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.
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.
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.