You might be wondering why you would ever need to buy an external recorder/monitor when your camera can already record high-quality video. External HDMI/SDI video recorders can capture higher quality videos then the cameras they are shooting on.
They speed up and simplify your workflow in post-production, providing PreRes or DNxHD files ready for editing. They can also act as a backup dual system (recorder and external monitor). Overall, it would be very beneficial to have an external HD/SDI video recorder for your film arsenal.
Here are our recommendations for the 5 best HD/SDI video recorders available in 2019.
- 1 Best HD SDI Video Recorders – Our Top Picks For 2019
- 2 3. Atomos Sumo 19 (Premium Choice)
- 3 Things to Consider When Buying an HD/SDI External Recorder/Monitor
Best HD SDI Video Recorders – Our Top Picks For 2019
1. Blackmagic Design Video Assist 4K, 7″ (Our All Around Favorite)
Our favorite HD/SDI external recorder is the Video Assist 4K from Blackmagic Design. This is a high-resolution external video recorder that features a high-quality 7-inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel touch screen display. It is capable of recording up to 10-Bit ProRes and DNxHD/DNxHR footage.
Shooting videos in ProRes and DNxHD help make your footage much more edit-friendly, making things convenient in post.
Everything on the Video Assist is operated by its touchscreen. It’s very responsive, only noticing a slight hint of lag. There are enough options that don’t overcomplicate the recorder, making it easier to learn.
This external recorder is equipped with two XLR audio inputs as well as a headphone port for accurate audio monitoring.
There have also been firmware updates to the Video Assist. A long-promised update from Blackmagic Designs, Scopes have become available for users. Scopes interpret the tonal and color distribution in the footage you’re capturing. A great additional feature that is entirely free for Video Assist owners.
Overall, the Video Assist from Blackmagic Design is a great option for anyone looking for a high-quality external HD/SDI external recorder.
- Capable of recording in 4K
- 10-Bit ProRes and DNxHD/DNxHR footage
- Has 2 XLR audio inputs and headphone port
- Firmware Updates
- Tends to use a lot battery
- Scopes (added update) can be better
2. Atomos Shogun Flame Kit (Runner Up)
The Atomos Shogun Flame Kit is another very good external HD/SDI recorder. It’s equipped with a 7-inch external touchscreen display monitor with high-quality SSD recording capabilities from either HDMI or HD-SDI inputs. You will also find that the monitor’s display is so bright (1500-nit) that you won’t be needing a sun hood.
The Shogun Flame can record 4K and 2K at up to 30fps and 1080p at up to 120 fps. It’s compatible to record onto 2.5″ SSDs at up to uncompressed true 10-bit or 8-bit.
This recorder is great for field monitoring, capturing everything in high-detail. You can truly capture what you see on the monitor without any footage being compressed.
The Shogun Flame also comes equipped with dual battery slots and a better build, making it more durable than its previous version. You will be able to use your Shogun Flame for longer periods of time.
Overall, the Shogun Flame from Atmos produces impressive results. It’s a professional piece of equipment that any videographer/filmmaker will find useful. If you’re planning to spend extra money on an HD/SDI external recorder/monitor, definitely consider the Shogun Flame.
- 4K and 2K recording capabilities
- Equipped with dual battery slots
- High display brightness (1500 nit)
- Touchscreen Display
- Might not be the most portable option
3. Atomos Sumo 19 (Premium Choice)
The Atomos Sumo makes it on our list as our premium choice for anyone looking for a professional external HD-SDI recorder/monitor.
With Atomos dominating the monitor/recorder market for offering loads of features at a lower price, the Sumo is no different.
It has a 19-inch monitor with a 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen display that is capable of giving you up to 1200 nit brightness. The brightness of this monitor is amazing, allowing you to utilize it in situations where the sun is very bright.
There’s also an AtomHDR mode that allows your Sumo to display 10-stops of dynamic range with internal LUTs.
The Sumo has the ability to capture ProRes RAW, which is more efficient than ProRes. It allows for the RAW sensor data to be captured, having a larger data rate than ProRes RAW HQ.
Atomos released a brand new firmware update for the Sumo, AtomoOS 9.1. This opens up Quad ISO recording and on-screen switchable output.
The Sumo is bigger in size compared to other options, so it may fit some workflows better than others. It does have loads of inputs that fit just about every workflow, converting SDI to HDMI. The Sumo makes it easy to switch between these inputs.
