Red Dragon’s, Pro I/O’s and Meizler Module’s, Oh My!

Cameras

So there has been some hype over the past few days about the much anticipated Dragon Sensor from Red.  We heard a bit about it at NAB this year and way back when before the Epic-M was being sold.  The second I heard about this new sensor I questioned why a camera company would talk about replacing a sensor on a camera even before the camera was made available for sale.  It occurred to me the first day I had my hands on a Epic that the native ISO and dynamic range were less than what I was expecting.  Most Red Epic and Scarlet owners accepted the fact that their camera would come with an sensor that has a lower native ISO than the F3, C300, FS100, Alexa, etc and most looked forward to getting a sensor upgrade from day one.   Jim Jannard says the new sensor will be available to Epic-X owners who spent more than $50K at/after NAB for free.  Epic-M owners will have first dibs at $6,000 end of year.  I personally think Epic-M owners (the early adopters and believers in Red) should have gotten the upgrade for free and everyone else should have the $6K upgrade payment option.  Scarlet owners will get a different set of specs.  I am guessing that Scarlet Dragon Sensor upgrades will also be factory seconds or imperfects and that frame rates will be capped.  Jim has said Scarlet owners will be last in line for upgrades and that the feature set will be different.

I have been hard on Red over the past year mainly because of the ISO, noise floor and dynamic range so I am glad to hear that this will change with the new sensor.  Now $6K is not a small amount of money.  Not much less that an FS700 camera sells for.  However, if you are happy with what Epic and Scarlet already give you for your dollar, this upgrade will essentially be like giving you a whole new camera.  If you bought a Scarlet this is going to be a large upgrade for you.  The price is more than half of what you probably put into your Scarlet so for many owners they will probably pass on this upgrade unless they are actively booking jobs with it.  For those Scarlet owners who do not do this upgrade, you will find yourself in an even more competitive position than before.  There are so many Scarlet cameras flooded into the market that the rate of competition for rentals is already at an apex.  Adding a Dragon Sensor to your Scarlet is probably a good idea as I don’t think the majority of the user base will do the upgrade.

The PRO IO ($3,750) finally gives Epic the connectivity it needed and to be frank, that should have come with the camera to begin with.  These connections include, LCD/EVF output, XLR in and out, Timecode, AES Audio, Aux, power, GPIO, and Genlock with program and preview.  To use the PRO IO you will require the Module Adapter ($300) to interconnect between the camera body and the IO Module for a total of $4,058.

The Meizler module (approx $13,000) has also been announced and is listed to ship in October / November. This module is for wireless lens control, wireless audio, wireless timecode, Proxy module and it will cure cancer.  Lots of stuff jammed into a small module.  Sounds amazing but seems like you would be screwed on your shoot if the thing ever failed, etc as it would stop many things from working.  Loosing lens control, audio and proxy would be a problem.  There is supposed to me a mini version of this module code named the “Julebox” that will feature some of these features in a limited capacity.  The camera with the Pro IO, the Meizler and the  module adapter make the camera look like a rectangular shoebox.  Not ergonomic at all.  Talk about a CPU with a lens. It is unclear at this time if the Meizler Module will work with Scarlet and lets be honest if it is that would be a pretty expensive option.

So lets do some math on what it would cost to have the ultimate camera (in Red’s opinion).  Starting with the Scarlet-X w/ AL Canon Mount Collection (Scarlet body w/ Canon mount and side SSD, Side Handle, 5″ LCD, 2 x Red Volt batteries that last 17mins each, Red Station Redmag 1.8, Travel charger) $15,940.  Then add a Red Mag 4 pack $2,695. A battle tested Red Rocket card (to save $) $3,000.  A PRO I/O module so we can have professional connectivity options $3,750. A Module Adapter so we can attach the PRO I/O to the camera $300. Red power upgrade as the Redvolt’s do not last long.  Red Pro Battery Module quad $1,950.  Redvolt quad charger $595.00 and 4 x Redvolt XL batteries $350 each = $1400.  And lastly the Red Dragon sensor upgrade at $6,000.  So far the Scarlet comes to $32,935 which is close to what the Canon C500 will be then kitted with batteries, cards, etc.   If you add the Meizler Module to the Scarlet kit I just put together its comes to $45,935. Of course you will need motors, cables, rigging etc to use the Meizler to its full capability and I am sure there will be other ad-dons as well.

The same price set up but with an Epic-M is $72,795 and with the Meizler $85,795.  These numbers do not reflect and top-plates, quick release etc you may need or want.  Those can add a couple grand to this .  The price is comparable to a nicely outfitted Alexa Plus and an F65.

So is Red finally getting its act together and addressing the concerns I and others have had?  I think so.  Of course time will tell when these products actually get released to the market.  The other concern will how long it will take to sort out the bugs.  If this new sensor does what they say, I think Red will get back a portion of the market they have lost to Arri, Sony and Canon.  I am glad the focus is off of resolution and put where they need to focus instead. We have all heard Red hype before. I just hope is somewhat real even if they deliver half of what they promise.  Don’t believe the hype…I really want too. This could help Red a lot.  The fact that Jim posted the following statement says a lot of how the attitude is changing.   “A lot of criticisms about RED are valid. We are only 6 years in this. We have lots to learn and lots to do. But we are just getting started” Of course he still ends every post with this “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone with a bad attitude” which says a lot about company ideals.

Mike Sutton

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Jared Abrams
Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.