Remember when video cameras had sensors that were one third of an inch? It was damn hard to shoot anything at night. But now there are a million cameras (well, not a million, but a bunch) with Super35-size sensors. So while you can actually get a decent exposure while shooting a bike race at night now, not all sensors are created equal. Here's the Canon 5D Mark III, Canon C300, and RED SCARLET filming the same bike race. The first pass of the video has no key (so you don't know which is which), and then they show you the second time around:
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/41449639
The biggest difference is just how much lighter the C300 looks than the SCARLET -- as Robin recently noted, the M-X chips in current-generation RED cameras just don't reach as well into the dark as the offerings from Canon and Sony (the M-X chip is a few years old, after all). To me, the RED is more ideal for features and the C300 better for docs, but in either situation, if you're going to be doing nighttime shooting without the ability to add light, the C300 is a far better choice. We'll see how RED's Dragon chip fairs when it finally comes out... but keep in mind, from a purely mathematical standpoint, the RED's smaller pixels (because of 6K resolution) will theoretically never be a "best case scenario" for low-light shooting. Sensor technology has advanced greatly in the last couple of years, but one does wonder if anyone in the filmmaking world is really asking for an extra K (going from 5 to 6) as opposed to more dynamic range and better low-light performance. The fashion industry may want the extra resolution... but at what price to filmmakers?
Note: I'm not entirely clear on whether RED is just adding extra resolution around the edges (to a correspondingly larger sensor), which would negate this worry. Anyone?
This video was shot by Hello World Communications, a great NYC rental house for video equipment. In fact, to date my RED SCARLET has lived there -- if you've rented a PL-mount SCARLET (they have their own EF mount versions), you probably rented mine! Sub-renting can be a good option to generate a return on your investment, and since I have been knee-deep in Man-child script revisions (and therefore not actively shooting anything), my camera hasn't lived at home in quite some time. Cameras are not toys, and if you are not using yours, someone else should!
Any thoughts from watching the above video? How'd you think the 5D Mark III faired?