Atomos Ninja Blade vs Atomos Ninja 2

Comparison & Usability

Published on in Equipment / Tech Reviews

by Barry Andersson

I got my hands on the Atomos Ninja Blade.  I am a proud owner of the previous Atomos Ninja 2 and I wanted to see what the major differences between the two and if there were any major changes from a usability standpoint. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Atomos external recorders the Ninja 2 and Ninja Blade, are HDMI monitor/external recorders for your camera.  Since these models are HDMI they are mostly used with DSLR cameras with HDMI output for video. 

Many people ask me why would I want an external recorder in the first place. The main reasons are as follows:

- No recording time limits.
- Record in Prores or Avid DNxHD
- Bypass the 8bit recording of your DSLR camera by taking the 10bit feed directly from the sensor

Let’s start with the first benefit.  We started with 12 minute recording time limits and those have improved to almost 30 on newer models.  For most of my shoots almost 30 minutes is plenty.  However, there are many times I wish I didn’t have any limitations.  Now you don’t have to worry.  You are only limited to the amount of space on the media you install in to the Ninja Blade.   I can get anywhere from 5 hours to up to 30 depending on what format I am recording in and how large my storage device is.  Simply put I can pretty much shoot all day with no worries.  That is a huge plus.

Secondly, being able to record in an actual editing format rather than a distribution format (like H.264 on Canon cameras) is huge.  Most editing programs now accept the native files coming from the leading camera manufacturers. Just because the editors can handle it doesn’t mean it is the best workflow.  So for me to be able to record direct to Prores and have a post friendly format from the get go saves me time, money and hassle.  A huge plus!

8bit vs 10bit Color is a major, did I say major, major upgrade?! Most DSLR cameras are able to process a higher color bitrate on the sensor but that is dumbed down inside the camera as it writes and compresses the video files.  By using the Atomos Ninja you are able to take the direct feed from the sensor bypassing the internal limitations of the camera. 

If you are planning on doing any sort of color grade or post manipulation of your video files then you can’t ignore improving your existing camera by adding an external recorder.  

Both the Ninja 2 and the Ninja Blade are great devices.  Here is a quite rundown of the major differences between the two models:

Ninja 2 Ninja Blade
4.3” Screen 5” Screen
800x480 resolution 1280x720 resolution
Resistive Touchscreen Capacitive Touchscreen
Power Consumption 3-6 Watts Power Consumption 3-6.8 Watts
Camera Control- HDMI Timecode Camera Control- LANC/HDMI

Let’s start with the top.  Adding almost another ¾” to the screen size is great.  I am used to working with 6 or 7” external monitors and with the Blade now being 5” it is now usable to replace my normal external monitor on some jobs.  Being able to buy something that can do more than one thing on the set I find to be a valuable reason to acquire such an item. 

The Ninja Blade has true HD display at 1280x720.  Again that is a big plus and well worth the upgrade if you are still using the Ninja 2.   Most cameras now send a true HD signal out from the camera and having a higher resolution camera is a big plus.

Now let’s look at the touchscreen.  In order to decide which is better we much first look at what Resistive vs Capacitive touchscreens are. 

Resistive touchscreens are made with several layers.  The outermost layer is made from a scratch-resistant plastic that is coated with a conductive material on the bottom side of the layer. Then there is thin gap before the other layer that is made from glass or hard plastic.   This layer is also coated with a conductive material.  The way the touchscreen works with this sort of screen is an electrical resistance is created between the layers so that a charge can run from the outermost to the innermost screens.   So when your finger presses the two layers come together at the point of contact and the screen can detect exactly where you are pressing on the screen.

The main advantages of resistive screens are:
- Cheap to make
- Resistant to dust and water
- Can use your finger, stylus or even a gloved hand
- Best use is for handwriting recognition (think signing a credit card machine at Target)

The main disadvantages are:
- Not very sensitive.  You have to press hard for it to register.
- Poor contrast due to the additional reflections from the extra outer screen
- Cannot support multi-touch

This is similar to resistive screens in that there are two layers separated by a thin gap.  In this case both layers are made from glass that have been coated in a conductive material.  The electrical charge conductor is now your body.   When you press the glass the local electrostatic field changes.  The device can continuously monitor the movement of each tiny capacitor to locate the exact area you are pressing with your finger. 

- Because both layers are made of glass the image appears brighter and sharper.
- Much more sensitive so you don’t need a stylus. 
- Supports Multi-touch

- Doesn’t work when your hands are covered.  It requires the conductive nature of your body so it needs to be touched with your skin.
- Due to the complex nature of these screens and the newer technology these screens are more expensive. 
- Since it is made of glass it is easier for the screens to break.

The power consumption is negligible as the Ninja Blade consumes only incrementally more power than the Ninja 2.

The camera control is an upgrade but only to a segment of potential users.  Let’s look at the differences between the two controls:

HDMI Timecode
Any camera with an HDMI video out can be connected to the Atomos device.  Then on the Atomos unit you can hit the record button and it will start the camera recording at the same time.   In short you start and stop the recording via the touch screen from the Atomos device.

LANC Control
Not all cameras support LANC control so the first thing you need to check is whether or not your camera does or not. If it does the main benefit is that you can start and stop your camera directly and it triggers the recording to start and stop on the Atomos Device. There are times where being able to operate the camera and not have to go to the external device to drive this is really handy.  

This is the rundown of the major differences between the Atomos Ninja 2 vs the newer Ninja Blade. Happy shooting. 


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About the Author

Barry Andersson
Barry Andersson
Barry Andersson is an award-winning director and cinematographer. His career started with live television video production and now includes several acclaimed short films, a couple television pilots, numerous commercials, and a feature film. Mr Andersson takes his real world experiences and shares those images and lessons with everyone looking to take advantage of the latest technology.

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  • JamesNelsonSmith said…
    Sunday, September 24, 2017 2:08 PM
    Thanks, this became relevant again now that both the Ninja 2 and Ninja Blade are under $300 and $400 respectively. Just because we now live in a 4K world does not mean all those cameras made before 2015 suddenly became obsolete only fit for cinematography museums.
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