There are more than 16 external video recorders in the market, I assure you. I stopped at 16 for the sake of my sanity.
This article is a simple side-by-side comparison of some of the major external recorders in the market today. The goal is to provide you a birds-eye view that will make your purchasing decision a whole lot easier.
The external recorders I’ve compared are:
- Atomos Samurai
- Atomos Samurai Blade
- Atomos Ninja 2
- Atomos Ronin
- Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q
- Convergent Design Odyssey 7
- Convergent Design Gemini 4:4:4
- Blackmagic Design Hyperdeck Shuttle 2
- Codex Digital OnBoard S
- Codex Digital OnBoard S Plus
- Sound Devices PIX 220i
- Sound Devices PIX 240i
- Sound Devices PIX 260i
- Aja Ki Pro Mini
- Aja Ki Pro Quad
- Sony AXS-R5
Comparison of 16 External Video Recorders
I’ve compared the recorders based on:
- Highest resolution format
- Best frame rate format
- Bit depth and chroma sub-sampling
- Monitor specs
- Size and Weight
- Audio specs
Without further ado, here’s the comparison chart (Click to enlarge):
Information, specifications and prices may be inaccurate. You shouldn’t use these values to make your decisions. Refer to the manufacturers’ documents for accurate and up-to-date values.
Sometimes, certain features are only available with an additional purchase or plug-in. Don’t assume these features are available with the default purchase. Some features might still be in the ‘we-promise-it’s-coming’ stage.
Right, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. If you’ve read the Chapter on External Recorders in the Comprehensive Guide to Rigging Any Camera, you’ll know I don’t recommend external recorders for 1080p 4:2:2 content. I have never seen an advantage that warrants the extra cost or discomfort, and I have never seen a comprehensive and unbiased (heck, even a biased one) comparison from any manufacturer. Tells you something, doesn’t it?
Therefore, without wasting your time, I’ll tell you I don’t recommend any external recorder that can shoot 1080p 4:2:2, unless you are using it as an external monitor, audio recorder or loop-through device, etc.
If you do want an external recorder, my advice to you is, get one with 4K support, Genlock, etc.
Which is the best External Recorder?
If you blindly look at the ‘best’ in each column, without prejudice, you’ll see that one external recorder stands out by miles. It is not cheap, of course, but its price is reasonable when compared to the rest.
That recorder is the Convergent Design Odyssey7Q. The Gemini 4:4:4 was my favorite recorder, not any more.
You may make your own decisions, of course. After all, those who need external recorders have many choices to make, and it is impossible to say which is best in absolute terms. E.g., the Sony AXS-R5 16-bit RAW recorder is obviously an excellent recorder when paired with the Sony F5 or F55 and it would be foolish to discount it, even if it’s expensive.
Even the small Hyperdeck Shuttle 2 has its uses – though I have no idea what they are.
Why did I pick the Odyssey7Q? Here are some good theoretical reasons:
- 4K up to 60p and 2K up to 240p.
- 12-bit 4:4:4, with four streams of simultaneous video.
- Does DNxHD, Uncompressed and RAW.
- Canon and Arriraw (No Sony RAW support, but up to 2K 240 fps on the FS700 is possible).
- Biggest monitor in its class, with built-in waveform and vectorscope, etc.
- Number of connectivity options is mind-boggling.
- Wireless control, with bluetooth support.
- Lightweight, though size is bigger to accommodate the big OLED touch screen.
- Not-so-bad price when compared to its competitors, though you have to pay extra to get RAW recording. On the flip side, you can choose one-day rental licenses, which is a great option.
Here’s a video overview of the Odyssey7Q:
Now, this recorder isn’t out for comprehensive testing yet, so let’s not make any rash conclusions. My pick is based on theoretical numbers only.
What do you think? Which is your favorite external recorder and why?