Video / Hands-on Review

Hands-On Review: Atomos Power Stations

While the latest cameras, lenses, and 4K recorders catch most of the headlines, any video shooter knows that the greatest camera rig in the universe won't do you any good if you can't keep it powered. With each electronic component you add, the more batteries and chargers you'll need in your gear bag and the harder it is to keep all your gear powered during a long day of shooting. Wouldn't it be great if you could power your camera, monitor/recorder, and even charge your smartphone all from the same power source? Well, now you can, thanks to the Atomos Power Station.

The Atomos Power Station is a compact, continuous power supply that lets you power up to four devices simultaneously. It features dual battery slots that accept readily available Sony L-Series type batteries, and provides two 8.4V DC outputs for powering devices such as a camera and an external monitor. It also provides two 5V USB outputs (one 2A, one 1A) for powering additional devices or charging a smartphone or tablet. This eliminates the need to carry multiple battery types and chargers and, because the batteries are hot-swappable, you can shoot all day without ever losing power for your camera and other devices.

I was fortunate enough to be given a Power Station to play around with for a couple of weeks, and I was able to put it through its paces. This review will cover the ins and outs of the device, as well as relate my personal experience using it with a Sony a7S camera. With formalities aside, let's dive right in.

Unboxing

Left: Atomos Power Station          Right: Atomos Ninja Star

I'm just going to come right out and say that I love the way Atomos packages its products. Much like the Atomos Ninja Star that I own, the Power Station Video and its included accessories come packaged in a soft-sided, semi-rigid carry case. The zippered clamshell-style case makes it easy to keep everything together and protected when tossing it inside a larger gear bag.

Upon opening the case, you'll find the Power Station and battery adapters for the Panasonic GH4, Sony a7S, Nikon D810, Canon 5D Mark III, and Sony FS series camcorders. Flipping open a hook-and-loop-secured lid reveals the top section of the case that holds two 7800mAh Sony L-Series type batteries, an AC adapter, a power cable for the Atomos Shogun, and the all-important user manual. Six hook-and-loop cable straps are also included. Interestingly, the wall plug for the AC adapter isn't found inside the case, but in a separate compartment of the product box, but I found that it fits inside the case opposite the adapter, where the Shogun cable is stored.


Now, I can only comment on the packing of the Video bundle, not the Photo bundle, which includes lower capacity 2600mAh batteries instead of 7800mAh ones, three cable straps, and only the battery adapters for the Nikon D810, Canon 5D Mark III, and Sony a7S.

Picking up the Power Station for the first time, I immediately noticed how light it is. Without any batteries attached, it weighs only 5 oz. With the two batteries attached it is still only 12.2 oz, so it really doesn't add much weight to your rig, and opens up many mount possibilities. I'll talk more about mounting later.

Interface

As a power distribution box, the inputs and outputs of the Power Station are its bread and butter, so let's take a closer look at what it has to offer. The back of the device is where most of the action is happening. There are two battery slots for the L-Series batteries and three 2.1mm barrel plugs. The top two plugs are 8.4V DC outputs that accept the included dummy batteries and Shogun power cable, while the bottom plug is a 12 to 19V DC power input for charging the batteries using the AC adapter.


The front of the Power Station is where you'll find your battery LED indicators, which display the current charge for the two batteries, available in 25% increments. When you've attached a battery, the first LED (25 % marker) will flash green to show that it is the battery in use. As previously mentioned, the Power Station only draws power from one battery at a time, which allows you to hot-swap a depleted battery for a new one while continuing to provide uninterrupted power to your devices (so long as a second battery is attached). There is one dedicated A-battery slot or B-battery slot; whichever slot you attach your first battery to is where the Power Station will draw power from first.


On the left side there are two standard-size 5V USB outputs that together provide 3A max output (one 2A port and one 1A port). These a particularly useful when you're on set and want to give your phone or tablet a quick charge. Since many cameras and devices use mobile apps for remote control and even monitoring, don't underestimate the convenience of having a couple USB ports.

Moving on to the right side, you'll find a mini USB port for firmware updates and a switching point for setting the minimum operating voltage. Basically, this is a way to tell the Power Station when to switch from one battery to the next. Each camera has a different minimum operating voltage, so this switch lets you find the right balance between long battery life and a safety margin so you don't lose power to the camera when switching from one battery to the other. You can set the switch to High, Medium, or Low.

Mounting

The Power Station is a versatile product that is adaptable to suit your needs and camera rig. A standard 1/4"-20 thumbscrew on top and 1/4"-20 socket on bottom gives you plenty of mounting options. You can attach it directly beneath your camera and use it like a camera grip, underneath a monitor, on 15mm rods using a rod block, or on the side of a camera cage, just to new a few options. It is worth mentioning that even though the box and user manual show the Power Station with a rubberized grip texture around the 1/4"-20 screw, it didn't make it into the final production version, so take that into consideration if you plan on mounting this underneath your compact DSLR or mirrorless camera as a pseudo battery grip.

Real-World Test

One of the reasons I was excited when I was offered to write a hands-on review of the Power Station is that it seemed like an ideal accessory for my Sony a7S. The camera's batteries don't last that long, and frequent battery changes can be not only annoying, but can make the camera difficult to use for event work, especially if you need a long, uninterrupted shot—of course, this also requires an external recorder to get around the 29-minute recording limit of the camera, but let's just focus on the power requirements. Powering the camera from larger-capacity Sony L-Series type batteries and the added ability to hot-swap them eliminates this problem.

