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Red Scarlet X 4k Camera Review: One Nearly Flawless Camera

by on August 22, 2014
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Overview

Want native 4K recording in a body that looks and feels like it’s been built to film in a battlefield? This what the Red Scarlet-X is all about and boy does it deliver on its specs and overall quality.

If you want a rock solid, high capacity 4K production camera with some excellent specs and features, the Scarlet-X is definitely one hell of a go-to choice. Furthermore, its price has dropped a lot since it first came out in 2012 while the features have stayed current and deliver a solid recording experience that won’t leave you at all disappointed.

The Good

Where to start? For starters, the Scarlet-X, like many other RED products comes in a highly modular design that works to future proof the camera even as technical aspects advance. For example, the Scarlet-X’s 14 megapixel Mysterium-X sensor, while absolutely excellent, can easily be swapped out for advancements that the manufacturer unveils over time. This same modularity applies to most of the camera’s components and although upgrades will obviously cost you extra dollars, they’re at least easy to perform while keeping the essential high end camera body.

The shooting flexibility of the Scarlet-X is extremely broad. It can give you films in 4K, 5K and the more conventional 1080p HD format. You can even shoot 120fps at 1K for some really awesome slow motion footage if that’s your thing.

Furthermore, the lens flexibility of the Scarlet-X is excellent. You can swap in assorted mounts from Nikon, Leica, Canon, Zeiss or PL Glass amongst others and RED also produces its own native line of different lenses that are available in two different zoom sizes and four prime sizes.

The Bad

Like we already mentioned, the Scarlet-X offers a very modular design that starts with its essential “brain” box which contains the core camera. Additions and accessories attach to this in ever increasing technical complexity and they all cost extra. Thus, while the essential camera box is an absolutely awesome buy, a lot of its better features will only be available if you buy ant mount them on at increased cost. They will also add to the essential camera weight, making the fairly light original 5 pound body weight balloon out to 10 pounds or more, which might result in some fatigue if you’re planning of spending a long time filming from multiple hand held angles.

Final Thoughts

This is a superb professional film production camera if you’re serious about making commercial grade feature film shoots and commercials or music videos etc. If you’re just looking for a really high end weekend filming toy, then you’re much better off going for something extremely powerful but much cheaper like the Black Magic 4K film production camera.

Specs

RED Scarlet-X Camera Specs
• Camera Type: 4K Professional Video Camera
• Video Resolution: 4096 x 2160 pixels
• Pixel Array: 5120 x 2700 pixels
• Max Image Area: 5120 (h) x 2700 (v) (for 5K stills)
• Sensor Type: 14 megapixel Mysterium-X
• Acquisition Formats: 5K FF REDCODE RAW (Full Frame), 4K HD REDCODE RAW, 3K HD REDCODE RAW, 1080p REDCODE RAW,1K REDCODE RAW
• Recording media: REDMAG (SSD) Modules in 64, 128, 256, 512GB sizes.
• Lens Mount: Al Canon EF (PL mount optional)
• Display: RED LCD 5" Touchscreen Display, BOMB EVF™ High Definition Viewfinder
• Microphone/Audio: 2 channel, uncompressed, 24 bit, 48KHz
• Connectivity: HD-SDI, HDMI, 24-bit 48Khz Audio
• Screen Size: 5” inches
• Frame Rates: All formats: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 47.96, 48, 50, 59.97 fps
• Dynamic Range: 13.5 stops, as many as 18 stops for HDRx 6 fps with 5K FF and HDRx on 15 fps with 4K HD AND HDRx on

Accessories

The basic camera box is sold without accessories and is basically not shootable, which is one of the cost problems with the Scarlet-X. If you’ve got a large budget, you’ll have to spend a fair bit of extra money buying the needed accessories such as batteries, EVF, cards, rods, plates and lenses. In effect, look forward to spending the cameras entire price all over again on accessories.

Highlights

The Scarlet-X basically lets you shoot as professionally as you want. You can capture exquisite 5K and even 6K stills on the spot, shoot beautiful 5K and 4K UHD video under almost any conditions and easily pull all of your footage and stills, exporting them to a computer for editing with the software of your own choice. This is what’s great about the Scarlet-X, it lets you create both exquisite still content and film in one fully professional package.

Regardless of whether you’re shooting fast action feature film, UHD web content or any other production video, the REDCODE RAW files of different formats (see specs) will give you enormous flexibility and high quality capture capacity for assorted scenarios. This same quality applies to still images and for this reason the Red Scarlet-X has been used by numerous magazines and big name photographers to capture covers, photo spreads and content for magazines like Vogue and Bazaar.

As already mentioned, the camera’s modular design lets you customize its setup and performance for a large assortment of production needs. These can include photo shoots, movie filming, documentaries and anything in between that involves Ultra HD 5K photo shooting and film resolution ranging from 5K to 4K to 1080p and Slow motion 1K.

The RED CODE RAW codec of the Scarlet-X is very powerful and easy to manage inside RED’s RED Cine Pro X software, which gives you integrated tools for importing, editing and exporting images or video quickly and effectively. Also, because of the Scarlet’s exquisitely high resolution video capture format abilities, capturing images while shooting video is usually as easy as taking select stills straight from the video footage itself instead of having to pause and take separate photographic shots.

