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Why is the RED SCARLET Four Times the Cost of a Canon 5D Mark III?

We already know what the Canon 5D Mark III can do, and there’s a good bet you’ve seen plenty of RED SCARLET videos online, but why such a cost difference between the two? Obviously one only shoots 1080p in H.264 but can be pushed quite a bit in lower light, and one can go all the way up to 4K at 24fps in RAW, but its ISO can’t be pushed quite as far. What if the stuff you’re shooting is just going to the web, do you really need all that extra resolution and detail? Will it make a difference in the end? Check out a test below from Robureau comparing the two cameras visually.

Both of these were color corrected to match, and the Mark III was kept near the same ISO as the SCARLET:

Check out some screenshots of the video straight from the web:

Certainly it’s not really all that fair to compare the Mark III to a RAW 4K camera that costs at least 4 times as much, probably more after you really get it rigged up. It’s very often said that you can’t tell much from web video, or that the kind of camera you use is pointless because it’s all getting compressed down to nothing and people watch it in a small window anyway. Well, the screenshots above were taken from one of those small windows, and it’s clear to me which camera is which — and I would assume it would be pretty obvious to any of you without the identifying overlays.

I think the really interesting tests are going to come with the BMCC vs. the RED SCARLET, and how well those two will compare on the web. The Mark III may not be the best to compare against the SCARLET, but that’s exactly what Blackmagic is trying to do with their Cinema Camera: go up against the big boys and come out relatively unscathed.

What do you think? Are the results surprising at all even in a compressed window?

Link: 5D Mark III vs Red Scarlet-X — Vimeo

Related Posts

  1. The Canon 5D Mark III, Canon C300, and RED SCARLET Shoot a Nighttime Bike Race Side-by-Side
  2. Canon CN-E Cinema Primes vs. Still Lenses on the C300, 5D Mark III, RED SCARLET, and AF100
  3. Canon 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, and the New 6D Face off in a Moire and Aliasing Test


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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  • The red is better, but the footage with the car brake lights…..shows the 5D3 footage wast really out of focus….how about we test the shaper GH3 and the Red?

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 6:28PM

      The footage is better on the RED just for the resoulution IMHO. Try the hacked GH2 and you will have a surprise.

  • Color grading…h.264 is about as solid as Humpty Dumpty.
    Argument over. These comparisons leave out major details.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 6:29PM

      Shane hurlbut doesn´t do that much grading to get fine image from 5D. That is the secret expose it right and WB right…why do we need tons of grading then?

      • Terence Kearns on 02.7.13 @ 7:59PM

        How can you ask “why do you need ‘so much’ colour grading”

        People do colour grading for a wide range of creative reasons and for that you need headroom in the files – the more, the better.

        • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 8:17PM

          There you go…It is a tool…some like heavy grading and many tweak their cameras on set…Of course you can shoot as is and then post process your RAW files in post…It´s your choice.

        • Even though I love to do some pretty heavy color grading myself, the question is not stupid. Some people really do not have the inclination or time to grade extensively. It is a creative choice, not a requirement.

  • yes lets see the gh3 vs the red

  • One looks like cheap video, the other looks cinematic… plain and simple.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 6:32PM

      Everyday I see dozens of commercials shot with the 5D. Perhaps the whole wold is wrong… I still keep backups from s16mm of music videos and commercials I shot 15 years ago and if I say 5D is blurry then S16mm looks a stain… ;-)

    • hi, my name is Ademola.i am aspiring to make movies here in africa.i can use your expertize.av not been to film school or anything but i would love to produce films and direct great african stories. i believe i can do it so am reaching out to anyone who can advise me on the best way to go. my email address is am shopping for cameras and i need a great cinematic view but cheap.

  • i dont see how anyoen argues gh3 5d or any other dslr camera vs the scarlet i worked for along time with the 5d and i work with red now as well and the results are not close. you cant get the results that red gives you from these cheaper cameras. i dont think its unfair to look at how much is being shot on red in the film industry and relaize that they are right there with all the big boys. as opposed to these cheaper cameras that just dont get used. you can get work with dslrs but that doesnt mean it holds up against a professional cinema camera. period.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 8:19PM

      You can check on IMDB how many movies have been shot on Canon…it is quite surprising….not to mention cmmercials.

