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RED DRAGON Has Been Unleashed. Here is the First Footage from the 6K Camera

Red DragonThe new DRAGON sensor from RED — with quoted specs like 6K resolution, clean 2000 ISO, and over 15 stops of dynamic range — was originally set to be released all the way back in late 2012. There were some promises — and then some delays. But the sensor is now finally done, and camera upgrades will begin in September. In the last few weeks DRAGON-upgraded cameras have found their way into the hands of professional DPs across the world, many working without any RED supervision. We got our first little tease of what DRAGON is capable of from one of these DPs, Mark Toia, and now he has unleashed the first footage ever from the sensor.

We will likely get something a bit more uncompressed at some point, but Mark was worried about his servers exploding, so at the moment we’ve got Vimeo to show off the footage all shot at 6K (though you should go download it right from the site for the best quality possible):

Here’s some of what he said on REDUser, followed by some stills (there are many more over on the thread). He did a stress test with the camera in all sorts of real-world scenarios, and also reiterated that Jim and Jarred were not part of the test in any way — it was all him:

The two main areas I wanted the camera to perform in are :

HIGH CONTRAST information, just how much is hiding on the shadows and highlight. And secondly, Just how far can I push it in the dark. What is the most usable ISO without the aid of any noise reducing plugins.

Data was also big question for me, I’m a laptop warrior, I travel the world with RED and MAC.. I don’t need anything slowing me down. So the question was, Just how long are these cards going to last… So my idea of testing lower compression rates to save space, and then to push the limits of the ISO into 17:1+ compression to see if it fell apart. The simple answer is no… Dragon @17:1 looks like MX @8:1. So we are all saved, none of us have to run out to buy more cards.

Skin tests, filter tests, IR tests, were also done.

Here is his feedback (bold is mine):

The Red Dragon sensor has 3 F STOPS more than before. 1 in the hight lights which rolls over wonderfully !, 2 solid extra stops in the darks…. maybe 3 once the colour science has been perfected.

But there is still noise, but nothing like before. I ran some 250d 2k film rushes next some of my 4000asa stuff, And silly as it sounds, it looks like film grain, not noise. Don’t ask me how, as I wouldn’t have a clue. But it looks great !

Red Dragon now has the best highlight fall off I have ever seen from any digital camera. Beating film! Big call I know, but after shooting film and pushing it around in telecine chains for more than a decade, I can categorically say that this new sensor has a better range than film ever had.

Probably the most interesting stuff from a guy who has shot literally everything out there:

The Dragon is more stable than my current MX EPIC’s.

The SONY F65 I rate as having the best sensor in the market for a production cine camera. Yes.. it’s better than the EPIC- MX. (I’m not going to harp on about the size of it or the price comparisons).

Even Jim knows that Sony have done very well with the F65 sensor and that was obviously pissing him off, because his new Dragon sensor has just given the the F65 notice.

All the F65 SONY purists out there will dispute this. But I have Sony files here with me, and I’m looking at both side by side… and Dragons grain (noise) structure is cleaner and it has more range.

Dragon is now the King. (AND… I’m not going to harp on about the size of it or the price comparisons). or did I ..ha !

The single one sentence i can say that can sum up everything is this..

It’s the first camera ever that I have used that captures exactly what I see with my own eye.

Never have I seen this before. !

Click for a larger version (there are many more stills taken from video over on the REDUser post):

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 1

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 2

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 3

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 4

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 5

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 6

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 7

Mark Toia RED DRAGON Still Frame 8

Just as a refresher, here are some of the DRAGON specs listed by RED:


PIXEL ARRAY: 6144 (h) x 3160 (v)

S/N RATIO: 80db

DYNAMIC RANGE: 16.5+ stops

MAX IMAGE AREA: 6144 (h) x 3160 (v)

LENS COVERAGE: 30.7mm (h) x 15.8mm (v) x 34.5 mm (d)


  • 6K RAW (2:1, 2.4:1)
  • 5K RAW (Full Frame, 2:1, 2.4:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
  • 4.5K RAW (2.4:1)
  • 4K RAW (16:9, HD, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
  • 3K RAW (16:9, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
  • 2K RAW (16:9, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
  • 1080p RGB (16:9)
  • 720p RGB (16:9)


  • Compression choices of 18:1 to 3:1
  • 12 and 16-bit RAW : Compression choices of 18:1 to 3:1
  • 1-100 fps 6K
  • 1-120 fps 5K, 4.5K 

  • 1-150 fps 4K
  • 1-200 fps 3K
1-300 fps 2K

Getting three additional stops of dynamic range is simply huge. Though we’ll have to wait a bit to get .R3D files to play around with from the new sensor (since a new version of REDCINE-X that works with DRAGON has not yet been publicly released), it’s clear that RED has created something special. Where exactly the MX sensor ranked in terms of dynamic range was up for debate, but now with 3 extra stops, DRAGON has the highest dynamic range of any digital cinema camera out right now. Even if you were rating MX at 12 stops, 3 extra stops puts it at 15, which is pretty amazing when you then consider the 6K resolution, high-ISO, high frame rates, and the fact that dynamic range seems to stay consistent from 250 all the way to 2000 ISO.

