Description image

Sony and RED Square off with Competing $6k and $12k Camcorders

01.20.11 @ 1:28PM Tags : , , , , ,

Sony’s new 35mm camcorder, the PMW-F3, is listing for a less-than expected $13,000 at B&H. Not coincidentally, this is the same price as RED’s recently re-named Super35mm EPIC-S camera (formerly known as SCARLET). Sony and RED are thus going head-to-head at the $12k price point; however, Sony is looking to release a prosumer version of the PMW-F3, the as-yet unnamed NXCAM (some are unofficially dubbing it the HXR-NX35), for half the price. Not coincidentally, RED’s 2/3″ fixed-lens SCARLET is also targeting this same price point, which means Sony and RED are releasing competing cameras at both the $6k and $12k price points. Here’s a look at the fixed-lens 28-200mm RED SCARLET, which was demonstrated publicly for the first time at CES:

This model of SCARLET, however, has a 2/3″ sensor. Meanwhile Sony is targeting the same price point with their NXCAM, which will have the same sized (though probably not the exact same sensor) as its big brother: Super35mm. This certainly makes the Sony seem more appealing at first glance, but there’s more to a camera than sensor size. Here is a look from at the Sony prototype at CES:

Not a particularly informative video, but at least it shows the camera does exist… When it comes down to it, there are a lot of outstanding questions regarding both cameras. Will the Sony allow for an uncompressed HDMI output? What audio options will it have? How about lens mounts, will there be a PL/Canon/Nikon adapter to enable use of lenses other than Sony E-mount glass? Will the RED really cost $6k, or will adding accessories effectively double the price? When will it actually ship? In the months to come, we’ll get answers to all of these questions, but if you’re looking to move up from shooting on a HDSLR, the $6k price point is certainly more attainable than the $12k. Any thoughts on these competing offerings from Sony and RED? If they were available today and you had the cash, which do you think you’d buy?


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 46 COMMENTS

  • 2011 is going to be a game changer. Are you going to NAB?

  • David Fulde on 01.20.11 @ 2:17PM

    In the original NX cam video, it showed a PL-mount adapter being used!

  • I shoot documentary style, a combination of run-n-gun and long interviews. If the scarlet really only has 1 hr battery life then that automatically kills off the RED option for me.

    • While the details always keep changing, the old RED bricks are supposed to be able to work with the new epic/scarlet so in theory you’ll have plenty of power. The new 1hr handle batteries are small versions for portability and because customs laws changed or something and the RED bricks are now ‘Dangerous Goods’ (see link)

  • From a Post perspective… AVCHD vs R3D? RED wins hands down. Not to mention the HDRx you featured recently, assuming it gets on the Scarlet. Also… while you do pay for it, the modularity of the RED system is just so practical that I suddenly I don’t care about the difference in sensor size because when I can afford a better ‘brain’ I just have to upgrade it, instead of buying a whole new system… though I suppose that might not work with the fixed lens Scarlet.

    • haha damn camera never coming you sound stupid to wait and ” i can just switch a brain” to what the Phuckng camera is never coming out fanboy

  • I’d buy an AF100. Oh wait … I just did. :)

  • Just had a chance to compare the F3 and the AF100. The F3 is by far a nicer image in low light and a much beefier camera. With that said the AF100 is 1/3 the price. If I had $13,000lying around I’d buy the Sony. But I don’t so it looks like it’ll be the Panasonic. Or maybe it’s worth the wait to see how Canon and JVC react?

  • Just to be clear, the F3 w/o lens is listing for $13.3k vs. the proposed $12k for the RED. One could buy another lense for the difference, and no I’m not a RED fanboy. I’m actually a very happy Sony customer but one can’t ignore a $1300 price difference.

  • The NXCAM is using the Sony E mount which the are using on the NEX3 and NEX5 Mirror less camera’s and also the VG10 , there are already Adaptors to use Sony a-Mount including the excellent Zeiss and Minolta ( Dynax Maxxum Lens) , Leica , Canon, Nikon, M42, Contax and more . Pretty much any glass out there will be able to fit on this camera with an adaptor .