      • ….mostly not the whole movie was shot with a dslr…just a few shots, and mainly because of the size of a dslr.
        Dslr has too many problems for pro movie production….

  • Have you tried to make this test with a blackmagic hyperdeck shuttle 2 plugged on a MarkIII?

    • WOT?…have Canon finally been bludgeoned into providing clean HDMI out? How gracious of them!

    • hi, my name is Ademola.i am aspiring to make movies here in africa.i can use your expertize.av not been to film school or anything but i would love to produce films and direct great african stories. i believe i can do it so am reaching out to anyone who can advise me on the best way to go. my email address is am shopping for cameras and i need a great cinematic view but cheap.

  • These are 2 different types of cameras.One is a photo camera with additional video capabilities and the other is a dedicated video camera made for video.

  • You nailed it with the “Is it just for web?” statement.

    • Agreed. If you are just shooting web videos and not looking to have your feature on a 4k theater. Does it really matter? Probably not the 4X price tag for the Red. I remember learning in photography classes in college, “you get what you pay for.” In some instances, the cost verses quality = cost.

    • hi, my name is Ademola.i am aspiring to make movies here in africa.i can use your expertize.av not been to film school or anything but i would love to produce films and direct great african stories. i believe i can do it so am reaching out to anyone who can advise me on the best way to go. my email address is am shopping for cameras and i need a great cinematic view but cheap.

  • New DRAGON sensor, soom coming out on RED will be almost twice as ahead of the current RED sensor. What about those apples?????????

  • 5D Mark III is preparing the Uncompress Footage in April – check Canon site. And for be a photo camera it´s better than spend 4x more money. Except you are Spilberg. Come on!

    • hi, my name is Ademola.i am aspiring to make movies here in africa.i can use your expertize.av not been to film school or anything but i would love to produce films and direct great african stories. i believe i can do it so am reaching out to anyone who can advise me on the best way to go. my email address is am shopping for cameras and i need a great cinematic view but cheap.

  • Interesting. I’m a Canon user but not a fanboy. How is it that these camera tests always make 5D3 look a lot worse than it actually is?? Check out this video, it is a FAR better indication of a cameras (and its operators) ability than yet another one of these tests.

    • Amen to that. 5.1. It’s all in the way that you use it. I think the footage in your video is what I’m used to with my 5d2. I would like to get the 3, but frankly don’t feel a need for it.

  • Terry VerHaar on 02.7.13 @ 3:55PM

    Despite the fact that the RED footage looks better, I’d argue that you still short changed it with your lack of real grading. You don’t shoot raw and expect to deliver great footage without proper grading. If you want that, get a cheap camcorder – and shoot h.264.

    There is plenty of crappy Scarlet footage around, thanks to inept users. When done right, you can use it to shoot pretty well; at least Peter Jackson and a few of his contemporaries think so.

  • Terry VerHaar on 02.7.13 @ 3:57PM

    Haha – I didn’t mean to suggest you’d get great footage with your camcorder – just that you could get the best it has without grading. Badly articulated. :-)

  • You have to compare apples to apples. If the 5D can output to a KiPro mini or equivalent, then we have a fair comparison. As it is now, this is not a fair test. It should be scratched from No Film School or WARNING signs put up that state these are unfair tests.

    Hell, I have my FS100 and it blows the 5D out of the water. But put that KiPro on and it is a whole new ball game again.

    What is fair is the new Sony F5 vs the Red, or the Canon 1D-C.

    What we need is another Great Camera shootout featuring the Sony F5 / 55 / F3, BMC, Red Epic / Scarlet, Arri alexa, Canon 1D-X / 1D-C, Sony FS 100 / 700 with and without external recorder, Canon 5D-3 / 6D, GH3, Sony A99 and a Nikon perhaps And of course film! Always the gold standard. And all use the same Zeiss optics to remove that difference – and all record to ProRes 422 or DNxHD at 50, 110, 220 Mbs just to see what the hell they can really do. Then we will know!

    Take 5

  • So what else is new? What’s the point of this? It’s common knowledge that the Canon 5D2 (and now the Mark3) outputs soft, low resolving video because of the line skipping down-sampling of the sensor.

    A much more meaningful comparison would have been with a BMCC…or a hacked GH2…or a Nikon D800 (which produces remarkably good video, particularly with a Ninja).