Overall, the Sumo from Atomos is an incredible external recorder/monitor. It does feature a bright 19-inch display that some might find too big for their workflow, however, we can’t overlook the features that make this recorder our premium choice.
- Professional quality
- 19-inch touchscreen display 1920 x 1080
- Captures ProRes RAW
- Monitor might be too big for some
4. Atomos Ninja Inferno 7″ 4K HDMI
The Atomos Ninja Inferno is another great option. It almost has the exact same features as the company’s top of the line Shogun Inferno. This includes 4K/60p recording and a 1500 nit display with 10-bit color. It’s also capable of recording directly to ProRes or DnxHR formats.
The major difference that you will find in the Ninja Inferno compared to its big brother, the Shogun Inferno, is that some features have been removed. These include SDI plugs, Genlock, and RAW recording capabilities. While these are important to videographers using high-end video equipment, these features are often unused by DSLR or mirrorless camera users.
It still offers false color, 3D Luts and Focus Peaking features and the added bumpers on the sides of the recorders are great for protection.
While these features are not included in the Ninja Inferno, keep in mind that there is a drastic price difference.
Overall, the Atomos Ninja Inferno is an external recorder. While it doesn’t exactly match its flagship sibling, the Shogun Inferno, it still comes with amazing features at an even better price.
- Records 4K
- Displays brightness up to 1500nit
- Capable of recording directly to ProRes or DnxHR formats.
- More on the heavy side
5. Atomos Ninja V 5″ 4K HDMI (Best Budget Choice)
The Atomos Ninja V makes our list for the best budget external video recorder/monitor. While it is a cheap external 4K recorder, it’s very high-quality and the features you get from the Ninja V are professional.
Not only is this a good external monitor, but it also does an excellent job as an external recorder, coming at a much more affordable price. It is smaller than other options we have on our list with its 5.2-inch size. This makes it much more compact and easier to travel with. Definitely one of the most portable external recorders/monitors available in the market.
The Ninja V allows users to record up to 4K 60p and 10-bit HDR footage on supported cameras. A camera’s capturing capability is limited if you only rely on its internal recorder. You will find that this external recorder unlocks certain camera limitations, allowing you to use your camera’s to its fullest capturing potential.
The Ninja V is great for vloggers who use high-end cameras that don’t have a flip-out screen.
It also has a lower cost of storage since it doesn’t require faster-capturing cards that can become very expensive.
Overall, the Atomos Ninja V is a great external recorder/monitor, even if it’s our budget option. It’s lightweight but comes equipped with nice features. It definitely has a professional feel and will definitely enhance your workflow. It’s definitely a great external recorder to start with if you were still experimenting to see if an external HD/SDI recorder was something that you needed.
- Very affordable
- Lightweight and portable
- Capable of recording in 4K and 10-bit HDR
- Smaller display
- Not as much features as other options
Things to Consider When Buying an HD/SDI External Recorder/Monitor
What Video Codecs is it Capable of Recording in
The first thing you should consider when choosing an HD/SDI External Recorder is what video codecs you’re working with. HD/SDI external recorders offer a multitude of different video codecs. Make sure that the recorder you decide on offers the codec you plan on utilizing.
Also check what resolution options (4K, 1080p) and frames per second limitations.
This will ensure that you will get the external video recorder that is most compatible with your workflow.
The Weight and Size of the Monitor
The weight and size of the external recorder/monitor are important factors to keep in mind.
What type of films are you planning to film when using this recorder? Are you planning to do a lot of planned out stationary shots? Or are you planning to be doing a lot of running and gunning with your film equipment?
These are the type of questions you should ask yourself before making a purchase. Make sure that the external recording you’re looking at is something you can work with once in the field.
If you keep this in mind before buying an external recorder, you’ll be good to go once you’re out in the field.
What Kind of Batteries Do I Need?
Make sure to keep in mind what kind of batteries are needed from the external recorder you are looking at. Does the recorder/monitor require external batteries to operate, or does it have a built-in internal battery that requires charging?
This all relies on preference as some would rather switch batteries while others prefer having a set-up that incorporates a charger.
Also if you’re looking for something that utilizes external batteries, check to see what type of batteries they run on. You might be able to find cheaper alternatives that will save you money and power your recorder.
Well there you have it, our picks for the 5 best HD/SDI video recorders available in 2019. While some might not think it’s necessary to have an external recorder, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits that come with using one. There are a lot of options to choose from so make sure to choose the one that fits your type of workflow the best.