What camera did I use to make this still picture?
Go ahead and guess what camera was used to make this photograph in the comments above. It was made with a new camera that many photographers have not yet heard of… I suggest you click on the image above to see it at full resolution (and make sure you zoom in to 100%) Some of you will guess right away and already know about it… Others will be astonished when I reveal what camera shot this photograph. It’s a camera that has the potential to change things – radically. __________________________________________________________________________________________
ANSWER: This image is actually a FRAME GRAB. It was not shot with a STILL camera but with the RED EPIC M digital cinema camera at 96 frames per second. For the techies: The image was made with a Zeiss Compact Prime 25mm f 2.9 , natural light, at T 2.9 , 1/200th of a second at 800 ASA in RED’s RAW R3D format – a RAW format similar to a CR2 or NEF (for Canon and Nikon users respectively.)
The camera’s "cinema" resolution is 5K – more than five times the resolution of your HD Television (see chart below)… Other than a quick color correction – no enhancement whatsoever has been made to this image. Perhaps just as importantly : there were 95 other frames that were shot EACH SECOND that I rolled on the camera… 95 other shots to choose from… shot handheld on a moving subject – not posed.
So why the big deal some might ask? First – I’ve been shooting with still cameras for 21 years. Second – I shot with some of the very first digital still cameras in 1996 (granted there were some that came out before that – but the Canon D2000 the first digital camera that was assigned to me at The New York Times in 1999 was one of the first viable digital cameras in the market… shooting a whopping 2 megapixels at 3.5 frame per second.) I’ve seen and used a majority of the digital cameras over the past 13 years – from the D2000 all the way to Phase One backs and the Hasselblad H4D-40 and seen some of the very BEST sensors… and some of the very WORST!
I’ve also worked with Apple and Adobe on how to best decode raw images… With that said, what I can tell you is: when I first got my hands on the RED Epic camera and started to shoot footage (especially footage at higher frame rates with faster shutter speeds that lead to very sharp still images) my jaw dropped. The last time my jaw dropped like that – was when I first saw video footage coming out of the Canon 5D MKII when I shot "Reverie" almost 3 years ago. I and many others at that time had never expected to see 1080p footage coming out of a still camera… let alone footage that looked like what we were seeing! (Footage that just 3 years later pales in comparison to what comes out of the Epic today.) The footage that I am seeing coming out of RED’s Epic is some of the most impressive footage I have seen – both in terms of latitude and resolution.
So much so that I thought that a frame grab was the best way to attest to that fact – as no internet video streaming system available today can come close to doing justice to the 5K video footage produced by this camera. (Notice the dynamic range in the frame grab above – pay PARTICULAR attention to the reflection in the girl’s pupil that is in focus, of the window’s outline – and how the camera holds detail in the shadows within the dark areas of the eye socket – yet also retains the highlight detail of the light source.)
Some of you will ask: "Is this a GAME CHANGER?"
I’m going to stay away from that term. It’s been far too over used in the past few years anyway. I’m also going to stay away from making any claims or proclamations – but I will ask a few questions openly. What I CAN says is: this camera has made me think A LOT. And ask a lot of "big" questions… such as: "Does the challenge of capturing "THE DECISIVE MOMENT" still exist when you can capture a 14 megapixel image at 120 frames per second? " For someone who idolized Henri Cartier Bresson and worked on mastering the capture of that "decisive moment" for most of my career – it is not a question I ask lightly. "Are the days of the "still camera" numbered?"
Again – not a query I pose flippantly. But when my current instinct is to choose the Epic over my still digital camera when I see something beautiful (and having the choice of BOTH stills and video…) that’s an important statement for me to make publicly. " Will most people be pulling frame grabs from their video devices years from now and framing them? Will frames even exist let alone prints?" " Does it makes sense to send a sports photographer to shoot a sporting event with a still camera – when these new cameras can capture similar resolution images (to the 1D MKIV for example) TEN TIMES AS OFTEN PER SECOND? (Two important points to comfort sport photogs: First, while the Epic will soon have both "smart/electronic" Nikon and Canon mounts, AND will offer autofocus – I’d be surprised to see the AF perform as well as the high end Canon and Nikon cameras… and the 1D MKIV and Nikon D3 series still excel in high ASA performance compared to almost all cameras in any market – still or cinema today. I’m just asking the questions to stir the pot if you will…) I don’t have the answers to any of these questions of course – none of us do. BUT – I will say that these are legitimate questions to ponder out loud when you see new technology like this appear. Also, there is one question that I’m sure that many of you might want to ask me in particular: "Is the age of the HDSLR movement coming to an end?" My answer: Absolutely, positively, definitively NOT! The price point of the Canon Rebels, 7D, 5D MKII etc. are something that CANNOT be ignored. While the large sensors, form factor, and low light performance were huge factors in the success of the HDSLR platforms – perhaps as important if not most important – WAS (and is) THE PRICE. Until a tool becomes affordable to the masses – it cannot have the widespread effect/movement that the HDSLR "revolution" has had in democratizing filmmaking. I am not selling my Canon 5D MKIIs anytime soon and don’t expect most of you to either. We are seeing a lot of new cameras coming out that are trying to overtake the HDSLR market (Sony F3, AF100 etc) but the price of those systems is still too high for most. I do however think it’s always important to look at the cutting edge technology available today – to see what we might all have in our hands tomorrow. Right now the RED Epic is a $30,000+ camera that is far from accessible to most due to its price. ($58K with all of the accessories for the hand-machined "M" series – the factory made "X" series will be almost 1/3 cheaper.) But if there’s one thing we all know – PRICES FOR ALL TECHNOLOGIES GO DOWN with time and volume of units sold. The type of technology that is housed within this incredibly small cinema camera (just a bit larger than a Hasselblad H4D and heavier) is ahead of its time. In a few years – at the rate things are going – who can say we won’t be shooting 120 fps on our iPhone 8 at 4K? (A bit extreme sounding sure – but would you have expected to shoot the quantity and quality of still images you are now shooting on your iPhone 4 just 2 years ago? I would not have…) Keep in mind that most video cameras out there shoot a compressed format – this camera shoots individual frames with the fidelity you see in the above example in a RAW format with an incredible exposure latitude – a latitude that rivals what I’ve seen with many digital still cameras. What this camera will do for sure, is to put a fire under all still camera manufacturers to produce still cameras that do things we haven’t yet imagined… if the Epic can shoot HDRx live – still cameras need(ed) to do the same YESTERDAY. You should also naturally expect that ALL camera manufacturers are taking note of the Epic’s performance, resolution, and size … and doing their best to remain competitive. And I haven’t even begun to discuss the CINEMA functionality of this camera… I will be posting a camera test/video that I shot with the Epic shortly – as well as a series of behind the scenes videos that show most of the gear we used on this shoot (that includes HDSLRS too of course!) over the upcoming weeks on this blog – so check in regularly. We’ve shot a LOT of behind the scenes stuff for you. I’ve also started a new gear subsection on my blog for the Epic for those who might be interested. I look forward to sharing some more thoughts with you and to getting your feedback and thoughts on all of this.