Atomos Shogun First Impressions

Atomos Shogun First Impressions

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a few tips for folks shooting with the Atomos Shogun external monitor/recorder. I’ve had some time to put my unit through a few shoots and have some first impressions to share.

Look and Feel

Some folks have commented on the fact that the Shogun feels a bit cheap in terms of build quality, especially compared to the other big 4K recorder, the Odyssey 7Q. While it’s true that the Shogun definitely has a somewhat plasticky feel to it, I actually appreciated the weight savings.

This thing is going to live on top of my Sony A7s, attached either with a shoe-mount ballhead or a magic arm. Add to that the fact that I use a pretty heavy Sony battery with my kit and the weight savings from going with a plastic body are even more appreciated. The plastic doesn’t bother me at all; the unit still feels solid enough for daily use, though I’m not about to subject it to a drop test.

My extra-large Sony battery for the Shogun

My extra-large Sony battery for the Shogun

Moreover, I love the hard Pelican case that Atomos ship with this thing. It’s got cutouts for everything that comes with the Shogun, along with extra cutouts for more batteries.

The Pelican case the Atomos comes in is really nice.

The Pelican case the Atomos comes in is really nice.

Features

I have to say, I’m impressed with the featureset. The fact that it shoots 4K is enough of a party trick, but Atomos have packed it full of a lot of other features. From peaking and zebras to false color and vectorscopes, the Shogun is a full-featured video monitor that I’ve now come to rely on even when I don’t shoot 4K. I love having the ProRes codec (even if it is only 8-bit out of the Sony A7s) and the fact that it has XLR inputs via the included Lemo cable is a nice plus.

The display is a full HD IPS touchscreen panel that’s bright and holds up reasonably well in indirect sunlight. If you’ve got the sun to your back or have other adverse lighting conditions, you’re going to need to shade it, but it did surprisingly well in some of my outdoor tests.

The large display panel holds up surprisingly well, even in bright outdoor conditions.

The large display panel holds up surprisingly well, even in bright outdoor conditions.

One thing I will add is that the touchscreen requires a firm press, so you’re not going to want to be trying to toggle things while recording.

Performance

Most of what I found regarding the Shogun’s performance tracks with what I’ve read online. 4K is noisier than 1080p, APS-C mode on the A7s increases that quite a bit, and Sony’s wide dynamic range SLOG-2 mode doesn’t render faithfully over HDMI. This is apparently an issue with how video editing programs output the luma range, and is, fortunately, fixable in post.

Though it's hard to see well, APS-C mode does give up more noise when shooting 4K on the Shogun.

Though it’s hard to see well, APS-C mode does give up more noise when shooting 4K on the Shogun.

Other than those elements, there’s not a lot to talk about regarding performance. It’s a solid unit, hasn’t failed in several hours of recording, and is pretty easy to use.

One note about recording audio: I found that if you have a mic like the Rode Videomic Pro mounted on your rig and plugged into the A7s, there is a delay when that audio/video signal is output via HDMI. It’s not anything that can’t be fixed in post, though having a clapboard or some other loud audio-visual cue to help line up your sound after the shoot is a good idea.

Final (First) Thoughts

If you’re shooting in a situation where you will need an external monitor anyway, and the display size of the Shogun works for you, there’s no reason not to rent it. Apart from the fact that it can record 4K out of the Sony A7s, it also gives you a much better (my opinion) codec, adds 4:2:2 capability as opposed to the internal 4:2:0 of the A7s, and if you’re on a GH4, gives you the ability to capture 10-bit 4:2:2 out of the HDMI port. More importantly, it’s a killer external monitor that’s fantastic for focus and exposure accuracy.

What about you? Have you used the Shogun? What are your thoughts on it? Hit us up in the comments with your feedback and any questions you might have.

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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