Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ review.
A couple months ago, in the midst of the buzz surrounding the release of the Atomos Shogun 4K recorder, Story & Heart filmmaker Mike Sutton went beyond the hype to take an in-depth look at how the product holds up in real world productions (click here to read his full review). But since no single piece of gear will be perfect for every filmmaker, Mike thought it was about time to take a closer look at a hot competitor, the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+.
In a career that’s spanned decades, Mike has used almost every recorder on the market, and that makes him the perfect filmmaker to take a technical deep dive. Below, he looks at the details a lot of other reviewers have missed in exploring how this recorder compares to the Atomos Shogun.
Mike has organized his review around the key features you’ll care about most, but he also gets into the nitty-gritty details. Let’s turn things over to Mike and see what he has to say about the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+.
Introducing the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+
Since my review of the Shogun, many things have changed in the fast-paced race to the top of imaging technology. The Atomos Shogun has finally included features like Avid DNxHR 4K, DNxHD, 3D LUTs, 4K UHD downscale to HD monitoring on loop output and, most importantly, playback.
I’ll start with a brief overview: The Odyssey 7Q+ is the replacement for the 7Q and adds the ability to record 4K via HDMI. Beyond a software update, Convergent Design had to make hardware changes to facilitate the change. This was a smart move on their part as there are several cameras that offer 4K HDMI output and even more to be shown at NAB. With the 7Q+ also came a bundle offer announced in Jan that included two free 256GB SSDs a $700+ value.
With this new offer, the price difference between both recorders is around $250, but I feel the Odyssey has much more to offer in the long run. Below, I go into detail as to what the Odyssey has to offer over the Shogun.
Unboxing: First Impressions
At first glance, the 7Q+ might seem like a lot of recorder for the novice filmmaker, but don’t let that intimidate you. For professionals and everyone in-between, the 7Q+ offers a performance benchmark that others should strive to reach.
First off, the 7Q+ comes shipped in a cardboard box with an AC adapter and two 256GB proprietary SSDs, Micro HDMi to HDMI and one year warranty. That’s it — no hardcase, no batteries, and no battery mount!
Yes, you will need to get a few additional components to make this useful in the field, but the good news is that the 7Q+ accepts several battery mounts to choose from (Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Anton Bauer and others). You will also need a decent arm or mounting system as the 7Q+ is about a half a pound heavier than an Atomos Shogun.
The Screen: See More of Your Image
The 7Q+ has a large 1280 x 800, 7.7” OLED touchscreen, which is the biggest currently available on a 4K portable recorder. Plus, the viewing angle is almost 180 degrees (176 to be specific). With such a big screen, you will be available to evaluate more of your image and the onscreen tools will show more detail about what you are actually seeing.
Some of the on screen tools include peaking, waveform, histogram, false color and built-in display LUTs. Sub menus touch buttons line the top and bottom of the screen and are not on the picture. It’s easy and fast to get to zebra, waveform, guides and more, all within seconds.
I also like how the 7Q+ prevents you from accidentally changing your recording frame rate, which is often the case with Atomos products. Important features are built into submenus to prevent accidental changes.
The Connectors: Just What You Need
The 7Q+ has two 3G-SDI inputs, two SG-SDI outputs, two bidirectional 3G-SDI, one HDMI input and one 1080p HDMI output. All input connectors support 4K. The other two connectors are USB and power. The USB is used for software updates and the power accepts 6.4 to 34V DC with built-in reverse polarity protection. The power connector locks in place to prevent accidental unplugging. The BNC connectors are placed on the bottom of the recorder so that cables do not interfere when used in the standard left of camera orientation.
Battery: More Options to Choose From
One of the great things I like about the 7Q+ over the Atomos is the fact that you have numerous battery options to choose from. The Atomos only accepts Sony L -type batteries, so if you are a Canon C300 or a Panasonic user you have to buy extra batteries. The 7Q+ offers a removable battery mounting system and offers Sony L, Sony U Panasonic CGA, Canon BP and aftermarket plates for Dual battery mounts, Anton Bauer and V-mount style batteries.
Because of the large range in power acceptance 6.4-34V, there is room for other power options as well without fear of shorting out the unit. I went for a dual battery mount option from Nebtek as it allows hot swapping batteries without shutting down the unit. It also features a battery meter in the battery mount.
Durability: BUILT TOUGH
One thing that was a deal breaker for me with the Atomos for field use was its cheap plastic frame and open venting on the top of the unit. Thankfully, the 7Q+ features a magnesium chassis with built in cooling fins and ¼-20 tapped holes in the bottom, left and right side of the frame. There are no opening vents for moisture or dirt to get into. This is huge for me as I am often filming near water and in situations where dust will get kicked up.
The other major problem with the Shogun was its plastic power button that kept getting stuck and was in a spot that didn’t make much sense for traditional monitor placement. The 7Q+ has small discrete rubberized buttons built into the frame in locations that are not obstructed. The solid frame of the 7Q+ alone is huge for me as it allows for better cooling and solid mounting options.
Drive Placement: Where it Should Be
The Odyssey puts drive placement where it should be—on the top of the unit. The Atomos Ninja Blade and the Sound Devices Pix 240 both had good drive placement on the left side of the unit where it was out of the way and easy for a first AC to swap media. The Shogun required moving the unit off to the side as its drive was on the right side—making no sense for traditional use. With drives on the top, the 7Q+ can easily have its media removed without any obstructions from cables, camera body or mounting arms. The drives are also well seated and cannot be accidentally dismounted.
Media:TRIED AND TRUE
Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ uses proprietary media, which, as I mentioned in my Shogun review, can be viewed in two ways: Off-the-shelf media is inexpensive and can be found at almost any shop that sells computers or electronics whereas 7Q+ media cannot be. So for emergencies, off-the-shelf media can save the day on a shoot. However, on a professional shoot, piece of mind in proprietary media that has been optimized and offers stability can also save your sanity. Yes, proprietary media costs more money, but is less likely to fail on you.
Current Codecs and Future Updates
The Odyssey 7Q+ records HD/2K/UHD/4K. Currently, it offers ProRes HQ, Uncompressed DPX, and 4K ProRes recording of A7s and GH4 right out of the box—with more free compressed codecs (ProRes, ProRes LT, DNxHD, etc) available and even more coming this year.
There are also a lot of paid options for the unit that can bought or rented if you only need them on a specific job. These options include: Sony RAW for FS700 and FS7, Arri RAW for Arri Alexa, Canon RAW for C500 and POV RAW for IO Industries.
Remember, renting before you buy is a great option to have and Convergent Design promises to offer more options down the line. Luckily the hardware can handle it, which is questionable with the Shogun as it offers only one drive slot. I am also told bandwidth will not be an issue with the 7Q+.
The Bottom Line: Convergent Design 7Q+ is a Great Unit for Beginners and Professionals
Having owned numerous recorders on the market and using many at rental houses, I can say that I am very happy with the Odyssey 7Q+ and how it holds up against the competition. The unit is solid, proven in the field, has the respect of my peers, is reliable and has a lot more to offer in the near future.
In the end, the 7Q+ proves that you get what you pay for. But remember that what is right for me isn’t right for everyone else. This might not be the perfect solution for you. I encourage you to rent before you buy and see what works for your individual needs. You want to use a recorder that works with your shooting style. I think the 7Q+ is a solid recorder, and I have confidence that regardless of which camera I use the 7Q+ will work with it.
Have a question for Mike about the Convergent Design 7Q+? Or, have you tried it yourself and have something to add? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.