On September 1, 2021, RED introduced a new DSMC3 camera, the V-RAPTOR 8K VV, which will retail for $24,500.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, one of the hottest cameras of the past year has been the RED Komodo. The big deal about the Komodo is that it’s a relatively inexpensive way to enter the RED camera ecosystem. It’s the first recent RED camera that’s under $6,000 that you can actually buy. Reviews have been good and the Komodo was a smart move at the right time. RED has been embroiled in controversy since 2019 when there were some accusations and press quotes as well as threats of lawsuits that didn’t look good for the continued health and success of the company. I won’t go into the details, but some quick Googling can provide all of the information.
But Wait, There’s Something New
Komodo has been a pretty healthy seller, and a lot of people are out shooting projects with their small and inexpensive RED that delivers great images. It turns out that RED isn’t sitting on their laurels with the Komodo; they’ve been busy developing a new camera that shares some things in common with Komodo but is also aimed at a higher-end audience. In RED language, the new V-RAPTOR 8K VV is a DSMC3-generation camera versus the existing DSMC2 infrastructure. What this means for the features and design will be covered here. RED recently held a YouTube announcement/virtual press conference to introduce the camera, so not a lot is yet known about its finer points, but here are some high points I took away:
- Up to 8K 120 fps 17:9, 6K 198 fps S35 & 4K 240 fps 17:9.
- 4MP full-frame, rolling shutter CMOS.
- First, new lightweight and compact DSMC3 design.
- Canon RF lens and Express Type-B support.
- 17+ stops of dynamic range.
- DSCM3 7.0-inch touch monitor.
- Right-Side Assistant’s User Interface.
- REDCODE Raw HQ, MQ & LQ options.
- USB Type-C and dual 12G-SDI ports.
Recording Formats And Resolutions
The V-RAPTOR 8K VV records 8K DCI at up to 120 fps or 8K 2.4:1 up to 150 fps. It can do up to 200 fps in 6K 2:4:1, 300 fps in 4K 2.4:1 and 600 fps in 2K 2.4:1. V-RAPTOR can record in REDCODE HQ, MQ and LQ, so apparently RED has streamlined the myriad of compression choices that are present on the DSMC2 cameras. The majority of the higher frame rates in the different resolutions cannot be recorded in the HQ mode. FF mode isn’t available when shooting in 4K/5K/6K resolutions, and the V-RAPTOR is limited to S35 in those resolutions. You change the resolution and you crop in on the sensor. This sort of design philosophy mitigates the need for pixel binning, reducing aliasing and motion artifacts that are often present in cameras that pixel bin.
RF Lens Mount
In 2021, there seems to always be controversy about lens mounts. Most professional cameras in the “greater than $15,000” market utilize a PL mount as this is the standard for high-end cinema lenses. The V-RAPTOR 8K VV utilizes the same Canon RF mount as the KOMODO, except this V-RAPTOR version adds a PL mount-like locking ring. The camera can use Canon RF lenses, PL lenses with an adapter and several other mount adapters are available, so it’s great for lens choice flexibility. However, I don’t think defaulting to the RF mount was a wise move for a $24,500 cinema camera as many prospective buyers for a camera in this price range either own or like to rent and work with PL mount lenses.
Of course, there are plenty of RF to PL mount adapters available, but in my experience, I don’t like using lens adapters, especially with heavy and long PL mount zooms. Using a lens adapter in this situation is adding another potential point of failure and increases the leverage and load on the camera’s locking RF mount. There are advantages to utilizing an RF mount as RED did on the Komodo, but the audience for that camera is simply different than those for a $24,500 camera (realistically at least $30,000 to make the V-RAPTOR a shootable package). Most people who own a Komodo aren’t going to be renting a $200,000 Angenieux long PL mount zoom, but that scenario is more likely for a $30,000 camera package. All this said, a sizable amount of people would have whined if RED had given this camera a native PL mount, and they’d complain that the RF mount is more versatile, so I guess you almost can’t win with mount choice.
The V-RAPTOR 8K VV uses Express Type B cards. The Komodo uses the older and slower CFAST 2.0 cards that wouldn’t have supported the raster and frame sizes for this new camera. I have experience with many different media card formats in my own cameras and I think the days of all of these proprietary and expensive card formats that change constantly should come to end. I like that the Ursa Mini 12K can shoot to dual CFAST 2.0 cards, but more economically, it can also record to small external SSD and NvME drives.
