Raw 5D Mark III vs Red Scarlet for 1080p delivery


Red shooter Ryan Lightbourn has been shooting with the Red Scarlet-X and raw 5D Mark III on the same production. His aerial shots reveal very little difference between the cameras but also some striking observations regarding the 5D Mark III’s raw prowess.

How did it do?

  • Less noisy – cleaner in the shadows
  • Resolves equal detail at 1080p to the Scarlet-X even when the Scarlet captures at 4K and the footage is downsampled to 1080p
  • Smaller and lighter for rigging making it more agile than the already compact by cinema camera standards Scarlet-X
  • No fan and does not require an external battery solution
  • Full frame

As you can see it is obvious the 5D Mark III intercuts with Scarlet on the same shoot, therefore likely it will intercut fine with the Alexa as well providing you have the grading chops to match them.

The 5D Mark III is slightly sharper than the Scarlet when you look at the image at 1:1. That is because the 5D Mark III’s sensor output seems to have a higher micro contrast and it’s possible the OLPF is stronger on the Scalret-X. To match the footage it helps to reduce contrast and soften up the 5D Mark III output very slightly in post unless you want a more punchy look in the first place.

Indeed most of the image characteristics come down to how the raw footage is demosaiced (debayered) and processed in post by the user. The best debayer currently is ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). Since it runs in post rather than on the camera like the Scarlet, the 5D Mark III’s raw footage benefits from more horse power being thrown at it. You also have the option of uncompressed raw, whilst the Scarlet only shoots compressed.


Here’s Ryan’s 1:1 crop of the footage.

There are some interesting comments from Ryan on Vimeo. Bear in mind that Canon reps (probably in the sales and marketing area) are in no way offering an official view of Canon, the company. These are off the cuff remarks.

“I talked to the Canon reps at InfoComm ’13 in Orlando about the safety of the hack…you pretty much have nothing to worry about. They didn’t seem to pleased about it though! They said they’re mostly upset because it’s ‘interfering with their R&D’. I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time…should have asked.”

Poor Canon. They get this raw video firmware for free, pitching the 5D Mark III into the same league as a $14,000 Red, which in turn encourages many to go out and buy their cameras and they are really “upset”.

Let’s see if they are still upset when they realise it is having zero affect on their Cinema EOS sales.

The rest you already know – the Scarlet does give you some advantages for the ready to shoot price of approximately $14,000 compared to the 5D Mark III’s $4000 but that the DSLR can even be compared is exciting enough!

Scarlet compresses raw to SSD media rather than doing uncompressed to Compact Flash. The 5D Mark III needs to recycle a 64GB CF card after rolling for 12 minutes like a film reel. My solution is to offload via USB 3.0 to a MacBook Air with 2TB 2.5″ USB HDD. (12 minutes of footage takes 12 minutes to come off the card).

It is common with Red shoots to have a data manager on location to deal with the files there too so in respect to data handling they’re both about as practical as each other, which may surprise some who see the 5D Mark III as merely a ‘hack’ and raw awkward to deal with.

4K is useful for future proofing your footage or cropping in post and it will certainly be more detailed if the viewer is close enough and the screen is large enough. However such audience luxuries are still rare in 2013. The Scarlet has some useful ergonomics and better connectivity such as XLR whilst the 5D Mark III has consumer audio and HD connections, so that is also something to consider.

Thanks to Ryan for the test.

Some advice for viewing the footage – it has been cropped to 2.4:1 with a 15% Adobe warp stabiliser applied in post. In the download section on the Vimeo page for the video, obtain the best quality file by clicking “Original .MOV file (1920×818 / 169MB)”. Vimeo won’t show this link if you are not logged in. The download options for non-Plus members are limited to highly compressed footage (the same the streaming player users).

Source: Ryan Lightbourn (DVXUser forum) via Cinema5D