PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

15Nov/080

Everyone's talking about RED

RED’s CEO has been talking smack at the still camera industry for a while. He’s looking at the video/stills convergence from the other end. He’s also drumming up his company’s investment value, so take what he says with a grain of salt… some of what’s come out is pure genius, some is pure insanity.

It's true that RED has overcome skepticism already, and I expect RED to do great things.  Maybe just not every last thing they say.

One thread in general, but particularly this page revealed new stuff this week.  I’d like to draw attention to this plan about the sensors...

red

This is 100% vapor at this time – they’ve only got nice 3D renders in there. The low-end stuff seems productizable, but the high-end stuff needs technology that doesn’t exist AFAIK.

In fact the high-end stuff has been the subject of a great deal of discussion here at Nvidia.  Doing 25fps @ 261MP, 16-bit… that’s ~13GB/s (those are bytes, not bits) so real-time compression is a must, but who will do this ASIC for them?  We (Nvidia) handle this kind of bandwidth at the cost of billions of dollars in R&D and rare boutique DRAMs.

Not only that, but the sheer size of the piece silicon there...  that’s a 6cm x 19cm sensor down there. You can make what, 5 of these per 300mm wafer?  Oh and they have to be _perfect_.  Mark me skeptical, NASA might get one.

This said, if we look at the 24x36mm format, I think they’ve got the right product to re-set the moving-pictures camera industry.  Price-wise it’s not going to make a big dent in the photo market though. You need to pay $12K (24x36mm, 24MP) or $7K (15x30mm, 14MP) for a naked sensor module that takes Canon or Nikon manual-focus lenses… then you need to add the EVIL viewfinder module, a recording module, the handle module.  Canon's combo DSLRs aren't threatened by RED.

It's at the low-end (for RED) where I think it will make a lot of inroads against Canon’s high-end camcorders. For 2500$ you get a 2/3” RED module that does around 4x 1080p HD and you get injected into the RED ecosystem where you get spend on fancy gadgets to your heart’s content.  Pretty cool.


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