February 16, 2011

Ninja ships – disappoints DSLR users

The Atomos Ninja is finally about to ship. It is currently with distributors prior to loading up the latest firmware, and should be available next week.

It looks good, seems to work well, and is well built. However, Atomos will have to disappoint Canon HD DSLR users who were hoping to be able to record perfect uncompressed video via their HDMI ports. The video should still be uncompressed (so long as you don't also record in camera at the same time on some models), but it won't be perfect, as it seems that Canon has put at white square or a red dot on a corner of the output, which will be noticeable if you try to use it as full HD.

Atomos has asked Canon about this, but it seems that the spoiler may be deliberate to maintain the distinction within Canon between the photographic and video divisions.

Atomos hadn't detected it when they tested a Canon 7D initially as they shot some footage in a studio with a white background. It was only during beta testing that users spotted it, and further testing revealed the white square on the 7D and the red spot on other models.

However, users of the Nikon D7000 will be glad to learn that its HDMI output appears to be pristine (as do the Sony Alpha models and Panasonic's GH2). The Ninja also works perfectly with any video cameras they've tested it with, such as the Panasonic AF101 and Sony's F3. We also plugged it in to our Canon XF305 and it looked good. We hope to get a unit for review in the next week or so (and will try it with our 7D as well as other cameras). We have also posted a new video with Atomos CEO, Jeromy Young, going through the operating system, all the controls, and what you get for your money (everything in the case pictured below, including the case).

In answer to a question steve asked on the Ninja ProRes workflow + recording post, Young promised that 30p (and 25p) recording will come in the next firmware upgrade, scheduled for March 1. The frame rates aren't part of the HDMI spec, so needed a little more work (they are output as double frames at 60 or 50fps, and the Ninja will then record just one of each pair).

[UPDATE: See Atomos Ninja bug slips ship date]
[FURTHER UPDATE: See our comprehensive Atomos Ninja Review]

Related posts: Atomos Ninja demonstration videoNinja ProRes workflow + recordingEnter the Ninja – ProRes recorder and Atomos Ninja Review.

By David Fox


  1. HDMI doesn't transmit timecode, so the Ninja adds its own timecode. However, various organisations are discussing adding timecode to the HDMI standard, so if that happens it is possible that will be added later this year.

  2. Here's hoping Canon feels market share pressure from other HD DSLR makers. If their true motive is to protect their video division, it seems unlikely that they will remove the "white square / red dot" problem from the existing HDMI output and they will certainly have no incentive to add support for an updated HDMI spec that includes timecode.

    Perhaps we need an email campaign to MAKE CANON AWARE OF OUR FRUSTRATION.

  3. @Big, well said. It is truly annoying when you look at what you could get on the Ninja screen, and there is a white box or recording symbol ruining the picture. But it's not just Canon, there are many cameras that don't have a clean HDMI feed.

  4. Hi,

    You say:
    "However, users of the Nikon D7000 will be glad to learn that its HDMI output appears to be pristine (as do the Sony Alpha models(...)"

    Can you tell me which Alpha models you tested? It seems my A580 outputs a reduced resolution, letterboxed image with overlaid duration over HDMI during video recording... Thanks

  5. Andre,

    That is what I was told at the time... so I don't know which Alpha models they tested it with - the only DSLR we've tried it with is the 7D, which either has the white box or the red blob....

  6. hello, I have a Nikon D7000 and I can't make it work with the Ninja. The official response from Nikon Customer Service is that no Nikon DSLR outputs video through HDMI to be recorded on hard drives (i have one e-mail from official nikon tech support that says this). Can someone confirm this?

    Thank you.