  • I don’t understand the logic of this article. How can they say that a Sony’s 1920×1080 PMW-F3 is comparable to RED’s 5000×2812 (5k) EPIC-S??? How are they comparable? Because they have the same price? The greater resolution is a BIG deal…. we’re not talking about a minor advantage.

    And how would Sony’s NXCAM (again with a 1920×1080 resolution) be comparable to RED’s Scarlet 2/3 with a 3000×1687 resolution?

    Am I the only one that notices the absolute silly comparison here?

    I’m as frustrated as anyone with the delays in RED’s second generation of cameras. But let’s be honest. Sony is still not competing with RED’s second generation in any way.

    • resolution is not everything I care about

      as soon as I can get real 1080p (as opposed to what the current canon DSLRs deliver), it won’t even be on my top 5 priority list

      • oh, and by the way: I’d take sensor size over resolution any day of the week, so in my book your “how would Sony’s NXCAM (again with a 1920×1080 resolution) be comparable to RED’s Scarlet 2/3 with a 3000×1687 resolution?” becomes “how would RED’s Scarlet 2/3 be comparable to Sony’s NXCAM with 35mm size sensor?”

        • Samuel, you are right… sensor size is very important…. but I still find your posts contradictory.

          On one hand, you say sensor size is way more important than resolution… yet you slam Canon’s DSLRs profusely for the lack of detail in their 1080p video. The Canon 5D Mk II has a full frame sensor. Shouldn’t that make it’s video head and shoulders above everything else when you value sensor size so much?

          I’ve seen video frame grabs from RED video and DSLR video, and it looks exactly like the comparison shown in the ‘Canon 4k’ article you mention. The RED slaughters the detail of even the 5D Mk II. What makes you think the comparison between video from the Scarlet 2/3 and Sony NXCAM will be any different? I, like you, appreciate detail in the image. Sensor size does not guarantee detail.

          There are other issues too, like bit-rate, and frame-rate, that put the RED cameras above any similar priced competitor’s product… at least with stated facts that we know of.

          I might agree with you that the NXCAM and Scarlet 2/3 are closer than I stated because the NXCAM has a much bigger sensor, but I stand by my statement that Sony is still behind Red’s second generation. Certainly the 35mm RED EPIC-S dominates the Sony F3… They both have the same size sensor, with RED having advantages in almost every other area.

          Even with it’s long delays, I think the Scarlet 2/3 will be out before Sony’s NXCAM. I just wish the Scarlet was available now.

          • Well…. it seems that I’m becoming more and more of a fan of the Sony NXCAM (FS100). It’ll be out shortly and the Scarlet is still a mirage on the horizon. If RED had been able to deliver what it had promised a few years ago by this year, it would be hurting Sony’s new cameras…. but since they are not out, and no one knows when they will be, I and many others will have to remain content with our DSLR’s or perhaps get one of Sony’s new cameras.

    • most of you RED fanboys will never get your crappy movie on a 4k let alone 2k projector so 1080p works for all fanboy

  • And what about the RED EPIC-S shooting 120fps in 3k resolution? The Sony PMW-F3 can shoot it’s 2k video at a maximum of 30fps! Even my $500 Sanyo HD2000 could shoot 1920x1080p at 60fps.

    Unless I’ve missed something completely, it’s not possible to say Sony is competing with RED’s second generation.

    • I think we’d all love to have a 5000×2812 image. But how many movies have you seen projected at 5k in your life? Zero. Yes, higher resolution is important, and will be more so going forward. But it’s not like anyone walked out of The Cure of Benjamin Button saying, “if only that had been shot at twice the resolution.”

      Are the two cameras targeting different markets? To a certain extent, yes. But you’re going to see feature films shot on both. And those lucky enough to have enough money to buy either one of these cameras are going to do just that: buy one. That’s why they’re competitors.

      And unless I’m mistaken, the Sony shoots 60p.

      • I’m sorry Koo, but I find some of your statements factually incorrect.

        The Sony F3 doesn’t shoot 60fps at 1920x1080p according to the attached link in the article. I don’t care about 720p.

