RED Helium 8K Shatters Highest DxOMark Sensor Score by 10 Points

RED's new Helium sensor just broke the DxOMark record for highest sensor score.

When RED unveiled Helium, the new 8K S35 sensor they built for the Weapon and Epic-W, much of the filmmaking community could see right away that it was built to impress. Director Mark Toia said it best: "IMAX performance in your pocket is now." The cameras outfitted with the new sensor can shoot 8K (8192x3456) at up to 75fps, has 16.5+ stops of dynamic range, and packs 3.65 microns into each pixel resulting in a stunning level of image quality.

So, after all of the fanfare about Helium over the last several months, filmmakers, especially those who are die-hard RED fans, were hoping that it'd live up to the hype, and maybe receiving the highest sensor score of all time from DxOMark, a whopping 108, helps prove its mettle.

Credit: DxOMark

DxOMark put the Helium sensor through a battery of tests, from measuring its true dynamic range (15.2 stops vs. RED's reported 16.5) to color depth. According to them, Helium surpasses the RED Dragon 6K sensor in many different areas. Not only did it have impressive results in low-light ISO and noise tests, it also set records in dynamic range and color depth as well. DxOMark measures Helium's color depth at 27 bits, and dynamic range at 15.2 stops, slightly lower than RED's reported 16.5, but still the highest APS-H or full frame sensor they've ever tested.

Here's what DxOMark had to say about their impressive findings:

The RED Helium 8K is the most impressive sensor we’ve ever tested. Rating 10 points above the best of the full-frame DSLRs, it stands alone as our top scorer. Its image quality is even more impressive given its very high maximum frame rates. Our only caveat is that the Helium 8K sensor appears to benefit from some noise reduction to enhance its RAW image quality.

We can likely explain the Helium 8K’s improvement over our previous top scorer, RED’s own Dragon, by a combination of both better sensor technology and temporal noise reduction. The upgrade to 8K video and improved image quality across the board make it a clear upgrade from the RED Dragon – and a clear winner. The Helium 8K is an impressive achievement by RED. For those with the budget, its top-of-the-line image quality, high frame rate, and 16-bit RAW capture capability absolutely make it worth considering as a competitor to high-end DSLRs and medium-format cameras for still image capture.

Behind the scenes shot from 'The Underdog', the first short film shot on the RED Weapon with Helium 8K sensor. (Director: Jonny Mass; DP: Jared Fadel)

In case you missed them, here are the specs for the RED Weapon with the Helium 8K sensor:

  • 35.4MP CMOS sensor
  • 75 fps 8K capture at 2.4:1 (8392 x 3456)
  • 60 fps RAW full 8K resolution
  • 120 fps at 4K resolution (240 fps at 2K)
  • 300 MB/second data readout
  • Captures in 16-bit RECODE RAW or Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHR/HD
  • Super 35-format sensor (29.90 mm x 15.77 mm)
  • Integrated dual-channel audio
  • Integrated REDLINK WiFi antenna
  • Upgrade path to WEAPON 8K VV (when available)

If you want to know more about DxOMark's Helium tests and why they gave the sensor such high scores, check out their write-up here.

What do you think about DxOMark's findings? Let us know in the comments below.     

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Your Comment


Love 'em or hate 'em, you gotta love Red for always pushing the boundaries.

January 15, 2017 at 7:15PM

Nathan T

Andrew Reid can be a bit of a smug blowhard, but I think he's right on the money with this post:

January 15, 2017 at 8:28PM


Yep... that is weird... DxO has been called out quite a few times, but like everyone else who believe blindly in their own work, they can't seem to admit anything is wrong with the way they do things.

January 15, 2017 at 11:57PM, Edited January 15, 11:57PM

Torben Greve

Thanks for sharing the article from Andrew. What he says does raise many questions! And seems very logical!

January 16, 2017 at 4:03AM


I think the answer is that that RED at some point had been out there trying to convince still photographers to just shoot with their high res video sensors and then pick still frames from that, claiming their resolution was high enough, I think the original idea of the Scarlet was to bring all these still photographers on board. Anyone who has the slightest understanding of shutter speeds will know you can only have one thing, not the other, as either your video looks like the opening of private Ryan or your stills will be blurred, but this would explain why we find RED cameras compared to bodies built for stills.

January 17, 2017 at 3:55AM, Edited January 17, 3:56AM


Yeah, Andrew Reid once compared a GH4 to an Alexa. -______- Nonetheless, he does find interesting camera finds and make comparisons from time to time

January 16, 2017 at 10:42PM


So there is no DxOMark rating for the Alexa...what?

January 16, 2017 at 5:51AM

Matt Carter
VFX Artist / Director / DP / Writer / Composer / Alexa Owner

or the blackmagic, or the sony (fs series), or Canon (c series)...??
if price was also taken in account, the winner is 10x the cost of the rest.

January 16, 2017 at 7:20AM

rodrigo calderon
director / dp / creative director

And the Varicam. Probably the only one competing in resolution and beating Red in DR, colors and lowlight capabilities.

January 16, 2017 at 11:33AM


This benchmark is for stills only, which is why no cinema cameras are on here. That's why it's a tad misleading and kind of strange. I wouldn't doubt certain cinema cameras would beat the RED in color and dynamic range.

January 16, 2017 at 3:18PM

Ben Meredith

So we are using still image scores to rank cinema cameras. Makes perfect sense.

January 16, 2017 at 12:13PM


Interesting, 8392 px x 3456 px (2.43 aspect ratio) and 29.90 mm x 15.77 mm (1.89 aspect ratio). That means the pixels are long, narrow and vertical. Therefore the best way to use this sensor is in anamorphic mode.

January 16, 2017 at 12:52PM


effective pixel count is 8192 × 4320 (according to the red homepage), not 8392 x 3456.

January 17, 2017 at 4:37AM

Philipp Pils

108-101=10? I need to go back to school I guess.

January 16, 2017 at 4:49PM

Matthew Miller
Director of Photography

As Andrew Reid remarked on his blog: Where are the other cinema cameras on this list? The Alexa? Sony F65? Not even a Blackmagic to compare it to? This is comparing apples to oranges - and it's easy to win if your're the only orange....something smells fishy....hey don't blame me, blame Andrew...

January 16, 2017 at 9:24PM

Ed Wright
Director, DP, Writer

"I think it's because DXoMark tests still images. The Red can shoot stills while the other cinema cameras aren't designed to." All it's doing is literally taking 1 frame per second. It doesn't have a mechanical or global shutter like any other stills camera (even with the faulty motion mount). You can pretty much do the same thing with EVERY OTHER cinema camera. Just take 1 frame. The Alexa would hands down destroy it in DR and lowlight....but DXO doesn't do their test accurately, and they really go through hoops with their specific process. It pretty much favors higher resolution cameras.

January 16, 2017 at 10:40PM


This is clearly a paid post/advertisement from red. The dxo mark does not even test other cameras in the red price range. That's awesome that is better than a dslr, but it also costs $60k more than a Sony a7sii, or a 5d. How bout next to an Arri Alexa, Sony f55, or f65?How bout any of the black magic cameras? None of those cameras are on their web cite list. Im not saying the camera isn't good. Just take it as it is, an advertisement.

January 17, 2017 at 6:22AM

Charles Unice

I Never Knew RED has a new subsidiary?

January 17, 2017 at 11:04AM, Edited January 17, 11:04AM

Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op