As we await the first footage from the DRAGON sensor (we've already been given some still images, but nothing was shown at NAB 2013), upgrades are already happening. Some of the first cameras to be upgraded, EPIC-Ms, were given the royal treatment right on the NAB floor where RED set up a clean room to give attendees a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of what goes into camera upgrades. It was definitely one of the more spectacular displays of just how far the company has come since their first appearance at NAB 2006. We know RED is upgrading sensors for current EPIC and SCARLET owners, but what exactly will this cost, and might it actually be more cost-effective to sell your camera and buy DRAGON brand new? Click through for specs and a complete analysis on all prices.
EPIC DRAGON Specs
Let's get some of the full specs we know so far out of the way for EPIC DRAGON:
Sensor Resolution: 6144 x 3160
Signal to Noise Ratio: 80db
Dynamic Range: 16.5+ stops
Lens Coverage: 30.7mm (h) x 15.8mm (v) x 34.5 mm (d) (5K on DRAGON is about the same size as it is now, 6K is slightly larger at a 1.173x crop)
- 6K (2:1, 2.4:1, Anamorphic)
- 5K (Full Frame, 2:1, 2.4:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
- 4.5K (2.4:1)
- 4K (16:9, HD, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
- 3K (16:9, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
- 2K (16:9, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1)
- 1080p RGB (16:9)
- 720p RGB (16:9)
Frame Rates (same as EPIC except for 6K):
- 1-100fps 6K
- 1-120fps 5K, 4.5K
- 1-150fps 4K
- 1-200fps 3K
- 1-300fps 2K
Monitor Output: HD-SDI/HDMI Frame Guides and Look Around
Monitor Output Formats: 2K RGB, 1080p RGB or 4:2:2, 720p RGB or 4:2:2
SCARLET DRAGON Specs
These may change slightly upon release:
- 60fps 5K (including anamorphic 5K)
- 75fps 4K
- 100fps 3K
- 150fps 2K
If you are a RED EPIC owner, here are your upgrade options:
- Early EPIC adopters (those who ordered before RED ONEs before August 31, 2007): $8,500 DRAGON Upgrade
- Current EPIC-M and EPIC-X Owners: $9,500 DRAGON Upgrade
If you are a SCARLET owner:
- Upgrade to EPIC-X for $9,500
- After Upgrading to EPIC-X, get an EPIC DRAGON for an additional $9,500
- Upgrade to SCARLET DRAGON for $9,500 with lower specs
New EPIC-X and EPIC-M DRAGON Pricing
While the EPIC-M DRAGON is only available for pre-order, and the EPIC-X has not gone up yet in the store, we do know that the EPIC-M will cost $29,000 for the brain only, and the EPIC-X DRAGON will be $24,000. Interestingly enough, the EPIC-X DRAGON is actually less expensive than both the original RED ONE MX ($25,000), and the original EPIC MX ($28,000).
SCARLET to SCARLET DRAGON, EPIC-X, and EPIC DRAGON
For a total of $19,000, SCARLET owners can get in on full EPIC DRAGON. Here are the prices for a Brain only (obviously the camera needs some accessories to actually shoot -- for the original SCARLET and BT SCARLET, I am subtracting the price of the Side SSD and Canon mount, which is $2,200, to make the comparison more exact). Also included are the SCARLET to SCARLET DRAGON prices and the SCARLET to EPIC only prices:
- Original RED SCARLET Brain: $7,550 // SCARLET DRAGON or EPIC-X: $17,050 // EPIC DRAGON: $26,550
- Price Increased RED SCARLET Brain: $9,700 // SCARLET DRAGON or EPIC-X: $19,200 // EPIC DRAGON: $28,700
- Battle Tested (Refurbished) RED SCARLET: $4,900 // SCARLET DRAGON or EPIC-X: $14,400 // EPIC DRAGON: $23,900
- Current RED SCARLET: $7,950 // SCARLET DRAGON or EPIC-X: $17,450 // EPIC DRAGON: $26,950
EPIC to DRAGON
Here are the EPIC-X and EPIC-M prices (the original EPIC-M was a package-only at $58,000, and early adopters get $1,000 off):
- Original EPIC-X: $28,000 // EPIC-X DRAGON: $37,500
- Price Increased EPIC-X: $34,500 // EPIC-X DRAGON: $44,000
- Price Dropped EPIC-X: $19,000 // EPIC-X DRAGON: $28,500
- Original EPIC-M: $39,500 // EPIC-X DRAGON: $49,000
- Price Dropped EPIC-M: $24,000 // EPIC-X DRAGON: $33,500
Warranty and Canceling Information
So what about warranties? There are a few catches you should be aware of that might actually make it more cost-effective to just sell your camera and buy a new EPIC-X or EPIC-M DRAGON. From the way I understand it, warranties will carry over only for the parts that were purchased with the original warranty with your camera. The DRAGON sensor upgrade warranty is only 90 days, so if anything goes wrong with the sensor outside of those 90 days, you're out of luck, and will have to pay whatever the cost will be to fix it.
This also applies to a SCARLET upgraded to SCARLET DRAGON. You will get 90 days for the DRAGON sensor and the rest of the parts still associated with the original warranty will carry over. None of these upgrades will be getting new RED Armor, which will be disappointing for those who were assuming a completely new camera (for the most part), would get some more warranty options.
So what happens if you decide to cancel your order if you don't have money by the time your place in line comes up? Again, this is another case where you will be out of luck, because any brains that have been executed are only eligible for the upgrades once, and if an order is canceled, the brains will not be available for any future trade-in programs.
