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5 Reasons Why I Bought a RED SCARLET, and Why It May (Or May Not) Be the Right Camera for You

11.15.12 @ 10:12AM Tags : , , , , ,

One NoFilmSchool writer happens to own a RED SCARLET. Now there are two. Ryan already discussed his purchase back in November last year, so if you came here from Twitter or somewhere else and you’re confused why this post is happening a year after he bought one…well…this is your answer. Back when RED had their one-time-only Battle-Tested SCARLET deal, I pulled the trigger, and have not looked back since. This post isn’t an attempt to enrage DSLR users or DIYers, or encourage RED-haters — because I’ve used and owned every brand that exists (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, etc.) and I can find positives and negatives about all of them. As a writer for a website with a very diverse audience, however, I thought I had an obligation to explain why I made such a major monetary decision.

A Little Background

I have directed a number of films in the past, including a feature (a few of which have yet to be released), and I’ve also been the Director of Photography on a number of shorts (and part of a feature). Since I’ve mostly worked in the no-budget sector of filmmaking, I’ve also acted as the focus puller on many of my films, as well as a few others. I work in television from time to time and I also do some documentary/special interest work. Most of what I do involves working in situations where I’m either in daylight, working with lights indoors, or in a space where I have just enough light to work with already. I would like to do more music videos and commercials (directing or shooting) in the near future, so that is also factored into the equation of what I was looking for in a camera, since, as you’ll read, I didn’t have one when I made the purchase.

I haven’t owned a camera since February, which happens to be when I began writing for this site. The freelance jobs I’ve taken between then and now have luckily not required me to have my own. Does that mean I probably missed out on a few more? Absolutely, but at the time, I needed the money, and the quickest way to get some was to sell my Canon 5D Mark II, and I did, and I didn’t look back, knowing I had jobs coming up that didn’t necessarily require a camera — whether one was provided or I was just working as audio.

So I waited…and waited….and waited. Nikon grabbed my interest first, and once I had put the money together, I was going to jump on the Nikon D800, because for my uses (not really any situations where I needed a low-light monster, though the D800 is capable with a little post work), it was a perfect camera, especially since it had the ability to record the HDMI, which I found in my own testing superior to the internal recording.

After Blackmagic introduced their camera, I had a choice to make, but after a few months of finally getting the money together, I pre-ordered the Cinema Camera. After the initial delays were starting to come in, and they introduced the MFT mount (which also is better for what I wanted to use a camera for), I changed my order, and again, never looked back.

Well, months later, here we are, and RED introduced what I think was an incredible deal (still better than their recent price drop — though arguably the RED ONE MX is the best bang for the buck), basically offering a brand new camera for a used price. I could not pass it up and since I had saved more money than I needed for the Cinema Camera, I jumped at the SCARLET. I still have the Blackmagic Cinema Camera on pre-order, and I’m still excited by the images I’ve from it, but the reality is that I won’t be shooting anytime soon with that camera, as you’ve probably read about.

I’ll have to make another confession: currently I do not have the rest of what I need for a fully working SCARLET, which is really only power and media, since I own a SmallHD monitor and I have quite a few Nikon lenses (which can be adapted to the RED Canon adapter very easily). I could have bought the rest of what I needed to get shooting with the camera, but as a purely financial decision, it did not make sense for me personally to spend every last cent on a camera system right away. The decision to buy the camera was based on funds I had readily available, and the goal is to finance the rest of what I need to shoot as cheaply as possible, which will most likely involve interest-free credit cards and/or selling gear I may no longer need. I also wanted to do as much research as humanly possible before getting the rest of these parts, but since the deal was only going to last a few days, it made sense to buy the body immediately for a greatly reduced price than even what the camera is currently retailing for (which is about $10,000 as opposed to $7,100 for the deal).

These reasons are based on having the money (at least at some point soon) to put together a camera package in a specific price range: $5,000-$15,000. If you don’t already own some of the pieces to get you going (monitor/tripod/lenses), it could be at least a $15,000 investment or more. I’ve been investing in these specific parts over the last few years, so the investment is slightly lower for me, but it’s something to keep in mind.

