or with a hood. It is a very bright IPS panel with a wide viewing range, and also “retina” at over 300 dpi. And it’s full 1080 HD… with even more pixels added to the bottom just for the interface.  The capacitive touch screen is also very responsive. It's far, far easier to obtain critical focus on it than the much more coarse A7S (and FS7) screens. The peaking algorithm is also much better on the Shogun as compared to those cameras.

In fact, the only bad thing I can say about the screen is the glare coming off of it (it’s very reflective), and it sucks fingerprints onto it as if it’s reaching into your soul to get them. Its very hard to use outdoors due to that reflectivity and demands a sun hood. Luckily as of March, 2015, Atomos has released a very good $79 sunhood. It really helps.

Audio

I have no need for this as I shoot primary audio into my A cam, and I also have an XLR pack for the A7S. But the good thing about the Shogun is it also can take in full XLR sound and provides phantom power through a pigtail of cables included -both in and out. This is extremely useful for those with cameras that do not have XLR inputs. Another huge bonus of the Shogun.

So far so good right? This thing sounds just awesome - an amazing production tool for only $2000. And it includes everything you need to start shooting but the media and a SDI or HDMI cable, in a nice pelican-style case, with a three year warranty. Perfect right? Well yes… and no.


NEXT - THE NOT SO GOOD.

On past Atomos recorders - and I have owned them all save the Ninja Blade, Ronin, and Ninja Star - one thing I always seemed to notice is that the logos were never painted on straight. This minor lack of attention to detail in manufacturing always concerned me: what else could be wrong? It turns out this was a harbinger of things to come. A logo is not an operational component, and I was always happy with the quality of the units.  They were made with a metal body surround, with a plastic durable back and front. They were meaty units, and felt like they would take damage well if dropped. That is not the case with the Shogun: It’s quite high tech in a cheap suit.

Build Quality - or Lack Thereof

Yes, the logos on my Shogun are indeed off. Are we getting a solid production ready unit that matches its electronics' potential? No. A Fingerprint attracting, a nearly mirror-like shatter-prone screen, and slippery cheap feeling plastic body is what you are actually getting. 

I really question why Atomos had to use such a cheap feeling plastic for this unit. It’s entirely made of plastic, except the screen which is Gorilla Glass. It feels like if you drop the thing it will crack. It's as durable as ABS plastic could be I guess, but it feels a bit like a toy. I'm quite disappointed. For example: the build quality of the Sony FS7 body, itself hardly a tank but professionally... respectable, is considerably nicer than this unit. Better yet the Samurai/Ninja Blade… in fact all of their other products are much better built - primarily because they have metal around them.

I wish at least the frame of the unit was metal, to protect it a bit better against falls. And the front layer of glass has zero protection... and no oil resistant coating (or one not nearly as good as the iPhone), and an anti-reflective coating that is not strong enough from what I could see. With no lip of metal or rubber to protect it, if this thing falls the super shiny glass will crack or shatter. Then what? You can't bring this thing down to the mall to get a quick glass replacement. [In fact one of our commenters below reported they had the unit destroyed after a small 1 foot drop, see below for photo - $200 replacement cost.]
 
It's easy to drop too because the slick plastic body is a bit slippery in the hands. It has no real grip. It really should have been coated with a rubber coating of some sort if they had to go with plastic. I am really surprised and a bit upset at what is supposed to be the flagship product from Atomos feeling so cheaply made. I understand the need to control weight (and it is indeed light) and cost, but to what end? 

UPDATE: Patrick from Atomos responded to my queries in the forum stating this: 

"Just regarding a few of your queries, when designing the shogun, our aim was to keep the weight to an absolute minimum as this was a concern to our customers. We had a prototype rubberised body shogun, unfortunately this finish is not quite elegant and is prone to scratching, thus didn't end up in the final product. A protective case would be a good accessory, I'll mention it to the team.  

The screen is a scratch resistant panel made from Gorilla Glass, you can use protective screen covers as used on your smartphone or tablet, the iPhone 6 screen is made from sapphire [this is false; it's Gorilla Glass -Ed.] which is a totally different substance. "

Firmware Woes and LATER Fixes

"Sorry, we're not really finished but here it is anyway" - December, 2015

"Sorry, we're not really finished but here it is anyway" - December, 2015

The Software (Firmware)? Unfinished Initially, finally mostly feature complete in March, 2015.
The firmware was an issue as well. Initially the unit wouldn't even playback. They added this in January of 2015. This however illustrates a dangerous trend many electronic companies (including Sony and DJI and even Apple) are now following: release incomplete, buggy firmware first - fix months later. This should not be tolerated. Its kind of like buying a car without a steering wheel. Even if the company provides an amazingly good wheel later on, it should have been there in the first place.

