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DJI's new pro cinema camera looks funky but sounds brilliant

The Ronin 4D cinema camera offers 8K recording and a raft of professional-quality features.

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DJI

DJI has taken the wraps off an entirely new line of cinema cameras aimed at professional filmmakers. The Ronin 4D cameras feature either 6K or 8K recording from a full-frame sensor, built-in four-axis gimbal stabilization, Apple ProRes recording and image transmission to external monitors up to 6 kilometers away.

That's not a bad list of features, particularly when you bear in mind the 6K version starts at only £5,999 (converts to roughly $8,260, AU$11,040).

Better known for its flying camera drones, the Ronin 4D is the first foray into cinema cameras we've seen from DJI and it's certainly an interesting start. With the camera sensor unit mounted away from the main body on a gimbal arm, the whole thing has something of a "swan neck" aesthetic, which will stand out from the crowd.

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With a built-in gimbal, it's easier to get the camera into tight spaces, such as through car windows.

DJI

The camera unit has a 35mm full frame CMOS image sensor which can shoot 6K or 8K footage with 14-stops of dynamic range in Apple ProRes 422 (or 10-bit h.264) at 30fps. Knock it down to 4K and it'll do 120 frames per second for smooth slow motion. It has built-in ND filters and footage can be recorded to internal SSDs, external SSDs connected over USB-C or internal CFExpress cards.

It supports a variety of lens mounts, including DJI's DL lens format as well as Sony E mount and Leica M mount, meaning you can equip it with one of Leica's pro cinema lenses -- although some of these cost more than the camera itself.

The camera unit sits on a four-axis gimbal system which DJI says "allows the operator to shoot while walking, running, or moving around dynamically, with no need to practice pacing or rely on external equipment [such as dedicated camera gimbals or steadicam systems]". Balancing even a mirrorless camera on a gimbal (such as DJI's RS2) can be frustrating and stabilising bigger, heavier pro cameras like a Sony FX9 can be difficult, so having an all-in-one system may be a real time-saver for professionals working to tight schedules. How the system compares to a dedicated gimbal remains to be seen. 

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It might be the ideal camera to film with when you're suspended over a burning car wreck by wires from a warehouse ceiling. Something we can all relate to.

DJI

The Ronin 4D also has lidar image focusing, which uses invisible light to determine depth -- and therefore focus -- rather than traditional autofocus systems which typically rely on contrast in a scene to find focus. DJI boasts that this system is both faster and more reliable, but manual focus is also available, along with support for its own ZenMuse focus pull unit.

Image transmission is provided via an external module (price isn't known at the time of writing) and allows it to send 1080p footage to external monitors up to 6 kilometers away -- ideal if it's strapped to a car or helicopter and a director needs to monitor the footage from a remote location. It also has its own built-in full HD 5.5-inch display. 

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The wireless image transmission means you can strap the camera to a car but still monitor your footage from a safe distance. Ideally from a comfy chair.

DJI

The camera also has two 3.5mm audio inputs, two XLR audio inputs (via an expansion plate) and it uses DJI's TB50 batteries which promise up to 150 minutes of use from a full charge, and come with built-in heating elements to remain efficient in colder conditions. 

The Ronin 4D 6K comes with the lidar focus system, monitor, side and top handles and carry case and goes on sale from DJI.com in December for £5,999 (converts to roughly $8,260, AU$11,040). The 8K version, which also comes with a 1TB SSD will go on sale "at a later date" for £9,499 (about $13,080, AU$17,460).