Overall Performance

So what’s the overall performance of the Scarlet-X like? Well, it really does kick ass for any normal speed recording, offers amazing RAW capacity and its ability to extract excellent still images straight from captured video makes for a much more efficient video/photo shooting experience that a lot of professionals should really appreciate.

The Scarlet-X is also excellent for doing incredibly well executed slow motion shoots that look amazing. In essence, it’s a great camera for music videos, commercials and feature film shoots.
Furthermore, it performs really well under conditions of mixed lighting such as in bright exteriors and dark interiors thanks to its Mysterium X sensor with its dynamic 13.5 stop range that expands to 18 stops thanks to built-in HDRx capacity.

Finally, its tough body design makes it durable even if all of the accessory components that need to be added on for full capability will add enough to the Scarlet’s weight so that hand held shooting can become tiring over longer stretches of time.

Features

We’ve already covered many of the technical features in the sections above, but here is still more worth mentioning.

To start, the Scarlet-X offers the following maximum frames per second in its different formats:
6K FF: 12 FPS (in Burst mode)
5K FF: 48 FPS
4K FF: 60 FPS
3K FF: 75 FPS
2K FF: 120 FPS
5K 2.4:1: 60 FPS
4K 2.4:1: 75 FPS
3K 2.4:1: 100 FPS
2K 2.4:1: 150 FPS
Its maximum pixel array is a very hefty 5120 by 2700 pixels for excellent 5K shooting and still images.

The depth of field on the Scarlet-X is equivalent to the superb Super 35 mm for motion shooting and APS-H for still lenses while the Lens coverage on the Scarlet covers 27.7 mm x 14.6 mm amounting to 31.4 mm in depth and the lens mount is highly compatible with assorted lens brands thanks to its EF format.

It also features remote control compatibility for REDLINK Wireless, Ethernet, RS232 and GPI Trigger functionality.

Finally, its aluminum body and operating temperature ranges of 32 F to 104 F are pretty respectable for most somewhat tougher outdoor shooting needs.

For some additional highly specific recording formats, recording times and lens crop factor specs, also check out this excellent data sheet.

Image Quality and Resolution

The Scarlet-X can shoot decently at 5K and especially so when it comes to slow motion shots, but at a maximum fps of 48 in full frame 5K format, this camera is definitely a more 4K oriented video filming machine. 6K shots are also possible but because they max out at 12 frames per second, they’re mostly useful for some really finely detailed still shots and time lapse images but not full video footage.

The 4k shooting ability is however absolutely excellent and shoots 4K RAW at 4096 x 2160 pixels with the additional benefit of super 35 mm thus giving you some exceptionally deep, rich 4K shooting footage. This same quality applies to 3K and 1080p HD shooting done with the Scarlet-X and while all come out superbly, the 4K video you capture with this excellent machine will really shine on a professional level that’s suitable for even the most resolution oriented feature film, music video and commercial settings.

It’s also worth noting again that you can also create some awesome slow motion film sequences with the scarlet at 120 fps in 1k resolution.

Pricing

The Scarlet-X basic camera brain (body) retails for about $9,700 and while this a fantastic price considering the professional caliber of this machine, buying the necessary lenses, side handle, batteries, chargers, outrigger handle and tripod. Adding all of these pretty essential extras into the price will bring it up to just over $19,000 dollars. You can find the Scarlet X and other Red Products Here

Positives

• Awesome 4K/UHD, 3K and 1080HD video recording
• Excellent Slow motion shooting at 120 fps 1K
• Superb stills captured from video quality
• Exquisite 6K and 5K still images
• Excellent dynamic range
• Easy to upload videos via SSD
• Tough, cool looking design
• Live environment production capacity with 6G-SDI
• Super 35 mm Sensor for max compatibility
• EF lens mounting for max compatibility

Negatives

• Basic camera box can’t be used without accessories
• Short internal battery life (and batteries cost extra)
• Becomes very costly with all the needed add-ons

Editor Rating
 
Features
A+

 
Quality
A+

 
User Friendliness
B-

 
Design
A

 
Price
C

Total Score
B-

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Features
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Quality
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User Friendliness
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Design
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Bottom Line
 

The bottom line is that while the essential camera brain of the Scarlet Mysterium-X is fantastic, the cost of the needed accessories is something you should beware of. You can find the Camera for sale and more information on the Red website.

 
3 comments
 
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  • Robert Meeks
    June 3, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    what version firmware is this based on? I just bought a scarlet-x and I can only record 5k at up to 12fps, 4k up to 30fps?

    Reply

    • Kenneth
      November 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Yeah. They didn’t do much research in the tech specs of the camera. The RED Scarlet X can NOT do 6k at all. It also can’t do full motion at 5k (only 12 fps). They didn’t realize that the camera they were reporting on is the Scarlet Dragon. The other funny thing is that a lot of the pictures they show are of the RED One-MX. —-Word to the reviewer: Stop reviewing cameras you don’t know anything about—–

      Reply

  • Malcolm
    December 30, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Think they got it wrong..that’s the limit I’m afraid

    Reply

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