In true RED fashion, Jarred Land announced to the world some new camera updates via his Instagram. The update? The monochrome version of the RED Komodo is specifically designed to create true black-and-white images. 

Why is this a better option than doing it in post? And if it's such a niche tool, how do you get one? Well, you just have to ask for it. Read on for an answer to the former. 

The Same But Better

While Land’s post is initially all the info we received about the Monochrome Komodo, we reached out to RED to get some more details.

But first, what is a monochrome camera?

In a nutshell, a sensor gathers light through a color filter array (CFA) to create a color image. Remove that color filter, and your sensor should gather the full spectrum of visible light with no color. This creates a monochrome image that has more contrast and better blacks. It's an aesthetic that some filmmakers can't get enough of. 

Let’s use the ARRI Alexa Monochrome cameras as an example. With the color array removed, ARRI states that its Monochrome Alexa models have increased resolution, better blacks, and a higher native ISO. It also has a version with no IR filter, which according to ARRI, creates “white foliage, milky skin, black eye pupils, and moody skies.”

ARRI Alexa Monochrome CamerasThe ARRI Alexa Monochrome LineCredit: ARRI

According to RED, the Monochrome Komodo will offer a bit of the same. Kind of.

Monochrome RED Komodo Featured Specs:

  • Sensor - KOMODO Monochrome 19.9MP Super 35mm Global Shutter CMOS 
  • Effective Pixels - 6144 (h) x 3240 (v)
  • Sensor Size - 27.03 mm x 14.26 mm (Diagonal 30.56 mm)
  • Dynamic Range - 16+ stops 
  • Color Management - Monochrome Image Processing Pipeline 2 (IPP2)
  • Data Rates - Up to 280 MB/s using compatible media
  • Max Frame Rates - 120 fps at 2K 17:9 (2048 x 1080)
  • Playback Frame Rates - 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60 fps, all resolutions 
  • REDCODE Settings - HQ, MQ and LQ at 6K, 4K, and 2K
  • Apple ProRes - ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 422 in 4K and 2K

While frame rates, resolution, and camera dimensions will remain unchanged, the sensor won't have a CFA. Since light won't be passing through a filter, this will increase the sensitivity of the sensor, and creatives can rate their camera at a higher ISO. If we take a look at the RED Monstro Monochrome, which was used on David Fincher's Mank, we see a default ISO of 2000 (according the Operation Guide). If the Monochrome Komodo is anything like the DSMC2 line, we can assume it'll also run at ISO 2000 as default, which should allow for an even distribution of highlight and shadow protection.

There will also be a Full-Spectrum Monochrome Komodo that won't have an IR filter for a similar effect as stated by ARRI for its full-spectrum version. 

So, what about resolution? Is that increased?

No, you won't get extra resolution, as the sensor is exactly the same. We're not sure how ARRI is quantifying its statement, but our assumption is that there could be an increase in image fidelity or perceived resolution because the image doesn't go through a filter and a debayering process. We really can't say for sure, but we'll chat with ARRI and try to get some clear answers. 

RED, however, doesn't make the same claim. You'll always get 6K no matter which Komodo you shoot on. 

MANK (2020) Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz and Tom Pelphrey as Joe MankiewiczGary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz and Tom Pelphrey as Joe MankiewiczCredit: Netflix

Niche and Necessary

This version of the RED Komodo isn’t the first Monochrome camera from RED, with several versions existing for the DSMC2 line. However, this is the first for the DSMC3 series.

Having said that, a Monochrome camera is a very niche tool for a very specific project needs. You also can't really swap a color filter array in and out. There could be some options for that out in the wild, but that will definitely likely void your warranty. We'll let you dive into that research on your own. 

Why is it necessary? Because real black-and-white imagery requires a specialized tool. Slapping a filter on your footage in post won't always reproduce the image of a true Monochrome camera. You could definitely try, but shooting on the real thing will always give you the best results. 

Malcolm & Marie'Malcolm & Marie' shot on 35mm B&W film.Credit: DOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021

Is this camera for you? Probably not unless you're shooting B&W on a daily basis or have a project that needs this aesthetic. But if you do need a Monochrome Komodo, all you have to do is ask. Literally.

You won't find the Monochrome Komodo on the RED website, so contact the company reps via The Monochrome Komodo is a limited release and will cost you $7500, while the Full-Spectrum Monochrome Komodo will be an even more limited release, considering its use case. 

What do you think about the Monochrome Komodo? Would you want this in your kit? Let us know in the comments!

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Source: RED Studios