RED Digital Cinema, the company run by former Oakley CEO Jim Jannard, has a reputation of trying to shake up the motion picture industry. Their first product, the RED ONE, is an all-digital motion picture camera system which brings Hollywood-level production values to movie makers who don’t have the backing of a major studio.
Recently there had been speculation that RED would be trying to do to the DSLR market what they had done to the professional motion picture market. Talk of a RED-built "DSLR-killer" has been circulating for a few months on Engadget and elsewhere.
Today, some of that speculation has been proven accurate. RED has officially announced their new digital imaging platform which is modular in design, allowing prospective buyers to protect their investment in lenses and other accessories that change little over time, by swapping out the "brains" of the camera system as the fast-evolving image-capture chips are improved upon.
The new system doesn’t have a name. The system, known as The "RED DSMC System" (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) is in fact a family of digital capture modules that can be assembled in an almost unlimited number of ways to create high end cameras. You start by choosing the base capturing sensor. There are two families of sensor modules: EPIC and Scarlet.
The names define the level of image resolution and capture quality of the central brain modules. The EPIC brains are aimed at the very high-end professional market, while the Scarlet modules occupy the space between pro-movie makers and well-heeled amateurs interested in pro-level still and full-motion photography.
These new image capture modules are powered by two new sensors: Mysterium-X and Monstro. Clearly Jannard has not lost any of his fondness for super-hero naming conventions that he began at Oakley (you may remember ads back in the 80’s and 90’s proclaiming the benefits of "Iridium", "Unobtainium", "Plutonite" and "X-Metal").
These sensor are available in resolutions starting at the mere-mortal range of 4.9 megapixels, but quickly ramp up to the stratospheric realm of 261 megapixels. This top-of-the-line sensor, known as the 617, will run you $55,000. Expensive for sure, but still an enormous savings over traditional film or digital systems from industry heavy-weights like Panavision.
Make no mistake, these new systems aren’t for the light of wallet or faint of heart: prices start at $2,500 USD – and that’s just for the lowest-end Scarlet module, not including any lenses or accessories.
While the label "DSLR killer" was certainly overkill, at least from a consumer or pro-sumer point of view, RED’s new cameras may pose a competitive threat to Canon and Nikon’s pro line of DSLRs, which can cost as much as $8,000 for just the body.
Both the EPIC and Scarlet-based systems will be available starting in the spring of 2009.