    WTF is the ongoing obsession people have with Canon cameras for video? Unless you want a soft dreamy look, they are quite useless really. I used a couple of Canon 5D2′s for a year and am now back to Nikon D800′s. I will never use another Canon DSLR for video again unless they improve the resolution dramatically and get rid of the bullshit “Pink Disease” cast (relative to Nikkors and Zeiss) which afflicts their lenses.

    By the way…even their cynically overpriced “4k” DSLR is proving to be another expensive disappointment …with the so-called 4k output being quite soft and poorly resolved.

    • I think the answer to that question (WTF is the ongoing obsession people have with Canon cameras for video?) is that it opened a lot of doors to a lot of people. Red is niche. Anybody can buy and use a 5D. In the right hands, it can be stunning (thinking about Act of Valor more than any other example). It OBVIOUSLY is not even in the same league as a RED. Can the audience apart of the pixel peepers tell the difference? If they do, do they care?

  • I always have and always will use DPs, for obvious reasons. However, as a writer/director, I just purchased a Sony NEX-5N and without getting stomped too badly, is it possible to see comparison clips it and the Canon?

  • zeeshan tahir on 02.7.13 @ 6:15PM

    guys iv been using the RED one a lot these days and no DSLR come close to the kind of quality footage it gives us, for web i might consider an iPhone better than any thing else, but RED wins the battle any day.
    its costs more because it is truly meant for Cinema.

  • zeeshan tahir on 02.7.13 @ 6:19PM

    No DSLR in the world can give you the kind of latitude & depth as RED digital Cinema cameras.

  • Craig Shamwell on 02.7.13 @ 6:27PM

    First I want to say that with the Quality of the screens on most HD Computers, its ludicrous to say that just because its on the ‘small” screen instead of the “Big” screen, you can’t tell the difference, or even worse…”it doesn’t matter!” I have been auditioning a lot of video samples…on the web…from several Cameras of late, including the Black Magic Cinema Camera. Back to that in bit. There is simply more detail in every shot from the Red than the 5D. Colors were more defined and shadow details were of no comparison. Go back and look at the wisps of smoke coming form the Chimney Stacks. The light gradations while still visible on the Scarlet, all but disappear on the Canon. But again, color grading H.264 will result in a softening of the image, as I have discovered in my early days of editing. The real question begging to be asked, is not why does the Red cost so much more than the Canon…no!? The Red is better for sure! But there is a BULL in the Room and its a very big BULL that all but makes this question moot! And that BULL is the Black Magic Cinema Camera!! All of the footage I have seen so far form this camera tell me the next Question will be…”just how much will the Red and Canon Cameras come down in price with slow sales and rentals of each?” i have yet to see any RAW Color Graded Footage from the BMCC. But the HQ Pro-Res footage was beautiful…simply beautiful! For 3 grand!!!!!!!!!!! This Camera will make Canon especially have to re-think their whole approach when marketing Still/Video Cameras. Their New Line of Video Cinema Cameras will be short-lived at the prices they are now. With a very affordable line of Cinema Lens available by third party manufactures, this Camera will surely change the industry. I know that’s a big statement, but if you havn’t seen any footage from the BMCC, you will see both the camera’s in this review may soon be compared by a new standard…that’s quite old…..VALUE!!

  • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 6:51PM

    Why is RED EPIC 50X more expensive than a GH2???

    • C.Shamwell on 02.7.13 @ 7:26PM

      There you go!!! Its not that “is the Scarlet that good?”…. is it thousands more good????
      Very interesting video!!

  • I agree with some of the posts in that this test does not really seem accurate from the fact that some of the Mark III shots are out of focus for some reason as if the shooter did not even manually pull focus. Outside of the color grading, there is a lot you can do with your manual settings when shooting to come up with better shots than shown here. Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that the 4K Scarlet is superior, but not so “cut & dry” as portrayed here…especially when you compare costs for shooting web content.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 02.7.13 @ 8:12PM

      I agree. I shoot for HD TV and movie theaters and didn´t hae the need to shoot 4K yet. Files too big and side-by-side comparisons didn´t impress me too much. Once Canon releases the uncompressed output firmware we will have much more information on the files. I am not saying RED is not better but surely can say it is different. I am not getting into 50k cameras at this stage. Soon we will have the same quality from 1K ones. This is certain.

