Exclusive: RED Has Big Plans To Be Your Still Camera Maker

Exclusive: RED Has Big Plans To Be Your Still Camera Maker

You read that headline correctly. After making a huge splashes in the motion-capture industry since 2005, Red has big plans to be the only camera system you use on set for both your motion AND still photography needs, and it's closer to being a reality than you would think. Prepare to have your minds blown.

Imagine a still camera that can shoot 16.5 stops dynamic range at 19 megapixels. It's also modular, which means it's infinitely customizable via proprietary and third party accessories. It can also use lenses by Canon, Nikon, and an huge library of PL mount cinema lenses. In addition, it can also shoot up to 6K RAW video files at the frame rates of 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 47.96, 48, 50, and 59.94. It would also have a similar form factor and size to popular digital medium format still camera systems. Sounds amazing right? When does it come out you say? It's out NOW.

6K resolution translates to over 19 MP, packing the same detail you expect from your DSLR into a cinema camera. When you can capture up to 100 frames per second at full resolution, you get 100 chances per second to capture the perfect picture. Every still is raw and Adobe Photoshop compatible, which means your workflow doesn’t need to change—even if technology does. The RED [EPIC] DRAGON sensor blurs the line between motion and still cameras, giving you the best of both worlds.

After making a huge splashes in the filmmaking world starting with the release of their revolutionary RED ONE cinema camera in 2007, RED has a new mission: to make a splash in the photography world, and they plan to do it with the movie cameras they already have out on the market today. On September 16, they announced that they will be making their first appearance at the world famous Photokina trade show and expo this month:

RED Digital Cinema continues to break new ground in the world of digital still and motion cameras with the 6K RED DRAGON sensor. Boasting over 19 megapixels, a new color science and higher dynamic range, the DRAGON sensor takes both EPIC and SCARLET to the next level – blurring the line between motion and still cameras.

RED has also introduced the 6K DRAGON sensor into the EPIC Monochrome family. Using its unique sensor pattern to achieve optimum resolution and extended dynamic range, a dedicated B&W camera takes advantage of greater light sensitivity and tonal transfer in gradients, far exceeding the quality of a color image converted to black and white.

RED is not only breaking new ground in photography image capture - with DRAGON receiving the highest DxO Mark sensor rating ever – it is also offering more tactical options for photographers. The newly reworked REDCINE-X PRO provides RAW workflow and now features frame tagging, so shooters can mark and access specific frames while shooting. Also new within this version of REDCINE-X PRO is A.D.D. (Advanced Dragon Debayer), a new algorithm for DRAGON that carefully analyzes every pixel to create the best frame possible.

Within RED’s booth a fashion show will occur multiple times each day to highlight stills-from-motion capture capabilities, including real-time Epson image printing straight from the catwalk footage. In addition to the fashion show, seminars will be held throughout the day by high end still photographers discussing their commercial use of RED. 

RED's new New York City retail store

I recently took a trip to RED's new retail store in New York City's SOHO district during their grand opening event, their second in the United States (if I am not mistaken). They had a photo booth set up in the corner of the store's front lobby equipped with what appeared to be an LED ring light and the new Red Epic Dragon Monochromatic camera system. I sat in there and had my [lack of sleep] portrait taken as you can see below. It immediately got me curious as to why they would have a photo booth set up with a literally and figuratively "Epic" motion camera rather than a standard still camera.

Photo booth image of me by the Red Epic Dragon Monochrome camera system. Click to see it full-sized

This led me to asking some questions of the RED staff about their photo booth. Although subtle, it struck me that they were trying to make a statement with the setup. It turns out that I was not far off, because I was soon to receive an overseas phone call from RED's Paul Waterworth (formerly Hasselblad's Global Photographer Relations Manager). Paul would quickly confirm my suspicious that after dominating a large portion of the filmmaking industry, RED had their targets set on the quickly growing and changing photography and digital / print advertising fields.

The RED camera systems compete pricing-wise to today's modern digital medium format still cameras while also featuring class-leading dynamic range, but additionally offer the full functional capability of being able to shoot a blockbuster motion picture. Sound too good to be true? Well as expected, there are some technical challenges.

