Why I Sold My RED and Downgraded to a C100

Why I Sold My RED and Downgraded to a C100

As 2013 comes to an end, many of us are starting to think about fresh starts and goals for the New Year. For most, 2014 will mean expanding and upgrading gear or even taking a leap of faith. Personally, I’ve taken a very counter-intuitive leap of faith. I sold the most expensive video asset that I've ever had: My RED Scarlet.

(Disclaimer: Before I get too far. I want to remind you to take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. I hope that hearing my story will inspire you to ask questions and start a dialog about the gear-choices you make.)


The Back Story

When I started my video company, Innovate Imageworks, in 2010, I shot with Canon DSLRs. I started with the t2i and quickly moved up to the 5D Mark II. These DSLRs are revolutionary tools that opened doors to people like me. My clients have always loved the look of my DSLR footage and have never had issues with lack of quality. In hindsight, I would be sitting on a fairly sizable chunk of money right now if the 5D was still my main camera (but where’s the fun in that?).

By 2012, I began to feel the need to separate myself from fellow DSLR shooters. Work was going well and I could afford to make a major camera investment. As my gear-lust grew, a few newly-released cameras caught my eye.

It was the innovation and undeniable cool factor that lead me to the RED cult. The Scarlet was an indie-filmmaker’s dream. Suddenly I had access to the same camera that many big-budget Hollywood crews were using. I drained my bank account and bought a Red Scarlet.

I’m glad that I was booking so much work, because I definitely needed the income. I remember hearing filmmaker Philip Bloom refer to the RED Scarlet as a gateway drug and he couldn’t be more right. Suddenly a $16,000 investment grew much larger. My DSLR gear needed to be upgrade to support the RED, so I invested in a new steadicam rig, jib, slider, batteries, handles and many, many external harddrives.


(Photo by Jon-Mark Wiltshire)

The Good

The Scarlet blew my 5D out of the water in terms of resolution and cinematic image. I may have bought the RED because of its hype, but I quickly realized that many clients were hiring me because of that same hype. The RED was more than a camera; it was a status symbol.

The Bad

My content suffered. Plain and simple. I began to prioritize pixels instead of content. Suddenly loading in gear, setting up shots, editing and delivering the final product became a much longer process. This isn’t to say that I believe everything should be shot run-and-gun, but there is a certain laziness that hits me when I’m holding a RED camera. I find I’m far less eager to grab the RED and capture a quick candid shot.

I also found myself disappointed with the color I got from the camera. I acknowledge that the RED team does an amazing job of updating their color science and releasing new firmware regularly, but I never felt the RED color matched my style. I’m sure that RED’s new Dragon sensor will be incredible, but it just isn’t worth another 5-figure investment for me.

The Solution

When Canon released it’s c100 many people wrote it off because of it’s AVCHD codec and awful viewfinder. If you look at the specs, the c100 is a huge downgrade in almost every category. The RED beats it out for resolution, codec and dynamics range. I pegged the c100 as a documentary camera that would have sub-par image quality.

This all changed when Stillmotion jumped on the c100 train. I have a huge amount of respect for Patrick and his team and instantly became interested in the camera. Soon after I saw some of Joe Simon’s c100 work. Joe mentioned that he was able to effortlessly change over from a DSLR workflow. I was sold.

After using the c100, I realize how wrong I was. In my opinion, the Canon C100 is the best of both worlds:

A sharp and dynamic image in a compact body with professional audio inputs and amazing battery life/record time.


(Photo by Jon-Mark Wiltshire)

Final Thoughts

The RED Scarlet is easily one of the best cameras to come out in the past 5 years. The fact that I owned and shot with the same camera as Peter Jackson or David Fincher without going into debt is incredible. That being said, I feel that the RED wasn’t a good fit for me and hurt my creativity and content.

I’ve learned that you should buy a camera based off of your own needs, not your idols’ needs. Movies like The Social Network may look amazing, but owning a RED doesn’t mean that your footage with look anything like David Fincher’s. Sometimes less is more. In my case, I’d much rather shoot with a $6,000 rig than a $20,000 rig.

(Quick A/B test I did between the two cameras)

After owning the c100 for a month, I made the choice to sell my RED last week. Not necessarily to pocket the extra income, but to help simplify my approach and focus on creativity and content going into 2014. I couldn’t be more excited.

I know that many of you have the same gear lust that I did and it may be the best choice you ever make. I just hope that you’ll take a second to clearly identify your needs: from complex things like image quality, to “little” things like battery life.

