AJA KiPro Mini review + commentary
By Allan Tépper | April 21, 2011
Like a miniature version of the original KiPro from AJA (which I reviewed in October 2009), the KiPro Mini performs many of the same functions (although not all of them) in a fraction of the space -and at a fraction of the cost- and is designed to dock onto the back of many professional camcorders, while it makes a higher quality recording than that is possible internally with most of them. With a flood of other 4:2:2 dockable recorders reaching the market (and one that existed previously which recorded MPEG2 8-bit), this article will attempt to point out the KiPro Mini's unique virtues, so you'll have a better idea why it may -or may not- be the best one for you.
As always, the purpose of this review is to point out details which are not necessarily obvious when reading the information on the manufacturer's website -not to replace that important resource- so by all means, do visit their site too! This review also offers some competitive info, camera compatibility info, and my firmware update wish list.
Is the KiPro Mini a "broadcast" recorder?
If you haven't done so yet, please read my related article Do you work in the broadcast industry? What does broadcast mean? You'll find that the US$1,995 KiPro Mini indeed qualifies as "broadcast" by complying with two of my definitions from that article: definitions 19 and 21. Of course, the KiPro Mini not only meets the technical requirements (as do many of the newcomers in this category of dockable 4:2:2 recorders), but it is also built like a brick house, and has HD-SDI and analog XLR audio inputs with high-quality preamps. (Some other 4:2:2 docking recorders lack HD-SDI inputs, and some skip the analog audio inputs altogether, counting exclusively on embedded digital audio from the camera. This may or may not compromise the final audio quality, depending upon the quality of the camera's audio preampâ¦ and whether or not dual system audio is employed in the production.) In addition to the "broadcast" connectivity, a/v quality, and build quality, AJA even offers an optional mounting plate that facilitates attaching an Anton Bauer or V-Mount battery plate!
AJA offers an optional mounting plate that facilitates attaching an Bauer or V-Mount batter plate!
The few missing functions compared to the original KiPro
The original KiPro is larger and has (at least) three features which are missing from the KiPro Mini: analog video i/o, the scaler (which allows recording a different resolution than the source, and outputting a different resolution than that has been recorded) and large capacity recording. As you may recall, the original KiPro records either on SxS (ExpressCard/34) media or on KiPro removable media, which are now available both in magnetic (up to 500GB) and SSD varieties. I believe that most people who are going to search for a recorder to dock onto a camera won't miss the scaler at all. However, some of them will likely miss the capability of recording several hours on a large-capacity module. The KiPro Mini records exclusively on CompactFlash (CF) media, which currently maxes out at 64GB. According to Jon Thorn, AJA's product manager for the KiPro Mini, this is what we can expect from a 64GB CF card:
Total capacity reported: 64.02GB
Capacity available after HFS formatting: 63.87GB
10% free space allocation: 6.39GB
90% capacity for recording: 57.48GB
1080i29.97 or 720p59.94 Apple ProRes422(HQ) = 30 minutes, approximately 56.20GB
1080i25 or 720p50 Apple ProRes422(HQ) = 36 minutes, approximately 56.36GB
1080p23.98 Apple ProRes422(HQ) = 38 minutes, approximately 57.08GB
1080i29.97 or 720p59.94 Apple ProRes 22 = 45 minutes, approximately 56.46GB
1080i25 or 720p50 Apple ProRes422 = 54 minutes, approximately 56.67GB
1080p23.98 Apple ProRes422 = 57 minutes, approximately 57.41GB
Note that all approximations include 2 channels of 24-bit 48KHz audio. Also note that these approximations are based on a target data rate for a VBR codec. Values are derived by using the AJA DataCalc application, available for download from the AJA website or as an iPhone app from the Apple AppStore. Both versions are free of charge.
Although this is substantially less recording time than what a 500GB module would allow with the original KiPro, let's put things into perspective: In the worst case (with HQ recording), Â±30 minutes is Â±10 minutes more than we "old timers" used to get from a typical 20-minute mini U-Matic tape that we'd record in the field using a VO-4800, VO-6800, VO-8800 (or the lucky ones who had a BVU-150), which used a heterodyned color-under analog system in SD, as opposed to a pristine HD 4:2:2 10-bit component digital recording
Back when I reviewed the original KiPro (which is -of course- still available for US$3,995), I suggested many possible applications, one of which was that of a "Studio Recorder". That is probably the only application which is not in common with the KiPro Mini's likely applications, not so much because of the lack of scaler mentioned above, but because of the relatively small recording capacity of the CompactFlash modules. Certainly not all, but many studio productions involve a longer duration.
- My firmware update wish list for the KiPro Mini
- Specific cameras where the KiPro Mini is uniquely qualified
- Other cases where the KiPro Mini is uniquely qualified
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