When the RED ONE was released back in 2007 at a price point of $17,500 (body only), it created a whole new market for the production industry. This new market consisted of filmmakers or cinematographers who might not be shooting at the studio level yet, but by owning their own camera package, it gave them an advantage in competing for jobs. RED immediately sold 3,000 units in just a few months and changed the industry as we know it. With the recent release of the Sony F3, the category of filmmakers who like to own equipment rather than rent has grown by leaps and bounds.
Like the RED ONE before it, the DSLR has created a new market for filmmakers, and the vast majority of these shooters will never make a penny from their projects. These filmmakers, although having some disposable cash, definitely wouldn’t drop tens of thousands of dollars on a new video camera. The vast majority are satisfied with the DSLR’s "good enough" quality for projects that likely will end up on YouTube or Vimeo.
…the category of filmmakers who like to own equipment rather than rent has grown by leaps and bounds.
On November 3, 2011, Canon announced the arrival of its Cinema EOS division with its first large-sensor digital cinema camera: the EOS C300. The camera contains a Super 35mm-sized sensor, records the XF 4:2:2 codec and lets you choose between an EF and a PL mount. On the same day and only a few miles away, RED announced at its RED Studios the long-awaited Scarlet-X camera. The Scarlet has had numerous starts and stops over the years (mainly due to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II). The camera is a Digital Still & Motion Camera (DSMC) that can shoot 5K resolution stills, as well as record 4K motion. What’s most surprising about the Scarlet is, like Canon, RED is offering both PL-mount and EF-mount versions. Although RED’s Jim Jannard has often bashed the 5D Mark II’s video quality, he’s also a smart businessperson who’s very aware that Canon EF lenses dominate the market by a wide margin, thanks to the DSLR revolution. (According to a recent Canon press release, the company celebrated production of 50 million EOS SLR cameras and 70 million EF lenses.)
So let’s get down to the big issue of the night: price. The Canon EOS C300 is tentatively priced at $20,000, which places it out of reach for the majority of DSLR shooters who were looking to upgrade to a large-sensor video camera. On paper, the camera’s specs are obviously superior to both the 5D Mark II and 7D for video capture, although most indie filmmakers would only have access through rental. In a rental house, the main question will be whether or not a filmmaker will rent a C300 over a RED EPIC, an ARRI ALEXA or a Sony F65.
Priced at $9,750 for a basic body, at first glance, RED cleverly placed the Scarlet in the priced-to-own market rather than rental. But upon closer examination, it’s offering a number of different packages, including a titanium PL-mount package, which will set you back $15,515. This package contains an LCD and a 64 GB SSD, as well as a RED STATION. A Scarlet Canon PL-mount equivalent package will be priced at $14,015. I haven’t tested either camera, so at this time it’s impossible to compare, since the two systems have many different features. But because of their price points, it’s safe to say they’re definitely in the same category. And if the street price of the C300 moves closer to $15K, we’ll have a real battle here between the EOS C300, Scarlet-X and S-Log-enabled Sony F3. I can’t wait to see what the outcome will be.