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Camera Comparisons

Can the Red Komodo replace a Red Dragon-X as your A-cam?

Is the Red Dragon-X really twice as good?

The Red Dragon-X might be in a new DSMC2 body, but its sensor is legendary. A few weeks ago Red officially announced an upgrade that unleashes the full 6K potential of this camera.

But…Red is also releasing the Red Komodo, a 6K Super 35mm beast at a much lower price point.

Since I’m interested in both cameras, I decided I’ll compare the two for myself, with available information, to see which one makes the most sense for high-quality commercials, features and shorts.

Like this one I shot on the Red Dragon:

Important!

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 with demos, it might be some time before I get my hands on one, so be patient!

Why not Sony, Canon, etc.?

This comparison is only limited to those looking to buy into the Red ecosystem for the benefits it provides. Some of the common advantages:

  1. Redcode RAW and all the compression levels you get.
  2. Great dynamic range.
  3. Modularity and a multitude of accessories.

These are the camera bodies Red currently offers (excluding the Ranger series):

CameraPrice for bodyResolutionSensor size*
Monstro$54,5008KFull frame
Helium$24,5008KSuper 35mm
Gemini$19,5005KSuper 35mm
Dragon-X$14,9506KSuper 35mm
Komodo$6,000?6KSuper 35mm

*Red sensors are typically bigger than standard full frame or Super 35mm sensors.

The reason I’m choosing the Dragon-X and the Komodo for this comparison is because that’s the price point I’m willing to pay. The Gemini is also a important camera that should not be ignored, but I don’t need it for these three reasons:

  1. As you can see above, I do well enough with the Dragon. For the me, the next logical step would the Monstro (I’ve shot on the Monstro as well – see below).
  2. Low light isn’t that important to me.
  3. It’s more expensive. When I need better quality, I can always rent a Monstro.

Anyway, I’ll have more to say about the Gemini at the end of this comparison.

What kind of films can one make with the Dragon-X or Komodo?

Good ones, hopefully.

Or bad ones. Really, it’s not the cameras’ fault anymore. What I’m more interested in finding is the shooting envelope – what types of challenges can each camera solve, and how much is that worth to me.

People have made feature films with both cameras. Big people.

From Red’s perspective, it’s important to understand who each camera is targeted at.

DRAGON-X features the industry workhorse and award-winning DRAGON sensor, now with IPP2, delivering 6K cinematic imagery in a Super 35 format. 

Red.com

[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…

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.

I am absolutely sure both cameras will do fine, because both cameras are better than I am. The Komodo is obviously cheaper, and the Red Dragon-X is almost twice the price for body alone.

So is it twice as good, though? No, that’s not the right question. The right question is:

Will it save me or make me twice the money?

Let’s find out!

Comparison of sensors and video features

Here’s how the camera sensors compare:

CameraResolutionShutterSensor SizeDynamic Range
Red Dragon-X6144×3160Rolling30.7 x 15.8 mm16.5+
Red Komodo6144×3240Global27.03 x 14.25 mm16

Jarred has said the Komodo does well at least till ISO 3200, which makes it better than the Dragon in terms of low light performance. So that extra half a stop the Dragon-X has might not help it much.

In addition, the Red Komodo has one killer feature – a global shutter.

The Dragon-X has a larger sensor, which is a plus and minus both, depending on the circumstances and whom you ask, and it has overall better dynamic range. But, like I said, both camera’s are probably better than 99.99% of filmmakers, as long as the colors are equally good.

So, between the two sensors, I’d give the win to the Komodo as long as it has good colors.

What about frame rates?

CameraMax fps at 4KMax fps at 1080p
Red Dragon-X75 fps @ 6K FF, 100 fps @ 6K WS, 120 fps @ 4K FF, 150 fps @ 4K WS240 fps @ 2K
Red Komodo40 fps @ 6K FF, 50 fps @ 6k WS, 60 fps+ @ 4K120 fps @ 2K

Here the Red Dragon-X wins. If you need high frame rates the choice is pretty much decided.

Then again, to counter this, the Komodo has a global shutter. So it can do things the Dragon-X can’t.

Both cameras record Redcode RAW, and I believe will have sufficient image quality for this price point and market.

However, the Dragon-X has the advantage here because it can also record to Prores and DNxHR:

  • ProRes 422 HQ and lower at 4K (4096 × 2160) up to 30 fps
  • ProRes 4444 XQ and ProRes 4444 at 2K (2048 × 1080) up to 120 fps
  • DNxHR HQX at 4K (4096 × 2160) up to 30 fps
  • DNxHR 444 at 2K (2048 × 1080) 12-bit up to 120 fps

Finally, what you get externally:

CameraConnectionBest external resolution and fpsColor Information
Red Dragon-X3G SDI with expander1080p @ 60fps10:bit 4:2:2
Red Komodo12G SDI2160p @ 60fpsUnknown

The Komodo wins with its in-built 12G-SDI with 4K 60 fps support. That gives you the option to add an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun 7 to get you Prores or DNxHR if you wanted.

I’ll not talk about the audio features since neither has XLR inputs.

Lenses

The Red Komodo has a Canon RF mount. The Red Dragon-X can have an Canon EF, Nikon F, Leica M or Arri PL mount. The mount needs to be purchased separately so the costs do add up.

You could add an adapter to the Komodo to make it compatible to another mount, or just use RF lenses natively. To be fair, the RF system hasn’t been fleshed out yet, so we should at least balance the scales by assuming you need the EF to RF mount.