I think it's also important to note that you keep your current camera if you upgrade to SCARLET DRAGON, but you are trading it in if you decide to go to EPIC-X and then EPIC DRAGON.
What Does This All Mean?
Why take so much time going over what current owners will pay depending on when they bought their camera? I think RED has always been very good about trying to give back to current users, but depending on when you purchased, you may be paying more than other users. This isn't to say that those users are getting the short end of the stick, because ideally they've been making money off their gear in the meantime, but it's clear that some people might actually be better off selling their camera (depending on the used market), and buying a brand new EPIC-X DRAGON outright. As of right now, the price for current EPIC-X and EPIC-M cameras is $17,000 and $22,500, respectively, down from $19K and $24K. So this means that RED has more or less set the price for the used market, especially when warranties don't carry over.
The cheapest way to get into DRAGON if you don't buy a brand new EPIC-X DRAGON is if you happened to get in on the Battle Tested SCARLET deal. When they said that was a deal of a lifetime, they really meant it, because it's actually $100 cheaper than a new EPIC-X DRAGON at $24,000. In terms of warranties, if you are concerned about that, the only way to get a full warranty on DRAGON is by getting it new. With EPIC-M you're getting 2 years (plus RED Armor which would add 2 years), and I assume that the warranty on the EPIC-X will be 1 year (plus RED Armor which would add an additional 2 years). They haven't posted EPIC-X DRAGON yet in the RED store, but we'll find out soon enough about the warranty on that.
What Should You Do if You're an Owner?
Certainly if you're a current owner the options aren't all that simple. If you're a SCARLET owner, you have a few options. For some people, it may actually make more sense to sell the SCARLET and buy right into full EPIC DRAGON. I imagine since they have not dropped the SCARLET price yet, prices should still be up there for used brains, and as far as the warranty goes, you'll only get full RED Armor with a new camera.
Many have talked about SCARLET owners getting screwed, but getting into an EPIC-X from SCARLET is right around the same price as buying new, and much, much cheaper if you are a BT SCARLET owner. If anything, EPIC users are paying much more to get into DRAGON, but that comes with the territory, since early adopters have always paid a little bit more over the long run for any kind of camera system. If you decide to go right into SCARLET DRAGON, you're getting a camera that's about the same price as a current EPIC-X with no further upgrade options, and even though the max frame rates options are a little lower than EPIC, I think all of the other sensor advancements like better color, dynamic range, and ISO sensitivity more than make up for some added frame rate options (if you need more than 60fps, you're paying for it no matter what camera system you're getting).
It looks like RED will begin upgrades for SCARLET users in July, but as with anything, these dates could move, and it's not clear when EPIC-X upgrades may start (probably sooner). Ted from RED mentioned they are looking at a 6 month timeframe for when they would like to complete upgrades, but certainly it may take a bit longer. It definitely sounds like they are trying to release a solid camera right off the bat, especially when you read quotes like this from Jim Jannard:
We won't release Dragon until it is bulletproof and all features enabled. We have learned our lesson. But then again... everything changes. Count on it.
How Do These Upgrades Compare to Other Camera Systems?
Even though you're paying the price of the camera for an upgrade as a SCARLET owner (and half or less than half as an EPIC owner), I actually still think it's a good deal. I don't envision other companies doing sensor upgrades like this. For example, what if you bought a Sony F3 or a Canon C300/C500? Your only option is to sell your camera if you want something newer with added capabilities. The Sony FS700, while not a full sensor upgrade, will probably only be able to do 4K RAW with Sony's recording solution, which costs a little more than the price of the camera. We've talked about the Convergent Design Odyssey, and while that's a lot cheaper option to get better recording on the FS700, it still doesn't allow 4K RAW, and we don't know what Sony may charge for a firmware upgrade (or when they plan on releasing one).
The Sony F65 and Arri Alexa have gotten minor firmware upgrades and some recording option upgrades, but I highly doubt either company will give a sensor upgrade option (though we obviously won't know until the time comes). The Sony F5 and F55 have only just been released, and even though it's possible that modules could add extended functionality, Sony hasn't historically done sensor upgrades for their cameras (though they have hinted that they might help users with camera upgrades).
This will probably be the last upgrade RED does for all current owners, but it's safe to say that no company will be releasing a 6K 100fps ISO 2000 camera for $24,000 or less in the next few years.
Everything is costing a little bit more than originally announced, and even though the SCARLET DRAGON may just be a firmware restriction (we'll never really know), RED has to differentiate the cameras in some way. If you can afford to stay with RED and upgrade, they have solved the fan issue problems (both with hardware and software solutions), and they have solved ND filter and global shutter issues with their new Motion Mount (from what I've seen it works well).
We should also consider that just because new upgrades exist, it doesn't mean your current camera no longer works. Everyone wants the newest and greatest tech, but most of the current cameras could still be producing great looking images 50 years from now. It looks like RED will keep this deal going for quite some time, so there is no reason to rush into it, especially since they haven't shown footage yet (we may see some in the next few weeks since EPIC-M owners who got in on DRAGON should be getting their cameras back relatively soon).
RED might have a lot more competition, but they are still giving users options. The deals may not be as sweet as they used to be, but 5K or 6K with tons of dynamic range is pretty serious, and all current users can get in on it if they choose. Complaining about prices with RED is kind of waste of time in my opinion, because it's still a very high-end professional system, with tons of 3rd party support and solid post pipelines. We don't know what the moving images look like yet, but on paper their system is still just as competitive as anything else out there, and infinitely expandable in terms of firmware upgrades.
For more on the upgrades, check out the links below.