Panasonic made a sonic boom with the release of the GH4, the $1700 micro four-thirds camera capable of recording 4K video onto cheap SD cards. Of course, we're talking about a heavily-compressed 8-bit stream. To get the option of 10-bit 4:2:2 over SDI, you need to plop down $2000 for the optional YAGH interface unit.
Sony followed suit with the release of the A7s, an astonishing camera that leverages a lower (12.2) megapixel sensor for impressive low-light capabilities and a beefy 14-stop dynamic range. The full-sensor readout also effectively eliminates the problem of moire and aliasing, as this system doesn't employ line-skipping. Other than the lack of a global shutter, this is the type of camera that makes low budget indie shooters and producers drool, as it gives more freedom in typically difficult shooting situations, and is potentially a budget-saver in terms of lighting rental and crew. There is, of course, a catch: the Sony A7s does not record 4K natively. You're topped at 1080, unless you connect the camera via HDMI to an external 4K HDMI recorder. Worse still, at the time of the announcement, product release, and at present, there are no portable HDMI recorders capable of capturing 4K video.
Enter the Shogun
As Sony teased the A7s at NAB 2014, Atomos also announced a forthcoming product, the Shogun, which was definitely designed with the A7s in mind. The $1999 product currently touts itself as the only 4K HDMI recorder that can take the full sensor read-out of the Sony A7s (well, it will be when it hits the market, tentatively scheduled for sometime in Q4 2014). For those worrying that production of the Atomos Shogun will be hampered with delays, take heart: Atomos has begun accepting pre-orders. Some retailers have already started their own pre-orders of the product, but this is the first communication from Atomos that the pre-order stage has officially commenced. While this doesn't represent a guarantee that Atomos will hit its timetable, the fact that there seems to be movement in the process is at least encouraging. Plus, Atomos is now an established maker of recorders and recorder-displays, so there's less chance of an indefinite waiting period, as is the case with some companies embarking on entirely new product categories.
As a sweetener, because we all like sweeteners, anyone who puts down a pre-order deposit for the Shogun will receive a free Atomos Spyder, which retails for $149. It's the "world's first portable calibration unit," according to the maker, and likely a great companion to the Shogun.
Great for GH4 users, too
Panasonic GH4 owners already enjoy 4K capture right out of the box. But for 4K, 10-bit 4:2:2 video, you need to go micro HDMI out. At launch, your only option was the optional interface unit from Panasonic, which costs more than the camera. A 4K HDMI recorder would work as well, bypassing the need for the the dubiously-priced accessory. If only a 4K HDMI recorder existed...
That was a roundabout way of saying that the release of the Atomos Shogun is welcome news for all you Panasonic GH4 users out there. The Shogun even has a Lemo breakout cable with balanced XLR audio ports that provide phantom power, which partly nullifies the audio I/O advantage of the Panasonic's own interface unit. And don't forget about the 7" HD display as well. Comparing the two, it's hard to pick the YAGH over the Shogun, if both are available.
Whether you own a Sony A7s, a Panasonic GH4, or you're excited for your next rental, the Atomos Shogun should be enormously useful in getting the best out of your choice of camera...if it'll just hurry up and get here.