If you've ever had the opportunity to shoot in black and white either on film or digital, then you know there is something special about the look that you can't quite achieve with converting from a color image. That's exactly why RED created the new EPIC-M Monochrome camera (and also because some guy named David Fincher is currently working on a project that is using the camera). Besides the advantage in tonality and detail (since there isn't any debayering), the Monochrome camera is also rated at 2000 ISO -- which is more than a two-fold increase in low-light ability. Steven Sebring took the Monochrome for a spin recently, and you can click through to see his spectacular results.
Here are the details about the video from Jarred Land on REDUser:
Sebring is one of our go-to guys with new stuff, and he gladly took on the new Epic-m Monochrome and put it through it's paces for WOLF magazine. Here is a 720p version of "Emily" , I will post a 2K and 4K version next week. You wont believe how good this looks in 4K. This was shot all at 2000 ASA....The Monochrome sensor really is incredible.. You need to use it to get a grasp of just how powerful it is. Everything is just better.. better tonal range, better use of compression, better detail. Shot with a Cooke 18-100 with a mix between 24-96fps. 8:1 and 10:1 compression !!
The video is not quite NSFW, but there is some borderline nudity you might want to be aware of (but no actual nudity). You can double-tap F on the keyboard to get full-screen, double-clicking on the video also works for some people. Otherwise you can head on over to Vimeo to see it in full screen or download the 720p version:
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/51795418
The AC on the project, Ryan De Franco, added some of his own thoughts about the camera:
the monochrome sensor is so good it's not fair. you shoot with it and you want to throw your bank account at it from the moment the camera boots up. I did some tests for this shoot, The first shot I did out of the box I pointed the camera at subway tracks and hit "on," my jaw fell apart. the tonal differences between shadow and light are incredible. this sensor sees as much texture as our eyes do. sometimes more. people wonder if the camera really is different from a desaturated color image… yes. yes. yes. yes. especially with a human face. desaturated color looks like desaturated color. on the monochrome, with all information devoted to luminance, the camera takes on an incredible character and texture--in a way no digital camera ever has.
There are a lot of high-contrast shots in the piece, but where the camera really shines, in my opinion, are in the darker areas of the image. For example, if you take a look at her necklace in a few of the shots above, there is not only an incredible amount of detail, but the necklace really pops thanks to the subtle gradations in tonality. It's this type of detail that is difficult to achieve with a converted image, since you're losing resolution and sensitivity initially because of the color filters over the sensor (which the Monochrome does not have).
I was lucky enough to be trained on black and white photography from 35mm all the way up to 4x5 large format, and there is just something about a properly exposed negative printed on real photo paper that has a certain "magic" to it. The Monochrome has that look for me, except it's digital, and grainless. There are still a few black and white films released every once in a while, but they are usually few and far between. Maybe we'll see a resurgence thanks to the resolution and sensitivity advantages of these monochrome cameras?
I would be the first in line to see a feature shot on this camera if I could watch it in a proper 4K theater.
It will be interesting to see if they do a monochrome version of the new Dragon sensor. (a Dragon Monochrome is slated to come out Spring 2013) The MX sensor more than doubles in sensitivity when the color filters are removed, so does that mean the new Dragon sensor, which is a 6K bayer pattern sensor with a base ISO around 2000, would be a native 5000 ISO in a Monochrome version? If so, sign me up for a grainless 6K image at those kinds of sensitivities. It could certainly open up a new kind of cinematic image we've never seen before.
If you've got close to $50,000 sitting in the bank, one of these new Monochrome cameras could be yours -- and if you buy it now you get a free upgrade to the Monochrome version of the Dragon sensor. Otherwise, a future rental just might be in order. We'll update when the 2K and 4K versions are released so you can check those out.
What do you guys think about the footage? Does this camera interest you? Would try to use a Dragon EPIC-M Monochrome if they made one and the sensitivity more than doubled from the color version?