RED has, after three years, released their new camera the “Scarlet“. For those unaware, RED has become the major company in digital filmmaking cameras. Their Red One camera revolutionized the professional digital filmmaking market with several filmmakers shooting big budget Hollywood productions with it. Recently they released the Epic camera which is even more transforming in the resolution it can produce. Films like the now in production ‘The Hobbit’ are being shot on it. Many filmmakers of all stripes have been eagerly awaiting to shoot with a RED camera. These have been professional cameras which means that they are an expensive endeavor. The Red One brain (which is basically just the body of the camera) is around $25,000. The Epic is around $40,000 for the brain. Once you add on all of the add ons like recording options, lenses, monitors, etc., you are easily adding on tens of thousands of dollars. This has kept the camera out of the hands of very low budget filmmakers outside of renting (which in itself has it’s own cost associated with it). That was until the announcement of the Scarlet a few years ago.
The Scarlet was RED’s answer to the “prosumer” market. That is the market where people like myself currently lie. The cameras we use are above consumer cameras you buy at the store but, because of price, are not quite full on professional. Hence the term prosumer. The cameras in this range are aimed at professionals and independent filmmakers who want to work with as professional equipment as they can but cannot afford $50,000 cameras and gear. So the cameras are, on average, a plus or minus $5,000-6,000. Companies like Sony, Canon, JVC, and my personal favorite Panasonic make these types of cameras. So when RED announced they were making a camera for this market many of us were beyond thrilled with this. The main thing being it was going to shoot 3K (3,ooo lines of resolution – 35mm film is 4,000 and HD is 1,080) and sell for about $6,000. This was the news up until the release on November 3 when the Scarlet turned out to be a 4K camera with the brain, plus a few additions, selling for $10,000.
I am of between two minds on this. On the one end a 4K (35mm equivalent) camera that does both motion and stills at that low a price is mind boggling. Who would have thought a few years ago this would be possible. We’re all going from one HD camera to the next while this camera changes that bringing 4K down to us. Well, sort of. The problem is once you start adding on all of the add ons that you do need you’re looking at around $16,000. And that is just having it be more or less what I currently use as far as shooting with batteries, lens, and recording. I admit I was expecting to spend around $9,000 for the original idea of the Scarlet but $16,000 is far out of my price range. If I knew the price range had changed I admit my anticipation for the camera would have dropped. But I was expecting a camera I thought I might be able to afford. What your getting for $15,000 or $16,000 is extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong. And I look forward to the day when it might be an option for me. But for right now it is not.
My disappointment lies in the unchanged specs before release. I wasn’t going to hold every last word into account until the camera was released but when the last mention of price was “around $6,000” then that is what many people like myself were anticipating. So when it came out at such a higher price then I admit it was like having the air sucked out of my balloon. And for what I do the camera is the heart of the operation so it is easy to plan (or dream) of building your workload around a camera. This appeared to be a real game changer and it is just not for me. People say you can rent one until you can afford one. The idea of my work is I am flexible. Owning the equipment means I can be ready at almost a moment’s notice to shoot. Renting equipment means you are at the mercy of availability, the process of picking up and dropping it off, plus the cost. It is expensive to rent cameras. How much cheaper is a Scarlet package from a rental house going to be compared to a Red One package? I’m guessing not much.
For those of you that can afford the camera I am very excited to see what you do with it. I eagerly await to watch people’s footage and projects. I will even dream of what I might be able to do with it one day when I can afford one. Until then though I will admire what RED has done with their new camera but sigh in the fact that it is still unattainable for me. For now I am happy with my Panasonic HPX170 and will be looking into a new camera next year. I will wait and see what the other companies bring out.