CameraMountPrice
Red Dragon-XCanon EF$900
Red KomodoCanon RF + EF adapter$199*

*I’ve assumed one would pick the Control Ring adapter. You could go cheaper or more expensive.

PL to RF adapters are slightly more expensive but still cheaper than Red’s proprietary mount.

Focus, monitoring and ergonomics

The Komodo is smaller. Way smaller:

CameraVolumeWeight
Red Dragon-X111 cubic inches, brain only1500g brain only.
Red Komodo64 cubic inches900g approx.

The Red Dragon-X is large by comparison, and it gets larger and heavier as necessary parts are added.

The Red Komodo has one great advantage – it has a built-in touchscreen that is not half bad (according to currently available information).

The Dragon-X needs a monitor:

CameraMonitor
Red Dragon-X$1,450*
Red Komodo$0

*Assuming the DSMC2 RED TOUCH 4.7″ LCD:

You could get a cheaper monitor, but why on earth would anybody do that?

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 Red Dragon-X also has a built-in R.C.P. Wi-Fi antenna though without further information on the Komodo we can’t compare.

With the Red Komodo you have to purchase a separate “Cradle” for Genlock, and it also has USB-C and wired control (CTRL).

Clearly the Red Komodo isn’t fooling around. It has important features that allow it to be used on a multitude of projects. For this section at least it’s best to reserve judgement until all the facts are available.

And then there’s this:

CameraContinuous Autofocus
Red Dragon-XNone
Red KomodoPDAF – Kindergarten Class

Having some autofocus is good, but is hardly professional if you can’t rely on it.

Still, you have to hand it to the Red Komodo here.

Batteries and media cards

Here’s a look at the media options:

CameraDual card slotsPrice per GB for 480/512 GB*Card Reader*
Red Dragon-XNo, Red Mini-Mag$3.02/GBMini-Mag Reader ($195)
Red KomodoNo, CFast 2.0$1.37/GBCFast 2.0 Reader ($49.5)

*Sticking to Sandisk Extreme Pro to be fair.

You would need at least two to get started, and the price difference is huge.

What about battery life?

The Red Komodo uses two Canon BP-style batteries, and I believe the Canon BP-955 (Amazon, B&H) is currently the sweet spot.

CameraBattery life with 2 batteriesCost of two batteries and chargerCost of 6 hours of operationModule
Red Dragon-X90 minutes^$549^$2,196$950
Red KomodoUnknown, but should get about 240 minutes*$372#$1,314$0

*Two batteries for the Komodo gives you this battery life. Total guesswork on my part here.

^Assuming 60W for the Dragon. I don’t have accurate information for this, so just guesstimating. I’m picking the IDX Motix, which is in the gold mount. This makes it cheaper overall because you only need to buy the DSMC2 Gold mount Module instead of the IO Expander. The Red Dragon-X is really getting away price-wise at this point.

#With the Watson dual charger.

You can hot swap the batteries from the back on the Red Komodo, 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 bear

Jarred Land

Since both cameras would need a top handle, I’ll just discount that here.

Which is cheaper to own?

Shall we?

CameraRed KomodoRed Dragon-X
Camera body$6,000*$14,950
Lens adapter/mount$199$900
Media (2 cards)$1,403$2,900
Batteries$1,314$2,196
Monitor$0$1,450
Gold Mount Module$0$950
Total$8,916$23,346^

^You can buy the Red Dragon-X Camera Kit for $19,950. That’s a savings of $1,946 plus you get a free lens, the IO expander and a case. You’d still need to add another Red Mini-mag and that would bump up the total to $21,400.

*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.

The Red Dragon-X costs about 2.4x the price of the Red Komodo.

Verdict

First, a recap:

FeatureWinner
Dynamic RangeRed Dragon-X
ISORed Komodo
MotionRed Komodo
Frame RatesRed Dragon-X
LensesRed Komodo
MediaRed Komodo
ErgonomicsRed Komodo
Battery lifeRed Komodo
PowerRed Komodo

If you need the Red Dragon-X you’d better be getting paid more for those higher frame rates.

If you are doing 12 projects a year, you’d better be earning $1,000 extra per project to just make up the price difference. Then you’d have to do it again next year to turn a profit.

Do all your projects require high frame rates? Then why not pick up the Red Gemini Kit for just a little more and get even better image quality and low light performance – without really sacrificing frame rates? Or even better, pick up the Red Ranger Gemini?

Before we take our final decision, we’ll let each camera tell us what it offers that the other doesn’t:

CameraUSPMajor Cons
Red Dragon-XDynamic range and frame ratesExpensive, heavy, rolling shutter
Red KomodoGlobal shutter, size, price??

I really can’t think of any major con for the Red Komodo unless it’s what I said at the beginning:

…I’d give the win to the Komodo as long as it has good colors.

So all I have to do is wait for some real-world imagery from the Red Komodo. If it’s similar to the Dragon-X, and almost equal to the Helium, then it’s going to be a no-brainer for a lot of filmmakers…and it probably will signal the death knell for the Red Dragon-X.

As far as I’m concerned, the Red Komodo wins, and it is what I’d recommend and pick as the wiser and more future-proof option amongst the two.

For my projects personally, these are the features that really stand out to me:

  1. Global shutter (4K 60fps is good enough for me)
  2. Wireless ability
  3. Hot-swappable battery
  4. Size and weight
  5. Price

Hopefully I’ll get my hands on it sooner rather than later.

What do you think?