DJI Ronin 4D-8K First Look Review – Dynamic Range Rivalling ARRI ALEXA Mini LF?

December 14th, 2023 Jump to Comment Section 27

More than two years since the release of the original Ronin 4D with its 6K camera, DJI finally delivered on their promise and released the 8K version of the X9 Zenmuse camera module for their unique gimbal camera. Let’s have a look! Also be sure to check out our news article for even more details!

In the tech and camera world, there are a few things that arrived much later than when they were announced and at a much higher price. Remember RED’s original announcement of “3K for $3K” from 2008? The promise was a 3K resolution camera for 3000 dollars. We never saw that camera, especially not for that price. Or the Tesla Cybertruck? That pickup truck was delayed several times over years since its announcement and it only recently started shipping. The price of the Cybertruck is also 50% higher and it offers less range than initially promised.

DJI’s initial 8K promise

In 2021, DJI announced the Ronin 4D, which featured a 6K camera unit, the Zenmuse X9-6K. I reviewed it when it came out and was absolutely amazed by the amount of innovation that DJI packed into this unique camera.

DJI Ronin 4D with Zenmuse X9-8K camera
DJI Ronin 4D 8K is finally real! Image credit: CineD

While the Ronin 4D 6K started shipping shortly after its announcement, DJI also announced an 8K version of their camera module, the X9-8K, which was supposed to start “shipping soon”. Over two years have since passed, and of course people started making jokes that the 8K camera would never appear. 

Finally Introducing Ronin 4D 8K

Except for the two-year delay, DJI actually delivered at the end of 2023, and opposed to the other products I mentioned above, DJI are exceeding our expectations and keeping the price as promised: Here is the Ronin 4D 8K, featuring the Zenmuse X9-8K camera unit that can also be purchased separately for previous owners of the Ronin 4D 6K.

DJI Ronin 4D with Zenmuse X9 8K camera
Zenmuse X9 8K full frame camera module for Ronin 4D. Image credit: CineD

The obvious upgrade from the 6K version of the X9 is, that you can shoot full-frame 8K at up to 60 frames per second, uncropped, and 4K with a full-sensor readout at up to 120 frames per second with the X9-8K. It’s really rare to see an 8K sensor to be able to deliver such high frame-rates, and it opens up lots of possibilities for cropping in post.

Physical limitations and 8K 120p

The Ronin 4D is perfect for filming fast-paced sports scenes, but of course the gimbal unit has limitations on how long your lenses can be (physically and from a focal length perspective). The longest you can usually go with a prime that will physically fit is around 85mm, which is not very telephoto on a full-frame sensor. But let’s say you shoot at 8K and only finish in HD, then you’ll be able to crop into the image in post production up to 4 times, which makes it very usable again. 

DJI Ronin 4D 8K resolution in recording menu
Ronin 4D 8K available recording resolutions. Image credit: CineD

Of course, shooting slow-motion in 4K using the full sensor at 120 frames per second is a great thing to have! It’s something that users of Sony FX3, FX6 or an a7S III have become used to over the last few years, albeit with a slight crop. It’s great to see that DJI Ronin 4D users can also enjoy this feature with full sensor readout.

Ronin 4D 8K Lab Test

We performed an extensive Lab Test for the Ronin 4D 6K when it was announced, testing Dynamic Range, rolling shutter and exposure latitude. I highly encourage you to read the Ronin 4D 6K Lab Test article, in case you missed it! The results for the 6K camera were already quite impressive. 

DJI Ronin 4D 6K during our Lab Test
DJI Ronin 4D 6K during our Lab Test. Image Credit: CineD

For the X9-8K camera, we also ran a preliminary Lab Test, and I say preliminary because we don’t have a production firmware for the 8K camera yet. For this reason, we didn’t do all of the tests yet, but we of course wanted to find out how the new 8K camera stacks up against the 6K version of the X9. 

Dynamic Range Expansion Mode

One thing to highlight is the dual native ISOs of the X9-8K, which are ISO 320 and 1600. This only changes when you enable a menu item called “Dynamic Range Expansion”. This new mode is only available for frame rates of up to 30 frames per second and the Ronin 4D 8K switches the signal processing from 12-bit to 14-bit. The dual native ISO also changes to 800 and 4000 ISO, which is more similar to the 6K camera, which is 800 and 5000 ISO.

Dynamic Range Expansion mode on DJI Ronin 4D 8K
Dynamic Range Expansion enables 14 bit sensor readout. Image credit: CineD

It’s important to point out that a 14-bit sensor readout still seems to be quite a rarity in the camera world. Only the FUJIFILM X-H2S also offers 14-bit color depth in a consumer camera, which we have also performed a Lab Test for.

The preliminary Lab Test results for the X9-8K camera are impressive, to say the least. Switching on “Dynamic Range Expansion Mode” will result in up to one additional stop of dynamic range, depending on the recording mode. For example, at ISO 800, we measured 13.8 stops of dynamic range at a signal-to-noise-ratio of 1, and still 12.7 stops of dynamic range at a signal-to-noise-ratio of 2.

IMATEST result for Ronin 4D 8K in 8K, ISO800 25p
Dynamic Range result for 8K ISO800. Image credit: CineD

Switching from 8K to 4K with a full-sensor readout, the results became even more impressive. At ISO 800 in 4K, we measured 14.2 stops at SNR=1, and 13.1 stops at SNR=2.

IMATEST result for Ronin 4D 8K in 4K, ISO800 25p
Impressive Dynamic Range result in 4K ISO800. Image credit: CineD

We will run these tests again with production firmware installed, once it’s out. If confirmed, this would put the Ronin 4D 8K in 4K mode almost on par with the ARRI ALEXA Mini LF, one of the best performing cameras we ever tested.

How much and when?

DJI is selling the Ronin 4D-8K as a combo, including their 17-28mm T3 lens, a ProSSD 1TB and the ProSSD mount, and much more, for just below $13,000 US dollars.

If you already bought a Ronin 4D-6K, you can purchase the Zenmuse X9-8K gimbal camera separately for around $3,600 dollars. This is a very fair price for the incredible sensor performance you are getting with the new X9-8K.

Are you as excited about this new camera sensor as we are? Do you own a DJI Ronin 4D and are planning to also purchase the X9-8K for it? What kind of projects do you use the Ronin 4D for mostly? Let us know in the comment section below! We love to hear what you have to say!


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