        What do you mean by “how many movies have you seen projected at 5k”? I’ve seen a few shot with the RED ONE at 4k, transfered to film and on the big screen in the theatre. I’m sure you’ve seen a few movies too that were shot with the RED in the theatres. The Social Network?

        Even if not shot for the big screen, I’d much rather have the higher resolution and higher framerate!

        With a large resolution image I have the freedom to crop in post with less resolution loss and a higher framerate will give me smooth slomo without the need to interpolate frames.

        I’m not a RED fanboy that considers everything they make as gold, but I consider the big manufacturers to be lazy. They’ve dolled out the good stuff at prices that only the rich can afford…. and RED will hopefully make them wakeup and compete…. but they are not competing yet! I don’t think a 1920×1080 camera competes with a 5000×2812 camera… they are not in the same league.

      • Woah. Did you just knock shooting at higher resolution than your finishing format?

        RED wins every comparison hands down. All we need to validate that is for the cameras to actually get released. The Scarlet is 3K RAW up to 120fps. Those are 3 huge and dominating specifications for a camera if you’re interested in cinematic production. Get the Cinema Scarlet and you can do interchangeable lenses.

        3K is twice the megapixels of 1080p. RAW is raw, like stills from DSLRs. Compression isn’t baked in yet. 120fps is a hell of a lot more frames per second than other cameras.

        If you’re comparing the EPIC-S to the F3, forget it. That thing will eat the F3 on its way to the shower in the morning before breakfast. Picking either Sony camera over the Scarlet or EPIC-S would just be maintaining the status quo when the next generation has arrived. I don’t see a reason not to embrace it. The more I learn about RED and their cameras and their company philosophy and their firmware upgrades and so on and so on…it makes for an easy choice.

        • Couldn’t agree more!

        • how about comparing something that really exist to bought by us normal people you fanboy that camera is done for

          verb [ intrans. ]
          1 have objective reality or being : remains of these baths still exist on the south side of the Pantheon | there existed no organization to cope with espionage.
          • be found, esp. in a particular place or situation : two conflicting stereotypes of housework exist in popular thinking today.
          2 live, esp. under adverse conditions : how am I going to exist without you? | only a minority of people exist on unemployment benefits alone.
          ORIGIN early 17th cent.: probably a back-formation from existence .

      • The medium you choose should be as future proof as possible. 5K may not give you much benefit in this timeframe we’re currently in, hell, even 2k maybe more than enough for now. This does not mean things are going to stay this way forever. What do you think will happen in 10 years? Do you think we’ll be stuck with 2k? No. (Also keep it mind we’re dealing with digital pixels here.)

        • Red Scarlett was supposed to come out in Summer 2008 if i remember correctly. There is no doubt it will be a fantastic camera if it ever actually becomes available. There is no such thing as a “Future proof”. Technology moves at such an incredible rate these days whatever you buy will get outdated within a few years.
          People can bitch all they want about resolution and frame rates but at the end of the day you buy the right tool for the job.

          “Just because you have a camera, doesn’t make you a cameraman!”. A good cameraman can make anything look good regardless of what camera he is working with.

  • If the price is the same I would go with the Sony. Every shoot I know of that used a Red still had issues. Sony seems to allow for more options in accesories whereas Red is very proprietory. Sony also has an incredible build quality. Any Sony stuff I’ve bought goes out of style before it breaks. In the long run I think Red would end up costing more in money and headaches.

    • I don’t think the RED’s are as problematic as your second hand information indicates to you. Many films have been shot with the first generation RED camera…. and many big name directors have used them and are eager to use them again. Peter Jackon will be shooting the upcoming Hobbit movies with the RED EPIC-M.

      Hey, I know we’re all weary of the over-hyped RED cameras…. but that doesn’t mean that 5k video should be ignored.

