Thread: Is MX "Good Enough?"

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  1. #1 Is MX "Good Enough?" 
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    HI All -

    I'm getting ready to jump into the RED world, but like many, I'm on a tight budget. All the forums I've read all say pretty much the same thing: Stay away from the MX sensor. Buy the Dragon. MX is outdated technology. But what if the Dragon is out of my reach? I'm wondering how bad a used Scarlet X or Epic X really is? I'm looking for a camera that can generate an acceptable image - something that could be considered "competetive" in today's marketplace. Has the MX sensor fallen that far behind? Or is the image it produces still better than, say, an similarly priced Canon or Sony? I've looked at several projects out there that were shot with an MX sensor, and they all look top-quality, comparitively speaking.

    I'd love to hear some thoughts on this.

    Thanks!

    Tim
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  2. #2  
    REDUSER is full of posts by people showing images that are noisy, software, and otherwise disappointing. The common denominator in those posts is not due to the RED sensor (whether it's MX, Dragon, Helium, etc), but the fact that they simply lack the practical knowledge of how to actually light a scene, how to meter a scene, and how to properly expose a scene based on the lighting and the meter readings. Learning to light, learning to meter, and learning to properly expose is (apparently) not something that can be done overnight. As you yourself have seen, people can make top-quality images with the MX sensor. But it takes work. It takes work to light. It takes work to meter. It takes work to expose properly. It takes work to grade properly. And that's saying nothing about location scouting, hiring talent, pulling focus, wardrobe, makeup, props, set design, etc.

    If you are going to go to all the trouble to do everything else at a truly professional level, why not invest a few extra grand to get the best sensor technology? But...if you are going to shortcut all the other things that actually make an image work, then having the Worlds Greatest Sensor isn't going to make much of a difference at all.

    Buying a used Scarlet-X or used Epic-X means you are likely SOL if the camera develops a fault, so you might have to do a little math to decide whether it's more worthwhile to have a single camera that can be fixed (with whatever turn-around time RED offers) vs. having a spare in case your prime camera decides to become a brick.

    Lots of great filmmakers started with very simple equipment, learned all the stuff that actually makes an image sing, and only then started using the more expensive stuff. It's not a bad way to go. If you are already good at the basics, you can prove that to yourself by making great images with MX.
    Michael Tiemann, Chapel Hill NC

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  3. #3  
    The Social Network was shot on RED ONE MX. Is that answer enough for you?
    Tony Lorentzen, Kinema Follow me on Twitter: kinemadk
    Cinematographer, owner of RED Epic Dragon #420
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member Alex Lubensky's Avatar
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    It depends on your shooting scenario. If you're looking for a camera to shoot fiction stuff (what I mean - you'll always have some crew on set and some lights to light), then it's fine. Especially Epic - it's slo-mo capabilities are up to date, enough res for years to come, it supports Anamorphic modes and so on. Scarlet is a bit narrower in use cases - if you don't rely on slo-mo mainly, and not going to shoot ana on it (3k crop to shoot 48 frames is ok for me, but for plates and other stuff it's pretty limiting and non-competitive, considering nowadays most cameras shoot 100fps with some drawbacks). For a non-fiction stuff I'd look for something lighter.

    Yes, MX is a bit dated now in a lot of terms - first, it's not supported for a repair officially by Red, and if anything happens to your body - you're on your own. To me, it's the main thing to consider when you invest some $ in your gear. But, it's not the real thing to be feared of - I've bought my Scarlet MX just before the announcement of the end of support, and it's totally fine and has ran almost 1000 hours of runtime since. In terms of image quality - I've shot projects on Gemini, Alexa, Dragon, and the MX quality is totally fine for me.

    Second thing to consider is the accessories price. What you're going to get on a second-hand market is a ready to shoot package, but there's other stuff to thinnk of. Like camera weight - it dictates you to use EasyRigs, heavier gimbals, bigger tripods, huge sliders and so on. Things, which are hard to handle alone and force you to hire assistants for jobs - which are not really necessary with smaller and lighter camera packages. After that, you'll find yourself buying more batteries for a full-day jobs, the media and storage cost is pretty significant also. Any accessory, like mounts, monitors, rigs - will cost you pretty much, just as for any modern camera.

    Third thing to think of - is how much do you travel with your camera abroad, especially by planes. Reds are pretty power-hungry, normally you would like to stick with 150wH batts, and modern rules of air-travel are not really friendly for such batteries. Also, you may have troubles with customs,. Reds do not look cheap, and customs officers usually look at the retail price of a new camera, which was around 40k at the beginning. So you'll be forced to travel with ATA Carnet most of the times, and those things cost % of the gear price and are a massive pain in the ass. Of course, you can travel without ATA Carnet on your own risk, most of the times it works fine, but if you get in a trouble - be ready to pay 20% of the listed new gear price, which I guess is not acceptable for most of us.

