4K Camera Shootout – BMPC 4K vs. Red Scarlet

Do you remember the 3rd of November 2011? This was an essential date for the filmmaking community and the industry in general as this was the first time a manufacturer announced a sub-$10,000 4K camera available to the masses. The Red Scarlet-X was a highly demanded and long-anticipated camera capable of shooting 4K at 25fps.

The retail price of the Scarlet-X body with an Aluminium Canon Mount and side SSD slot was $9,750 which was unheard of the time. This was the date that Canon also announced the EOS line up of cinema cameras at their own special Hollywood event revealing the C300 and hinting the release of the world’s first 4K DSLR the Canon 1DC officially announced in April 2012.

More than 3 years later, the camera landscape has drastically and irreversibly changed. Now we have more affordable 4K cameras than ever before, and there’s more to come in 2015. Back in 2012, Blackmagic Design has also surprised the industry with the release of BMCC 2.5K  and their upcoming and inexpensive line-up of cinema cameras, however, the big question whether they are better compared to their 4K predecessors and Red’s in particular still remains. In the next in-depth video shootout produced by Corey from Faymus Media, we’ll see some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Red Scarlet-X compared against the BMPC 4K.

I’m not quite convinced if this is the most objective and fair way to evaluate both cameras as the Scarlet-X camera features a sensor technology that’s more than 5 years old. Probably it would be better to see how the new Scarlet Dragon would compete against the BMPC 4K, and I’m pretty sure that the results would be a little bit different.

As for the test, according to Corey, in terms of the price, there is a clear winner, and this is the Production camera from Blackmagic Design. It’s 3x cheaper, provides a sharper image, has no rolling shutter artefacts due to the global shutter, delivers better low light performance (which was a kind of a surprise to me), has longer battery life, its lighter, etc.

On the other hand, we should not neglect the strengths of the Red Raw codec which is still one of most efficient and flexible raw codecs out there even today. Further, the Scarlet outputs a full DCI 4K at 4096 x 2160, while the  BMPC 4K is UHD only in ProRes with maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160, or 4000 x 2160 in CinemaDNG compressed Raw, which is still in between UHD and DCI.

In addition, the new Scarlet Dragon is capable of shooting 6K at 12 fps, 5K at 48fps, 4K at 60fps and its sensor has an unparalleled dynamic range of more than 16 stops providing more versatile aspect ratio recording modes, but the price is much higher, though. One should pay $14, 500 for the brain only.

In terms of image quality both cameras are great tools and deliver exceptional 4K images and perform in a similar way, with the Scarlet-X providing a little better color rendition and dynamic range with 13 stops compared to 12 of BMPC, but the Blackmagic does seem to have better sharpness and more organic noise in the blacks. I personally prefer Red’s color science as the image looks more natural and filmic in a way.

Overall, it’s great that today we have so many options to pick from. There is a camera for almost every budget and every shooting scenario now whether your project requires high-resolution images, slow-motion, Raw, whether  you are going to shoot in a studio or outside with the available light only etc. Unfortunately, there is no perfect camera out there and probably the most suitable for you is the one that you know well and trust the most.

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