The RED Komodo is one of the year’s most anticipated products – it promises 6K, is a small form factor cinema camera, and is the most costeffective piece of kit to emerge from the RED stable. Freelance DoP Andrew Clemson and focus puller Koko Boutchakjian take it for a field test.
The Komodo is a far cry from the original Red One or even the DSMC1/2 series of cameras. A tiny cube, very similar in form factor to a Z-Cam, it weighs under 1kg unrigged on its own and features a 6K global shutter sensor with a brand new colour science. The global shutter alone is enough to make this model interesting to most people, allowing more natural action and elimination issues with strobing light, but the new sensor also performs particularly well in terms of highlight roll-off.
Like all RED cameras since the introduction of the EPIC, the Komodo is modular. This allows people to design their rigs from the ground up to suit the nature of the content they plan to capture.
One of the most interesting aspects of the new design is that it has done away with one of my personal pet peeves over the years, RED cameras’ lack of support for third-party media. The Komodo accepts CFAST2.0 memory, which is usable across a number of different cameras, making it a boon for rental houses that don’t want to invest too heavily in one type of card.
Like its larger siblings, the Komodo records both Redcode Raw and ProRes to the internal cards at resolution and framerate combinations, with record times dictated by the option you choose. At the highest quality, you’ll get just under an hour of material per TB.
The Komodo is the first RED camera to feature a built-in screen for monitoring. Like the rest of the camera, it’s tiny, so not much use for focus (even though it does have peaking), but in a pinch you can certainly use it for framing, fantastic in a crash cam situation. The Komodo also features full 4K out via a 12G SDI port, which gives you the option to record to an offboard monitor or recorder for proxies, backup record or just use instead of internal memory if you have a lot of SSDs for long interview situations.
The last way to monitor is via an ad-hoc WiFi network straight to your phone or tablet. While there is (very low) latency, I’d say this is more for framing or remote viewing than for real-time focus.
“If you’re shooting for 4K native delivery or just want to run with the smallest camera package possible for high-intensity shooting without rolling shutter issues, the Komodo is your answer” -Andrew Clemson, DoP
When I first heard of the lens mount choice on the Komodo, I had no experience with RF lenses so was a bit surprised, but having seen what it allows the camera to do, I’m an instant convert. The brain features a Canon RF mount, previously seen on Canon’s mirrorless range of stills/hybrids. With a similar shallow flange depth to the ever-popular MFT and E-Mounts, this offers the same adaptability in the form of mount adapters, to allow electronic control of a whole range of lenses. I’ve shot projects on the Komodo using both EF lenses and PL mount cinema lenses, but you really can’t discount the RF lenses that work natively.
The Komodo autofocus is fantastic. Using Phase Detect AF, you can use native RF (and EF via an adapter) lenses to track subjects and maintain autofocus. I haven’t tried the native lenses, but I can only assume they work faster than the EF we had via adapter.
Taking another nod from Prosumer cameras, the Komodo has two power slots on the back that accept BP batteries. While that would spark alarm in the larger RED cameras, the Komodo has very low power consumption in comparison, allowing around two hours of operation on a single charge when using a larger capacity BP battery.
The two slots double this capacity and allow hot swapping. You can, of course, use a V-Lock battery via an adapter, for even longer run times and power accessories via D-Tap – around five or six hours with a larger capacity battery, absolutely crazy for a cinema camera.
Audio-wise, the Komodo has only one 3.5mm jack. This is unsurprising given its size and real strength as a crash/action camera. You can feed a scratch mic into the brain to capture audio, but you would want to capture any important audio via an external recorder and sync.
The camera itself is very quiet. I actually found my Atomos monitor to be much louder, which is very surprising for a RED! The real strength of the Komodo is the fact that it is so compact and portable. Though once you throw in V-Lock batteries, PL mount lenses, matte boxes and other KAS, you find yourself in the same size and weight territory as with one of the larger DSMC2 cameras.
“The Komodo autofocus is fantastic. Using Phase Detect AF, you can use native RF (and EF via an adapter) lenses to track subjects and maintain autofocus” – Koko Boutchakjian, focus puller and owner of Media Max
I have a RED Gemini, and during the shoots on which I’ve used the Komodo, I didn’t feel any real difference between the two. But, when using the native batteries and a small prime lens, it’s small enough to be used like a DSLR, or on one-hand gimbals like the Ronin-S.
So that brings me to the real question. Will this replace the other RED cameras in the wild?
This comes down to a few factors. Is this the only RED you have access to? What kind of material are you be shooting, and how do you need to capture it?
The answer, when you look at all these factors, is no.
Each RED camera has a unique role. The Komodo is a 6K camera with the ability to capture footage up to 40FPS. If you need to capture footage at a higher resolution, the Helium or Monstros (which also gives you a fullframe option) are still necessary. The sensor, while working admirably, is not as good as the Gemini in low light.
But if you’re shooting for 4K native delivery or just want to run with the smallest camera package possible for high-intensity shooting without rolling shutter issues, the Komodo is your answer. I can also see it as a mainstay for remote documentary filming, due to the ability to carry multiple days of power and media in a single backpack.
It can of course be an A camera in most situations if needed. The Komodo still shoots 6K resolution Redcode Raw and will no doubt become an indie film darling. For people wanting to get into the RED ecosystem, the Komodo is an obvious choice, given its absurdly low price point. If you’re already a RED owner, it can be an unbeatable B or C camera, rather than an outright replacement. But if I was buying a RED for the first time? The Komodo in a heartbeat.