Let’s say you want all three of these features:
- Image quality (even in low light) in 4K RAW or better.
- Tough and weather sealed camera system.
As far as I know, only two cameras make the cut, and both offer 5K+ RAW:
In this article let’s put them head to head to see which is truly the better investment for video.
Obviously the Red Komodo hasn’t been released yet. By all accounts the camera will only begin shipping in May. Even the specifications are not completely public. So treat this as a fun comparison, or a placeholder article, with currently available information. I’ll update this article when more factual information is available.
In many ways, I’m writing this article to understand the distinction myself. Do these cameras serve an overlapping market, or will they appeal to different sets of filmmakers?
Since we don’t get Red cameras easily in India, and the dealer isn’t very helpful, it might be some time before I get my hands on one, so be patient!
Why not the Sony a7 III, Panasonic S1H, BMPCC 6K, etc.?
Here’s how some of the cameras stack up:
|Camera||4K RAW||Autofocus||Tough Body|
|Panasonic S1H*||Only with an external recorder||Yes||Yes for body. No if you’re using an external recorder|
|Nikon Z6*||Only with an external recorder||Yes||Yes for body. No if you’re using an external recorder|
|Canon EOS R||No||Yes||Yes|
|Sony a9 II||No||Yes||Yes|
*The problem here are the recorders available are not weather sealed, and neither is HDMI.
^There’s the Time of Flight / LiDAR technology to consider, though it would potentially break any weather-sealing or ruggedness.
As you can see, none of the cameras offer all three features.
Remember, this comparison assumes you need all three of the above features. If you don’t need one of them, this comparison isn’t for you.
What kind of filmmaker needs all three features?
The idea is, I could potentially have shot the documentary myself, with the entire kit in a backpack.
A lot of journalists, documentary filmmakers and photographers operate this way. The market is always in a state of flux, and many companies expect you to don multiple hats. You never know when the opportunity might arise to make a quick corporate video or commercial, or get some stock footage.
For the solo filmmaker, having AF is a tremendous advantage. But it has to be reliable. The importance of good autofocus for corporate videos, interview situations, gimbals and weddings cannot be stressed enough. It just saves you a lot of time and money.
After that comes ruggedness. It is assumed you are not pulling out your camera in air-conditioned halls all the time.
Sometimes you might travel to dangerous locations, sometimes to dusty ones. Sometimes you might travel to a country where a replacement is hard to find. Or maybe you need something light enough to fit carry-on or trek with. Reliability is key.
And finally, we come to the price – which is where image quality is also important. Only professionals can afford the two cameras in this article. Even if you have indie filmmakers pining for the features on both cameras, the reality is theirs films don’t really warrant it. There is little or zero ROI on independent projects or low budget films.
So, even if they can buy these cameras, they are not really the market these cameras are aimed at.
If you’re not earning good money already it is hopeless to spend money on expensive gear. You need clients who will pay you for that level of image quality. You must already be in the industry with some name for yourself, and you must be in the top tier.
It’s only then that these three features combined can make you more money, help you achieve better image quality, and help you push the boundaries to create even more types of content for your clients so you land more projects.
A word on autofocus. There are plenty of documentary and commercial filmmakers who work without AF, so obviously we have sub-markets here. When a production can afford a focus puller we move into a different market segment.
The Canon 1DX Mark III (Amazon, B&H) is squarely aimed at the professional photographer who travels constantly, and now is looking to also make videos on par with the stills he/she is already well known for, and is getting paid for.
On the other hand, the Red Komodo is aimed at a different market:
[The Red Komodo] is not a replacement camera nor should it be anyones first camera, even though I am well aware that it probably will be one or both of those for some, because It is good… It is really, really good…
BM has higher frame rates, the SH1 has a bigger physical sensor, Z-Cam is cheap, But Komodo will take a better image than all of them in the type of situations that it was designed for…
Its first and foremost for our existing customers. And then probably anyone who shoots a lot of action. And then perhaps it fits into an entirely new market.Jarred Land | CEO
What Jarred is trying to say, is that the image quality of the Red Komodo is on par with what Red already offers. In fact, in another post he said the dynamic range is very close to that of the Red Helium.
Just like the 1D X Mark III is designed to also be a B-cam to the Canon C500 Mark II, the Komodo is also designed to be a B-cam to other Red cameras.
And finally, due to the Red Komod’s ruggedness, it is also designed to be an action cam, a drone cam and/or a gimbal cam. The killer feature it has, is a global shutter, with no loss in dynamic range.
- Comparison of sensors and video features
- Exposure, focus and ergonomics
- The costs of media and batteries
- Which is cheapest to own?
