RED Dragon Indeed: First 6K 2000 ISO Images from New Sensor Unveiled
[UPDATE]: We now have the first footage from the new sensor, check it out here.
Jannard and Co. have been quiet for a while now except for the occasional firmware update. When the guys at RED aren't talking with users on their forum into the wee hours of the morning, there is a sure bet that something is brewing. We got our first image of the spectacular dynamic range of the sensor (which looks to be well over 14 stops), and now Jarred Land has posted some of the first still images taken from 6K (6000 x 3000 pixels) 86fps footage.
First, here is a little bit of what CEO Jim Jannard has been saying:
1. 6K (new Dragon sensor) is 2.2x 4K in number of pixels. 2. 6K has 45% more pixels than 5K. 3. 6K has over 10x the number of pixels than 1080P. 4. 6k (6144 x 3160) has more resolution than a Canon 5D MK III. 5. Pixels are good. Down-rezzing is good. Dynamic range is good. 6. The cleaner the sensor the more you can compress in REDCODE RAW. Dragon has less than half the noise of Mysterium-X. 7. Obsolescence Obsolete is good. Just a few facts to chew on.
Everything gets better, including color science. OLPF gets better. Color gets better. Resolution is up. Dynamic range is off the chart. Obsolescence obsolete. RED. And we still have no idea what we are doing.... just wait until we figure it out.
I have tremendous guilt because we are late. That is the main reason for going silent. Having said that... we are finally about to unleashed a bevy of stuff to blow away everyone's expectations.
Here are the first two Dragon images RED has made public. These were shot on a Canon 100mm Macro at f/11, 86fps, 6000 x 3000 (2:1), at 2000 ISO, 180 degree shutter. Dead pixel calibration had not yet been done on this prototype Dragon (click for the full 6K image):
Now to put all of this into perspective for a moment., here is a 1080p outline on the 6K image:
6K is no joke. That much is clear. Shooting the full height and width of the RED Dragon, which is 6144 x 3160, is equivalent to taking a 19.4 megapixel still image at full motion continuously. The Dragon can do this at 86fps at 6000 x 3000. While this camera and sensor combination will certainly be over $30,000 for a full package, Dragon is really living up to the Digital Stills and Motion Camera (DSMC) designation. 5K on the EPIC right now can give you amazing still images, but 6K is just that much bigger, and will allow for even more manipulation.
Combine that ridiculous resolution with the fact that the sensor could potentially deliver more dynamic range than any current digital cinema camera (Alexa and Sony F65 top out around 14 stops), and you're really looking at the cutting edge. Let's also not forget that this was shot at 2000 ISO. That means boosting a stop to 4000 ISO will likely still be pretty clean, and this is all at 6K! Downscaling to 4K will remove a decent amount of that noise, so you could be shooting some tremendously high-resolution images in practically no light.
Something that has been talked about a lot, is the fact that 4K isn't really 4K. While it's true that a Bayer pattern has to interpolate pixels, 4K material looks pretty good to my eyes on a huge screen (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). While the sensor is physically a little bigger than Super 35mm -- 5K on Dragon is actually closer to 4K compared to the MX sensor -- shooting at 6K will mean an even more highly resolved 4K image. Whether it's a "real 4K" yet will probably still be up for debate, but it should resolve a 4K image as well as, if not better, than the 20 megapixel Sony F65 (note: even though Sony claims the sensor in that camera is 8K, it has a non-standard aspect ratio as well as a rotated pixel array, so the real final resolution at a correct aspect ratio is actually somewhere around 5K-6K -- which Sony says you'll be able to record in a future firmware update).
With all of that out of the way, let's come down to earth for a moment. Color science is extremely important. All of the resolution and dynamic range in the world won't make up for things that just don't quite look right, and right now we're only looking at images of a reptile, not of a human being (get it, RED Dragon?). The Arri Alexa has dominated the industry for two reasons: it shoots easily digestible ProRes to 2K or 1080p, and it looks fantastic without any manipulation in post. Is that a big deal when RAW gives you the most flexibility? To many productions, the answer is yes. RED has come a long way with their color science, but Dragon is now a completely different sensor. I don't know how much code they will be able to carry over from the MX sensor, but getting the image to look "pleasing" with one click should be a priority (at least in my mind).
If you're worried about the ND filter situation, Jannard has said that the Dragon should operate comfortably between 400 and 2000 ISO, so it shouldn't actually be any more difficult than MX when shooting in daylight. The available light possibilities with this camera, though, could be pretty remarkable. While these advancements aren't making better movies, they do push us forward and introduce more possibilities for all sorts of applications.
We'll keep you posted on more developments with the sensor, but in the meantime, you can head on over to REDUser to join the conversation.
[UPDATE]: We have the very first footage from the DRAGON sensor, check it out here.