First hands-on preview: AJA CION

Written by Peter Haas

AJACION First impressions

The eagerly awaited CION camera from AJA is a masterpiece of ergononic design, according to Peter Haas

I've been closely following the development of AJA's CION cinema camera with an excited, but measured anticipation.  AJA isn't the first post-production-hardware company to make the pilgrimage into manufacturing a camera, but their offering is a considerable one.  As RedShark's North American Editor Patrick Jong Taylor has pointed out in the past, the announcement of CION sent waves in the industry: a feature-rich cinema camera, that didn't require extensive rigging or hacking.    

Out of the box, the CION includes very basic accessories mostly aimed towards supporting third-party add-ons and expanding the basic ergonomics: a top handle and mount, LANC control, basic power supply, and battery plate adapter.  

The first thing you notice about the CION is the form-factor.  Picking up the camera, you immediately notice that the CION has a substantial presence.  The material is solid throughout the build, with a sturdy PL mount.  The weight feels appropriate for a camera this size, and anyone with experience operating cameras of a similar form factor will quickly recognize that it is exceptionally well balanced.  Even after tossing on a sizable lens, battery, EVF, and mag stock, the camera sat comfortably on my shoulder.  A small stroll around the office made me feel confident that I could easy handle the camera for a typical work day.

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CION Screen Shot

The layout of the controls is very natural and intuitive.  On the operator side of the camera there are wonderfully streamlined controls for record, playback, power, important camera settings, and a click wheel for menus.  After a quick glance I was able to master the scroll-click system and master the menu system.  The preview LCD screen seems sharp and well positioned, this and the variety of functions will be covered in a more comprehensive review.

The point of access for the video tap-outputs and the audio inputs are exactly where they should be to allow easy access by camera assistants and the sound department.  The sheer volume of connections on the assistant side of this camera is astounding to see on a camera of this size and price point.  

On the top front of the camera, a built in cheese plate allows for the attachment of either the provided top handle / LANC or other third-party attachments.  A versatility enhancing feature like this is not something you frequently see from cameras inside this price range.  By incorporating a number of industry standards, including the implementation of nonproprietary ProRes recording standards and a vast array of outputs, implies that CION is not interested in making a closed-eco system camera; instead AJA aims to open the CION up to extensive customization.   

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CION Screen Shot

This being said, the CION's recording media is in fact one of the few proprietary elements of the camera.  The AJA SSD-mags are incredibly sturdy and straight forward.  On the connection side is what appears to be a SATA interface, with a single LED indicator light on the other.  The mag is around the same size of a deck of cards, but slightly thinner, and shaped in such a way that prevents it from being loaded into the camera or computer reader incorrectly.

AJA's CION is a seriously unique approach to the ergonomics of cinema cameras.  This camera is designed in the vein of full size cinema cameras, but the size, shape, and the fact that the CION has a built in shoulder pad (at least in the mind of this writer) loudly defines the focus of the camera's physical design on the central operator.   In a world of DSLRs and “Box Cameras” AJA has taken a bold design move that will certainly help the CION stand out in the market.  

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CION Screen Shot

This, of course, is all strictly from an ergonomic point of view.  After seeing some of the initial images coming off the camera I quickly became eager to go out and shoot more!

Watch out for RedShark New's full, in depth review of AJA's CION where we will take a deeper look at the camera's functionality and the images it produces.

The CION is priced at around $8995

Tags: Production

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