In Anticipation of RED KOMODO

RED has achieved “6K for $6K” in their newest digital cinema camera. I want one.

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I always wanted a RED.

The RED Digital Cinema name has always been synonymous with the rugged, albeit wealthy, independent filmmaker life. Since founder Jim Jannard’s original RED ONE left their Irvine, California factory floor in 2007, the studio system has begun to take the RED name seriously. Today, more and more Hollywood films are Shot On RED™ — as the branding goes — than ever before, and more and more studio directors — such as David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, and Terrence Malick — use them extensively or almost exclusively.

For years, RED has been giving the established brands of Arri, Panavision, CineAlta (Sony), and Varicam (Panasonic), a run for their cine business, but they’ve also had their eyes on the prosumer market from the beginning. Back before SCARLET, RED had envisioned “4K for $4K”, a feat which didn’t exactly come true when SCARLET came along. The brain simply wouldn’t work without a lot of extra stuff that made the price tag go way, way up.

Today, RED has finally achieved something in a similarly catchy way: “6K for $6K.” The RED KOMODO is effectively a 6K mini RED DRAGON that actually works right out of the box at $5,995. Users who would be most interested in KOMODO, probably, are Canon C-Series owners who would already own Canon EF or RF lenses, a few CFast cards and Canon BP-9xx-class batteries. RED also offers a couple of kits to help fresh-starters (like me) who are not already committed to the Canon line. I’m up in the air about either the Starter Pack or Production Pack.

KOMODO is the newest entrant and the latest innovation in the RED family of cinema cameras. Not only does it boast a shockingly small form-factor along with a 6K global shutter sensor, but also allows users to take advantage of a versatile RF mount for maximum lens choice flexibility and the latest evolution of RED’s REDCODE RAW Codec. The KOMODO also features a high-resolution touchscreen for navigating menus and reviewing footage, phase-detect auto-focus, 4K output, and compatibility with the all new RED CONTROL app for wired or wireless control.

RED’s official statement regarding KOMODO
I like boxy.

Sensor

RED KOMODO has a brand new 19.9 MP Super 35 CMOS sensor, called KOMODO, that features a global shutter. That global shutter alone is worth the price tag. Nothing says “not very cinematic” more than a great-looking image marred by the jello typical of rolling shutter cameras. KOMODO, a proper cinema camera, doesn’t do that. No bent helicopter blades, no skewed telephone polls, no more warbly whip-pans, and no more Jellyvision on digitally stabilized footage.

Also of note is the reported visual dynamic range of 16+ stops.

RED’s Image Processing Pipeline (IPP2) color management is very easy to work with, and I’m looking forward to actually finally owning a RED so I can really dive into it their color science. I like the way RED handles shadow detail when properly exposed.

REDCODE

Also exciting is the ability to shoot 2.4:1 at 48 fps in 6K using REDCODE MQ.

KOMODO’s R3D settings come in three different flavors: HQ, MQ, and LQ. HQ (High Quality) is for VFX, extreme-detailed scenes, and stills from motion. MQ is for non-VFX cinema and high-end TV. The lowest setting, LQ, is for TV, online content, docs, interviews, and long takes. I would mostly use MQ which would give me 48 mins on a 512 CFast 2.0 card.

The majority of my music videos, and slow-mo narrative work, are shot for 2.4:1 at 48fps in 4K on my FS7M2, which maxes out at 240 Mb (megabits) per second for a 24p base frame rate. KOMODO maxes out at 280 MB (megabytes) per second, which means a gargantuan difference in image detail. Remember: 1 byte is worth 8 bits. Yuge.

If I need it, KOMODO will do 120 fps at 2K 17:9. It also has ProRes 422 HQ for quick 4K and 2K work.

Lens Mount

KOMODO uses a non-changeable Canon RF lens mount, the newest from the esteemed Japanese camera manufacturer, intended to compete against other manufacturers’ electronic bayonet lens mounts for mirrorless cameras. KOMODO will ship with an RF-EF adapter for those of us who use EF lenses (I do: as a stills photographer I use Canon EF bodies and lenses). KOMODO’s RF mount unfortunately does not have a positive-locking function, however, adapters for EF and PL (I’m interested in PL) often come with a foot used to affix the adapter to the same plate the camera is. This prevents unwanted rotation of the adapter during focus pulls. I am highly interested in the Revolva RF/PL adapter by Kippertie.

