The Sony AtomX SSDmini is an excellent choice for your Atomos recorder
posted Friday, March 1, 2019 at 1:45 PM EDT
This is going to sound crazy, but as a professional commercial videographer / filmmaker for the last five years in San Francisco, I only recently had to start using external recorders. My clientele was the kind where we didn't have to always shoot in log, we generally could get our shots to look good in camera, and I was happy to shoot to SD or CFAST cards in 4:2:0 8-bit.
But times change, my personal thoughts on the quality of product I want to put out changed, and the limitations of my equipment eventually became glaring. Very recently I started working on a passion documentary project and wanted to shoot everything in log. I wanted to have complete control of color and even have the option to send footage to a professional colorist. My Panasonic Lumix GH5 is capable of writing 4:2:2 10-bit log in 4Kp24 to an SD card no problem, but my slow motion footage of 4Kp60 was limited to 4:2:0 8-bit. If you've ever tried to grade footage in the latter and then attempt it again in the former, you'll know why it was such a big deal to me to have 10-bit footage: it's remarkably more flexible.
The only way for me to get my slow motion footage to have the same quality as my 24p footage was to get an external recorder, and therefore also acquire an SSDmini for it to record into. I chose the Atomos Ninja V (which I will review soon here in Imaging Resource because it's awesome), and instead of going with the G-Technology SSDmini drives that could come bundled with Atomos product, decided to give Sony a shot.
I have been using a mix of Sony, Lexar and ProGrade Digital memory for some time now, with Sony being my go-to for high-speed SD cards lately. Sony makes some very fast, consistent SD cards that I can rely on to always work in my GH5 when it's writing in ALL-I at maximum quality, so the idea of staying in that ecosystem felt right to me.
The Sony AtomX SSDmini is everything I expected it to be, and despite being the last piece of the Atomos that many would put a lot of thought into ends up being probably my favorite part of that whole recording system right now.
Sony's AtomX is 20% shorter than the conventional SSDminis that work with Atomos product. If you have an Atomos right now, odds are high that your SSDmini sticks out the side of your recorder, especially if you're using one of the smaller ones like the Ninja V. I didn't like the idea of my memory possibly being stuck out in a way that it could get caught on something, so going smaller without losing speed or storage capacity (both the G-Tech Master Caddy and the Sony AtomX promise up to 500 MB/s writespeeds in up to 1 TB of total capacity) felt like a no-brainer, even if it cost a bit more ($350 for the G-Tech, and $380 for the AtomX).
Touching on those transfer speeds, in reading a product page on B&H G-Tech only promised 500MB/s read/transfer speeds with nothing specific about the write speeds, while the AtomX promised 500MB/s write speeds and 550 MB/s read speeds. In the end, the difference in performance is probably minimal between the two, but I liked that at least Sony was more forthcoming on the product page than I was seeing on G-Tech's. I appreciate a little transparency, which is why I use Sony SD cards a lot as well; they too publish read and write speeds directly on the cards so as to not unintentionally mislead a consumer about what they are buying.
In use, I never found myself worrying about the AtomX. It worked beautifully on the Ninja V, with no hiccups or failures writing to the drive over the course of multiple shoots. The AtomX was tasked with writing 4Kp60 4:2:2 10-bit log footage in ProRes, and did so flawlessly. Our footage looks outstanding (at least in our edit bays) and I could not be happier with the SSDmini.
I mention the quality of the footage I was having record to the AtomX because of my current limitations on pulling data off the drive and getting it onto my computer. Right now, the only SSDmini reader I have is one that is USB 3.0, which of course has limitations on speed. So while the below speed test is accurate to my computer, it's probably faster to write data off the Atomos V:
That's plenty fast for offloading footage, and fast enough for ProRes 4Kp60 according to Blackmagic's Disk Speed test, and which my experiences also back up. I would strongly wager that the SSD is actually capable of faster marks than shown above, but these speed marks are a limitation of my reading apparatus, not a limitation of the SSD itself.
You can get the AtomX in multiple sizes, ranging from 500 GB all the way up to 2 TB, but I think the 1 TB capacity made the most sense. 500 GB I might burn through too quickly, and 2 TB was kind of a lot (and the price point was also very high). 1 TB felt like a good blend of value/price as well as storage capacity, allowing me to shoot all day and across multiple days without having to worry about filling it.
It might be pretty common to put less thought into the SSDmini you use in your Atomos than the Atomos itelf, or even the HDMI cables you choose to use with your external recorder. Honestly, as a purchaser, the SSDmini feels like an afterthought of an afterthought. It's just not what you think about needing when you are buying your first external recorder. But when you consider that the AtomX comes in a smaller profile without sacrificing anything that would make it a great storage device for the Atomos, it's hard to say anything negative about it. It's an excellent drive and one that I am happy to use on the Ninja V.