Review of the 4k Atomos Assassin

4k is here to stay

Technology is always improving and it wasn’t long ago the the leap to HD from SD was made.  While HD may be here for a few years yet, inevitably  more content will move into larger resolutions. The newest standard to become more adapted is 4K. As such more cameras and televisions are supporting 4k content creation and display. That where the Atomos Assassin comes in.

Atomos not long ago created the Atomos shogun. The shogun is a phenomenal 4k recorder that had a lot of great features. However some of those features, while extremely useful (like XLR and SDI!) it was more at studio settings where it was imperative to have those features.  Atomos removed some of those extra features and created a pared down version of the original shogun aimed squarely at people who may need 4k recording but may not have the need of the extra frills. Thats where we get the Atomos Assassin.

What exactly is it?

  1. It’s a 4k recorder- which means if your camera can output in 4k it can record a 4k signal via HDMI in Prores or DNxHR.
  2. It’s a great preview monitor- I always found it frustrating to have such small screens on most cameras (except maybe the Black Magic Ursa!) to be able to tell whats in focus, whats exposed correctly. Using this large screen really helps.
  3. It’s a playback deck- Need to play something on a loop but dont want to attach a laptop? Playback via HDMI out.

Why do I need it?

I recently was in the market for a new camera. I shoot a lot of events with ambient or low light conditions. I had looked at several options. I originally wanted a Panasonic gh4, which can do 4k internally, but had a small sensor and while it was pretty good in low light, wasn’t the best.  I had also looked at the Black Magic Ursa- and while it was beautiful it was extremely light hungry. It also recorded in 4k in a variety of formats, but was also very heavy through use.

I ended up with the Sony a7s camera. Known for its amazing low light capabilities, full frame sensor it was everything I wanted in a camera except it couldnt record 4k internally.  It CAN output 4k through the micro HDMI port on the camera.

So combining the Sony a7s camera with the Atomos Assassin lets me record in 4k, with a less compressed codec, and I can shoot in very low light situations.  

What’s in the box?

To be honest- not much!

The box itself is really like a wrapper for the carrying case.

The carrying case is a soft shelled zippered case.  Inside we have two compartments. On one side, theres the Assassin, on the other side, theres a velcro flap holing behind it a quick instruction guide, a hard drive caddy, an ac adapter, and various attachments to make it work in a variety of countries. Thats it.

By not including a battery, you are forced to have it plugged in to use it at all. Thats one thing i really wished they had been able to include in this package. it has “Almost” everything you need to get up and running right away.  The good news is it will use Sony NP series batteries.

Additionally you can use an Atomos dummy battery with a different power option. I’ll have another post talking about my rig build in the very near future.

What else do I need?

Other than power you will need a compatible SSD.  This is actually one of the things that sold me on the Assassin over the odyssey, or picking up a Black Magic Ursa. With the Ursa, I need cfast 2.0 cards, which are very expensive still at the time of this writing. With the odyssey, i need proprietary drives, and with the assassin, I can pick up a decent sandisk ssd pretty inexpensively.

As mentioned the assassin comes with ONE ssd caddy that locks it into the device. You will need additional caddies to use more ssds.

The last thing you will need is a SATA connector.  Atomos makes one that has some mixed reviews, and i was able to pick up this USB3.0 to SATA pretty inexpensively.

 

My favorite features:

Theres a LOT of features of the Assassin, and if you’re looking for all of them in print form you should check out the atomos website for it:

http://www.atomos.com/ninja-assassin/

But my favorite features have got to be:

  1. The screen. Everyone is right- the screen is gorgeous., its light, its responsive, its intuitive. doesnt get too hot.
  2. Focus assist. Something I wish every camera had. I know it was one of my favorite features of the Black Magic Ursa. Makes getting the shot a lot easier.
  3. Waveforms/vectorscope. Much like the focus assist this is something I’ve found to be a great asset in getting the right look.
  4. LUTs. Being able to preview different luts right on the device is a great extra tool.

Is it worth it?

Its a great preview monitor that just happens to record in 4k. can be used as a playback device, you can tag your footage and export XML with it, and only a few hundred more than a traditional preview monitor.  For me and for anyone with a 4k capable device, I would highly recommend it.

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