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Next-Gen Cameras: Red Says Dragon Does Close to 20 Stops; Panavision Readies 65mm Comeback

There are no announced prices or delivery dates, just lots of buzz around new cameras from Red Digital Cinema and Panavision.

First up is new info on Red's still forthcoming Dragon CMOS image sensor for the Epic. According to a Reduser.net announcement from Red Fire Chief Jarred Land on New Year's Eve, a prototype Dragon sensor has exhibited an unprecedented amount of dynamic range in test images taken through a "really, really expensive engineering lens." Land posted a (highly compressed) JPG image that seemed to show the Dragon capturing 19 or perhaps a full 20 stops of dynamic range from a 21-stop test chart. What's more, Land said the image in question was taken at 6K resolution and at over 80 frames per second. If production models of the sensor perform like that in real-world circumstances, the Epic Dragon promises to be an incredible piece of gear.

Epic users had been expecting a $6000 surcharge to upgrade their cameras with the Dragon sensor, but Land said that price is likely to increase "a bit" in light of new tech benchmarks. He also dashed the hopes of Scarlet users, who had been hoping for their own upgrade path — but said there would be some kind of trade-in offer allowing users to swap out their Scarlets in exchange for a discount on an Epic Dragon. Red hasn't committed to a shipping date — the sensor upgrades were originally slated for 2012 — but at the very least the promise of Dragon footage should give everyone another very good reason to visit the Red booth at NAB.

Despite the Red Dragon sensor's relatively small size (at 30.7×15.8mm, it represents a 10 percent increase compared to the Red MX), Red's Jim Jannard has insisted that its resolution is comparable to 65mm film (with its camera aperture of 52.5×23.0mm), and claims of the chip's extended dynamic range seem to belie any concerns about the reduced sensitivity of smaller photosites on a smaller sensor.

Be that as it may, Panavision is getting back into the digital camera game with a new camera body sporting a 65mm-equivalent sensor size for compatibility with 65mm lenses. While the camera may not match Dragon's dynamic range, it should provide the kind of lush depth-of-field effects you expect to be available in real 65mm cinematography.

Details on the Panavision camera are scanty, but website Cinefii.com got some preliminary specs from Panavision at the Plus Camerimage 2012 show, which kicked off in late November in Poland. Apparently it will record DNxHD and ProRes (and maybe raw) to on-board SSDs, and is aimed in part at VFX cinematography. Cinefii says a prototype is expected "in the next six months" —which suggests there might be something to see when Panavision rolls into Las Vegas in April. Stay tuned.

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