We've taken a look at RED's High Dynamic Range mode, dubbed HDRx, in the past. But now that over a hundred EPIC-Ms are out in the wild, shooters are putting the camera through its paces in the real world. According to most tests the ARRI ALEXA has around 1/2 to 1 full stop more dynamic range in native mode (14.5 to 13.5), but with HDRx RED is claiming up to 18 stops total. Here's a shot that wouldn't be possible without HDRx:
Normally, with a properly exposed tunnel interior, driving out into broad daylight would blow the shot out into a bath of harshly-overexposed white. While a similar effect could be achieved by ramping down the aperture during the transition, this was simply a test to show what HDRx was capable of (plus, unless you have remote aperture control, you probably wouldn't be able to adjust the exposure on fly, on the hood of a moving car). HDRx wasn't specifically designed for this type of transition; it was designed to pull more highlight detail from shots (link via Stu Maschwitz), and as such in an ideal situation you won't even be aware of its use. Take, for example, this other HDRx shot, taken from a helicopter of a notoriously difficult snow-and-shadows setting:
On a normal camera, if you could see into the crevasses the snow in the sun would be blown out. Or, if you properly exposed the sun-kissed snow, you wouldn't be able to see into the tunnels. It'd be an either/or situation. But HDRx, as demonstrated in the shot above, brings enough latitude for us to see both.
And, of course, this comes in a package also sized and designed for shooting stills. Here's an overview of EPIC-M #98, from Digital FX:
If they've got RED EPIC #98 (and the fxguide clip was shot on #124), when will the rest of the cameras ship? RED's production schedule is a bit hard to keep track of, so here's the latest: they will have shipped hundreds of EPIC-Ms before next month's NAB, with all EPIC-Xs supposedly shipped by the end of summer (the -X and -M cameras share the same sensor and body, but the EPIC-M is hand-machined and more expensive. The lower-cost EPIC-S shares the same sensor, but will have inferior electronics, and will ship once initial EPIC-X orders are fulfilled). However, keep in mind RED doesn't have the best reputation for making targeted ship dates -- and that the catastrophe in Japan brings with it fulfillment delays, even for a made-in-the-USA product like the EPIC. This is certainly something to keep tabs on if you're hoping to get your hands on a RED camera anytime soon -- as is the secret "surprise" to come at NAB.