With that said, let’s get into why I bought a SCARLET, and why it may, or may not, be the right camera for you:

1. The Look

I’m sure most of you reading this have seen RED footage. Some of it is fantastic, some of it is good, and of course, some of it is terrible. This isn’t any different from any other camera out there. Even the Arri Alexa — which I think has made some of the most beautiful digital images so far — has produced less than stellar footage. The RED MX sensor looks cinematic to me, not just in the way it renders colors, but in the way it renders motion. Even when it’s not graded very well, it still feels right to me in a way that  I haven’t felt from other camera systems in this price range (except for the Blackmagic Cinema Camera).

This is, of course, purely subjective and intangible. What satisfies “the look” for one person may not for another, but really, that’s what makes filmmaking interesting. I might make a different decision about what a film looks like than someone else, but for me, I know the look that I want to achieve in my work, and I’m confident I can get it from RED. As a perfect example of what I’m talking about, here is the short our own Ryan Koo made with his SCARLET:

2.  RAW/Post Flexibility

Having played with RED RAW files in the past, I was simply blown away by what was possible, even at relatively higher compression ratios. This is certainly a part of “the look.” I personally wanted a camera that would hold up in post. If I want to keep an image flat, that’s one thing, but if I want to do serious color grading with lots of secondaries, there aren’t many cameras in this price range that can deliver.

Part of my background is in photography, and I’ve shot on everything from DSLRs, to 35mm, Medium Format, and 4 x 5 Large Format. All throughout I’ve been using RAW in one way or another. Whether it was shooting and developing a negative in a certain way to retain information, or scanning a negative, or getting a digital RAW file from a DSLR, I’ve been working with the least compressed quality possible. I wanted to be able to do that once more in my video work. For me, shooting video on DSLRs or on another camera in a highly compressed format is not very far off from shooting JPEGs on a DSLR. Of course you can get beautiful images, but you don’t have much room for error, and you certainly can’t push the image very far before the compression starts to show up.

10-bit 4:2:2 is nice, but the only camera capable in this range in the F3, and even then, it’s not going to come anywhere close to what you can get from RAW.

The RAW files are large, there’s no question about that, and that’s definitely one of the drawbacks of shooting 4K RAW. For me, however, the compression options and lower frame sizes make this less of an issue than if I were shooting uncompressed RAW. Of course, you can shoot with an external recorder with RED, though I’m not familiar with the kind of quality you’ll get out of the HDMI or the HD-SDI of the SCARLET. If it’s better than a DSLR, I would still say it’s a success, and there are plenty of relatively inexpensive recorders that you could add if you needed to.

RED’s post workflow with REDCINE-X or with any of the supported editors (which includes Premiere Pro and Final Cut 7 and X), is mature considering the growing pains that many went through in the beginning. This is another consideration for anyone in this budget range considering the Sony FS700 and 4K upgrade, as it’s unclear what the post workflow might look like at this point for that system.

3. Resolution

I like sharp images. I’m not talking about digitally enhanced edges, but actual resolved detail. There are only four cameras that hold a candle to the SCARLET in terms of a 1080p image anywhere near this price range: the Sony FS100, Sony FS700, Sony F3, and the Canon C300 (since the C100 hasn’t been released yet, I can’t really say definitively – though it’s likely that would be the fifth). I got to see all of these cameras on the big screen in 2K (except for the FS700) including some cheaper cameras like the Panasonic GH2 at the Zacuto 2012 Shootout, so that is where some of my opinions are coming from.

I’ve shot on 35mm adapters and DSLRs for a while now, and they’ve both got their quirks and issues, but for me, I wanted a camera that could finally resolve an image as good as the best 1080p cameras out there. 4K was also a consideration. Yes, it’s not “real” 4K, but if you’re keeping score at home, the only true way to get 4K is to have three separate sensors for RGB, or to oversample a tremendous amount. RED claims its 5K delivers a true 4K resolution, but to me, it’s really kind of a pointless discussion at this point. 4K displays and projectors are coming, but until I see 4K, 5K, and 6K all compared together on a 4K screen or projector, it’s not a terribly productive conversation (at least for my own sake). The advantage that I see to those higher frame sizes at the moment is for stabilization and reframing, not necessarily for getting a higher resolution 4K image.