  • Terence Kearns on 02.7.13 @ 8:07PM

    I’m sorry, but with everything that is available as of today, there is no justification for dropping 3.5K on a 5DIII to use for video…. maybe if you are a die-hard Canon wedding stills photographer, but not for video. It does doesn’t make any sense while you have competition like the Sony A99 (1080/60p) with it’s full frame sensor and the BMD-CC with it’s superior codec options. And if FF sensor is not the main aim, even the GH3 will probably produce better files.

    We’ve already seen the 5DIII vs BMD-CC comparrison and the BMD-CC shat all over the 5D – even for web usage…. viewing the review on the web, the difference was MASSIVE.

    5DIII is for wedding photographers only IMO. It’s video function is okay, but doesn’t hold a candle to the current crop of cameras in the same price bracket.

    Lets see a review of the Sony Alpha 99 for film makers and videographers.

  • Huseyin K. on 02.8.13 @ 3:14AM

    As far as I am concerned, 5D is good enough for most projects. I don’t see a big huge difference. If you want to shoot National Geographic stuff, than RED is better. But if you are shooting people subjects, 5D is good enough. The most important thing is the content. No matter what camera we use, if we are not good in directing, using bad actors, bad sound and light systems, less than professional people to work with, that movi can be shot with a million Dollar camera, it will not mean s..t. That is my 2 cents worth…



  • zeeshan tahir on 02.8.13 @ 4:27AM

    I wouldn’t blame the people who are hobbyists & not from Audio visual industry, comparing these machines you need to carefully understand the purpose of these machines, people who do short films and stuff for the web are DSLR Fans with HD video, low aperture photo lenses and elements like ambient light get them to swear & argue upon these kind of things.

    its not just RED or alexa or panavision its the after purpose of the content you shoot on them.

  • Chris Simmons on 02.9.13 @ 12:02PM

    It’s like comparing 16mm reversal with 35mm Negative.

  • All above comments are interesting and it is apparent that most of you know more of the technical stuff than I do. However, surely the the one simple fact that affects most independent filmmakers, at least at my level, is the cost! I have to try to put out the best imagery I possibly can with the dollars I can afford for equipment….period. I would not go after business or projects that obviously require a level of quality that is unachievable with my facilities. I am not planning on doing a feature film for the silver screen, or competing in other arenas where 4K or 8K would blow my stuff out of the water. This comparison is like taking a Ferrari and a Volkswagen onto a track and asking “Is the money for the Ferrari worth the speed difference?” I will continue to make my short films and web business videos with the equipment and savvy I have and salivate at times about the cameras I wish I could afford but much more meaningful would be true comparisons of equipment withing reasonable price ranges, Just saying :-)

  • In my opinion, you don’t always need the sharpest and most detailed picture. First of all no film is shown in a 1:1 comparison with a second camera, and second filmmakers very often soften their shots for different purposes through filters or by using older lenses and whatnot.

    Of course a Red or Alexa is the better tool than a DSLR, but the DSLR is really cheap in comparison and you can still make nice looking movies with it. Only ten years ago it was almost impossible for a small filmmaker to achieve a professional look, but today we expect the 2K DSLR to be 100% on par with a professional 50K film camera? That is crazy!
    It is amazing how close the DSLRs come for such a low price, let’s be happy about that!

    I mean I have a 7D for shooting stills (which I do as a hobby) but I can use the same camera to shoot professional video and even make some money from it. How cool is that?
    Of course it is not the same as a Red or an Alexa, but it doesn’t have to be, it is just an add-on to my photo camera!

  • I totally agree with Heiko. If the story is a good story, for example, Like Crazy, Act of Valor (ok not the best example but still…), Newlyweds, then this pixel peep is a non issue. Too many people are concerned that they aren’t getting enough quality out of their DSLRs and HAVE to shoot on RED because of it and are not paying enough attention either writing good scripts for films or good concepts for videos/commercials. Who really cares if you shoot on RED and your image is razor sharp if your writing (and for that matter, your sound, your production design, and your editing) are crap?

  • Why is a Resolution test being done with L ZOOMS? Would love to see one done with Leica R or at least Zeiss prime glass.

  • Barri Hitchin on 04.8.13 @ 11:22AM

    i’m NOT impressed with either,

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