  • to all the 5K lovers above: I’ve run some tests and determined that my very healthy eyes can’t see anything more than 3K

    I understand you might still want to shoot 5K sometimes, and use the extra resolution por some specific purpose in post

    but that’s only sometimes, just like sometimes you want to use the highest possible ISO but you don’t always need it

    I’d be extremely happy with real 1080p (as opposed to the current Canon DSLR kind-of-blurry thing) and higher noise-less ISO

    oh, and, of course, a lower total package cost (which I think will be the achiles heel of these REDs)

    • (of course, I like RAW and 120fps, I just think this resolution thing is overhyped)

    • You’re correct in how resolution has its limits. But the point of oversampling is that when you scale down, there is so much more information and clarity there. Every camera isn’t actually capturing its stated resolution in full.

      That is the strength of capturing at 3K or 5K. You are able to down scale and the resulting 1080p image is that much more impressive, pristine and clear for 1080p or 2K delivery.

      • ok, but you have to admit: noiseless high ISO, latitude, color reproduction, even RAW, and also high fps… there are so many things more important than resolution once you’re in DSLR’s 1080p territory

        and the EPIC-S has many of them: why talk only about resolution? that’s the thing I care the least about (small gain, pain in the butt at every stage in post)

        • I see what you’re saying. I agree that RED ought to do more to hype their other advantages. Their latitude is going to be insane. First of all, the Mysterium-X sensor already has awesome latitude, and then on top of that, you’d got HDRX that will expand that even further.

          As far as noise goes, I don’t know as much about all the different cameras, but from everything I’ve seen and read, RED is at least on par with the other cameras out there like the Alexa.

          I think very soon we’ll have an amazing machine (Scarlet) accessible for only $6000. All you need to do is buy some extra batteries and CF cards.

          • Actually the Noise in high ISO on the RED ONE is pretty bad. I hope it will be addressed with the new RED’s, but I saw a side by side comparison with the RED ONE and the Alexa, and the Alexa just blows it out of the water in noiseless high ISO. Probably the RED’s biggest downfall. Nothing Neatvideo can’t fix though haha.

  • I’m sorry for my ignorance but this is the first time I read or hear about this.
    DSLRs don’t shoot at real 1080?
    I’d appreciate if somebody can explain that to me.

      • Samuel, thanks for the link! Interesting…
        If I didn’t get it wrong, they basically took a 5.6k pixel photo and reduced it/scaled it down to a 1080 scale.
        Then they compared it to a still frame of HD video from a Canon DSLR.
        Wouldn’t that be basically comparing a still frame of a 4k video reduced to 1080, to a still of a original 1080 video???
        The 4k or 5.6k frame (reduced/scaled down to 1080) will obviously have more detail than a true 1080. Am I wrong?
        Plus they are comparing a photo vs a still of video, doesn’t Mbps play an important part here?
        Samuel? Koo? Anybody?

        Appreciate your efforts in making me understand!

        • Every camera captures 1080p at differing levels of clarity and compression.

          It is like a drawer. A drawer may be 1ft x 2ft, but that is just its size, what is inside it matters as well. A Canon DSLR has a “1ft x 2ft” drawer for the video it shoots, but so does the Sony F-3. However, the Sony F-3′s 1ft x 2ft “drawer” is a lot fuller that the Canon’s.

          Its a bit confusing I suppose, but 1080p is just a container. You’ve got to fill it with good stuff.

        • the point Stu is trying to make is that canon’s 1080p footage is not nearly as good as 1080p footage can be

          in order to get that “good 1080p” image, you can shoot 5K and then resample, but there’s an easier alternative that can deliver exactly the same “good 1080p” image: let the camera read the sensor, and then use that information EFFICIENTLY to store just a 1080p image on its flash card (where “efficiently” obviously is not achieved by skipping lines and then using a bad resampling algorithm)

          if the resampling algorithm that the camera uses is the same that you’d use to downsample your 5K footage, and the sequence is then recorded on a nice codec, I don’t need to see the original 5K footage, just give me the good 1080p and I’ll be fine

    • The file records at 1080p but many (Canon) DSLRs only resolve 500-something lines of resolution.

      • For the file record 1080 pixels image has EXACTLY 540 LINES of resolution – because You need 1 dark and 1 bright line to distinguish a LINE. Technically speaking.