You can't shoot using strobes with a current RED Epic or Scarlet based- they do not have a strobe trigger! I suppose you could trick the camera by shooting at a proper shutter sync speed, and fire your flashes manually, and then trying to pull the strobed frame out in post-production, but that would be a big hassle. The truth is, you should embrace the use of constant light sources for this as a still camera system, like Peter Hurley did in an Fstoppers Original pitting a Hasselblad vs a RED. From personal experience, you can accomplish just about anything visually with a constant light system as you can with strobes. It just requires knowledge of the lighting systems and having a heck of a lot more power output. I suggest teaming up with a great gaffer or director of photography with motion picture experience to train and consult you on how to light using today's modern constant lights and their modifiers. That being said, imagine being able to shoot 30 frames a second of your portrait subjects in RAW and being able to extract any frame you'd like and print it on something like the cover of Vanity Fair Magazine. That's exactly what Annie Leibovitz did with her shoot with actress Tina Fey:

Speaking as a commercial photographer and also the co-founder of a seven year old video production company, I have seen the prevalence of combined photo and video campaigns coming from today's ad agencies. In fact, the majority of my biggest projects in the past year have combined elements of shooting stills and motion. This includes a large Chevrolet ad campaign we just wrapped, a wide variety of corporate campaigns, and even the XOXO fashion campaign earlier this year. I know that I will be integrating my own Red Scarlet into many of my combined still and motion shoots in the future. I also know that my own production company, as well as various others I have spoken to will be offering production support to still photographers looking to make the leap.

How about you? What do you think? As many of today's ad campaigns focus on digital presentations (web / tablet/ mobile), and if they are print, rarely hit larger than a one or two page magazine spread, do you really need loads of megapixels (more than 20) when you get incredible amounts of dynamic range? I love my Phase One IQ140, but I definitely see the merit of getting comfortable with using my Scarlet more often on my future shoots.

If RED's Paul Waterworth is to be believed, we don't have that much longer to wait. 

Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called Notabully.org to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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Awesome stuff, but you forgot to mention everything is ridiculously expensive.

A Scarlet with an EF or Nikon lens mount is comparable to a medium format digital system but with more dynamic range, and the ability to shoot high end motion pictures (movies) and its modular so you can upgrade/rent/customize the system to your tastes

Don't get me wrong, RED is an amazing company, I would love to own one of their cameras but as of now I don't think you can really compare a multi ten-thousand dollar system with still DSLRs that cost 1/10-1/20th. At that price I'll through in a 80mp phase one system that destroys the RED for still photography detail. I am obviously speaking from a landscape and portrait photographer's point of view.
The Dragon is truly a beast but it's price and it's weight (a system is huge and unpractical) make it a tool for very specific professionals (maybe even a team).


absolutely valid points. Then it wouldnt work for you in this situation. i think for fashion / portrait combined still / motion shooters this is an interesting alternative. I wouldnt use a RED for every shoot, but for some of my fashion and commercial campaigns, I def plan on using my Red more. Also, I'm sure this is only the beginning for red. I am sure there will be big advances on the still side for them.

From a stills point of view you are right, from a film point of view the RED is actually one of the smallest and most lightweight and flexible systems out there....ever seen a Sony F65 ? THAT is a beast :/

yes, which is as our friend said, RIDICULOUSLY expensive. ok... i have lots and lots and lots of photography friends, and absolutely ZERO that can afford a medium format. its obvious to me that RED have no intention of making anything priced for the average photography professional. they make this stuff for the uber rich.

yet keep in mind, there are working shooters that can and do use and own medium format digital. i love my phase one. if there werent people to buy cameras, then $40k+ still cameras (without any video function) wouldnt exist

I have lots of photography friends that do use medium format digital...

As Douglas pointed out correctly there's always the option to rent stuff and start small. For example I've started using Broncolor pretty early even though I could not justify buying a 20k light setup. Over time I build up my setup and rented (and I'm still renting) the missing pieces.

I think price is not the matter here. It's more adoption of workflow and I think there are situations where this setup totally makes sense. You're not gonna beat a 645 80MP sensor plus flash with a small RED sensor + hot light but there are a bunch of situation where that is good enough and where getting video footage at the same time makes up for it.

Using an expensive tool does not inherently make you rich if the tool is necessary for your business. Many farmers are living rather humble lifestyles while driving a $250,000 tractor in their fields.

Well, you need continious light for the RED. If you're shooting sports... That means you need ALOT of juice from your lights (if you want to freeze the action). What would it take to shoot at 1/4000-1/8000 (I assume they can do that) at ISO100-400 F5.6-F11? If my math is correct then you need way more power than any light can produce...

another good point, as I mentioned above, the current system may not work for you and your needs, but I bet based on their current goals, I wouldnt be surprised if they offered a global shutter system and sync for flash in the near future. nobody hinted this to me, btw, but in my opinion it wouldnt be a stretch

I mean, I would love to be able to shoot sports at a high frame rate, would make getting the perfect picture sooo much easier, but could strobes acually sync and recycle at like 60fps?