- Verdict. Who wins?
Comparison of sensors and video features
Here’s how the camera sensors compare:
|Camera||Resolution||ISO Range||Sensor Size|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||5496×2904||100-25,600||36 x 24 mm|
|Red Komodo||6144×3240||Unknown*||27.03 x 14.25 mm|
*Jarred has said the Komodo does well at least till ISO 3200.
Even though the 1DX Mark III goes to an impressive 100K ISO, that’s only in stills mode. The ISO range for video is limited, though the camera performs exceptionally well across the entire range. Check out my review:
What about frame rates?
|Camera||Max fps at 4K||Dynamic Range||Max fps at 1080p|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||59.94 fps at 5.5K and 4K||12 stops||119.9 fps|
|Red Komodo||40fps @ 6K FF, 6k WS @ 50fps, 4k @60fps+||13-14 stops^||2K @ 120 fps|
^I know the Helium is rated at 16.5 stops, and Red has its own methodology for calculating DR. I use my own judgement here. Feel free to differ.
Here we see the first big split. The Red Komodo has superior image quality, but the Canon 1D X Mark III is more usable in different productions:
- Higher max fps at 5.5K
- Full frame sensor with an extra 1.3x mode (though not in RAW). You can use both full frame and S35 lenses
- No sensor crop in HD 120 fps.
To be fair though, none of these advantages are overwhelmingly superior.
Next, the codecs and color information:
|Camera||Best codec Internally||Color Information|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||5.5K Canon RAW Lite | H.264/H.265 ALL-I||RAW | 10-bit 4:2:2/8-bit 4:2:0|
|Red Komodo||Redcode RAW||RAW|
Here again the 1D X Mark III has specs that get you to your destination faster if that’s what you prefer. Want to upload a quick story to your home base or channel? Easy.
The RAW format in the 1DX Mark III is Canon RAW Lite, written as a *.CRM file. The RAW compression ratio is 3:1 for up to 30 fps, and 4:1 for up to 60 fps in 5.5K.
On the other hand, Redcode RAW has a lot more options for compressed RAW, and can help you save space while still maintaining the IPP2 color science and all the possibilities it entails.
Both Canon RAW Lite and Redcode RAW are almost universally supported by editing and grading programs, and both play nice with hardware.
Finally, what you get externally:
|Camera||Connection||Best external resolution and fps||Color Information|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||HDMI Mini||4096 x 2160 @ 60fps||10:bit 4:2:2|
|Red Komodo||SDI||4096 x 2160||Unknown|
The Komodo has the more professional and robust connection. The biggest difference between the two cameras is the shutter:
|Canon 1DX Mark III||Rolling Shutter is Terrible|
|Red Komodo||Global shutter|
The global shutter is a tremendous advantage when capturing motion. Especially since the rolling shutter in the 1D X Mark III is terrible.
I’ll not talk about the audio features since that needs to be tested in the real world. However, the Komodo has one minor advantage over the 1D X Mark III: It has 4 channels of audio, while the Mark III has only 2.
Focus and exposure aids, and ergonomics
What’s the point of RAW if you can’t expose it correctly? The little things make all the difference:
…you get RGB ( bars ) and RAW ( stop lights ). but you also get an additional set of stop lights on the bottom so you can see both under and over clip in the raw. The bars give you RGB..Jarred Land
The Komodo has the right exposure tools for RAW video. The Canon 1D X Mark III does not.
As far as size and weight are concerned:
|Canon 1DX Mark III||135 cubic inches||1250g|
|Red Komodo||64 cubic inches||900g approx.|
Neither have viewfinders, and both have touchscreens in a fixed position. The screen of the 1D X Mark III is in a better position for gimbal work and general operation.
The Red Komodo is great if, like me, you like the Mamiya RB67 (which happens to be my favorite photography camera ever) form factor.
Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:
|Canon 1DX Mark III||No mounting points and no fan. Single 1/4″ thread for tripod. Hot shoe mount.|
|Red Komodo||It has a fan and it is quiet. You need to purchase an additional grip. It has tons of mounting options – 4X M4 mounting points and a Focus Hook M3 mount. Hopefully it also has a registration pin for the tripod mount.|
What about connectivity and wireless features?
The Red Komodo:
Yeah Wireless is a pretty important part of Komodo…
…Our Engineers put the range increase to 300 feet. But they literally test in a perfect field in the middle of nowhere away from any other RF signals and no metal and no walls and no animals or people in the way and I am pretty sure they even cut the grass a little shorter on testing day to get that 300ft.