    And, of course, as an investment - think twice how much money will the camera bring you. If you're going to bring the money back in a year or so - it's fine, if more - it's a bad investment at this moment.
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  5. #5  
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    MX isn't as good at mixed lighting/tungsten and has less DR, but it actually has quite a few benefits -- it's cleaner at higher ISOs, has less artifacts (like CMOS smear, red noise in the blacks/DEB, susceptible to more fringing/CA, etc.)...

    It's not that it has fallen behind, per se. It's that it's on par with much cheaper cameras/systems. Like a Pocket4k with speed booster is ~$2k and that'll give you VistaVision FOV 4k at 60p with as much DR (if not more) and a sharper image than Epic-X at 5k. Plus it's way lighter, has dual ISO, gets 1.66 stops more light across all your lenses (because of the speed booster), has cheaper media, built-in pro-res, XLR, and copy of Resolve studio... I think it'd be a bad idea to max out your budget for an Epic-X when a $2k camera offers arguably better image (definitely better features), and is going to be easier to use.

    As for a competitive image, and I hate to say this, but to be brutally honest you should be able to get any decent contemporary camera within spitting distance of any other camera. It's the same old story; you've likely seen stuff shot on Sony mirrorless (a6500, not even a7) that looks as good or better than stuff shot on Alexa/RED. Or similarly, old Alexa1080p/REDMX stuff that looks leagues better than A65/Monstro (e.g. Fincher's MX stuff looks as good as Fincher's Dragon/Helium stuff... or Deakin's 1080p Alexa Classic images looking better than a lot of Alexa65 images...)

    On the flip side, I'd also be lying if I said showing up to set with an Epic instead of a DSLR/Mirrorless didn't carry any clout. After all, it is a legitimate cinema camera, more so than competitors offerings in the $4k-8k segment (even the c200 or Eva1 or FS7 are more video camera than cinema camera). I just personally wouldn't invest too much extra money for that, and unless your clients actually know what a RED is, you realistically won't be able to charge more for it either...
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  6. #6  
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    I still have a working Scarlet MX and bring it out on a few shoots which are mostly interviews and well lit settings. It still works well but the EOL situation is the main problem as stated. So if you have problems I'm afraid you're right back to where you started. The MX still works in the world even though it has been left behind but 4:4:4 in 4k is still a good thing.
    Keith B. Plummer
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  7. #7  
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    Tim.. Get the best Red camera you can afford. I still love my Epic Dragon. I know that I have missed the boat on the upgrade to DSMC2 and future upgrades but this camera is so reliable, solid and cranks out fantastic images. It is nice to have the latest technology but this camera still exceeds my clients needs and expectations and will for the foreseeable future. It owes me nothing. I will eventually upgrade but it won't be for lack of image quality.
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Marcus Friedlander's Avatar
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    To answer the original question, yes, the MX is "good enough"....... provided you feed the sensor ~5600K light.

    In Daylight situations, or if you used an appropriated 80x filter to compensate for non daylight scenes, the MX sensor absolutely shined! However, in tungsten or mixed light situations, especially in uncontrolled environments, it didn't perform nearly as well. Luckily, the Dragon sensor addressed that issue, which is why it's worth the extra money in my opinion, especially if you get it in a body that can do HFR as well (like the Epic Dragon).

    Bottom line though is, if I was making your purchase today, this would be my operating logic:
    Between an Epic MX and a BMPCC4k, I would take the BM camera (for the reasons that Mike P. mentioned) unless my clients were specifically asking for RED cameras or REDRaw.
    But, if you pushed it to any Dragon sensor camera (except the Raven) and a BMPCC4k, I would take the Dragon, despite all the increased costs as a result. I just think the sensor is that much better than the rest of the non Alev-III competition, provided you rate your Dragon sensor somewhere between 400-640.
    Cheers,

    Marcus Ian Friedlander





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  9. #9  
    Senior Member Grzegorz Gill's Avatar
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    Save your money and get a dsmc2 gemini or helium used. You will be happy in the years to come.
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  10. #10  
    Senior Member AndreasOberg's Avatar
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    They are great, but cost considerably more of course so really depends on the budget at hand. Most important is to have a camera that is "good" enough and an Epic or scarlet is a very good camera.
    www.ObergWildlife.com- Natural History Filmmaking
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