Review rating: ***
List of sponsored/free gear: None. Review sample provided by Atomos, and I purchased it.
Did I get paid for this review? No

This is the complete review of the Atomos Shogun specifically for use with the Sony A7s. This review is correct, as far as I know, as of version v6.2.

Goals

Before reading and watching the review, it is important to first understand the goals of the review. Here are the important questions I wanted answered:

  • Is the Atomos Shogun worth the $1,995 investment?
  • How good is the monitor really? Can we call it professional-grade?
  • Is there an advantage in recording to Prores or DNxHD/HR?
  • What if Sony releases the A7s Mark II with internal 4K recording, or if you currently own the Panasonic GH4? Is the Shogun still a worthwhile investment?
  • Can you replace the Atomos Shogun with an external monitor, recorder and audio recorder and still get all the same benefits?

Let’s get started.

Important: Prices, specifications and my observations and analysis can be totally wrong or incorrect. Please refer to the manufacturer’s website for correct information. For important and new FAQs relating to firmware updates, please refer to Atomos. You are responsible for your own actions. Results seen here might only apply to me personally and may not reflect your experiences.

Atomos Shogun Review

First, watch my Atomos Shogun review:

Notes:

  • I’ve updated to firmware version v6.2, which is a huge improvement overall
  • UPDATE: The SSD Dock issue was a false alarm, and my comments should be disregarded. The problem was an underpowered hub from my iMac. Since this review I have purchased a USB dock and a Sandisk Extreme Pro, all of which work fine now. However, if you’re getting lo transfer speeds like I still do when I connect it directly, you can first try to power the device using both its ports. If that doesn’t work, then purchase a USB 3.0 hub and it’ll be fine.
  • You can view “thumbnails” during playback, but they are in the background. Still, better than nothing!
  • Do not take my observation on audio levels seriously, check with pros.
  • With v6.2, the touch response is better with my index finger, but nowhere near as good as mobile phones.
  • For a comparison with the Odyssey 7Q+, click here. For Sony A7s and GH4 users, the Shogun offers the best value for money.
  • All footage for Goa Susegad 2015 was shot in Prores HQ, UHD, 23.976p, S-Log2/S-Gamut using the wolfcrow system. During the night beach scenes, it was impossible to follow the system because the light levels were too low. I couldn’t even get a decent exposure at f/1.4 at ISO 400,000! You can see the underexposed color noise and posterization, especially in the last shot. It isn’t there in the actual footage, but will raise its head on grading if it’s an incorrectly exposed image. For daylight scenes, I mostly had a 3.0 ND on. It was a run-and-gun setup, with a cheap tripod used for most shots.

Speaking of the Goa video, here’s the graded final video in full 4K/UHD:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1y6gb-iRdENotes:

  • ‘Susegad’ is an integral part of Goan culture, and is a word you can’t miss if you’ve ever been there. It signifies a contented life. I’ve tried to capture a little bit of that in my first visit there.
  • Edited in Premiere Pro, and graded in Speedgrade. The tracker in Speedgrade sucks. Can you spot which clip I’ve used it in?

Important information about full swing and super white levels for post production

There have been many complaints that the S-Log2 out of the A7s via HDMI is different than what is recorded internally in XAVC S. For many weeks I struggled with this too, but here are the takeaways:

  • There is no problem with the HDMI output*.
  • The Atomos Shogun does not manipulate the image in any way.

*Unfortunately, the A7s does not allow you change black levels for HDMI out, not that it’s important anyway. The default S-Gamut/S-Log setting is best.So, where is the problem then? To understand it, you must first understand the difference between studio swing, full swing and super whites, and how Adobe Premiere Pro handles these levels. This “problem” is only an issue when shooting S-Log2, and is not there with any Cine or Rec. 709 profile.

My test involved recording footage in XAVC S internally, Prores HQ (both 1080p and 4K), and DNxHD and DNxHR (this last one is only supported by Avid Media Composer). I exposed correctly using the wolfcrow system, and then overexposed the scene by 2 stops and underexposed by 3 stops. Here are the results (I’ll try to make things as simple as possible!):First, here’s the waveform of the HDMI signal as shown on the Shogun:

