First things first, I have to put up a huge disclaimer here… I have held the KOMODO but I have not been able to turn it on or shoot anything with it so my thoughts are just a collection of feelings based on what others have written. Second, as a former employee of RED, current user of RED, and friend of many employees of RED, I have somewhat of an intimate understanding of RED’s products and inner workings but I have not been privy to internal information for about two years so take what I say with a grain of salt. Now, moving on…
The new RED KOMODO is a 6K camera in a smaller and lighter form factor than what RED has ever offered in any camera body before. As a company RED is widely known for their incredible color science (TRANSLATION: the programming that allows the hardware and software to produce amazing images), their amazing R3D codec (TRANSLATION: type of video file), and their willingness to push the envelope when it comes to things like resolution and buck the trends of how cameras are NORMALLY announced and marketed in the industry. All that being said, the RED KOMODO follows along with some of this playbook but based on early reports also seems to deviate a little bit, hopefully to RED’s benefit.
As I mentioned above, the KOMODO is designed as a small and light camera and RED is positioning it as neither a replacement nor an evolution of their existing products but rather a supplementary camera for specific use cases. In true RED fashion, they spent many months teasing this camera and unveiling scarce details about what capabilities it would have leaving many people to try and fill in the blanks as to what these “specific use cases” would be.
Now, as the camera is dropping into some peoples’ hands for some beta testing and more details are coming out, we’re starting to get a better idea of where this camera sits amongst the MANY other options in not only RED’s own product lineup but the industry at large. It seems that this camera really IS in fact designed for very specific use cases and would leave many RED fanboys in varying states of disappointment. Before I condone those that have cried foul and condemned this camera to the status of undesirable, I think it’s important to look at what many people may have wanted in this camera and why those desires are unrealistic.
After finding out that the camera contained a 6K sensor in a smaller form factor, I think most people assumed that they would not be seeing very high frame rates out of the camera at the full resolution of the sensor. I would guess that many, like myself, hoped for at least 48FPS as that is an even multiple of the standard 24FPS that many people shoot in, thereby allowing you to slow your footage down by exactly half. Across most camera manufacturers (RED included) 48FPS or 60FPS are common options in a camera that supports some kind of slow motion. But the KOMODO apparently can only do 40FPS.
Now you might think this would not be THAT big of a deal (and I agree, more on that in a moment) but many people are quite disappointed that the camera can’t hit that magical sweet spot while using the full resolution of the sensor. They’re even more disappointed when they find out that (at this point) you can’t really hit those FPS numbers in 5K. Many people assumed that this camera would be able to do 120FPS in 4K as the higher-end RED cameras can do but alas, the KOMODO seems to be limited to 60FPS in 4K.
So if the camera can’t do these high frame rates in 4K and only hits a perceived “bare minimum” capability of 4K at 60FPS, why would anyone actually WANT to use this camera? Why would anyone drop $6,000ish on something like this when there are other options out there? Why would someone sacrifice buttery smooth slow motion in high resolution??
The answer lies in the way that the camera captures light and records the image; and this one feature, coupled with the KOMODO’s size and weight, will be a big reason why its tech is successful long term. The KOMODO uses a different type of shutter, known as a GLOBAL SHUTTER, to capture light. In most digital video cameras, when you record a frame of video, the camera’s sensor rapidly scans each row of pixels from top to bottom to capture the light coming into the camera. This scan happens very quickly, but it does not capture the light hitting each pixel at the exact same moment since it has to scan row by row. This type of shutter is known as a ROLLING SHUTTER.
In situations where the camera or the object that the camera is filming is moving very quickly, a rolling shutter can produce undesirable image artifacts like warping or half-exposed images when there is a quick flash of light like from a flash. The Global Shutter does not have this problem because it records the light hitting each pixel at exactly the same time.
The KOMODO uses a global shutter and to my knowledge, it is the first major digital camera to do so. Because of the benefits of the global shutter, I believe that users of RED’s ecosystem will look beyond the lack of frame rates and adopt this camera in large numbers. The price is low enough that existing RED owners can add this camera to their kit but only time will tell if it is low enough for owners of other brands to consider purchasing this. It is also somewhat outside the range of what a typical “DSLR Shooter” would want to spend on a camera, so there may be a barrier there.
Besides the size and global shutter, there are plenty of other cool things in the KOMODO such as the RF mount, built-in wireless, built-in touchscreen, CFExpress Media, Canon BP batteries, and more. Before diving into those points though, I’ll wait until I actually get to use it.