About three weeks ago I took delivery of a Ninja for review and as usual I have waited for a job to assess it on. My first encounter with the Ninja was less than satisfactory, I set it up plugged in the HDMI cable and as shown all the colours lit up, red, green,yellow and blue.
As you can see from above the missing component was the Time Code reading, I was just about to start filming for a client so I was not in a position to do anything about it, I pressed the record button and the screen changes as normal but no time code. The other thing that struck me was the overall time was not counting down. To cut a long story short I was running firmware V1.0 when I should have been running V1.04, it had been noted that the Ninja had been miss behaving with missed takes…it was a bug.
The Ninja is not only easy to use but has a very uncomplicated menu system and to go from ProRes HQ to 422 ProRes is a matter of a finger press on the touch screen itself, it uses NP-F570 Lithium Ion batteries which can run the Ninja for about two to two and a half hours.
I have a 2.5″ Intel SSD 160Gb drive which gives you about one hour forty five minutes of drive space at ProRes HQ (220MBs). You can use a 750Gb HDD drive but thats only for static situations like filming stage shows etc. I am a Solid State convert and would always recommend using SSD drives.
This is ProRes HQ 422 out of the Panasonic AF101 and I can assure you it delivers a far cleaner, less banding higher quality image than the SDHC card running at 24MBs. The final proof is a capture from the camera and the Ninja spliced together.
So there you have it, the Ninja must be set to firmware version 1.04 or more for it to work properly but the difference that ProRes 422 HQ makes to your picture is well worth the extra money this unit costs, the best part is the ProRes codec that brings your footage straight onto the Final Cut timeline assuming it is set for ProRes 422 HQ.
There are some minus points firstly there is no HDMI loop through and some customers are disappointed that you don’t get an HDMI cable in the box, the LANC control only works with Sony cameras, I could not get my AF101 to start/stop using a Panasonic zoom control which is rather disappointing, lastly I think a few extra settings would not go a miss especially some other codecs other than ProRes giving the Ninja a wider appeal. Version 2 of the firmware will give you a smooth video playback which should be out soon.
On the whole I can recommend the Ninja as a great tool for any job that needs to be the best that you can offer, ProRes 422 HQ (10bit) runs at 220MBs which is not widely known so is a must for anyone producing any HD content for the BBC etc. The Panasonic AF101 gives out 8bit which is a shame as the Ninja has 10bit but the extra colour space with 4:2:2 certainly gives the best picture possible from any camcorder outputting 4:2:2 out of the HDMI socket.