Having 4K though, does mean I can go back and actually show work at full resolution — and it’s likely this will happen on a computer monitor before it happens on a TV screen (in greater numbers). Does this mean I will? Not necessarily, but again, for me, having the option was a consideration.

 4. Form Factor/Modularity

The SCARLET is not a light camera. It’s light when you consider it is shooting 4K video, but compared to a DSLR, it’s heavy. At 5 pounds — American, not British :) — for the brain only, it’s going to be heavier than any equivalent DSLR rig. That said, I like two kinds of cameras, small and maneuverable, or big and ready to throw on my shoulder at a moments notice. Either one can work for my purposes, but in this case, if I can’t throw it over my shoulder (without needing a rig), I’d rather be able to handhold it like a DSLR if I need to — and that excludes everything but the Canon C300, which didn’t really make the cut for the reasons above.

The other half of the form factor equation is modularity. RED has created a system that Sony has smartly adopted in its own way, and it means that you can add and subtract functionality as you see fit. Yes, the modules are not cheap, but some of them may only be required for certain jobs, and there’s a good chance if you really need a particular one, it can be rented from somewhere else. Take, for example, the Meizler Module, which is able to take wireless focus/iris/zoom signals from a remote follow focus as well as record proxy files. I can’t ever see this being a purchase for me personally, but if a specific job needed exactly this kind of functionality, it’s there. RED is most certainly going to build a cheaper proxy module, and since they’ve created an adaptable system, it’s something that can simply be attached on the back, rather than hanging off the camera. If I can help it, this sort of rigging almost defeats the purpose of a small camera, though if I were on the right job and they were paying for it, I’ll gladly build up the camera as big as they want me to (or as is required — image courtesy of Creative Cow — on the set of Total Recall):

5. Sensor Upgrade

It’s definitely not the most important reason I considered a SCARLET, but after considering the other factors, only the FS700 is offering some sort of upgrade path, though at the time it wasn’t clear what that might be. The fact that there will be some sort of upgrade to the Dragon sensor is not something to be taken lightly. Even if it doesn’t quite live up to what Mr. Jannard is claiming, it’s still going to be a pretty serious piece of technology. The upgrade path will make the camera that much more flexible in terms of dynamic range and low-light sensitivity. I don’t expect this to be available for SCARLET at least for another year from now, but we should know by the beginning of next year what the upgrade for SCARLET will look like — and more importantly what it will cost.

Even so, if I’m going to buy into a system, while mostly proprietary, this one makes the most sense for me at this time. Sony’s system will not be out until February, and even when it is, the cheapest camera, the F5, will still be out of my price range when it comes to shooting RAW. As far as the FS700 goes, yes, it will be upgradeable, but I want the image quality in the next few months, rather than having to wait until the Spring for RAW capability. 8-bit 4:2:2 is the best that camera can deliver, and while I could make do, again, it came down to all of the factors listed above.

6. Renting/Investment

Wait…didn’t you say 5? Yes, if you’ve gotten this far, it’s a bonus, and really, at this point with so many cameras coming out, that’s the way I was looking at it as well: a bonus. It’s probably not going to be possible to make a living just renting out a SCARLET. That might have been possible when the SCARLETs first appeared on the market, but with a lot more users undercutting each other and cheap RED ONE MXs appearing, the rates will not be nearly as high as they used to be. One of the most rented cameras at the moment is actually the Canon C300, so if I was just looking at a rental investment, that might be the one I would look at in this price range. The renting/investment option still exists, however, and it’s something I am considering. Either way, I made sure that I was fine with spending the money that I’m spending and not necessarily recouping the entire investment. This is a reality in today’s world, and because I plan on shooting a feature film on the camera, there’s no question it will be worth it for me.

