Autofocus is rapidly becoming a needed tool for many filmmakers. While we always prefer to work with a first AC for focus pulling when we can, sometimes the space is too small or the shot poses a particular challenge that autofocus needs to conquer. While Sony and Canon have fought it out in the mirrorless space for the best autofocus (and it's getting just ridiculously good on cameras like the FX9 and the a7s III), high-end cinema cameras haven't really been keeping pace. There are a lot of reasons. You usually have the first AC to pull focus, and autofocus has traditionally been terrible, and cinema lenses often don't have internal motors. But...

That changes with the V-RAPTOR, the newest camera from RED, launching today.

8K VV is of course the same format as the previous generation RED Monstro, and right now we don't know if this is a new sensor or not. It actually might not matter; that previous generation sensor was pretty solid. Even if it is the same sensor, its specs are improved, likely due to better processing in the camera body.

We're now up to 120 frames per second at 8K (or 150 if you crop down to 2.4x1), 6K super 35mm up to 160 fps, and 2K (2.4:1) at an incredible 600 frames per second. 

This is incredible for a "standard" camera that doesn't have "high speed" in its name or price.


While that is of course wonderful, the key is seeing "phase detect autofocus" in the specs. Known as PDAF for short, it's the same technology that has rolled out in the RED Komodo which came out last year.

Having only shot with it a little, it doesn't quite have that "magic" quality you get from the Sony FX9 and its fully integrated lenses.

But it does have uses. There are going to be action sports shots that it might help with, provided you have enough depth of field. Or a low light interview with someone leaning forward and backward. There are times it struggles, but there are times it's great, and if you get to know your camera you'll know when it's worth using it and when it's best to pull the ring by hand.

It all comes in a new body that RED is calling DSMC3. The "digital stills and motion camera" body is the small, modular camera body that RED has been working with for years. In this third generation, things are getting quite refined.

You can wirelessly monitor your image and control menu settings on your phone (which rolled out with Komodo and is a slick feature). You also get modules that give you full XLR input if you want them. But the key is that it's incredibly small in its base form, which has made RED popular with movement-heavy productions like the recent The Suicide Squad.


While the list price of $24,500 seems a bit high when compared to some other cameras (you can get an 8K Canon mirrorless setup under $10K), it's actually quite reasonable for something that is competing at the high end of true cinema production and is designed to integrate fully into robust workflows.

RED originally started pricing at $17,500 for its top-of-the-line camera the RED ONE 14 years ago, and while the top price has gone up to $40/50K for different Epic and Monstro models over the years, this feels like a reasonable price point considering all the features on display.

It's initially launching in a limited run of white units, and will eventually come out in a black body that will ship in volume this fall. Particularly fascinating is the announcement of an XL body, inspired by their lessons with the RED Ranger, a rental-only, more studio-focused body.

While the stripped-down nature of the DSMC series has always been wonderful when rigging in a stabilizer, it often means missing ports and accessories, and when you build it all up it can be quite a complicated beast. Building an XL unit with all those vital accessories built-in will be a popular option for studio-focused productions that want the simplest unit with the fewest failure points, which you get with a well-integrated camera.


It also runs on the relatively new CFexpress storage format, and they will be selling RED media but also allowing for the non-RED manufacturers but approved media to be used with the camera. Considering some of the drama with Jinnitech in the past, this is a nice improvement.

This is a native RF mount camera, but they will be creating an RF-to-PL adapter with built-in ND filters for filmmakers working with traditional cinema class, though of course the autofocus features won't work as most PL mount glass doesn't have the internal motors necessary to do so.

To be honest, this seems like a slam dunk from RED, considering the price point and features merging together. Autofocus in a camera that has so many other cinema-friendly features is truly going to shake some things up.

Of course, you could put together a package with a Canon body and an Atomos that gets you internal RAW for less, but you are going to lack the integrations that this system has with a fuller workflow. This is a cinema camera, not a stills camera that also shoots video. But with what is likely to be pretty good autofocus. Crazy days.


Check out the RED site for more.

Available accessories include:

  • DSMC3 RED® Touch 7” LCD monitor
  • V-RAPTOR™ Wing Grip
  • RED® PRO CFexpress 660GB and 1.3 TB (available soon) media cards
  • RED® CFexpress Card Reader
  • REDVOLT® MICRO-V Battery Pack
  • RED® Compact Dual V-Lock Charger

RED is also launching a pre-bundled V-RAPTOR Starter Pack option that comes with:

  • DSMC3 RED® Touch 7” LCD
  • RED® PRO CFexpress 660GB Card
  • RED® CFexpress Card Reader
  • 2x REDVOLT® MICRO-V Battery Pack
  • RED® Compact Dual V-Lock Charger
  • 2x V-RAPTOR™ Wing Grips
  • EXT to T/C Cable