How was this the case here? For example, the Atomos brochure showed in April of 2014 that the Shogun has 3D LUT capacity. But none of that actually existed until nearly a year later, in mid-March, 2015.

3D LUTS! Finally. Very well implemented too.  Image courtesy of @aceclicx_01 on Twitter; I did not have time to take a shot.

3D LUTS! Finally. Very well implemented too. 

Image courtesy of @aceclicx_01 on Twitter; I did not have time to take a shot.

Not having 3D LUTS was initially a huge disappointment, but when Atomos did finally add it they actually did an extraordinary good job. You can preload up to eight 3D .cube LUTS into the system, which actually get loaded to the Atomos firmware to survive drive changes. The LUTS have a handy button on screen to switch between them, and the waveform shows the image pre-LUT so you can expose properly. This is a fantastic tool (even for a monitor, never mind for a recorder), and I am very happy they finally shipped it, albeit 3 months late.

The Shogun still does not have RAW to Cinema DNG recording. However in April, 2015, they will add Sony FS (FS700 & FS7) RAW to ProRes 709, which is really a great addition. Sony FS to CinemaDNG is coming later this summer, as is Canon RAW. 

In fact Atomos advertised a bunch of features as “coming” didn't start to say when until a month after release. They say the processor is designed for these additional features, and on 1-21-15 sent out a roadmap and updated FAQ that confirms some of these features (bolded) originally announced as coming soon, with only one actually delivered:

Atomos' future proof platform (Powerful Generation 2 Processor, SATA III 6Gb/s interface, and Large FPGA with upgradability) is designed for the following in future Atom OS firmware upgrades; 

  • 12G-SDI 4KP60/50 support
  • 10bit 4:4:4 recordin
  • 3D LUTs (gained in March 2015)
  • FS700 RAW and Canon RAW decode (encoding to CinemaDNG)
  • 4096 x 2160 (full industry standard 4K) support [right now it records only Ultra HD which is not a problem but has fewer pixels horizontally because it’s 16:9.]

Other Issues

Peaking, Shiny Screens and Weird XLRs

There are other issues too. For example, the peaking function is quite nice but you can't tune how sensitive it is. As a result, every speck of noise gets painted a color, and it casts a color cast on the whole screen. It needs to be reduced or have a tunable option. Still, it's not a showstopper.

The screen is so good you an practically just focus right off of it. But it's not rosy once you go outside and it turns into a mirror. It's highly reflective and demands a sun hood... which Atomos has not released yet. You'll have to wing it for now.

The XLR inputs sound great, but that limo bundle hanging off the side of the unit is begging for trouble. It is straining the cable package I am sure, and it's easy to get snagged on something or someone possibly destroying your kit. Be careful to tie it down in use.  Initially, Phantom power and the use of both analog input channels was an all or nothing affair; you couldn't specify it to just one XLR channel.  Atomos finally added this option in the 6.2 Firmware Update in mid March, 2015 - yay!

Atomos also added one feature that wasn't promised initially: the unit can now down convert 4K to HD on the fly. So you can input 4K and output HD on the HDMI and SDI ports. As of mid March, 2015, this seems a little buggy, as some monitors cannot see the HDMI outfeed. But it's there, and no doubt Atomos will improve this over time.

Battery Life

This thing eats batteries like crazy. I got maybe 30-45 minutes out of a fully charged battery included with the kit while recording 4K from the A7S. And that battery (2700mAh I believe) kept dangerously dropping voltage even after only 15 minutes of use. Similarly sized Sony L style batteries I had did the same thing. Battery life is outright poor compared with previous models; it needs a far larger battery to work decently. A 7200 mAh battery I tried (3x larger - so you're adding some bulk) seemed to work much better. I got 3-4 hours out of it, with no odd drops in voltage. The "up to 3 hours" statement from Atomos from the Shogun's box on the included battery is nonsense. It may refer to HD only recording, but for 4K no way. You need the 7200 mAh batteries to get through a decent shoot. More than one if your day is long.

[1/21/15: Atomos sent me two additional batteries for free which was nice of them, and are shipping larger batteries out.]

In Late January, 2015, Atomos updated their battery life claims. The included battery only now lasts 45 minutes. 