Part of RED’s PR debacle in 2019 revolved around their branding and representation of their own RED media cards (Google it!), so it’s surprising to see that in 2021, RED is still going to sell their own branded 660 GB Express Type B card for $959. These cards are designed by Angelbird for RED, so they should be good cards, but one wonders the wisdom of paying nearly $1,000 for 660 GB of storage when one can purchase an Angelbird branded Express Type B 2 TB card for only $899. No word on if you must use RED branded cards to operate correctly with the V-RAPTOR, but we hope not.
External audio is input through a 5-pin Lemo Audio connection. This enables mic/line/+48V inputs to be used. The V-RAPTOR doesn’t have any XLR inputs. Sound mixers will need to use a breakout cable to input XLR sources into the camera. Sound mixers aren’t going to be happy about this as more and more cameras are forgoing simple and reliable three-pin XLR connectors. This means that a working sound mixer must carry and be knowledgeable about a myriad of different camera models and connections needed to input production sound into a camera for scratch/off-line editing audio.
The V-RAPTOR 8K VV has two 12G-SDI outputs, a USB-C input, the aforementioned 5-pin Lemo Audio input, 11-17V DC In and an EXT connector port. There’s also built-in Wi-Fi for camera control via the use of an interchangeable dual-band (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) antenna mounted to a female RP-SMA connector. There’s also Genlock, Timecode-in, GPIO and Ctrl (RS-232) via the integrated 9-pin EXT Port. You can utilize wired control via USB-C or Gigabit Ethernet (compatible USB-C to Ethernet adapter1 required) allowing remote camera control, live MJPEG preview video feed and remote media offload.
The headline feature for the V-RAPTOR is that it’s capable of 8K at 120 fps. I recently tested the Blackmagic Design Ursa Mini 12K and it can shoot 12K at up to 60 fps and 8K at up to 120 fps as well. In a way, it seems that Blackmagic Design somewhat stole RED’s thunder by announcing a camera that was priced at $9,995 and recently was radically reduced to $5,995 that can shoot 8k at 120 fps.
Keep in mind the V-RAPTOR 8K VV lists for $24,500. I’m not saying either camera is better or worse, I’m just asking that you examine the value equation between the two cameras. It used to be that a $6,000 camera was utterly incomparable to a $24,000 camera, but it feels as if times are changing, and the Ursa Mini 12k is a very impressive camera for less than $6,000. The current RED top-of-the-line Monstro VV sells for $30,000 more than the V-Raptor and the two cameras apparently share the same sensor, but they’re distinctly different cameras. I think that it’s finally time for the format and slow-motion frame rate war to end. Even low-end pro cameras and cell phones will soon meet and even surpass these high-end digital camera benchmarks, so it’s up to the manufacturers to continue to innovate beyond only resolution. It remains to be seen if they’ll do so soon enough to mitigate lower-end cameras cannibalizing their mid-level and high-end sales.
The Market Will Decide
For many users, RED cameras represent an aspirational product, and RED cameras are used in many high-end productions. By RED standards, the V-RAPTOR 8K VV camera offers a lot for the money. But by the standards of camera owners whose bread and butter is earned with cameras like the Canon C500 MKII and Sony FX9, the V-Raptor costs significantly more and only offers a few features those level cameras don’t, all while forsaking convenient features like sophisticated autofocus and internal ND filters.
I get it, the C500 MKII and FX9 cameras aren’t really narrative cameras while the RED is, but the lines are blurring. I’m not sure that the price range of $25,000 to $30,000 real world is a good place to be in in 2021? Cameras under $15,000 are selling quite well and cameras in the $40,000 to $60,000 range like the Arri Amira, Alexa Mini LF, Sony Venice and RED’s own Monstro seem to be popular. It appears that the camera market has split as lower-end cameras continue to refine and be capable of very high quality and the high-end doesn’t really need to lower their prices to sell the units they need to. It will be interesting to see how the V-RAPTOR in the $25,000 to $30,000 range sells and if V-RAPTOR can take market share from Arri, Canon, Sony and Blackmagic, in particular.