HDDSLR vs. Red … has war been declared?

Two days ago RED’s Founder Jim Jannard made the following statement:

“I fully expect the DSLR mfgs to get it right at some point. Make a non-line-skipping 4K camera. At that point, the difference will be RAW 5K and 6K vs. whatever they make. Until then, a line-skipping 1080P camera is just not in the running for a pro camera. Can you make OK images with a line-skipping 1080P camera? Sure. Should you be embarrassed? Yes. We are not in that business.

I saw the Canon commercial about shooting “motion stills”. They should be ashamed. Just try to take a still from their motion 1080P capture…

Jim -REDuser.net

Certain sites summed up his statement as “RED founder blasts DSLR video” or “DSLRs vs. RED – Fight! Fight!

Well I have a different take on it… and not one that you might expect.  I didn’t want to touch one this – but I’ve gotten several e-mails and comments about it – and think I’ll take the risk of weighing in.

First of all some key statements that I need to get out of the way:

1. I am a Canon Explorer of Light and sponsored by them, I am also one of the people that has obviously had a lot to do with the HDDSLR movement since it’s inception – in fact I shot one of the – if not the – first video with the Canon 5D MKII.  Obviously – I’m a big fan of HDDSLRs.

2. I have no official relationship with RED whatsoever – I do have what I would consider to be several very healthy professional and personal relationships with people at RED.

3. I shoot with both systems (and others) regularly now.

So here it goes:

First – I agree to some degree with what Jim says on a technical level.   Line-skipping is now the only major technical drawback standing in the way of Canon HDDSLRs being used to their fullest potential.    I can work with the compression and all of the other well documented challenges that are inherent with HDDSLRs – line skipping is the only one I don’t have a solution to at this point.  On some projects I can’t use the HDDSLRs at all (for example – one with lots of buildings (with bricks or sharp lines) in the background, lots of detail, or for example shooting a video on black and white tiles could be a potential headache…  (you can of course shoot w/ shallow depth of field to minimize this – but if you have to see it an object w/ sharp edges – it can lead to some disappointing results.)  I would qualify that statement however – and say that the line skipping (while very apparent on an Apple Cinema Display or reference monitor) are significantly minimized when projected on a high-end projector and/or when the footage is compressed or played over the web…

What I don’t agree with is the “embarrassed” statement.   I think Jim got a little carried away on this one – and I think he may perhaps have been referring more to the Canon ad he mentions later – rather than to the DPs/Directors that use the Canon HDDSLRs… I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.   He’s a passionate guy and I think we owe it to him to give him at least that.

I do know the agency, creative directors, and director who shot that Canon ad btw – and it was NOT shot with a Canon HDDSLR…  but I guess I can see where he’s coming from – from a technical perfectionist’s point of view.

In the end – I hope that Jim will clarify his statement.

Why?

Because frankly – the products that RED are now producing and that I’ve had the fortune to work with (Red Mysterium X) are the best products they’ve produced to date and are some of the very best out in the market today.   If you’ve already made your opinion up based on the RED ONE – I’d recommend you give these new cameras a second chance – I for one am quite impressed with the Mysterium X sensor.   And the RED EPIC has me quite excited.

Sure there have been more than a few delays in production / and release dates – and a lot of people are disappointed.   That being said, you can never lose sight of the fact that RED is a relatively small company when compared to the behemoth that Canon Inc. is – in fact Canon Inc. dwarfs Nikon for example…  so give them a break for having the courage/audacity to challenge anyone and go for it against these much larger mega corporations.

I for one admire them for it.   One should also keep in mind that people at RED are passionate – and if they happen to promise us the world – it’s because they are actually aiming to do produce the best products possible.  I don’t think Jannard has ever aimed to produce a product that was “good enough.”   Issues arise however on the end user side – when people try to construct budgets/productions around those schedules… and those schedules aren’t met.

I also admire Canon for producing what is arguably one the most “game changing” cameras in history (the Canon 5D MKII).  I think it would be hard to argue that the entire playing field in the video world hasn’t been turned upside down as a result of that camera’s release.

I think there’s plenty of room for both companies in the video/film market – and that no one need be “embarrassed” about what system they choose to use.  Canon on the other hand makes no promised whatsoever… they never say or hint at what product may or may not be coming out and/or when… nor that they’re “actively working on a fix” for “x” “y” or “z.”   This too can be equally frustrating….  Their announcement that they were working on a firmware update for the 5D MKII was a BIG change for them… a BIG deal and a substantial departure from the way they tend to do business… that was a great sign for all of us HDDSLR folks.

Perhaps somewhere in between would be best for everyone… don’t you think?

If there’s only one criticism that I have with RED – it’s that they’ve tended to over-promise and deliver late…  basically the opposite of what Apple does (Apple stays absolutely secret about their projects, deny they’re working on anything, and releases them only when they are confident the product is ready for prime time…)   I personally would prefer to get hard deadlines from RED on future product releases – even if those dates are overly conservative on their end.

In conclusion – I’m an end-user – and I use RED and HDDSLR products all the time – and will continue to (and the Alexa too) as I go.

Why?

I think the most important thing to take away from the RED vs HDDSLR vs film vs all other camera debate is:

THERE

IS

NO

ONE

SINGLE

PERFECT

CAMERA

OUT

THERE

THAT

IS

RIGHT

FOR

EVERYONE

Period.

Every camera has it’s place.   Every camera excels in some things – and fails in others.  Every end user has specific needs, quality standards, and budgets…

In the end – learn all of the tools (if you can) – and use the best tool for any given job.

Or do what I do – use a number of them on the same job and be well ahead of the curve.

And never, ever forget – it’s not about the TOOLS – it’s about the IDEAS/CONCEPTS that you have when all is said and done!

I think it’s fair to say that there are few – if any – absolutes in life – and the same can be said for cameras.  If there were – we’d all be using the same ONE camera and other companies would quickly go out of business.  And that would be a disaster for everyone… competition is a GOOD and healthy thing.   One of my favorite sayings is that “a one newspaper town is not a good thing”  you want at least two papers if not more – so that each competes to get the scoop and as a result to keep everyone in government/agencies etc. on their toes…

We all want the latest and greatest NOW  (see the madness behind the iPhone 4 launch as an example…) I’m just as eager to use the RED Epic and / or the successor to the Canon 5D MKII.  I’m also happy to wait for those cameras to be ready for prime time – and to use what is available to me NOW in order to do the best work I can.

 

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