This is my comprehensive review of the Red Monstro 8K:
This review is more from an operator’s perspective (who rents from a rental company). I shot a short film over a few days; mostly in low light conditions.
Arri Alexa LF vs Red Monstro
Last month I had picked the Arri Alexa LF over the Monstro for Fashion Film 004. Check out these links if you are interested in knowing the differences:
- Arri Alexa LF (vs Monstro)
- Comparison of cine primes for full frame cameras
- Arri vs Red, when to pick which?
For this particular project, the Alexa LF fell short due to two important reasons:
- It was only about 3K in 6:5 anamorphic mode, and
- I could only push up to ISO 1600, and I really needed to go to ISO 3200 most of the time.
Sony Venice vs Red Monstro
Here’s a quick table that highlights the major differences as pertaining to my project:
|Feature||Red Monstro||Sony Venice|
|Max. Resolution in Anamorphic mode||5K||4K|
|Max. frame rate in Anamorphic mode||60 fps||72 fps*|
|Performance at ISO 3200||Excellent||Excellent|
|Performance at ISO 6400||Average||Good|
|IRND Filter (internal)||No||Yes|
*For this project, I only had up to 30 fps due to it being at firmware 3.0.
Here are the reasons I picked the Monstro over the Venice:
- Higher resolution in anamorphic meant I could pan/scan, crop or downsample for overall better image quality.
- Similar noise performance at ISO 3200. At ISO 6400 the Venice is better, but the Monstro downsampled to 4K is fine as well.
- I could go up to 60 fps with the Monstro in anamorphic and 8K.
- RAW data rates are much higher for the Venice, and the workflow is new to me.
- My personal experiences with Sony have been unsatisfactory.
- Redcode RAW is amazing. It is robust, the workflow is established and the IPP2 color workflow has simplified things to a large extent. The format is supported by all important editing applications, and with Resolve it just sings. For this project I shot in 8K 6:5 in 4:1 compression, in 25 fps. I ended up with about 2.5 TB for a 15-minute short film. We shot on 480 GB mini-mags.
- I really like how the Red color science works for darker skin tones. When you shoot raw, you can color grade to match most cameras. But right off the bat, I’ve noticed Arri does better with Caucasian skin tones, while Red does better with darker skin tones. It’s just my opinion, of course. Check out the videos I’ve shot with Red and Alexa cameras and see for yourself. I’ve always used the official Rec. 709 LUTs as my starting point for every project.
This was an anamorphic project. To know more about anamorphic workflows, watch this video. Here are my settings for this project:
- 8K 6:5 (5184 horizontal resolution)
- 4:1 compression, Redcode RAW
- ISO 3200 mostly, though I went as low as 800 and as high as 6400 a couple of times
- Aperture: T8
- FPS: 25 fps. On a couple of occasions I went to 60 fps in 8K FF mode
- Lenses: Arri Master Anamorphic 2x 35mm to 100mm. For a couple of scenes I used a Sigma 14mm cine in 8K FF mode.
- Project resolution: DCI 2.39:1 (or 2.40:1 for YouTube)
- I used the standard OLPF (see below)
Red Monstro 8K Review
As far as image quality is concerned, there’s nothing much to say, really. The Red Monstro is one of the best cameras in the world, if not the best. There was never a moment where I felt the image was inadequate.
The new 7” Red LCD is a joy to work with. I didn’t test it in sunlight as my project is mostly set at night. But, I never had an issue under normal lighting conditions, and the colors looked acceptable.
One glitch I encountered is I couldn’t find a way to scale up the image in these settings:
- 8K FF
- Anamorphic desqueeze 2x
- Aspect Ratio 2:1
If you know how to make this work, let me know. In any case, because I couldn’t, decided to stick to 8K 6:5 instead.
Overall, I’m going to go out on a limb as say you can use the Red Monstro just like an Alexa. You can light with a light meter and trust the LCD for exposure. I barely looked at the Sony OLED we had on set.
The other two positives for the Monstro is, one, it has in-built mic so I could record reference tracks. The project is slated for ADR eventually so it helps. Secondly, the Monstro can do 60 fps in 8K. And in 6:5 anamorphic.
Bottom line, I would say this is a dream camera for anamorphic shooters, even better than an Alexa LF.
There are some cons as well:
- Boot time is just shy of a minute.
- You need to black shade, and remember to do it. It takes time to black shade so it can’t be a last-minute thing.
- There are three Optical Low Pass Filters (OLPFs) – skin tone, standard and low light.
- There are too many compression levels to pick, with no clarity as to when to pick which.
- There’s a common misconception the Red Monstro is “ISO-less”, which typically means you can change ISO in post as you can white balance with RAW. As shown in the video, that’s not true. If you shoot in 12,800 ISO, there’s no way you will get it to match content shot at ISO 800 just by lowering the ISO and raising exposure. In my experience, the Red Monstro is just like any other camera as far as using ISO is concerned.
- Red does not officially publish the native ISO (or have they?).
- Fan noise is too high to record dialogue in a quiet room.
- Red needs a viewfinder on par with the Alexa EVF-2, or even the Sony EVF for the Venice.
Thoughts on the Red Ranger for the Indian market
Now that the Red Ranger is about to ship, rental houses might feel better in investing in Red. On the other hand, looking at the Indian market, I don’t see how the Ranger will succeed.
Most productions in India don’t record live audio on set. If they do it’s just a reference track. Cities are noisy and most studios don’t have sound proofing, so there’s just no point spending a lot of money on a production sound mixer when clear audio is next to impossible. This is just for cities mind you. So the extra XLR ports don’t mean anything.
Next, the Red Ranger has a larger and quieter fan. The fans on the Monstro scream when they have been running for a few hours. You can’t record any audio in a quiet room with the Monstro.
Thirdly, people are used to wireless receivers. For this production we used the Hollyland Cosmo system, which worked surprisingly well. My focus puller Raju Kamat was riding a C-motion Compact-One wireless follow focus system based off an Atomos Shogun Inferno and didn’t complain even once. It was never more than 100 feet away from the camera though. We also had a Sony OLED reference monitor but I must have looked at it less than five times during the entire shoot.
In comparison, look at what Panavision is doing with the DXL and DXL2. It supports C-motion and Arri focus systems. Even the Alexa LF has a wireless transmitter onboard. I believe wireless features would be more compelling reasons to invest in the Ranger, in India, specifically.
But as it stands, I’m not sure it will gain much traction here.
How can the Monstro improve?
For what its worth, here are my suggestions on how Red can improve the Monstro to be an even better camera:
- Internal IRND filters, all color matched.
- Wireless transmission, at least to 50 or 100 feet, no antennas.
- Support for C-motion systems.
- A simplified user’s menu with just the ‘best’ settings so people don’t have to think about compression ratios.
- One OLPF, please. Pretty please.
- Cheaper mini-mags, or at least the ability to record to CFast 2.0/XQD, etc., in a pinch.
So which do I prefer? Red Monstro, Alexa LF or the Sony Venice?
Good question. I prefer the easy image quality and the EVF of the Alexa LF. But on the whole, I think I prefer the Red Monstro over the Alexa LF, easy. The Venice is a distant third.
Bottom line, I would not hesitate to use or recommend the Red Monstro 8K: for any cinematic work. In fact, it will be my number one go-to camera from here on out.
What do you think?