There are also RF-EF adapter options that feature “speedboosters” which would allow the KOMODO’s Super 35 sensor to behave as a 135 format sensor for “full frame” EF lenses, as mine are. My PL mount SLR Magic APO Hyperprime cine lenses are also rated for 6K “full frame” sensors. Perhaps there will be a RF-PL speedbooster one day.

Power

For Canon C-series guys, KOMODO will accept their BP-9xx batteries. For me, I prefer my V-mount bricks. They work extremely well on my FS7M2 and I’d want all their benefits for my future KOMODO. Therefore, I am very interested in the V-mount plate for RED KOMODO by Core SWX.

Rigging

I am confidant my existing collection of rigging will work for KOMODO, however I am considering KOMODO-specific rigging from Tilta. Because of the Kippertie Revolva with chinstrap to nullify unwanted lens rotation, the sides of the KOMODO near the lens will be occupied. I am interested in the Tilta accessories Top Plate ($15), QR Top Handle ($59), and Adjustable Cold Shoe Mounting Bracket ($26) for KOMODO. This kit equals $100 in total.

Costs

RED KOMODO body: $5,995
RED CFast 2.0 512 MB card: $529
RED CFast 2.0 card reader: $110
Core SWX V-mount battery plate: $199
Tilta rigging kit: $100
Kippertie Revolva RF/PL + chinstrap, and cartridges A & B: £1,830.00 ($2,545)

Total (not including shipping or tax): $9,478

KOMODO vs FS7 Mark II

Not a fair comparison as they are different cameras intended for different purposes, but I do own an FS7M2 which does 99.9% of my work and has paid for itself many times over.

I am very happy with my FS7M2. However, there are times I wish it’s image weren’t so noisy in the shadows, I wish it’s native color science was a bit more reminiscent of film, I wish it’s highlight rolloff was more gradual, and I wish it did not have a rolling shutter. I also wish it did 6K for very nice looking 4K, like FX9 or EVA1 does. For docs and interviews and other broadcast/reality work, FS7 is amazing. It does a great job pretending to be a cinema camera, but no matter how good the image is, it occasionally just looks like video.

KOMODO vs FX9

I am still extremely interested in FX9 to replace my FS7 as A camera. FX9 is a Swiss Army Knife of a camera and certainly better suits my filming style as far as being the camera I use for everything. KOMODO would not be used for reality and documentary work, but FX9 most certainly could and would. FX9 has a ton going for it, but there’s something about owning a RED that would also, conceivably, put more food on my plate.

Owning both FX9 and KOMODO would be the optimum solution, of course – both cameras would give me 6K, and the KOMODO would certainly be used on higher-end work, whereas the FX9 would be more of a run-and-gun tool. Again, FS7 would be demoted to B camera (or C if filming with KOMODO and FX9) in that scenario.

Conclusions

The ability to acquire footage in true 6K for extremely clean 4K or 2K, with a global shutter, and RED’s cinematic color science, is very appealing to me.

KOMODO is pretty exciting. I’ve used RED ONE, RED SCARLET, RED EPIC, and RED RAVEN, but never owned any. With KOMODO, RED has finally made a camera accessibly-priced for professionals in my tier, but hasn’t watered down the name in favor of mass appeal. People who suck at cinematography on an iPhone will still suck at it with a KOMODO, or an EPIC.

KOMODO is literally intended as a B-cam or crash cam for the more expensive RED cameras. Since I have a lot of experience working with RED, KOMODO will be a walk-in-the-park for me, and a breath of fresh air as far as image quality goes. The ability to acquire footage in true 6K for extremely clean 4K or 2K, with a global shutter, and RED’s cinematic color science, is very appealing to me.

If I do decide to buy a KOMODO, it will be my first personally-owned RED camera. It would be what I use for high-end work including narrative films, TV commercials, and music videos, replacing my FS7M2 in that capacity, but would also serve as a B-camera on multicam gigs with FS7M2. Although the waitlist is somewhere around 3 months, I’m definitely looking forward to possibly owning a RED KOMODO soon.

Update: I purchased my Komodo October 7, 2022, receiving it October 10.

By Jason R. Johnston

Jason is an award-winning cinematographer, and director of commercials, branding films, native content, music videos, documentaries, and narrative films. As a full-time freelancer, he can be hired to DP or direct almost any project you have in mind. He is based in Sparta, Tennessee, and ready to travel for any gig.

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