Good luck with your next big purchase!

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Previous comments

Great article.

It was really to pay for that haircut wasn't it? Now that must of sent you back a couple of bucks ;)

I am curious about what you were shooting that you feel the need to grab quick candid shots. That was one of the reasons provided for giving up the RED.

In all my years of shooting corporate and commercial work I have never been on a set and thought, "I wish I had captured that moment on camera for this video."

We always have a worked out script, shot list, storyboard and schedule. We know what we have to shoot, why we are shooting it and when we are shooting it. No matter what camera is being used, we always get the content outlined for the production.

I see it as the Red was the wrong type of camera for they type of work being done, or the productions weren't clearly planned out to get all of the content needed.

real documentary work demands a tool open for fast-moving improvisation. meaning having a long-life battery, in-camera sound, and efficient media storage. the canon c-series cameras fit this bill neatly.

I agree completely. In a documentary run and gun situation the RED would be a bad choice of camera. The type of work being produced isn't specified in the article, or that I have seen in the comments.

you're right. he says that he still wants a cinematic camera, which he gives as his reason for choosing the c100 over the fs700 -but I'm assuming, due to his choice, that he's delivering mostly for web content. just an assumption, though.

Photography is all about capture of the moment, even if you work from a script. If you don't get this, you aren't a photographer (and I apply this to cine as well). Less setup and prep time makes for more opportunity to focus on and capture the moments, scripted or not.

Great article. Really sad at all of the negative comments. Those are people that have personal issues with themselves and honestly we shouldn't even address them. They're the ones on YouTube clacking their keyboards with the most hateful remarks they can muster.

A tool should always be comfortable in your hands. I'm curious though why you didn't consider the black magic cinema camera.

perhaps the streamlined, xlr audio of the c100?

I'd read the article if it wasn't for the idiotic hipster, modeling with the camera.

I feel the same way about my BMCC. People like to put it down because of the price and small sensor but it's been nothing but amazing for me to use. I can shoot all day without having to dump any footage or slow down. You do need a monitor, battery solution, and juiced link for decent audio but then you're shooting amazing footage for about $5000. ProRes footage is fantastic in post too. Great article BTW!

I totally find myself in your words Dave, and just like you, I'm also living that moment where I feel the need for a little more quality than a 1080p Full Frame DSLR and I'm not willing to "throw my money down the drain" for a RED, SONY, ARRI or BMCC (relax people, that phrase is between double quotation marks ok?). For me, mobility is a key feature I look on any camera, and after using the F3 and FS700 form factor cameras, I realized that any camera with that form factor (and a magnet for extra accessories like these are) would be in my way to achieve the perfect shot in a decent time frame. And to make myself clear for the haters, If I had the time schedule measured in years like most filmmakers have, I'd still prefer using a more mobile camera, like DSLR's or the Cine Canon family cameras.

I have a question though. In this "all-4K-soon-to-be-world" what camera would you suggest me to buy? A camera that I didn't had to sell my car AND my house to have one? The updated 4k FS700? Maybe the C500? (well, I can live on public transportations). Or maybe even a new kick ass Cine 4k Nikon camera? (this is where you Nikon-Isn't-For-Video haters barge in)...

Cheers Dave! Have a great holiday season!

For small hole in the gound I'd use a shovel, for a huge ditch use excavator instead.

Everyone needs to remember that a camera is simply a tool, used to tell a story or get a job done. It all comes down to what kind of work you're doing. Between the two: If your goal is to get the best image possible, yes a RED would be the one to go with. But if your goal is to have an efficient workflow, simple functionality, and the majority of your work is web based videos; I think the C100 is a great match. It all comes down to what camera fits with you and your content.

It comes down to resources and money

Does anyone have the dual-pixel sensor that Canon made available for the C100?

I'm wearing the same shirt he is right now. Just thought you'd all like to know...

Hope you aren't showing as much chest hair as I do. The trolls might attack you ;)

My ears were burning :)

I work with a red its amazing but like I say you can have the best tools but its your creativity that takes you places and gets you clients

Curious as to why you didn't consider the Black Magic camera, which appears to have quite a good dynamic range compared to the Canon stuff. I know you previously came in from Canon, so perhaps you felt more comfortable with that?

Cameras like the Red make life complicated. As do many of these "cinema" cameras. Cameras should be becoming more integrated, not less. I don't want to purchase a camera and then have to buy a load of other crap just to make it usable. That's money that could be spent on better mics, editing gear etc.