Now, here’s the waveform of the recorded Prores HQ file when played back on the Shogun:
So, you can see that the Shogun does not change the signal while writing it to file. This is true of DNxHD as well, so I’m not showing it separately (though I’ve tested it). Also, everything is true of 4K as well.Now, here’s how the waveform looks like in Premiere Pro:
Premiere Pro recognizes Prores HQ correctly. When you publish via Premiere Pro to Speedgrade, something weird happens:
Speedgrade assumes the incoming signal (Prores HQ) is between 0-100 IRE and ‘expands’ it accordingly, but the image does not change (look on the right)!. If you bring down the levels using the Offset tool, you’ll see the information is preserved.But what about XAVC S? The “problem” is that XAVC S “does not match” with Prores HQ. This is what XAVC S looks like in Premiere Pro:
XAVC S is read as full swing, and the information is all there. But because the image is squeezed it looks flatter.And this is what DNxHD looks like:
Premiere Pro squeezes DNxHD just like it does with XAVC S, even though DNxHD looks fine on the Shogun:
Hold on for a little longer! How do XAVC S and DNxHD look in Speedgrade? Here’s how (first XAVC, then DNxHD):
Wow. Just to confirm if I’m still sane, I also tried using Color Finesse in After Effects, and here’s how they look (XAVC S, Prores HQ, DNxHD):
Same thing with one fundamental difference. In Color Finesse, the highlights in Prores HQ cannot be recovered.What the hell is happening?! Here’s the chart of sanity:^Speedgrade when used along with Premiere Pro via Direct Link will follow its lead. Speedgrade doesn’t support XAVC S independently.When you shoot in Prores HQ, Premiere Pro interprets the image correctly but while going to Speedgrade or Color Finesse it can’t hold its own interpretation. Even if you import separately into After Effects, the same problem applies. This clearly shows the problem is with Adobe not being able to interpret levels correctly. There is no setting in either Speedgrade or Color Finesse that I know of that can help reinterpret levels correctly (The Limiting tool doesn’t work in this instance).Luckily, it doesn’t matter. The problem (only a deal breaker with Color Finesse) becomes pronounced when clipping occurs. Imagine a scene that is borderline being overexposed. When the levels move up and down (by at least two stops!!) in Color Finesse, this is blown out, and any amount of reducing gain or recovery won’t bring it back. The image is really blown out.This is definitely not just an Adobe thing. To verify, I tried DaVinci Resolve. First, you must make sure you have Video monitoring set to Data Levels:
Here are the waveforms (Resolve has its own way of showing waveforms, XAVC S, Prores HQ and DNxHD):

Resolve does something similar. The information is preserved and if you bring down the gain you will see it’s all there. However, XAVC S is natively squeezed here as well. Here’s a chart on how Resolve works:So, what’s the takeaway?

  • If you’re working with Premiere Pro and grading with Premiere Pro or Speedgrade, you can continue to work normally with all codecs.
  • If you’re working with Premiere Pro and grading in Color Finesse, avoid Prores HQ. There’s no way to change black levels via HDMI, so you can’t see what you’re doing while shooting. You could try to underexpose by reducing exposure to prevent highlight clipping, but that introduces noise and negates the wolfcrow system.
  • If you’re working with Resolve, no problem.

If you’re on a PC, DNxHD is the better codec to use. If you’re on a Mac, both DNxHD and Prores are fine, though I’d always choose Prores for its compatibility and industry acceptance. I’d avoid DNxHR until it becomes mainstream.I hope others will test this on FCP-X and Media Composer and see how it fares.Review of 3D LUTs and DNxHD (v6.2)DNxHDDNxHR is only compatible with Avid Media Composer, so is irrelevant to most of Atomos’ users. I’ve tested both 220x (10-bit 220 Mbps) vs Prores HQ (10-bit) and they look similar. I’d have no hesitation in using either.3D LUTsThe ability to load 3D LUTs is a welcome relief. The LUT must be in the *.cube format. I tested loading LUTs created in both Resolve and Speedgrade (16, 32 and 64 cube LUTs). Just copy the LUT to the SSD and insert it on the Shogun. It doesn’t fill the LUT slots automatically, you have to click the folder icon under ‘Select LUT’:

Then it shows you the compatible LUTs stored on the SSD:

Select the LUT and it gets inserted in the slot. There are 8 slots available. A 64 cube LUT takes about a minute to load, the others just a few seconds:

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a LUT made in Resolve to work. I’m not sure what the problem is, but maybe somebody else can chime in. All Speedgrade LUTs work great!One temporary problem?With firmware v6.2, there’s a new problem. When you go to the Monitor Assist menu, the focus zoom option vanishes:

However, if you touch the area with your index finger, it appears one by one. I’m sure this will be fixed soon.Comparison of cheap monitorsRight, I said I’d compare cheap monitors in the video and here’s the comparison table:

Premiere Pro Speedgrade^ Color Finesse (Including Direct Import) DaVinci Resolve
XAVC S Squeezes to 0-100 IRE Squeezes to 0-100 IRE Maintains original levels Squeezes to 0-100 IRE
Prores HQ Maintains Levels Expands data, but maintains levels. Expands data, but blows out! Maintains Levels
DNxHD Squeezes to 0-100 IRE Squeezes to 0-100 IRE Maintains original levels Maintains Levels