RED SCARLET vs. Other Cameras

All, some, or none of the reasons above may apply to you in the same way as they do for me, but assuming you’re looking in the same budget range as a SCARLET, I think there might be some better options for you:

If you shoot documentary or event work in uncontrolled situations often, an ND filter is going to be your friend. Sure you can work with fader NDs on the SCARLET, but RED sensors are very sensitive to the far red end of the light spectrum and are very particular about the NDs you put in front of the camera, so not all of them are going to give you satisfactory results. For those same people the file sizes and proprietary media will be an issue.

You can shoot all day relatively cheaply on a camera like the C300, but RED at 4K will make any documentary or event situation that much more complicated. In its least compressed mode you’re getting less than 1 hour on a $1,250 128GB SSD — a lot more space than the 20 or so gigabytes you’d get from a C300 in the same amount of time. In Sony land, the FS700 has ND filters just like the C300, and all of their cameras can actually take SD cards, even the F3 with an SxS to SD card adapter. The Sony 24mbps or 35mbps codecs will let you shoot practically forever at relatively low cost. Even with the ability to record compressed files from the SCARLET, having it onboard already with cheap media is an advantage, no question.

The SCARLET isn’t nearly as sensitive as the Sony and Canon cameras in this price range. While you can push the SCARLET a bit, it’s going to be noisier at equivalent ISOs, so if you’re shooting something that requires a camera that can operate in almost no light, the FS series and C300 are going to be better options. You’re going to need lights with RED, whereas some of the other cameras can expose a relatively clean and bright image with just a household lamp.

If you’re shooting for long periods of time (long clips), the SCARLET is going to get loud. That’s the cost of 4K RAW in such a small package. If you’re shooting for 10-15 minutes or more without stopping recording, there’s a fairly good chance the fan on the camera is going to go up much higher than you’d like it to, and if for some reason you needed to be stealthy or noise would disrupt the shooting, the SCARLET is going to disappoint you.

RED probably would be overkill for someone who is making simple videos that only need to go to the web. Many people may not need this much horsepower if they won’t be utilizing the image to the fullest extent, so if you won’t benefit much from RAW or 4K, RED won’t be a great choice.

If you need slow motion, prepare to spend a lot more money. You’ll get it on the EPIC, but SCARLET is a different story, as you max out at 4K 24fps and a barely usable 2K/60fps. While the RED ONE MX is slightly higher than SCARLET at 2K (120fps), the EPIC is where it’s at in terms of high frame rates. If you really need the slow motion, the Sony FS700 is the best option in this price range, with 240fps at 1080p.

If you’re not interested in proprietary formats, any of the other cameras provide an LCD monitor right out of the box, and don’t need a special device to operate the menus. One of the downsides to the SCARLET is that even though it’s handy to have a completely adjustable menu, you need a touchscreen display, side handle, or REDMOTE to actually operate the camera. This is going to turn a lot of people off immediately as they won’t have a choice, and will need at least one of those to even get a SCARLET working.

Last but not least: reliability. I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but it’s been a problem in the past. RED has come a long, long way, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s possible you could run into technical issues. This is a mature product, and many of the initial issues have been worked out in firmware upgrades, but the more complicated a camera gets, the greater the chance that it can break down. You may find that another camera system is more reliable or rock solid, so that could be a final consideration if you absolutely cannot have a camera crash under any circumstances.

Bottom Line

I’m sure I could be missing a few users, but basically I look at it this way: If you’re a filmmaker that can control most of your shooting environment, and you want RAW flexibility, SCARLET could be a good fit. If need to record for long periods of time and you can’t control your environment, and RAW isn’t really necessary, the FS700 and the C300 are the better options.

I will still be writing about and recommending cheaper cameras, as most simply don’t have the budget for this sort of camera system. I’ve been there, and I still see DSLRs as viable filmmaking tools — and I’ves shot enough projects on those cameras to be OK with saying that. I thought it was important not to defend the decision, but to really explain why I purchased a SCARLET even with the other cameras on the market or coming soon to the market. I believe you should purchase a camera system that fits into your budget, and if you’re concerned about recouping your investment, either buy the cheapest system possible, or rent your camera on an as-needed basis. There’s nothing wrong with that option, but for me, owning a camera with this much power and flexibility was something I could not pass up.