…You can control Komodo wirelessly from any phone ( in fact that was actually the only way to control the first komodo prototypes) , but you can not wirelessly monitor ( i.e. watch a video feed ) from your hydrogen or any other phone.Jarred Land
The 1DX Mark III:
You can control the camera via a smartphone.
The Komodo also has EXT control for Genlock, sync and timecode. These are critical features for many kinds of production work. The most important of which is audio.
You have to purchase a separate “Cradle” for Genlock, and it also has USB-C and wired control (CTRL).
The Canon 1D X Mark III has timecode, but DSLR-level. So sync drift is inevitable.
Clearly the Red Komodo isn’t fooling around. It has important features that allow it to be used on a multitude of projects. It’s not all bad news for the Canon 1D X Mark III, though. It has one killer feature:
|Camera||Manual Focus Aids||Continuous Autofocus|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||Peaking, with 5x and 10x magnification||DPAF – World Class|
|Red Komodo||Unknown||PDAF – Kindergarten Class|
Having some autofocus is good, but is hardly professional if you can’t rely on it.
On the other hand, the AF does not function with 5.5K RAW 60p/50p. It only works till 30p.
Batteries and media cards
Here’s a look at the media
|Camera||Dual card slots||Price per GB for 512 GB|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||Yes, CFexpress Type B||$1.17/GB|
|Red Komodo||No, CFast 2.0||$1.37/GB|
Even though CFexpress cards are newer, they are currently cheaper (comparing Sandisk Extreme Pro to be fair). For practical shoots, you will need multiple cards.
And, the dual cards are useful, but you can’t record RAW to both cards at the same time. You can record RAW to one card, and 10-bit 4:2:2 to another.
What about battery life?
|Camera||Battery life||Cost one one battery||Cost of 6 hours of operation*|
|Canon 1DX Mark III||140 minutes||$163||$420|
|Red Komodo||Unknown, but should get about 240 minutes||$146||$438|
*Two batteries for the Komodo gives you this battery life. Total guesswork on my part here.
You can hot swap the batteries from the back, and this is important for continuous shoots. You can also use the larger Canon BP-975 batteries for even more juice.
Finally, the Red Komodo also has a 14.4V DC port as well as an AC adapter.
DC – power connector is made by ODU (not GDU). ODU comes from medical/military world so I expect them to be quite good. Hate to throw shade on Lemo, but I’ve had too many instances where it seems to get “stuck” and removal is a bearJarred Land
Which is cheaper to own?
Let’s just add up the costs:
|Camera||Red Komodo||Canon 1DX Mark III|
|Media and Accessories^||$700||$600|
*Jarred said the price is less than $5,000 for Hydrogen users, so the price should be $6K. $6K for 6K is my guess, but it could also creep up to $7K.
^For one 512 GB card.
#For six hours of runtime.
There’s hardly any price difference between the two cameras. And to be fair we shouldn’t forget the 1D X Mark III is half champion-photography-beast.
First, a recap:
|Sensor and ISO||Tie*|
|Video features||Red Komodo|
|Codecs, DR and Color||Red Komodo|
|Ports and Monitoring||Red Komodo|
|Autofocus||Canon 1DX Mark III|
*They are different in different areas.
Before we take our final decision, we’ll let the cameras tell us what they offer that the others don’t:
|Canon 1DX Mark III||DPAF, Full frame and 1.3x||Poor video tools and connections, dreadful rolling shutter, 30 minute record limit|
|Red Komodo||Global shutter, Dynamic range, mounting points, Genlock, hot swappable battery||Poor autofocus, vents still exposed even though the camera body itself is tough|
To my mind, since we are only making this comparison for the solo shooter, the choice really boils down one important questions:
- Do you need the best autofocus you can get?
As far as the Red Komodo is concerned, even though it has Phase Detection AF, it is not really designed for critical autofocus work. It is designed for those who need the best image quality without the need for autofocus or stills.
And let’s not forget, DPAF only works up till 30 fps. That takes a huge bite off the Canon bandwagon.
There is no doubt the Canon 1DX Mark III (Amazon, B&H) is an amazing camera, but I feel it is serving a dying niche. A professional really looking to up their video game needs to look elsewhere, because sooner or later, even the 1D X Mark III will seem limited.
Do you understand what I mean?
The Red Komodo is an undeniably compelling offer in this price range. It clearly has the best video tools and is more equipped for all kinds of production work.
As far as I’m concerned, the Red Komodo wins, and it is what I’d recommend for serious video and cinematography work.
It’s what I would use personally. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on it sooner rather than later.
What do you think?