The Price of a Large Sensor Digital Cinema Camera Infographic: Mind the Gap

With the popularity of large sensor digital cinema cameras in full swing, recently re-stoked by the release of the RED Scarlet-X and Canon C300, I got to thinking how the proverbial “gap” would look if it was represented visually.  Go back a couple of years and you basically had four choices. Film, RED One, ARRI Alexa & DSLR’s. It is amazing how much the gaps between all of these cameras has closed.

The infographic that emerged is a collection of cameras that are at the forefront of the large sensor market, placed in order of the cost of the “body only” option. Right off the bat I am going to say that this is not comprehensive in any respect, but should hopefully paint a broad picture of the price distribution for these cameras. I will also point out that things get a little tricky with pricing the RED cameras due to their modularity. All of the RED packages are priced with the brain, media module, and lens mount. Take all this with a grain of salt.

My hope is that this chart can, at a glance, allow you to see where some of the most popular cameras shake out when it comes to their cost. Please leave a comment below with suggestions or discrepancies.

On a side note, I am a huge fan of RED and it is amazing to see what you get out of their camera systems when you compare them to cameras in the same price bracket. They truly are revolutionary.

Click on the image below to see a full size version.

EDIT: ARRI Alexa+ Price corrected.

6 Comments

  1. Marksays:

    Scarlet is actually $14k (at a minimum) to be able to shoot with, and closer to $17k if you want to be able to shoot for a full day (i.e. with the minimal number of media card and batteries you’d need for over an hour of footage)

    • I agree with you Mark. The difficulty is defining what is essentially the “base package” for a Scarlet or Epic. I have had multiple people mention prices in the range you mentioned as recommended “minimum” hardware. I will update the chart with this soon.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  2. If you had about $12-14k, would you invest into Sony F3 or Red Scarlet X?

    There are several criteria that I’d want to meet with a purchase like this… How well can the camera hold up if heavily used in the next 2-3 yrs (considering how fast technology depreciates in value), reliability and tech support, upgradability as newer features and firmware come into light, and of course how good are the tech specs overall – variable frame rate, resolution, colors, sensor, media storage options, etc… Which camera family holds a better promise in the future in your opinion?

    I wonder if its worth investing now or waiting for something better and lighter to emerge?

    • One of the first things I tell people when they ask about which camera they should get is, “Can you keep the camera busy?” If you can keep the camera on enough jobs to pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time then the rest is all about finding a camera that meets the needs of 90% of what you do from a technical standpoint. Each camera system has its strengths and weaknesses. Past all of the technical capabilities there is a more subjective choice of how the camera performs aesthetically.

      To answer some of your questions, RED does a good job of protecting its customers from obsolescence with a modular camera design. They also gave various incentives and discount to people switching from the RED One to the Epic. I am constantly reading on the forums that when a flaw is discovered with one of the RED cameras, RED almost always services or replaces it for free. RED also provide free firmware and software (REDCODE and REDCINE-X) whereas Sony charged $3800 for the S-Log firmware update initially ($800 for existing US customers now).

      I personally would go for the RED Scarlet-X. It’s specs are incredible for the price, there really isn’t anything out there in it’s league beside the Epic. It’s modular design allows for you to tailor it to your needs a little more than some other systems. I also like that the mount can be field swapped from Canon to PL. I have worked a great deal with the RED MX and love the RED raw workflow and the benefits of working with 4K. (I say all this having shot with the F3 on numerous occasions, don’t get me wrong it is a great camera!)

      Long term I would love to get a RED Epic-X but it is out of my price range at the moment. One of the other benefits of starting with the Scarlet is you can transfer a number of the modules and accessories to the Epic. They also utilize the same sensor so in the situation where the Epic becomes the “A” camera the scarlet can become the “B” camera, matching the footage works perfectly.

      As for waiting, I wouldn’t wait for the “perfect camera” or you will be waiting forever. Get out and shoot with a camera that you can afford, make money off of, and enjoy shooting with!

  3. You might want to put this together including a base line of what you would need to actually use the cameras. Just as an example 3 cards (one working, one on standby and one off loading), 3 batteries (one working, one on standby and one charging), a basic lens package (standard zoom 24-70 2.8 or simple prime set 24, 35, 50, 85), and kit to enable on camera audio. Of course you’d also need 15mm or 19mm support, follow focus, matte box, handheld rig, tripod, etc but even by the much lower bar above all your numbers are very low with maybe the exception of the c300. That’s the trouble with these comparisons. Media and set up costs very so wildly across cameras, and I’ve meet numerus people over the years who have spent large sums of money on a camera only to find out they really needed to double their investment to get anything out of the gear.

    Just my 2cents 🙂
    jesse

    • Thanks for the comment Jesse! I’m right there with you, this is a complex set of information because its hard to define what a good baseline is for each package, not to mention prices are constantly changing. I think I am going to revisit this topic and see if I can pull something together that is more representative of a real world minimum camera package. The core point I was trying to make when I wrote this post was how quickly the different price tiers were becoming occupied by capable cameras. It’s a great time to be a cinematographer!

      Cheers!

      Isaac

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