What about the RED ONE MX over the SCARLET? Well, as far as pricing goes, it was a no-brainer at the time, but I would seriously have considered the MX over the SCARLET today. I do not regret the decision because of reasons 4, 5, and 6, but the MX camera could actually fetch higher used prices once this deal ends. It’s basically all of the functionality of the SCARLET (with some more like 4.5K), in a bigger, heavier, and slower-loading package. I also believe I can get usable HD files from the SCARLET by using an external recorder, whereas the RED ONE is limited to 720p.

So, with all of that said, if you bought a SCARLET, why might your reasons differ from mine? If you’re considering a camera in this price range, what are you looking at in terms of features? There are no wrong answers here, and you can feel free to disagree with any of them, but I would like to try to keep this discussion as constructive as possible.

[Intro image courtesy RED via DFX rentals]


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!

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  • Great post. I wish I could consider one right now.

    You justified your purchase, 100%

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on deciding to go for this camera Joe. I was wondering if you could share some of your work with us. Googling your name got me as far as Joe Marine’s shiny leather jackets.

    Anyway, your points seem valid. I myself was rather interested in the FS700 when it came out, but somehow, from what I’ve seen, the footage is just too much ‘video’ for me. The colors and sharpness aren’t there.

    The F5 however seems, at least on paper, to have everything I have wished for in a camera, besides the (seemingly justifiable) price tag. It looks like the most feature packed and versatile of the sub 20.000 dollar cameras. Probably saving up for that one, unless, once again, something bigger comes along.

    • The work I’m most proud of is not online for one reason or another, whether it’s currently in post (I have a short and a feature that are both stuck in post-production and it’s been a long strange couple years since I shot them), or whether it’s not done yet and I can’t share it.

      That might sound like a cop-out, but I’m certainly happy to own up to what I’ve done so far that’s online:

      I shot the two films at the top of this page about a year and a half ago. Both shot on the 5D Mark II and neither has been color graded yet:

      Ideally I’ll have a lot more work coming out in the next 6-12 months that has been in post.

  • Awesome post however I don’t understand the use of an external recorder with the Scarlet – you aren’t running it thru Red Cine-X and proper debayer – how do the images hold up?

    • I’ve seen some of the results and they looked good enough, but it’s hard to gauge until I really get out and test it fully. If it looks as good, or better than a DSLR, then it will satisfy pretty much all of my other requirements when I don’t need 4K RAW. There is also a way to record the full 5K image area with the SCARLET using the HD-SDI, so that’s also something I’m going to explore.

      • Recording through the hdsdi is very very usable, still much better than a dslr. In many instances it produces a cleaner image. Depending on your debayering setting hdsdi can look sharper than on board.

  • This was a great post, and definitely hit all the same points as to why I ordered a BT one as well!

    I highly recommend those that looking to save a bit of $$ to search the REDuser “For Sale” section and pick used items up from trusted members. I was able to get a number of power and data solutions that saved my wallet close to $6k – the 128 SSDs I picked up came from a data wrangling company that used them on feature films. It’s a great way to get up and running if you’re fine using gently used items!

    • Daniel Mimura on 11.22.12 @ 7:44AM

      Lucky you! I think b/c so many people are getting BTR1MX’s at the same time…there is a dirth of anything except Red drives and CF cards! I couldn’t even find a handle (in the US). Buying from Europe or Australia is gonna cost as much as buying new, so I had to purchase a lot of AKS new.

  • Raphael Wood on 11.15.12 @ 11:14AM

    Good stuff Joe, comes in handy since I also made the jump to RED, but bought the RED ONE and not the SCARLET though, I’m also waiting to see how I can get it fully functional for as cheap as possible, if you keep getting good insights on this part I would be grateful if you shared them.

  • I got in on the same deal for a lot of the same reasons. Most of my projects are VFX heavy shorts going to the web, but to have the ability to shoot features, upgrade to dragon (in the future), and work with RAW files was impossible to overlook. Great post Joe.

  • gh3?? and potencial for it after a hack. possably produce 422 8 bit uncompressed externally. any thoughts on this?

