The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has posted a roughly comparable test of the Red One vs Canon’s $2700 5D MK2 DSLR camera. Results have not yet been posted in English, but here is Google’s translation and a number of still frames for comparison. Scenes were deliberately lit to stress the cameras. They’ve also posted a video clip (direct link, MP4) as well as a torrent of all the original footage for your perusal and color correction abuse. Here’s an English-translated excerpt of their 5D conclusions:

Positive aspects of the Canon 5D Mark II
- Low noise at low light
- Even in well-lit pictures, there was less noise in the shadow parties in relation to RED
- Cheap (RED is about ten times more expensive)
- Small and light
- Very robust (can withstand a lot of humidity, cold, warm, kind and stresses)
- Access to very good optics

Negative aspects of the Canon 5D Mark II
- Lack of manual settings
- Hard compressed recording format with low dynamics
- Only 30 frames per. seconds
- Difficult to focus
- Not a headphone jack to check sound

What’s the bottom line? By my eye, the Red One clearly shows more dynamic range, and more detail in the lows. The 5D can resolve an image in lower light and tends to have cleaner blacks. It’s an odd comparison to make, given that the Canon is roughly 8-10x less than a basic Red kit, and there aren’t a lot of common attributes between the two cameras. With no real manual controls, the I don’t see potential Red owners dumping their orders for the Canon except perhaps in specific, niche situations. Nevertheless, this comparison was bound to happen, and now you can draw your own conclusions.


12 Responses to “Informal Shootout: Canon 5D MKII vs Red One”  

  1. 1 Anders

    As you say this is an odd comparison to make. They mention that for the price of one of the lenses they use, you can buy 5 Canons ;)
    The guy shooting the test is one of Norways top cinematographers, and one of the first things he says is that you won’t see the Canon on big filmproductions any time soon. This because of the lack of manual control. You can see them struggling to lock the exposure at the desired settings.

    He is also impressed that the Canon can produce usable images in low light conditions where the Red didn’t have a chance.

  2. 2 danap

    In this NRK test, only the in-cam Standard Picture Style was used, which yields stronger contrast than desired. Additionally, the 16-235 squeeze issue of the dynamic range of the 5D picture (a quirk discussed in depth in various forums) was not addressed correctly after the test. The result was that the full picture info of the 5D was not exploited optimally. There is actually more highlights and dark tone info available than displayed in the test footage of nrkbeta.no. The 5D Mark II can do better. But anyhow, thank you NRK, the most progressive and user-friendly broadcasting channel in the non-Bush zones of this planet,.

  3. 3 danap

    Oh, I forgot: I use Nikon lenses with my 5D. They are gorgeous, and allow me full aperture control. Repeat: full aperture control. The last challenge is controlling the shutter fully. It can be done too.

  4. 4 Matthew Jeppsen

    Full aperture control is also available when using a full-manual Canon lens. But I know a guy who uses the Nikon > Canon adapter as well, and he seems to have no issues so far (with the exception of the electronics not working on the lens)

    -Matt

  5. 5 Jordan Oplinger

    Great catch! I love the 5D, but it’s just not a production camera. The auto exposure is horrid, and the “aperture hacks” are a pain considering you have to do the whole dance after every take.

    Also- dugg for use of “perusal”

  6. 6 Jordan Oplinger

    @Danap

    does the AF function work with the Nikon lenses? Even if it is a prefocus, it comes in handy.

  7. 7 danap

    @Jordan
    Only the focus confirmation signal using manual focus if you use an adapter with a focus confirmation chip. Quite useful!

  8. 8 Dan

    Not to nitpick, but I think you mean “the Canon is roughly 1/8 to 1/10th the price of the basic Red kit” or “the basic Red One is 8-10x the price of the Canon”

  9. 9 danap

    Now with the solving of the black crushing issue (QuickTime upgrade) one of the “con” issues against the 5DMKII (black crushing) has been removed from the list as having nothing to do with the Canon in-cam firmware, but as a decoding bug in earlier QuickTime version and (still) in other codecs used in PCs and Mac. The last issues to solve are the ISO and shutter speed issues. The ISO can be tweaked easily, so the shutter speed.

    To throw some oil on the fire, my experience is that 30p is not that bad after all. All the people I’ve asked which of four versions of the same footage (2 identical 30p + 2 identical 24p recoded versions) answered that all 4 were 100% identical. And please stop to look languishingly at the “broadcasting requirements” … these market rulers may soon be all economically dead and most of the stuff you will produce will eventually end on the net where any variant of framerates will be disgested without problem.

    There is a lot of sectarian religion in all this 24p superstition amplified and echoed ad nauseam by all these pubertal and gregarious film-school offsprings with a limited capacity for independent thinking and creative risk-taking. Orson Welles, JeanRouch, John Cassavetes, Robert Flaherty would be more than content with having a 5DMKII than the cams they had in their time. OK the RED is a nice cam (my Sony EX1 too), but it is not an absolute precondition to do good cinematography. I feel that all this debate about his Holiness TwentyFourPee And FourKays is the kind of discourse which reveals a far too submissive attitude toward the regime imposed by the US majors and US broadcasting companies.

    There’s still a world of opportunities using the 5DMKII and create artistic and documentary masterpieces, which will be remembered and screened in two generations.

    Art lies in the resistance of the material… the RED is so heavy to carry over the Antarctic with its 15kg SACHTLER fluid, computer, 70kg battery, 3 kg zoom, 10kg mattebox, 15kg steadicam,100 liter of petrol for the electrogen group to recharge the 3 x 2kgbatteries 39kg manual, 3 kg viewfinder and asbesto gloves to protect the DOP from burning his/her hands on the cam body :-)

  10. 10 danap

    …I forgot the satellite phone and its batteries to reach the Jim Jannard’s RED hotline to solve the bugs from Mount Erebus.

  11. 11 danap

    … oops, I forgot the satellite phone to reach Jim Janard’s RED hotline to deal with the bugs while crossing the Transantarctic Range…

  12. 12 Adlai Grayson

    We recieved the Canon 5D on 4/02/09. When we recieve the Redrock Cinema Bundle, we will kick some red butt.

    Thanks

    Adlai