Color science on the new sensor is supposedly much improved, and they have spent quite a bit of time behind the scenes trying to make sure that this is right from the get-go. From the looks of things, they are off to a great start. It does remind me a bit of the Sony F65, which is the best resolving 4K camera at the moment (with DRAGON now equalling or surpassing it), and is capable of some unbelievable imagery. The fact that RED is putting all of this tech inside such a tiny body is still mind-blowing.

Something that many have misunderstood along the way: you will not be projecting 6K (though when the capabilities exist you certainly could). 6K will resolve a much higher quality 4K image since you’re throwing more pixels at it (think still photographs which are very often 4K and above). This is the true power of 6K. It will also allow for reframing in post for various reasons, including image stabilization. Even a serious crop of the 6K frame will still give you plenty of room to work around, and probably still maintain 4K res.

As far as low-light performance, things are looking promising, and it seems like 4000 ISO is pretty clean, and 6400 is still usable. This is getting into DSLR territory, except you’ve got much, much more resolution and color depth to work with. I think this low-light performance and dynamic range are the most exciting things about this new sensor.

Current owners have a few upgrade options, but considering a new camera is going to start well under $30,000, it’s pretty remarkable just how far we’ve come.

What do you think?


Related Posts

  1. RED Dragon Unleashes Its First Image, and SCARLET Camera Gets an Upgrade Path
  2. RED EPIC DRAGON & SCARLET DRAGON Specs, Upgrade Pricing, Warranty Information, and Price Drops
  3. RED Dragon Indeed: First 6K 2000 ISO Images from New Sensor Unveiled


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 249 COMMENTS

  • It’s not film or digital. Not RED or ALEXA. You shoot with whatever camera achieves the look you are going for to tell your story. We are visual storytellers. Do you think Picasso or Da Vinci gave a fuck (excuse my french) what brand of brushes they used?! The answer is no. They used whatever brushes would give them the paint stroke they needed to create their piece and convey their message. I suggest you all do the same. Jeez.

    • P.S. Not all stories call for the same look. You shouldn’t only be using one camera!

      • On film, the look is established by the lens choice, filtration, and film stock. On digital the look is established by lens choice, filtration and di/ color grade. shooting with a camera that doesnt limit the possibilities of these three variables is the point.

    • “They used whatever brushes would give them the paint stroke they needed” – in other words, they did care about which brush they were using, since different brushes give different capabilities/styles. If they needed a specific brush or paint type, they would use that on purpose, because not all brushes are the same (granted- masters can use almost any tool to achieve their vision, but we’re not talking about making the best of a situation- we’re talking about whether it’s wise to spend some thought choosing one tool over another from the get-go)

      It’s not about brand names. There is a difference in capability and results between different makes/models. Some difference more pronounced, some less so. Spending the time and energy knowing those differences is worthwhile *if it’s within the realm of possibility of affecting your product*

      Myself? It’s a question of renting things like dslr vs. blackmagic vs. ex1, if even that. These Dragon images are purely theoretical for me and- yes, probably a waste of my time drooling over. Still, pretty damn awesome imagery there, and if I can every afford to rent a Dragon, you can be sure I’ll be taking a closer look before writing a check.

      Anyway, I do like the focus of what you’re saying, that the content is more important than the tool- and I wholeheartedly agree with that. We should aim to be masters anyway, and make the best out of whatever tool we have.

      • BTW, not to hijack the discussion, but here’s a recent piece I did using Blackmagic and 7D and a hell of a lot of focus on content over tools:

        It’s a heady piece, not for everyone- but it was a personal breakthrough for me and I’m happy with it. Sharing since you seem to share the same frustration, wanting to see stories and something more… movie-magic… than another camera test

  • Hard to jump to any conclusions one way or the other when it’s 6K raw footage displayed in 1080p using H.264. More dynamic range than the MX sensor, colors are still TBD with the color science still in the works. What else can we really draw from this? Anything negative probably just stems from being a little underwhelmed by the subject matter.

    I guess that’s the one gripe I have with it. This thing has been built up like crazy and I think it was a bit of a miss by RED to allow this to be the first footage shown. No doubt it shows the extra dynamic range but it doesn’t really show us much for skin tones, which was what a lot of people were hoping would be improved. Come out with the polished epic video first (they had a Peter Jackson short for the RED One for gods sake) and save the real world examples for down the line. Just my two cents anyways.

    • Luke is correct. The Original .MOV file (1920×960 / 404MB) is still crippled with H.264. It might be the best H.264 you’ve ever seen, but because of that crappy compression you still aren’t looking at the “real deal”. Yeah, I have to say the subject matter was a bit bland. Maybe the Swedish Bikini Team would have been a better idea. :)

  • Joachim Høge on 08.6.13 @ 3:14AM

    Why do someone always bring in the tools of painters?
    You can be sure they obsessed as much about their tools as we do. You really think it doesn’t ,after what tools you use as a painter?

