5 Best External Recorders For Video (2022)

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External video recorders and monitors are powerful and versatile tools that can assist you in filmmaking.

The enlarged screen can give you a better preview of your final project and even help improve your video quality.

Using an external video recorder lets you record videos without any compression in some cases.

This means that, with some cameras, you’d be able to record 4k RAW footage when you previously may not have been.

Even if you are shooting with a camera that doesn’t output to a higher quality, an external recorder can help you pull focus, frame your subject, and see the colors and exposure of your shot.

Many external recorders have useful features for LUT previews, Zebra stripes, false colors, focus peaking, and histograms.

Some recorders allow you to use your external recorder as a switcher between several different video inputs.

That said, not all external recorders are compatible with all file formats, so it is important to check and ensure that your equipment will work together. More on that in a moment.

Choosing An External Recorder

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There are plenty of options available for external video recorders at a variety of price points, and the technology can often be very hard to decipher.

As we mentioned above, first and foremost, you must make sure your recorder is compatible with your camera.

On Atomos website you can see a total list of supported cameras for Atomos external recorders (scroll down to the drop-down menus).

Inputs and outputs

The first thing to check is that your camera’s output matches the monitor’s input. Does your camera have an SDI or an HDMI output – or both?

If your camera has an HDMI out, ensure you get an external recorder with an HDMI input.

Some external recorders have both an HDMI and SDI input. If that’s the case, use the SDI, if your camera has one, as it is a more secure connection and the industry standard for professional video and cinema cameras.

The next thing to check is what format your camera can send through the HDMI or SDI cable.

Clean output signal

Ensure your camera has a clean output signal to get the best result. This means that your camera should be able to send the sensor output from your camera to the external recorder without any menu information.

On some cameras, you have to go into the menu settings and disable the menus from being sent to the recorder. So check your camera menu for this option before you buy.

Screen Size

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Like external monitors, most popular external recorders are in sizes 5 inches or 7 inches.

These great sizes let you place them on top of your camera or a small articulating arm.

If you need a bigger monitor for clients to sit on its own stand, you should go for a regular field recorder instead.

SSDs are great for external recorders

External recorders also let you record to SSD disks allowing for much higher bitrates and thus better quality video codecs.

Also, SSDs are more cost-friendly than having to buy (and change) memory cards all the time.

All that said, below are our four top choices for external recording devices.

1. Atomos Ninja V

atomos ninja v bundle

Input/Output: HDMI (however, you can get a SDI module for it)

Maximum Recording Resolution: 4k 60p

Screen Size: 5”

Pros: The Atomos Ninja V is an affordable external recorder with a touchscreen that allows for external recording in 4k.

It has multiple exposures and focus assist features to help with your recording and lets you bypass camera time limits which is great for long shoots.

The Ninja V has a variety of supported Log formats and is great for monitoring with LUTs loaded.

Cons: The biggest con only has a 5 inch screen. There are also some minor inconveniences, such as requiring a mic with its own preamp for audio monitoring.

We found this great deal on Adorama that includes the Atomos Ninja V, two batteries and a charger, and the 1TB Angelbird AtomX SSDmini.

2. Blackmagic Design Video Assist

blackmagic video assist

Input/Output: HDMI, SDI

Maximum Recording Resolution: 4k 60p

Screen Size: 7” (also available as 5″)

Pros: The Blackmagic Video assist is a great monitor with some unique features that may suit your filmmaking. It has two balanced 3-pin mini XLR inputs with phantom power support.

The 7” model has two SD slots and can record an external drive via USB (a cheaper 5” alternative has one SD card slot).

Cons: A big con with the Blackmagic Design Video Assist is that it cannot record RAW video. The user interface is also quite cumbersome and can get frustrating.

We found this great deal on Adorama.

3. Atomos Shogun 7

atomos shogun inferno 7 inch

Input/Output: HDMI, SDI

Maximum Recording Resolution: 4k p60

Screen Size: 7”

Pros: This Atomos Shogun 7 is the big brother to the Inferno. You can record 4k video at up to 60p and 2k footage up to 240p, allowing you to capture slow-motion footage.

This recorder can accept 4 SDI inputs and record them simultaneously, with a touch screen that allows for switching which can be amazing for multicam set ups and live streaming. It is also able to record in ProRes RAW footage, allowing you to bypass internal compression in your camera.

This recorder really lets you get a lot more out of your camera.

Cons: Be sure to research camera compatibility if you intend to record RAW. This is a great recorder, but only supports ProRes RAW footage.

We found this great value bundle on Adorama that includes the Atomos Shogun 7 plus the Atomos Accessory kit (includes case, control cable, 2 x 5200mah battery, fast charger, docking station, DC to D-Tap cable, 4x master caddy, power supply, and HDR Sunhood).

