General Specialist

2008-11-14

Why the RED cameras won't be seen at pool parties

If RED was aiming their new Scarlet to be a "DSLR killer," they missed the mark, unfortunately.

I love what RED is doing to the dinosaurs of the camera business, but I was hoping that a Scarlet would replace my prosumer gear and give me new possibilities. Unless the Scarlet with the fixed lens is dirt-cheap I don't see me getting it.

Instead RED's proposed system may well be a revolution for motion camera design principles with the sensor being decoupled from the rest of the gear, but this current design won't mean anything for me based on these factors:
  1. Stills resolution
    For still images the 2/3" Scarlet's resolution is just 4.9 mega-pixels where at least 8 MP or more was needed to become a usable alternative to any cheap DSLR. You need to go up to the S35 sensor to get 13.8 MP.
  2. Movie resolution
    No doubt this is where all RED systems excel, and the 2/3" sensor's 3K sounds like a sweet spot where the data rate is still manageable while you will still have the ability to crop or down-sample to HD / 2K. However, I'm pretty happy to get 1080p out of my cheap rig or from a Nikon D90 or a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (which are just the first versions of what will surely become standard features of traditional DSLRs.)
  3. Frame rate
    The great 120 fps frame rate available in the 2/3" sensor drops down to a mere 30 fps in the other Scarlet sensors (unless you crop in on the sensor and loose resolution and DOF,) which is a bit of a disappointment. Being able to over-crank to get beautiful slow-mo has always been a dream of mine...
  4. Lenses
    You also need to go up to the S35-sized sensor to be able to attach readily available still camera lenses from Nikon and Canon, which suddenly brings us to the next point:
  5. Price
    Just the S35 sensor and mount for still lenses bring the price up to $7,000, without a viewfinder or any accessories. That's a far cry from something that a prosumer could justify spending on a camera body, considering Canon's and Nikon's bodies which go for under $2,500. If you get the 2/3" sensor you need to get new lenses with special mounts.
  6. Shallow depth-of-field
    The 2/3" sensor is so small (see Stu Maschwitz's sensor cheat sheet) that you won't get the cinematic shallow depth-of-field and bokeh that we all love, without putting a DOF adaptor and additional lenses in front of the 2/3" Scarlet. A super-16-sized sensor is way better most current video cameras (many features have been shot on super-16,) but it's not comparable with the size and look of a DSLR, even those with APS-C-sized sensors like the Canon 30D.
I was hoping for "3K for $3K": a camera body that would do 2K or more at at least 75 fps with a still camera lens mount and shallow depth-of-field-look, and at least same stills resolution that my old Canon 30D had. I guess I'll have to wait another couple of years...

- Jonas

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