  • Joachim Høge on 08.6.13 @ 3:14AM

    Why do someone always bring in the tools of painters?
    You can be sure they obsessed as much about their tools as we do. You really think it doesn’t matter what tools you use as a painter?

  • Yea it looks amazing. I want one.

  • Downloaded the BMPCC and (controversial opinion here) I actually much prefer the image coming off that sensor. I’ve always been a stickler for s16 (actually prefer it to 35) so I guess that has a factor, but to my eye, the image is just more pleasing. Technically, the dragon is far superior, but watching a move, does an audience really care about technicality? No.

    • It could be with this sensor it make a difference. These images are the best I’ve ever seen. Big computer animation movies like Transformers, and Iron Man will look better on this sensor than any other. It don’t think those that make these big budget movies would dare shoot in 4K, 2K, or 1080p after movies made with this sensor are seen by the general public. The difference will stand out.

      At the same time, the best movies I’ve ever seen, like Shawshank Redemption, were shot on no K’s cameras. They will still be the best movies I’ve ever seen.

      • Arguably they were shot on 8K cameras.

        • digital is an emulation of film and our eyes via pixel resolution. film has no pixels.. nor does the retina. i can always spot a feature done on digital, epic, etc vs. film

  • In terms of skin color, they should have probably tried several grading options and offered it as A, B and C samples. That way, someone could say, “The original is still too red/pink but/and it looks okay – or still not okay – when color corrected”.

    Off stills, the image certainly looks sharp enough and DR seems verified. The rest is the color science.

    • I’ve always thought these samples should be graded in more than one way too. It wouldn’t hurt to have more than one colorist too. They could make 3, or 4, or 5 grades of the same sample. It’s pretty simple. Rendering is the only part that would take time. I don’t see why they don’t make more than one.

    • If you download the original video off vimeo you can still get a lot out of the image by playing around with it…and that’s just an 8-bit H264 .mov

      • Yeah, 8 bit, 264. I have yet to see 4K, 6K and 8K in all their glory. Waiting for H265, and that gigabit internet! I may move to Kansas City some day to get it.

  • “And Lo!

    He did come down from the mountain.

    And His name was Jim Jannard.

    And He did bring forth gifts*.

    And the Gift He did bring forth was called DRAGON.

    And it was EPIC.

    (A few people did not think so, but they were FOOLS, and were put to the back of the list.)

    But ALL others thought it was awesome!!!11

    On that day, history was made.”

    – from “The World According to”

    *$9,500 upgrade, or $29,000 for the brain, or $58,385 for PRO Package (are you Pro enough?).

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 08.25.13 @ 6:16AM

      I don´t compare cameras and I think nobody can say this is better than this…People should say I prefer this to that to shoot that particular shot. Still I think most of the times we spend thousands more to get 5% better image. Professionals shoot with everything each camera does what it was designed for…I wouldn´t hike the Himalaias with an Alexa or jump from a plane with a RED…But people are entitled to have their own choices…I personally prefer smaller cameras and accept their eventual limitations. If and when needed I can grab a Dragon and get the extra DR…

  • Well, at least, it beats the BMPC footage.

  • Nick Gregorio on 08.8.13 @ 4:23AM

    Enough of all this “pick the right tool for the job” and “tell a good story” bullshit. This is a camera test plain and simple. What Red has done is truly remarkable and the price is insanely cheap. The comparison of an artist and his brush is not correct. With digital cameras it’s more like comparing the canvas, brush, paint type, and longevity of the medium. This camera represents a true successor to film. That’s always been the goal. Film, the physical medium, has amazing intrinsic characteristics. This camera surpasses that and aside from the F65 no other camera does. If you are worried about good story telling go to a screen writing forum. Solid visual motivation? Go to a directing forum. This is a brass tacks camera tech discussion. Accept that and appreciate it for what it is.

  • Who builds their sensors? I would think there aren’t as many choices as one would imagine. Could even be that the same sensor is being used in more than one camera, just tweaked with different hardware and software implementations.

    I would be happily shocked if it was designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. There’s a reason these cameras are cheaper.

    • Joe Marine on 08.8.13 @ 6:03PM

      Their sensors are likely made in Israel, at least that’s where MX was made. There aren’t too many places in the world that fab sensors. The capabilities are there to make the sensors in the US, but it’s likely they would use the same fab again. Supposedly they have their own sensor design team in-house, and then that design gets sent over to the fab. Part of the reason the cameras are as cheap as they are is because they make a very high profit from accessories.

      • Joe, they might be from Israel’s specialty foundry TowerJazz I know CMOSIS has deals with TowerJazz. And it’s suspected that the new BM4K might be sporting a CMOSIS CMV 12000 or version of it.

  • part of the mystery of storytelling is allowing the audience to dream and tap the subconscious. too much resolution can hinder that. having said that, 4k, 6k would be great for porn and sports video.

  • Black Magic Cinema Camera

  • “the best highlight fall off I have ever seen from any digital camera. Beating film!”

    lol at that. A candle flame does not clip like that on film.

  • red eapic drogan on 10.13.13 @ 6:22AM

    i want red eapic drogan camera

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