The camera lust has come about from the evangelisation of cameras. Something that regrettably at one point I was part of. At one time the broadcast and professional segment of companies like Sony were not the most profitable. Far from it. ENG cameras hardly made any money because the market was so limited. But now that they can get rich consumers to buy the latest professional toy, or to make corporate and wedding video company owners salivate with desire at the thought of owning the same camera that Peter Jackson uses, something that might realistically be within their grasp, they are onto a financial winner!

Even better when they have people giving them millions of Dollars worth of free marketing and advertising from the cult following that all the different cameras gain, along with all the workshops, DVD's, online training etc. It's a marketing guy's wet dream!

It's all a fallacy. It isn't a new thing to simply buy the camera that you can afford and does what you need it to do. The only difference is that we have lots of websites the specialise in trying to make people feel inadequate by making them feel that they simply must have the latest kit.

Yet half of the time we have taken huge strides backwards. Camera ergonomics have gone to the dogs. A consistent control layout like we used to have with ENG cameras is completely non-existent. Some cameras don't even have ND built in, and even a damn viewfinder is seen as an optional extra!

It is a really sad state of affairs, and says everything we need to know about the current industry, when the amount of work a person gets is directly related to the camera that they own, or that a persons skill is judged by their gear.

Never cared for the Red much. Seen it used. It's nice, but I never desired to own one and still don't. I'd love a 5dM3 style camera with a flip out screen like the T3i.

Never cared for the Red much. Seen it used. Seen the images. It's nice, but I never desired to own one and still don't. I'd love a 5dM3 style camera with a flip out screen like the T3i.

why C100? Why not C300? C 300 is better camera than C100 and cheaper than RED

Thanks for the nudge man! I've been thinking this way ever since i picked up the fs700 and finally went to hire the c100 this week and I have to agree with one point in particular, having rented an Epic 8 or 9 times now both pre and post dragon, I got seriously lazy. Mainly due to set up and workflow being so much more long winded after 6 years with DSLR's. I'd rather go 5d3 or c100 right now and actually create than become a slave to my equipment. Turned up to shoot too many times and had the "talent" ask "you not shooting with RED??" This industry may predominantly Hire if you carry the RED badge on your pelican case but they RE-HIRE based on product. Lesson to be learned here to all those about to step into debt or the bottomless RED peripherals money pit for so called "image superiority"

I made my decision now I'm going for Canon C100. I have been saving money for the Red but i realized the fact that I need not to compete with anyone, i am no hollywood. Quality wise, C100 can do what the Red does. Thanks for this article, it helps.

Late to the party on this post I know. I just sold my Scarlet this morning and bought a used C100. I was in the same boat. Just never felt like reaching for the Scarlet over my 5D2 for web commercial/corporate stuff. And then all my narrative films I bring along my DP, who owns an Epic. So my poor Scarlet was sitting gathering dust most of this year. Hoping the C100 will allow me to just grab it and shoot stuff, versus the Scarlet that I never had enough batteries for, or enough media to get me through a day. Will report back with my feelings. Sad day though that baby RED is no longer in my life lol.

cause your stupid

This idiot is like any other over enthused, smug arrogant fool who thinks he knows about cameras and just owning a RED camera makes him cool. The dumbass spent so much money and he didn't even realize he did not get the look of Fincher's movie cuz he did not have the same camera, RED EPIC not RED SCARLET is used for big-budget Hollywood films, and a top tier cinematographer. I guess this guy was so blinded with the word RED that he just thought he bought a pot of gold. And now he goes for another camera instead of just sticking to his 5D and showcasing his talent by focusing on content. But then again this is a guy who can't tell the difference between a RED EPIC and RED SCARLET and went buying a RED camera he thought major Hollywood films use. Way to go.

He should just watch Upstream Color or Musgo to see how a real talent behind camera does it, both films shot on GH2.

And damn this article has a lot of grammatical issues.

What lens is it on the RED Scarlet? It looks very different to the others.

Great information here. I actually use Red a lot for work, but I get it from camera rental in London http://www.aimimage.com/camera-rental-central-london/ and I don't buy my own camera. I've found it to be easier, cheaper and more convenient. And I can use different camera brands or models whenever I need to without buying each and every one of them.

Hm. I disagree about the color - and would choose the RED quality over the Canon one. However - with that price tag, I wouldnt. If you compare all the factors, I would after all - do the same as you, even if I do not get the "very best" quality...

I've done some work with the RED Dragon. And it required a lot of work... and I am not still 100% sure about the quality of the end results. But then... it all depends on resources, as always!

How can you afford a red?