Atomos should have stuck to a two battery design; you don't even get a good warning before it dies and ruins your footage. It just shuts off. This is a very poor and risky design.

Atomos keeps recommending their upcoming $250 or so PowerStation as a power solution for continuous power. But it's clunky, large, and another thing to keep track of. All of their other recorders had a dual battery design and this one should have too, even if that made it larger.

UPDATE: in late January Atomos updated their battery claims and put more information in their FAQ.  

Reliability - Sony A7S and Shogun: Danger Will Robinson!

If you record 4k from the A7S, Sony doesn't allow an internal HD recording at the same time (!). This is not of course Atomos' fault, but seeing as this unit was designed with intimate involvement from Sony, I am a bit surprised. I used to use Atomos recorders extensively with the Canon C100. With that camera, you always had an in-camera backup if you needed it due to Atomos failure, or a bad pulldown or something like that. This did in fact happen to me a couple of times.

With the Shogun and the Sony A7S, you are putting all your eggs in the quite risky Shogun basket between its poor power consumption and use of cheap off the shelf drives. This is really for a B camera only kind of situation with anything mission critical insofar as the A7S is concerned. Please keep that in consideration while using it as a recorder; you must have another primary camera (or backup to this camera) if you are to rely on the Shogun for paid work. If you shoot only on the Shogun with the A7S in particular, it better not be something you can't afford to lose. Thusly, this unit will only be used by us as a B or C camera device on paid shoots with the A7S, or as a pure (very nice) monitor on any of our cameras.

Note as well: the A7S also seems to plow through batteries when outputting 4K, even though it is not recording. Not sure why that is happening, but expect the same hour out of them even though you are not actually recording in camera.

With other cameras, the situation isn't so dire. I'm not sure about the Panasonic GH4 (I think it's the same as the A7S when you output 10bit: no internal recording - so same warning applies.) But with the Sony FS7 for example, you can indeed record 4K internally and also in the Shogun, both at 10bit 4:2:2. Seeing as the FS7 can not dual record 4K internally like it can in HD, the Shogun in this case actually gives you a nice backup with a far nicer screen to focus with to boot. You lose waveforms when you use 4K HDMI out on the FS7, but it's ok because the Shogun provides them and has enough controls currently to add contrast to the image on the monitor for focusing - while maintaining the waveform from the Slog input. (In the future, Atomos will add proper LUTs).

Heat & Fans & A Very Limited Warranty

Yes, this unit has a fan. No idea how long that fan will last, but it's covered under a 3-year warranty should you register online, along with the rest of the main unit.

The good news is the heat isn't too bad at all. You won't be worrying about burns.

The bad news is that 3 year warranty covers the Shogun unit... but not the screen. If you read the fine print (and only the fine print) in the included quick start sheet, you only get one year on the actual LCD screen whether you register or not. This is not great because the screen is covered with glass that is at risk of being destroyed along with the presumably bonded LCD underneath it, because the unit is slippery plastic. 

Sneaky, Atomos, sneaky indeed.

This Drive Was Tested? Are You Sure?- UPDATED

I installed an Atomos suggested and approved 1TB Transcend SSD... and the unit will not see it unless it is hot swapped once the unit is on. This meant to load the FW upgrade, I had to use another drive. 

It gets worse. The SSD kept disconnecting during recording, destroying footage in the process. At this point this combination of an approved SSD and the Shogun is entirely unreliable and should not be used at all. This is a tested drive... and recommended. I don't get it. I filed a trouble ticket, and others are reporting similar issues.

Atomos updated their compatibility matrix in late January 2015 to state: "Only works if inserted with unit already turned on. For firmware updates, hold power button for 10s and insert drive." The issue is the drive also experienced random disconnections only when used with the Shogun, so their information is still incorrect (at least given my experience - YMMV.)

I recently tested a Crucial M500 960GB SSD drive (not on Atomos' approved list, by the way). It works fine. By "fine" I mean that it is recognized on boot, and I filled the drive with at least 3 hours of HQ ProRes footage with heavy use... punching in/out, running it for 30+ min at a time, starting and stopping without issue. Unlike the approved Transcend drive, which would consistently not come on after booting the Shogun, and would frequently be disconnected mid-shooting. 

Note: I did extensively test the Transcend drive in two Macs... no issues; bulletproof even with hours of extensive use reading and writing as I worked. It's not the drive; it's the Shogun.