And here’s a quick comparison of recorders:

Price $370 $999 $1,499
Features Delvcam DELV-WFORM-7 ikan D7W-C SmallHD DP7-Pro
Monitor 1920×1080 (Shogun) 1280×800 1280×800 1280×800
Waveform Yes Yes Yes
Vectorscope Yes Yes Yes
False Color Yes Yes Yes
Zebra No Yes Yes
Screen Guides Yes Yes Yes
Focus Assist Yes Yes Yes
Blue Only No No Yes
400 nits Yes Yes Yes
1:1 Mapping Yes Yes Yes
2:1 Zoom No No No
100% Rec. 709 Maybe Maybe Yes
Calibration No No (Internal presets) Unknown
Gorilla Glass Screen No No Yes, Very tough
Color 3D LUTs No No Yes
Audio Audio in XLR RCA No Yes
Headphone jack Yes Yes Yes
SDI 12G-SDI No Yes Yes
SDI Loopthrough No Yes Yes
Genlock Genlock No No No
HDMI HDMI Loopthrough Yes Yes Yes
Price $295 $695 $1,295
Recording Prores/DNxHD Atomos Ninja Star Atomos Ninja2 Odyssey7
1080p60 Up to 30p Up to 30p Up to 30p
4Kp30 No No No
FCPXML No No No
Accessories HPRC Case Not as sturdy No No
SSD to USB 3.0 connector No No No
P-tap Adapter No No No
XLR Breakout Cable No No Yes
DC Adapter Yes Yes Yes

It’s pretty obvious you can’t replace the Shogun with anything, unless it’s way more expensive.

Why I don’t trust the firmware update schedule from AtomosAs I stated clearly in the video, I don’t trust Atomos’ firmware schedule anymore. Reasons:

  • v6.12 came and was taken down soon after. They rolled back quietly to v6.11, with no news to customers.
  • Too many promises of release dates, especially from top management, but no news when delays happen. Why announce it publicly to your user base?
  • Would the firmware updates have come at the time they did without competition from Convergent Design? Right now, both companies are producing firmware updates like breeding rabbits, but I can’t help but feel like a sucker all the same. Do you share the same feeling?

Being an engineer and former marketer myself I know how hard it is to produce and market a worldwide product. Congratulations to the guys at Atomos for bringing out such a wonderful product. In the last year Atomos has tied up with Nikon (filmmakers kit), Datacolor and Sony (to launch the Shogun at the same time as the A7s). This by itself is a great feat.

10,000+ units is also potentially 10,000 angry users who will move to a competitor next year.

Bottom line

As I said in the video, this review is about the Atomos Shogun. It’s a winner. There is no alternative, except at a much higher price point, all things considered.

Even though it costs $1,995, it still offers tremendous value, any way you slice it, and the engineering is good enough for professional level shooting. This is why own it.

Well, that’s the end of the Atomos Shogun review. I hope you have found it beneficial for the kind of productions you’re doing.

If you need any clarifications, let me know in the comments section below.

6 replies on “Atomos Shogun Review”

  1. Great review. I was gonna point my guns to Atomos for not being able to read Slog2 properly but it’s something else. Thank you for going into such detail.

  2. Hey Wolfcrow, amazing review! However, the A7SII with internal 4K has since come out. Even though its limited to 8bit 4:2:0, most people would argue that the difference with the Shogun’s 10bit 4:2:2 is negligible… since 98% of what is shot with these cameras will wind up on Youtube or Vimeo or some other compressed distribution channel. Is it really worth paying a heavy premium for that?

    On the other hand, if you look at just the field monitor aspect, nobody is offering a full HD display + 3D luts + scopes, etc. for a better price than the recent Atomos Assassin, which is quite surprising. A SmallHD DP7 with comparable specs is selling for 200$ more than the Assassin. So at the end of the day, why would you pay more when you can get an amazing field 1920×1080 field monitor + 4K 10bit 4:2:2, DNxHD, continuous recording, etc. 
    Maybe the SmallHD D7 or 7 series is a far superior field monitor… I don’t know, but I would like to see a serious comparison vs the Assassin or Shogun. SmallHS should probably reconsider their pricing with Atomos being so agressive.

    Anyhow, love you reviews, very thorough and informative. Keep up the good work!

    Claude

  3. janFS700 You only need RAID on the Odyssey to do above 120 fps raw.  I have the FS7 and though CDNG is not available yet on the Shogun (I own both) it will of course be able to run on one SSD. Will it do above 120 fps raw?  No.

