On May 12, 2008 I met up with fellow cinematographer, and RED owner Hunter Richards (www.hunterhampton.com) and we headed over to Lyon Films (www.lyonfilms.com) where we met with directors Devon Lyon and Kevin Curry. Later, we were joined by Owen Stephens, SOC & inventor of the Pampalite (www.pampalite.com) who got in on the action, and showed us his great line up of florescent lights. The purpose of this get together was two fold, first Hunter updated everyone on the developments that had been made on the RED camera as well as demonstrated the workflow and post process of using the RED in a production environment. Secondly, Devon & I used this opportunity to test out two sets of lenses. Both of us wanted to see how big of a difference there actually is in-between a lens designed for cinema use and for SLR use. The RED can mount both PL lenses and Nikon SLR lenses with a simple change of the lens mount. My cinematography has taken me around the world, and being able to use small, lightweight lenses on a camera capable of shooting raw 4K intrigues me. If the SLR lenses are able to perform at the levels needed for the RED, this would enable me to have a smaller profile and a lighter load to carry when traveling. Scheduled to begin production in the first quarter of 2009, the documentary Walking Through Worlds (www.walkingthroughworlds.com) will take director Joel McEwen and I to remote locations in Asia, and being able to use the SLR lenses on the RED may enable us to get the images we need for the production while keeping down the form factor and weight.
For the last two years I have been using a set of Zeiss ZF SLR lenses and various 35mm adapters on projects that have smaller budgets, but still want the cinematic look of film. For the projects that can afford it, I have been renting the cinema lenses. Having used both styles of lenses I have seen the mechanical differences between the two, and now with this opportunity with the RED I had a chance to see how big of a difference, if any, there is in the image quality of each set of lenses.
To highlight the potential differences between the lens sets I settled on the following tests: sharpness, color, breathing, vignetting, and the mechanics. To keep the results consistent I decided to shoot both charts as well as a real world test. Charts are helpful for consistency and measurements, where as the real world test will show you what you actually get. The cinema glass used for this test was a set of Zeiss Superspeed Lenses (MKIII) with a T-stop of 1.3 and the SLR lenses were the Zeiss ZF lenses with a T-stop of 1.4. To keep as many of the variables out of the equation as possible, the footage was all processed through RED Alert using the same settings. See the picture below for the settings used. The only change made to the real world footage was a change to 709 Gamma in the Output LUT.
All of the still frames have been left unprocessed and have not been graded, while the sample footage has been graded using the same settings in each set of clips in Color. You can download the Color project files, as well as the sample images and footage at my web site, by going to the resource page: www.ryanewalters.com. In the download you will find this review in PDF form as well as the setup notes for the tests which details out the various settings used, and lighting setups. So lets take a look at what the tests yielded. (I should also mention that the RED we were using was having problems with its CF drive, which ended up corrupting some of the files. We checked the files on site in the camera to see that they recorded ok, but there were a couple that although seemed fine in camera, RED Alert was not able to process them. So there are a couple of missing frames. The people at RED ended up overnighting a replacement drive for Hunter, which was great customer service for him, but too late for this test.)
DOWNLOADS: (Right click - Save As Please)
Just the RESULTS PDF (4MB)
Just the SETUP PDF (3MB)
Just the QuickTime Movie (9MB)
ALL PDFs MOVs, & STILLS (102MB)
EDIT: If for some reason these links are not working, please check my blog at my web site: www.ryanewalters.com - I have all of the same information, pictures, and downloads available there.