What is the best camera in Hollywood? It’s a great question and if we are going to try and answer it we might as well narrow it down to the two obvious brands: ARRI and RED.
Not that there aren’t other great cinema camera options out there, the Sony VENICE 2 comes to mind, it’s just that the top-of-the-line ARRI and RED options are extremely popular and have become legendary fixtures of the industry specifically because of their ability to deliver stunning imagery.
We do want to start trying to answer the question of which is actually the best and to do that we need some side-by-side comparisons. Filmmaker Brandon Washington is delivering on that part.
Today we are checking out the following cameras:
Both of these models are large format cinema cameras. They are also the go-tos in the industry. You have absolutely seen (or will see) a few films that were shot on these or their predecessors.
Testing these cameras isn’t the easiest. They are very different.
Looking to RED we have the V-RAPTOR VV. Here are the basic specs:
- Full-Frame Vista Vision Sensor
- 8K up to 120 fps
- 17 stops of dynamic range
- Super 35mm crop mode at 6K up to 160 fps
For ARRI we have the ALEXA Mini LF with these specs:
- Full-Frame Sensor
- 4.5K 3:2 Open Gate up to 60 fps
- 14 stops of dynamic range
Both cameras were being used at their max settings. That means 4.5K ARRIRAW with the ALEXA and 8K RED RAW with the V-RAPTOR. The same lens was used as well. In this case it was a Tokina Vista Prime.
Dynamic range is impressive. Both held onto detail in the shadows very well. Even though RED has a higher rated number, the quality of ARRI’s sensor keeps it super closer anyway.
The settings were very much pushing the limits of each camera system. Using a few colored LED panels to create a wraparound light and with deep contrast, you were seeing the capabilities of each.
Interestingly, these shots were showing a dramatically different rendering of the colors, though each has plenty of color information saved for adjusting it in post.
At first glance a lot of the footage looks very similar. Some people will be trying to decide based on the “look.” ARRI aims for a lower contrast image with natural-looking skin tones.
RED does have the option to control the look with a couple settings. First, you can adjust tone mapping for changing the contrast. Also, you can control your highlight roll-off. Generally, the RED look is a sharp, high-contrast image though you do have a lot of control in camera if you want to tune this a bit.
Operationally there are some differences. RED opted for a more rare Canon RF lens mount for example. This meant that with a simple adapter you could use some standard ARRI PL-mount cine glass.
You can also just use native Canon RF glass and make use of electronic control. What you are losing here are built-in NDs—something ARRI absolutely has in the ALEXA Mini LF. A larger V-RAPTOR XL is on the way that will add that.
Checking out the footage Brandon did find it hard to deny that both produced some beautiful footage. He does think that the RED provides a bit more flexibility – even beyond the much higher 8K resolution. ARRI tuned the ALEXA Mini LF to have a single, distinct and much-loved look. RED offers a lot more user control to get it set up properly for each project.
Brandon, who owns a V-RAPTOR, thinks the RED is currently the better option for most people because of the additional flexibility. ARRI is designed to do its thing and do it amazingly.
For people looking to buy the V-RAPTOR is a better pick in his opinion. Plus, it is a fair bit cheaper. Who knows, maybe when the ALEXA 35 finds its way into more hands or ARRI revamps the LF lineup this will completely change.
What are your thoughts when checking out the footage here?
[source: Brandon Washington]