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Header image for article X-FACTOR: RED's New DRAGON-X


RED has just released their latest DSMC2 digital cinema camera, DRAGON-X. Featuring a 5K, 3-perf Super35-sized cut (25.6mm x 13.5mm) of their popular DRAGON sensor, DRAGON-X looks to complement the current DSMC2 camera lineup while providing versatility, performance, and value.

Like all DSMC2 bodies (or, as RED calls them, brains) DRAGON-X supports the latest IPP2 image processing pipeline in-camera and features the same maximum data transfer rates of up to 300MB/sec when using the fastest REDMAG media (the 480GB and 960GB models). Simultaneous ProRes recording is also available, with up to ProRes 422HQ in 4K (up to 30fps), and up to ProRes 4444/XQ in 2K at up to 120fps (with similar specs for the Avid DNx codecs for direct editing in Media Composer). Frame rates in REDCODE RAW top out at 96fps in 5K FF (shooting the full chip at the DCI aspect ratio of 17:9) and 120fps in 5K WS (widescreen 2.4:1 aspect ratio). And, with a modest 28.94mm diagonal at 5K FF, lens coverage should be a total non-issue.

At its highest resolution, DRAGON-X uses the “classic” RED frame dimensions of 5120x2700 pixels, which was the standard on the EPIC with MYSTERIUM-X sensor and, more recently, SCARLET-W with DRAGON sensor. One thing I’ve always liked about this frame size is that it’s essentially four times the area of a standard 27" computer monitor, which is typically 2560x1440. What this means is that a half "de-Bayer" of 5K footage can be played back at full-width on a 27" monitor with no quality loss or scaling artifacts since the REDCODE RAW format is a “scanline,” or “progressive”, codec allowing for easy sizing of playback resolution to your monitoring environment. We’ve found that 5K footage at a half de-Bayer is also a “sweet spot” for realtime playback on mid-range computer hardware configurations such as the late-2013 Mac Pro (cylindrical design, aka “trashcan”) with D500 or D700 AMD FirePro graphics. PCs with recent quad- or hexa-core CPUs, and mid-range GPUs like the AMD Radeon RX580 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070, also fair well in applications like REDCINE-X PRO and DaVinci Resolve.


As we saw with the recent introduction of the DSMC2 with GEMINI sensor, DRAGON-X continues RED's "just right" strategy of building cameras with features and specs that strike a keen balance between raw performance and flexibility. Some may remember the introduction, in 2014, of RED's first DRAGON sensor-based camera, housed in a DSMC1-era EPIC body, which brought stunning highlight latitude and 6K resolution to the industry. That camera went on to be used by Stephen Soderberg for the Cinemax series The Knick, as well as by David Fincher on Gone Girl, shot by Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, and early seasons of House of Cards. If you're after that distinctive DRAGON look, but don't need 6K (or aren't looking to buy used), the good news is that pricing for the new DRAGON-X brain starts at $14,950, with a nicely spec'd, ready-to-shoot kit coming in at under just under $20K ($19,950). SCARLET-W owners looking to upgrade to the new camera can do so for a mere $4,950.

For more information on the camera and how it fits into the DMSC2 lineup, check out RED's DRAGON-X overview and DMSC2 comparision.

Geoff Smith
Camera Technology Specialist, AbelCine NY

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