4. Convergent Design Odyssey7Q+

convergent design odyssey 7qp

Input/Output: HDMI, SDI

Maximum Recording Resolution: 4k 60p

Screen Size: 7.7”

Pros: The Convergent Design Odyssey7Q+ is a great external video recorder that can capture 4k video via HDMI and supports ProRes footage. It has 3D LUT support as well as waveform and histogram monitoring features.

There is also a unique feature called the Titan HD Extract Option. This allows you to get three separate recordings from one camera and add a multi-cam look (one view is the full image, and two are windows selected from the view). The two windows can be panned, and all views are recorded in ProRes and can be live switched.

Cons: To support certain RAW recording formats, you must purchase the upgrade from Convergent. There are two SSD slots for recording to Convergent Design Premium 2.5″ SSDs. These can be pricey and fill up quickly, so you need to be economical with your shoot.

Supported Cameras: ARRI Alexa, Panasonic VariCam LT, Canon C500, Canon C300 MKII, Sony PXW-FS5, Sony PXW-FS7, Sony NEX-FS700, IO Industries Flare 2K, IO Industries IO4K, Indiecam indieGS2K

Check the current price on Adorama

5. Atomos Ninja V+ (And Pro Kit)

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Input/Output: HDMI 2.0

Maximum Recording Resolution: 8K30 ProRes Raw

Screen Size: 5.2”

Pros: The Atomos Ninja V+ is an upgrade to the already great Ninja 5. This monitor can record and playback video up to 8K Raw and features a 5.2” 1920x1080p screen.

Like the Ninja V, the Ninja V+ features exposure, focus assist, and 10-Bit 4:2:2 ProRes recording. A Pro-Kit option includes various accessories to get the most out of your Ninja V+.

The Pro Kit includes the Ninja V+ set up for SDI over Raw recording, an AtomX SDI module, a Carry Case, a 5″ Slip Case, a battery eliminator, an international DC power supply, a Master Caddy II, a DTap Cable, an AtomX 5″ Sunhood, and Quick Start Guide.

If you shoot on Sony cameras or any camera that outputs SDI, the Pro Kit will still allow you to use high frame rates and resolutions while recording in ProRes Raw.

Cons: There are not a lot of cons to this monitor, excluding the price. This professional-grade monitor helps bridge the gap between mirrorless/DSLR cameras and cine cameras.

This monitor uses purpose-built SSDs for recording, so be sure you have all the necessary equipment. Given the features, it isn’t surprising that this will run you more than the Ninja V. If you’re not recording above 4K, some of the benefits of this monitor may be lost.

That said, for anyone looking to record ProRes Raw in resolutions above 4K, the Ninja V+ will be hard to beat. Especially if you are a Sony user and have experienced trouble with SDI output or wish to work with ProRes Raw footage, the Atomos Ninja V+ Pro Kit will be a lifesaver and great addition to your rig.

Check the current price on Adorama

Conclusion

These five recorders are some of the best external video recorders/monitors on the market and cover a variety of functionality.

Depending on your budget, camera compatibility, and desired features, the best one for you may vary, but it’s hard to go wrong.

An external recorder lets you get much more out of your camera and preview your footage with much greater ease.

In almost any filming situation, an external video recorder is helpful to assist you with capturing the best footage possible.

Do you already use an external recorder? If so, let us know your favorite one in the comments below.


Cade photo round

Cade Taylor is a filmmaker and writer based out of Los Angeles. Originally from Seattle, he continues to work as the Outreach Coordinator for the Bigfoot Script Challenge, where he helps connect up-and-coming writers with industry professionals. When he’s not working on his own projects, helping out with Bigfoot, or covering desks, Cade loves to share what he knows with other filmmakers and promote great content.

4 thoughts on “5 Best External Recorders For Video (2022)”

  1. Great review and thank you. I searched out reviews as I’m likely going to be replacing my BMD Video Assist 12G with something else. I love BMD gear but, the VA has let me down due to a sync problem with audio fed in via the XLR connections. I raised the issue with BMD and they issued an RMA to send the unit in to be looked at. It’s been there nearly two weeks and I received an email yesterday saying they had it but, it hasn’t gotten into their lab yet. I’m a small time producer but, part of professional gear is reliability and quick turn around if it needs to go back. BMD has sorely disappointed me in the latter, to the point where I don’t know that I’ll feel comfortable going forward with them

    Reply
    • Hi Alan. Thanks for sharing your experiences. BMD makes great products at affordable prices, and they’ve really disrupted and democratized the market for indie filmmakers and video production companies. But I see some quality issues with some of their stuff. Especially, when it comes to things like connectivity (HDMI, SDI, and XLR ports seem prone to breaking).

      That being said, the BMD Video Assist 12G isn’t what I would call a cheap product. And with all technology, things just seem to break from time to time. It’s annoying for us, though 🙂

      Best, Jan

      Reply

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