  • Almost an identical story to mine! The number one thing that stood out to me upon first use was the dynamic range! I film outside a lot and not having to worry about blown out highlights in the clouds is a big change from a DSLR.

  • Congrats. It’s really nice to finally pull the trigger after months of researching and analyzing, and come up happy with your decision. That’s where I’m at with my new FS700 (which as pointed out above CAN look “video” but is really all about picture profiles which are very editable). Have fun with the Scarlet!

  • Awesome article! I was lucky enough to buy one of the RED One MX’s at the dropped price and am very excited to get to work on it. Another thing that I like to think of when making an investment like this is that while the One MX is not as future proof as the Scarlet, the sensor size and resolution from these cameras will be accepted in Cinema for years to come. Congrats on your purchase!

  • Joe,
    Thanks for the article. Well done. Your article is on par as to my thoughts. I’m still waiting to upgrade to a new camera. Redmx or Scarlet have my interest as they would be enough horsepower for me. However, I’m curious as to what Canon is going to do. I know the 1DC is only 8 bit but supposedly for color grading it can be pushed to quite the limits. From the footage on line, it graded excellent. Supposedly the camera will have a dynamic range around 13 stops. I’ve seen prices as low as $10K (Australia site) and $11999 (American site). I’m shooting next year my feature, which may turn out to be a dud or a short, but hey, gotta have a hobby. One thing about the Red, it is proven.

  • Great post Joe, congratulations on the Scarlet.

  • My main passion and interest is shooting narrative// experimental films, but my income is mostly a result of documentary and low-end commercial shoots. You had addressed this in the most to an extent but I’m curious as to what your (and everyone else’s) straight forward opinion on the matter would be. Right now I shoot the doc work on a canon 60d or 5d mk II and have access to a fs100 but only on a very limited basis. What camera do you think best suits the combination of those 2 worlds? I want it to produce cinematic images with room for manipulation in post but I also need to be able to shoot these half day or day long doc events. Should i continue with canon for that and get a RED for personal projects, or would the fs700 or c300 be a better investment?

  • Hey Joe, thanks for sharing. I am about to make the same investment despite almost throw my cash for the RedOneMX the other day. The camera is just too heavy for me after seeing it on site, so I decided to look on Scarlet now. However, is it true that there is no other way to really control the Scarlet without the RED touch-screen monitor? Because I thought all RED cameras are just like the RED One where you can still choose the settings with buttons on the body but a touch-screen is more user friendly? Correct me here.


  • The touch screen is the easiest way to control the camera but you can also do it via redmote or use a side handle. Either way…you need one of those to change settings.

  • GOOD honest and informative article, great read, i like all of us in the next 3months or near future will have big decisions to make. BLACK MAGIC CAMERA, FS700( Slow mo 1080p) , Scarlet, CANON 1DS

    QUESTION since scarlet 24 frame rate is really only usable one, could you substitute TWIXTOR for slow mo’s or is it to time consuming rendering wise, does TWIXTOR distort the image at all, asking because with TWIXTOR one could make use of a decent camera like the scarlet or CANON 1D

    • Twixtor only works if things aren’t changing too dramatically frame to frame (which means it’s useless for a lot of the reasons you want slow-mo, which is to pick out those small changes otherwise invisible). Scarlet can do 48fps at 3k, which still produces a good 1080p/2k image. 60fps at 2k is okay, and 120 at 1k is iffy but may be usable in a pinch. If slow mo is important, the FS700 is probably a better bet, but it highly compresses its footage. If you want to save money, you could also consider the GH3 which can do 60p in 1080 (and could potentially support 120p in 720 is the future), and has a higher bitrate than the FS700.

    • “24 frame rate is really only usable one” — 30FPS works fine, 48FPS at 3K is very usable. 60 @ 2K gets a bit soft unless you’re going to the web.

    • Even 60fps can look really good if it’s lit well.

  • Great post. Commit to getting the camera working. As Jannard says only buy one of his cameras if you are going to use it.

    ‘These are professional tools. They need to work. That is your responsibility.’

