5 Best External Recorders For Video (2022)

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Updated: June 2021 to include the Atomos Ninja V+ and Pro Kit options.

External video recorders and monitors are powerful and versatile tools that can assist you when it comes to filmmaking.

The enlarged screen can give you a better preview of what your final project will look like 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.

LUT previews, Zebra stripes, false colors, focus peaking and histograms are all useful features that many external recorders have.

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 make sure that your equipment will work together. More on that in a moment.

Choosing An External Recorder

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.

Like 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 the output on your camera matches the input on the monitor. Does your camera have a SDI or an HDMI output – or both?

If your camera has an HDMI out, make sure you get an external recorder that has 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 professionel video and cinema cameras.

The next thing to check is what format your camera is able to send through the HDMI or SDI cable. Some cameras are able to

Clean output signal

To get the best result, make sure your camera has a clean output signal. 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

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

These are great sizes that let you place them on top of your camera or on 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

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 is only having a 5 inch screen. There are also some minor inconveniences, such as requiring a mic with it’s own preamp for an 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

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 really 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 (there is a cheaper 5” alternative that 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

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+

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 able to be live switched.

Cons: To support certain RAW recording formats, you need to 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 will need to be economical with what you 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)

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.

Similar to the Ninja V, the Ninja V+ features exposure and focus assist and 10-Bit 4:2:2 ProRes recording. There is also a Pro Kit option that 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 allow you to still use in 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 is a professional-grade monitor that helps bridge the gap between mirrorless/DSLR cameras and cine cameras.

This monitor does purpose-built SSDs for recording, so be sure you have all the equipment necessary. Given the features, it also 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 you could 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.

Having an external recorder lets you get so 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 what your favorite one is in the comments below.


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.

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