By site editor Dan Chung:
When I recently tested the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D mkIII side by side in New York the one thing that I could not test was the quality of D800 footage when recorded externally. The clean 1080P HDMI output of the D800 is one of its most talked about features. We had a Atomos Ninja SSD recorder on hand in New York but due to some firmware issues we were not able to get the Ninja/D800 combination to function correctly.
In that test I concluded that the D800 recording internally to CF card was slightly sharper than the 5D mkIII but I was not seeing huge differences in colour, noise and detail at lower sensitivities. I was also concerned about moire effects with the the D800.
Fast forward to NAB 2012 and Atomos have a Ninja that now functions correctly with the D800 and are claiming significant improvements in image quality compared to the image recorded internally to CF card.
Shooter Ron Adair has been testing the combo and posted some very convincing footage to back up Atomos’ claims. Compression artifacts seem much reduced and the image seems very detailed.
To further improve the image quality of the D800 Ron has been shooting using the TassinFlat Picture Control settings which are similar in concept to the Cinestyle picture style for Canon cameras. You can download full res frame grabs of the video footage comparisons that Ron has done here. Ron has also posted this video on Vimeo but suggests you log in and download the original file before evaluating the footage – avoiding Vimeo’s additional compression.
You can find out more about the TassinFlat Picture Control setting in this video.
To add to the image quality improvements the Ninja 2 has a raft of useful features including focus peaking, adjustable zebra and false color.
Atomos have also included a new feature called SmartLog which if it works as described could possibly be the best thing since sliced bread for the busy news shooter. You can now log in and out points on your footage directly on the Ninja – while out on the field – before you get anywhere near your edit. You can also add keywords such as ‘good shot’ or ‘bad shot’ to alert an editor – hence saving valuable time in post.
The combination of the Ninja 2 and the D800 certainly improves the performance of what was an already good camera. It would be very interesting to compare again with the Canon 5D mkIII. Ron has promised further test footage very soon – watch this space.