So... I'm not sure exactly what kind of testing they did on the drives in their list. They will record... maybe... but apparently issues may crop up later. You can't rely on their list, which is troublesome - and as SSDs tend to just fail outright when they do, you can't rely on any of this stuff. Shogun is not a bulletproof device at all when using an A7S and Atomos's testing of SSDs is, at this point, suspect.


A very useful tool - a promising product - but incomplete and cheaply constructed. When it works.

All in all, I wish this product was more fully baked and of a higher quality. The Odyssey 7Q+ is not that much more expensive for a far, far better built and considered tool. Yes the media is 3x as expensive, but it's a pro level tool that is rather bulletproof and fully featured out of the box. The Shogun feels at this juncture decidedly prosumer/lower end, even if it has a nicer screen, UI, and of course, price.

My first inclination was to outright return the unit. But that wouldn’t be fair would it? To be fair to the product and my own company I am going to give it a fair shot to see how well it works in the real world, doing actual work before I dismiss it - because the screen is indeed very nice (in no sunlight) and it does indeed record 4K ProRes and do a fine job at it.

Once I sorted out the SSD and battery issues (by using a different drive and much larger battery), it actually worked well in the field for me last night. I strapped it directly to the top of the A7S with the (outstanding) Manfrotto 426LCD cold shoe ball head. I put  just that on and used a camera strap on the camera to keep it all bearable. It was clunky but it worked, and the huge screen made using the camera far easier focus wise. I made sure to carefully protect the shogun whilst shooting.  

One huge plus for Atomos is that they finally committed to a firmware roadmap, and have mostly delivered. Promised functionality was finally delivered, and added upon. As of March, 2015, the Shogun has have added to it since release:

  • Playback
  • Selectable audio channels and phantom power
  • A robust 3D LUT system that stores LUTs in the Shogun and is easily selectable on/off
  • 4K to HD downconversion and cross-conversion
  • DNxHD and the new 4K DHxHR CODECS
  • A $79 sunhood option, which is quite good
  • New batteries that are 2X the size, offered free to all existing customers
  • Many, many bug fixes

Many of these functions were promised initially, but Atomos has committed to new capabilities too such as ProRes 709 from RAW from Sony cameras. That is a potentially huge addition for Sony FS700 and FS7 owners that many will want. And they are working on Cinema DNG as well from Canon and Sony cameras. Kudos to Atomos for finally bringing the Shogun up to par and even exceeding in some cases the Odyssey 7Q+'s capabilities - for free.

In the end? I'd say yes, run out and buy a Shogun if you own an A7S (for 4K), have a Sony FS7 or FS700 (for eventual 4K RAW to ProRes, gaining you more color resolution), or as an amazingly good, sharp, light LUT and waveform capable production monitor.

However, all these advantages in software and processing will not fix the very fragile build quality. If you get a Shogun, it'll be great - Just don't you dare drop it.... or rely on it for any mission critical work if you're using it with a camera that won't also give you an in-camera backup.  It's a nice to have... but if you want to record 4K for paid work, get a camera that does it inside the body.

UPDATE - NEW REVIEW AND ATOMOS CEO RESPONDS

Read this outstanding fair review on NewsShooter from our friend Matt Allard, ACS. It largely mirrors our own concerns (and praises).  He also has a response to many of the issues noted here from the CEO of the company, Jeremy Yeoung:

  • For example: a significant large, yellow sun hood is coming in February for $75 or so
  • They will give a bigger battery in the box and add a warning when you're down to 5 or 10 minutes
  • They commit to regular firmware updates as much as once a month
  • They will address peaking and XLR controls in software, and
  • They are giving their designs to case or screen protection manufacturers. 

Jeremy also said going plastic was a design choice to reduce weight (but the internal chassis is quite robust), and that they had no choice but to put connectors on the side as they ran out of room on the back.   Jeremy also admitted the screen will shatter if dropped and they have replacement glass ready at an affordable price. (Repeating the mantra in our article and Matt's: don't drop it.) 

There is more in this updated FAQ. Atomos is definitely listening to their customers, and this is a very good thing. This FAQ is also constantly updated.

There were also many additions to the firmware noted above.

You may also watch this video about the playback firmware, batteries, and what's yet to come here: https://vimeo.com/118091183

Listen to the Podcast!

Ben Consoli from the Go Creative Show (a great show, the successor to the NeedCreative Podcast) - had me on to talk about the Shogun. It's towards the end around 50 minutes. Note that the blue frame issue has been fixed, according to Atomos, and playback and 3D LUTS have all since added.


I will update this post, as I do, when I shoot more video and with revised thoughts as the device is improved. Cheers.