  • Joe, this almost read like a nervous act of self-reassurance and man I can’t blame to. Cameras coming out left right and centre and the depreciation is just horrible these days. Whatever camera you end up with the main thi is to make sure it ges used. I think people get a bit lost in stats and which one is best but really all the cameras you mentioned are pretty damn good and get better with a but of understanding. You’ll love the scarlet if you shoot with it, otherwise I’ll just feel like this real big financial anchor round your neck. More importantly than anything, get those projects finished. We’ve had a short film stuck in post do so long we’ll probably have shot our feature by the time it’s actually completed. Ridiculous. Best of luck

    • Thanks, absolutely it’s going to get used. I just felt like it might be worth a post for the readers to go a little bit into the buying decision, since I’m constantly writing about cameras and about what I’m recommending to people. Sorry to hear about being stuck in post – obviously I feel your pain, some of my damage is self-inflicted, but it’s certainly easier to start a film than it is to properly finish it. You can’t quite muscle through post like you can on set – totally different worlds. :)

      • Totally, well at least you can for certain bits of it, then suddenly you’re at the mercy of people whose time you really want but who can’t exactly prioritise you! Interviewing a famous photographer turned director recently he said “People are way too demanding about film. The miracle isn’t making a good one, the miracle is making one at all. Making a good one is so rare and to be cherished yet it’s popcorn and petulance.”

        Think that pretty much sums it up.

        Best camera is always the one you ended up buying (even if it isn’t) and you just have to make it stick. The cost of a camera could pay for several shorts… which is the better investment?

        • The camera. How many shorts make money? The fact that I can say “4K” and “RED” in my emails/resume/reel has booked jobs I know (for a fact) I wouldn’t have landed otherwise. Those jobs then pay off the camera.

          I was on the other side of the coin before I bought mine and now I obviously defend the purchase….but it’s true. There’s a reason bigger productions use the best gear and there’s a reason the guy with the Scarlet will get hired over the guy with the GH2. Keywords.

          Sad…but true. Spend money to make money to make movies. Round and round it goes.

          • Ain’t that the horrible horrible truth of it. I only invested in a camera package for myself two and a half years ago but now I’m neck deep in lights, batteries, filters, rods, rails and other crap. I’m just a director but having all that crap means I can just shoot whenever I want and that freedom is priceless. Some days I wish I just turned up with notes and told people what to do again. Still, s’all good fun.


  • Gah. Posts like these (I do not dislike them in the slightest, however) are all about specs. It just goes to show that there is now an equal (if not more) amount of bickering over specs than there is actual film-making. I kinda wish Hollywood saved it for later when we had a technology that produces a near exact film image which none of the current cameras can do.

  • Well.. RED MX is finally out of stock. They last what? 2 weeks… lol

    No I think prices will get a little bump and you won’t have the refurbished warranty from RED. It was actually a great deal if you bought all oher parts used… Kitted mine for about $3500. Insane deal right now considering the oter options at same range.

    It would be nice to have an article on how to rig this baby on a budget. Scarlet was a no no for now, but also a great cam!

  • sorry guys, I couldnt finish reading the entire article, I believe that film making is the realization of a really interesting script for humanity, either comedy,drama,fantasy or whatever . You dont need the best camera, or best lens but your best partners.

    • While that is true, filmmaking is also an innately technical medium. I was just reading about all the crazy stuff Kubrick did on Barry Lyndon, like using a NASA f0.7 lens, and modifying an s16 zoom lens to use with s35 using a lot of calculations he figured out on his own. Stuff that would make the most technical folks around here shiver in their boots! ;)

    • I don’t see a disconnect between your point and the article

    • True enough, but given the way so many people are now self-shooting and multi-tasking this point is becoming more and more relevant.

  • Great Posts. Be great to see comparisons with other cameras. Only invest if you can 1)hire it out and make or pay it back. Seems like you have made the right choice Joe good Luck,

    Can somebody explain debayering to me is it using two channels to create a colour image…?

  • Great post. I will now lay $20 that you are an EPIC owner within 12-18 months. You will own all the eco-system, and will want the upgrade in res and framerates. Ryan must be on the edge by now. Used the Scarlet a lot, completely agree with your assessment. I’ve found if you are really using your current camera, you start caring a lot less about the new ones.