  4. janFS700 Hi Jan,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, i understand how frustrating it must be. The more a company sells, the less important each customer gets. Apple is the only company who somehow manages to buck this trend.

    I would stay away from FS-RAW for now. Take a look at the new Canon C300 Mark II, it might interest you a lot. It is expensive, but if you can find some way to finance it and make money off of it, it will reward you. The only two companies who are totally honest about what their cameras can do are Arri and Vision Research.

    The difference between 10-bit 4:2:2 and 12-bit 4:4:4 is impossible to tell visually. You don’t need it. Even high-end commercials shoot 422 http://www.adorama.com/ATOMNJS001.html on the Alexa unless there’s VFX involved.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Dear wolfcrow,

    Nice review! I totaly agree on your oppinion on modern selling strategys.I´m one of the victims who still suffer from the big sony FS700 4K RAW lie.
    As a young german cameraman I bought my FS700 two years ago with all my hard earned money to produce independent. Back than the 4K upgrade was not available yet and information on the upgrade were realy rare. Sony and “my” local reseller only toled me that fs700 will be able to do 4K with a SMALL upgrade, wich i believed back than, because i was young, naiv and the reseller “of my trust” told me this is THE future proof camera. Just when sony announced the v3 and raw settup i started to understand that i was ripped off. It didnt just cost a few bugs to get 4K, I would have to purchase a RAW setup for more than 10k, which a young cameraman cannot simply pull out of his head.
    Though I realy liked the Fs700 for its 240fps burst and with a metabones speedbooster it was the only camcorder in this pricerange able to cover my fullframe Canon lenses. So I decided to keep it and wait for some alternative RAW recorder. I also started learning more about how RAW works, transmits, etc. But unfortunately GOOD information on this subject was (and is) realy rare on the internet. There were only fanboys like phil bloom who only read of some technical sheets, played around but didnt realy make me understand FS700 RAW.
    After maybe a year I had collected anough info to start understanding these products (also your article on RAW over 3G /6G helped me a lot) and the odyssey 7Q came out. But still 6K-8K (with media) were a lot for my budget. So I rent it a few times when a costumer requiered it and was realy impressed by its image.Though for my indi projects i still use internal AVCHD, wich is a real bitch. If you know exactly what you are doing before you press start you can get some realy nice image out of this tiny codec but if you are run n gun some shots look fucked up. Though many amateur costumers didnt see any differenc between RAW and AVCHD if it wasnt graded to harsh. So the upgrade cost didnt stand for it.
    So when i heared last year about Shogun and its pricetag (about 3K with media, thanks to usual SSD) I thought ” THATS IT” . They also toled it would work with FS-RAW with no extra cost. And they would record it as CinemaDNG just like Odyssey. I was close to buying it right away because i was offered some special deal (for edu). But then I thought I should learn from my mistakes and didnt. It was just to good to be true and I started to think about it. There are still some big questions deliberately not answered by atomos:
    Will it record the 2K 240fps RAW ?
    They say Shogun is a 4:2:2 10bit recorder. Is this only for the HDMI or will also RAW internaly be downgradet to something 4:2:2 10bit like and than saved as cineDNG ? (would be a reason why no extra cost for RAW compared to Odyssey) They only say it can decode FS-RAW and save CineDNG but no words about what happens in between.
    If my calculations are right they wont be able to save a 12bit 4K RAW like the Odyssey because even the fastest singl SSDs arent fast anough. You always need 2 of them. But maybe their RAID 0 cady will make this work.

    Propably Sony thinks like this:
    Own recorder 14bit – 9k€
    Odyssey 12bit – 5K€
    Shogun 10bit 4:2:2 – 3K€
    Fortunately I didnt buy the Shogun yet. Chances of getting disappointed again are high i gues.
    WHY DONT THOSE  CompanyMO********* just say what they do and what you get for wich price? I dont want to have to study information technology and spend hundreds of hours on the internet just to understand how their products work together. Nontheless FS700 can produce nice images for a good price (specialy in the high fps field its unbeaten). Though my next cam will not be a Sony. Maybe in a few years my budget is high enaugh to get some ARRI. Especialy in Munich (homebase of ARRI) the support is superb. Realy close information policy with their costumers. But just like a porsche or BMW car you have to pay for what you get. Though when you entering real professional status this time an nerv saving info will pay out i guess.
    Now to you wolfcrow :) would it be possible to do a review about the shogun FS-RAW upgrade when it comes out ? I think you are one of the view reviewers who realy understand this topic and good advice would be vital to me.
    Whats your oppinion to this FS-RAW thing?
    Do you think the difference between 10bit 4:2:2 and 12bit 4:4:4 woul be noticeable in everyday work ? or just for keying and extreme post ?
    Thank you and much greetings,
    Jan

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