Like many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the a7S doesn't have a separate power input, but the included battery adapter (dummy battery) works just fine. One unfortunate side effect of using a dummy battery is that the cable emerging from the bottom of the battery compartment door to the Power Station gets in the way of being able to flush-mount it underneath the camera. This isn't really an issue to me, since the lack of a rubberized grip around the 1/4"-20 screw means that it wouldn't be as secure a connection as I would've wanted.


Another reason I feel that underneath the camera is not the best place for the Power Station is that if you want to have the battery slots facing the rear of the camera, then you can no longer easily see the LED indicators as you shoot, since they are facing toward the lens. Alternatively, if you want to see the LED indicators, then you're forced to have to position the batteries in front of the camera and if you're using larger-capacity batteries, these could potentially interfere with comfortable lens operation, follow focus placement, and just be a pain to swap batteries. But there are so many more mounting options available.

For my testing, and based on the miscellaneous components I had strewn in my camera bag, I found that the most convenient way to mount the Power Station was to flip it upside down (not that orientation really matters), screw it into a 15mm rod block, and mount it behind my camera on a pair of 15mm rods, leaving just enough room for the rear LCD screen to flip up. Mounted this way, I was able to have quick access to the batteries and see the LED indicators easily, as the LEDs wrap around a bit to the bottom of the unit.


With my impromptu camera rig created, I was ready to put the Power Station to the real test, which is powering multiple devices. I was rather fortunate in that the included cable to power an Atomos Shogun was also able to work with my SmallHD DP4 monitor, as it also has a 2.1mm power input plug. With both the a7S and monitor plugged, I had absolutely no problems powering both devices with the Power Station, and hot-swapping the batteries never caused either device to lose power. It is worth noting that I had the power switching point set to High, which is what Atomos recommends for the Sony camera.

Having both my camera and monitor running on the same battery was not only convenient, but it meant that I only had one type of battery to worry about. Without the Power Station, I had to carry Sony L-Series batteries, a7S batteries, and chargers for both. Having only one type of battery makes life easier, and it’s nice not having to keep an eye on the battery level of multiple devices. Also, since I didn't need batteries attached to my monitor to power it, I was able to reduce some weight from the top of my rig.

The next step to test the Power Station was to attach a third device to it—my iPhone 6. Unfortunately, the additional voltage required to charge the iPhone while simultaneously powering my camera and monitor proved too much to handle, power shut down to my devices, and I was left with two blinking red LEDs, which indicates a current overload. Simply put, the single 7.4V battery wasn't able to power all three devices. In order to provide power to all three devices, I had to plug the Power Station into the wall using the AC adapter, as it supplies 15V of power.

Charging and External Power

While I'm on the subject of the AC adapter, I should mention battery charging. When connected to the AC adapter, all devices plugged into the DC power outputs switch over to this power source, leaving the batteries free to charge. Both batteries charge simultaneously, though if your connected devices require enough power draw, the Power Station will automatically scale the charging process to a single battery.

An interesting option would be to pair the Power Station with a V-Mount or Gold Mount battery that has a D-Tap (P-Tap) power output. Using a D-Tap to 2.1mm adapter cable, the Power Station can add voltage-regulated power distribution to the battery, with enough input voltage that you shouldn't have any trouble powering your DSLR, monitor/recorder, and 5V USB device.



Final Impressions

I see this being a great addition to the Atomos Shogun and GH4 or a7S 4K recording setup, especially as the Shogun only has a single battery slot. The fact that a power cable for the Shogun comes with the Power Station shows that Atomos probably feels the same way. You can mount it directly beneath the monitor/recorder, on top of it, or attached elsewhere on your rig. Of course, it is more than able to power other cameras and devices, as well.

I have to hand it to Atomos for making a device that I feel the DSLR and mirrorless camera market really needed. While I've used similar products to power cameras from L-Series or other larger capacity batteries, none of them were as streamlined in design as the Power Station, or offered the multiple DC outputs and reliable battery hot-swapping. As your camera rig grows, being able to power multiple devices from the same battery is a great feature to have, and the fact that you can do it with something this lightweight and simple to use is just icing on the cake. If you're in the market for an external power solution, then I would take a long look at the Power Station, because it just might be exactly what you've been missing.

  Power Station
  Photo Video
Construction ABS polycarbonate
Power Input Battery: 7.4 VDC (8.4 VDC max.), 2 slots
DC Input: 12 to 19 VDC
D-Tap (via optional adapter): 12 to 19 VDC
Power Output 2 x 8.4 VDC, 4 A max. (2.1mm barrel connectors)
USB Charging 2 x 5 VDC USB (Type A), 3 A max.
Max. Total Output Power 32 W
Battery Charging 2 x 1.6 A (on DC power) (approx. 3 hours to charge NP-F570 battery)
Operating Temperature 32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
Dimensions 6.3 x 2.2 x 1.4" (16.0 x 5.5 x 3.5 cm)
Weight (without batteries) 5 oz (143 g)
Weight (with batteries) 12.2 oz (345 g) 25.4 oz (719 g)
Accessories Included 15V AC/DC Adapter
2 x 2600mAh Sony L-Series Type Batteries
DC Power Cable for Atomos Shogun
Battery Adapter for Panasonic GH4
Battery Adapter for Sony a7 Series
3 x Touch Fastener Cable Management Straps
Soft Travel Case
15V AC/DC Adapter
2 x 7800mAh Sony L-Series Type Batteries
DC Power Cable for Atomos Shogun
Battery Adapter for Panasonic GH4
Battery Adapter for Sony a7 Series
Battery Adapter for Sony FS Series
Battery Adapter for Nikon D810
Battery Adapter for Canon 5D Mark III
6 x Touch Fastener Cable Management Straps
Soft Travel Case