  • you don’t have to explain to readers or nobody else why you got a camera you think is the best for you. :)
    great shootings and that a masterpiece come out your heart pretty soon! :)

  • Congrats Joe, it’s wonderful camera that I’m sure you’ll do wonderful things with.



  • Eric Emerick on 11.16.12 @ 1:18PM

    Congrat’s. I did basically the same thing, but I canceled my BMC order since I already have a C300 and that 2.3 crop factor on the BMC scared me. Just got my BT Scarlet yesterday and put some hours on it already to get to the low part of the learning curve asap. The image control is outstanding, and FCPX shines with RED, who’d have thought it? However, a RedRocket may be in my future. The fan can be loud but it decreases after hitting record, so not too bad. I threw a Variable ND filter on my Canon 70-200 and I’m pleased with the result. My local theater is all 4K and we hold our yearly Film Fest there, and our local filmmaking group show their stuff in February as well just for giggles. Can’t wait to display the next short/feature in all its glory! With RedRay and Dragon coming soon it looks like this is just the beginning for RED.

  • arturo sanchez on 11.16.12 @ 5:56PM

    Hi to all Redusers,you should check this fantastic rig that i have just discovered,it could be a budget alternative to The Gunner Red shoulder rig:

  • Anthony Marino on 11.17.12 @ 2:38AM

    Great article (Read the whole thing too) You hit the nail on the head Joe. You summed up months worth of thinking in one read. Anyone thinking about a camera purchase should find this article priceles. You’re exactly right, I went with the fs700 with a pix 240 for those reasons you mentioned but I can’t wait to get my hands on a scarlet. (Then an Epic). Ha. All the best and congrats! Despite the fact that its 2:30 Am est. I’ve been sleeping a lot better since my purchace. The freedom to shoot professional, high quality material without any constraints or rental agreements made me a better shooter the instant I took the camera out of the box. Thanks.

  • Excellent write-up, Joe!

    A key deciding factor for me is service, however. RED only has locations in USA and a workshop in the UK, so if I have a problem with it, I’d be without a camera for weeks. Easily. If you depend on such a camera package for your living, you can’t afford that. And from various sources I read stories that you need to have a back-up camera ready due to its quirks (forever beta).

    But I completely agree with Luke that you will get jobs for having the right equipment. In the end, however, creativity still rules. Cameras are just tools. But you send out a signal of professionalism if you bring goodies to the table.

    • Thanks Richard. Definitely agree, still just a tool, but I felt the time was right for me to finally invest in a tool that would limit me as little as possible.

  • Joe,

    I read your post and I have to say I respectfully disagree on many points.

    For starters, I’ve used a C300, an F3, an FS700 and a Scarlet. The Scarlet is by far the fastest of the bunch in low light. I’d be curious to see how you derived your findings. The FS 700 is an impressive home video camera, albeit the most expensive on the market!

    Further you say you can’t operate the camera for more than 10-15 minutes without the “fan kicking in…” this too is inaccurate. I laugh at all the posts I read about this… Folks just don’t know what they’re doing. I shoot 60-90 minute interviews all the time and folks are BLOWN AWAY that i pulled that off… Producers, directors and audio techs are amazed… I tell them I control the fan manually… It’s NEVER been an issue! I figured this out early on, and I’m glad I did.

    As far as compression… please bear in mind that the FS700 is still recording a consumer level codec!! Yes, it does look pretty good, but in the grand scheme of things. it’s still a consumer level codec. The C300 records a much more robust and professional codec. I used many cameras that had varying degrees of compression. I have to say, once you shoot raw, you don’t go back! Period! I hope I NEVER shoot a non raw camera again!

    I think in the right hands, with the right operator, many cameras can look good… I’ve just found that I can free my mind on the technical end, and shoot better images now that I’ve joined the ranks of using RAW cameras in 4K and beyond… I was a “red-hater” for a LONG time… but it appears as though they have all the bugs worked out and are creating some really nice cameras these days!