while i appreciate RED is trying to branch out into photography, and they have had a gallery on their site of magazine covers that have been made with their cameras for a while now, this article made it sound like the RED system wants to be the everything camera, like they want to be positioned to be your movie camera / portrait camera / one-stop shop system. but you keep saying how many situations its not ideal for. in this regard, and i say this with all due respect, this article is a tad misleading. i understand you are a RED user and thats great. more power to you. but in a DSLR world these cameras are huge, pricey and unwieldy. and honestly even if i could afford one i wouldn't use it cause like you said, its a modular system. it sounds like i'd be taking a lego set onto a photo shoot, not a camera. yes i can see as you said that fashion and studio photography may benefit from it. but photojournalism, especially over seas or in a jungle, or even wedding photography, i think this would be a ridiculous idea

Chris, I readily agree. I clicked assuming I'd be reading about Red's strategic foray into a brand new market.

Awesome stuff! I think Peter Hurley needs to redo that comparison video with the new Dragon. I think it'll be a lot closer than it was in the first video.

true dat

Screw the camera! I just want to know, who makes that LED ring light in the photo booth? It would be delish for my new photo booth setup.

This is fascinating. I'm really curious if there are plans for either a medium-format and/or higher-megapixel-count sensor that could help with fine art work... Of course, I suppose there's more money in commercial/lifestyle/portraiture work, but does it hurt to think much of my own needs? :-)

Not practical for stills in most cases, weight, cost, ease of use etc...

We get asked for stills pulled from our digi cinema footage all of the time. "They" don't get the different shutter speed requirements for stills vs motion picture.

Unless they make it competitively priced, this stays a niche product.

I work with RED cameras for TV and they require a ton of power and infrastructure down the line through post production. I can't imagine a reason why I would want to work with a RED for still shoots. All that horse power for 19 megapixels seems like a move in the wrong direction.

I own the RED Dragon and I pull a lot of stills from the film footage I shoot.
I produce quite a few motion-stills fashion films where I end up with a film and pull stills from the footage and get both formats from one shoot which is great. I mostly shoot at 50fps and there are wonderful moments in between the posing changes that you simply cant get with a stills camera unless you try extremely hard and for a long time or are very lucky.

While its not exactly the same look and feel of a DSLR I absolutely love the quality and style and flexibility of it. Yes its expensive (however not more than a 40/50mpx Medium format system with a couple of decent lenses) but its a fantastic film system and the camera can be stripped down to a very light handheld mode. Michael Bay shoots with an EPIC in handheld mode for a lot of his films.

What RED have achieved is absolutely amazing, I have been shooting RED since 2007, first the RED ONE then the Epic and now the Dragon....lets not forget that RED enabled us to have a camera that can provide feature film quality, that fits into a backpack.

The attached images I shot on the RED Dragon in 6K and the Epic MX in 5K then exported as TIFF and graded lightly in photoshop, sorry about the web compression. There are more samples on my website and vimeo channel in case anyone is interested.

Strobe may still work on the red if you have a DSMC side handle. It has a PC-Sync port on it, albeit I don't think it worked when it first came out. It probably works at this point.

I did read somewhere that there are two different side handles, one with a gold pc-sync and a newer one with a black plastic pc-sync. As I recall the older gold ones work already.

Unfortunately there is NO flash sync with the epic through either side handle. It has to do with the sensor used and apparently its just not doable from what I was told by the RED guys, if I could sync my EPIC reliably with a flash system I'd be selling my DSLR kit but yeah unfortunately not happening :/

I almost pulled the trigger on a Scarlet a year ago. I missed the crazy Red One sale. I would love to get a new Dragon Epic. The price is still a little on the high, but I’m hoping all these new cameras (Sony F-5/BMPC/GH4) will convince RED to bring down the prices just a little. Different markets, I know, but you never know. I shoot mostly Video, but I would love to try an Epic or Scarlet out with stills.

This is why I love company's like Red. Not afraid to push things.
If you think about it most photographic camera company's are trying to push into motion capture.
Why not an established cine camera company trying to push the other way into stills?
Its the Future of things for people involved in the business.

I want that Dragon Scarlet; that seems like a good compromise.

I watched this process mentioned above of fashion runway to large format print at the NAB. Brilliant convergence done right. I didn't get to see the full frame selection process because it was hidden behind closed door where the fashion models were changing. That process would have been nice to see

Having worked with my friend's Epic, the hand grip controller has a switch on the front for stills/motion and and I could swear it has a PC sync port. I don't believe the firmware supports the usage of the use of those individual features yet, but it shows RED has been looking at the still photography realm for quite a while.