RED Digital Cinema KOMODO 6K review: our honest thoughts

Table of contents

Likes and dislikes

What we like

Amazing smartphone connectivity
Redcode RAW
Large range of resolutions and
     framerates
Global shutter

What we don’t like

It requires additional rigging to be
    completely functional
It only a 3.5mm audio input
The dynamic range is lower than the     manufacturer claims

The bottom line

You wouldn’t expect a cinema camera to have industry-leading smartphone connectivity, but the KOMODO does and it’s a great competitive edge.  At under $6K, the RED DIGITAL CINEMA KOMODO 6K is the cheapest camera RED out on the market. It’s small, compact and captures 16-BIT REDCODE RAW to a CFast 2.0 card. Also, it has a small preview touchscreen and a battery mount. All you need is a lens, the body, media and battery. Yet, its boxy form factor is not a very ergonomic design. The screen is quite small, so rigging it out is a must. As for the image, it’s great and controllable with a smartphone.

All the details

The RED KOMODO shoots up to 6K at 50 frames per second (fps) and up to 120fps in 2K in REDCODE RAW. It also captures up to 4K 60fps in ProRes 422 or 120fps in 2K. Its mount is Canon’s full-frame mirrorless RF lens mount. Additionally, it has a single Cfast 2.0 media card slot, has autofocus support and uses two Canon BP-9 series batteries. At 2.1 pounds (lbs), the 4 inch by 4-inch square is a bit smaller in size and weight than the RED DSMC2 brain. The RED KOMODO offers a global shutter on its Super35 CMOS sensor. Also it has integrated Wi-Fi for industry-leading smartphone functionality — livestream from the camera through cell phone connectivity or existing network infrastructure.

Image quality

The last RED camera we reviewed was the RED RAVEN, their first attempt at a somewhat affordable camera. The RED RAVEN offers REDCODE RAW, but the image was not as impressive as you’d expect from RED. So when we picked up the KOMODO, we expected the feature set but didn’t know if we’d like the image. On our maiden voyage with the camera, we took it out to see what we could capture.

We found a nice set of flowers to shoot and were very pleased with the image. We then transferred the footage to our computer and did a quick grade. Using the same LUT in camera as we did in post brought the footage to life. When shooting our subject indoors, the camera looked great too. When shooting under high-key lighting, the skin tones and color replication look great.

It’s important to know when noise enters the image. Noise in the KOMODO begins at ISO1600 and is acceptable up to ISO3200. Above that, the noise begins to color shift and becomes more prominent. The RED KOMODO performs at its best when light is abundant.

When it comes to dynamic range, RED states 16+ stops of dynamic range. Our tests didn’t show that. Instead, they showed 13+ stops. Our test with the DSC XYLA 21 dynamic range chart shows only 13 stops. Any information outside of 13 stops of light is unlikely to have any information or detail.

Whenever a camera company uses the word RAW, they sell it to you like it’s REDCODE RAW, but no RAW is as good as REDCODE RAW. First off, it’s 16-bit. Second, its compression is very efficient. REDCODE offers three compression types — all approved for Netflix production. Of all the types, HQ (high quality) is the type that delivers the best compression quality. In HQ, you’ll get 30 minutes on a 512 Gigabyte (GB) CFast 2.0 card. RED qualifies HQ for VFX work where you need extreme detail or when you need to pull stills from motion. Next is MQ — or medium quality. Non-VFX cinema and high-end TV productions typically use MQ. In MQ, a 512GB card can capture up to 48 minutes. Last up is LQ — or low quality. In LQ, it records 77 minutes on a 512GB card. RED says its intended use is for TV, online content, documentary, interviews, and long takes. 

Camera control and rigging

Phone connectivity

KOMODO’s smartphone connectivity is the best we’ve ever experienced. It’s clear RED gained a lot of knowledge from their ill-fated smartphone — the RED Hydrogen One — and applied it to the KOMODO. The connectivity comes from the RED Control app. We used an iPhone Xs Max, but the app is also available for Android. The app gives you full menu control. In the app, you can change the resolution and format, preview shots or adjust exposure controls. You can also pull focus, monitor audio or format your media using the app. Shoot assists are available too. Even more, multiple users can connect to it from separate devices. Every user gets the ability to customize and control different aspects of the camera. Because of its Wifi connection, you can connect to it from your phone called Ad Hoc mode. In this mode, you can use your phone to access the internet and stream from it. Better yet, for better stability, the camera connects to a Wifi network. Once connected to the internet, access to the camera is obtained via an IP address.

Rigging

The RED KOMODO is a square box. All you need is a lens, media and a battery, but who would shoot like that? It needs rigging to make it work best in its chosen workflow. We tested the camera with the Wooden Camera Pro (V-Mount) KOMODO kit. It worked very well and made the RED KOMODO much more usable. The kit was flexible and we liked that. One big benefit is being able to quickly remove the camera from place to place using the rigging. The movement of the battery helped balance the rig when using different lenses. The battery adjusts to keep the best center of gravity. We didn’t have the Canon batteries the camera used natively, so we needed a mount for a V-mount battery. Although the camera has a monitor and it’s nice, it’s small. Monitoring is done with a SmallHD Indie 7 because it is powered using D-tap from the v-mount battery and its SDI input. It was a great combination. If you are thinking about buying this camera, make sure to set aside 25-35% of your budget for accessories like these.

Final thoughts

The image from the KOMODO is fantastic. With REDCODE RAW and amazing phone connectivity, the camera blew us away. The camera needs a handle, rails and a monitor. Beware of hidden costs outside of the camera. The KOMODO makes for a great “A” camera or a crash cam when paired alongside a more expensive RED camera. The RED KOMODO impressed us a lot.

RECOMMENDED USES:

  • Narrative Filmmaking
    • Any project that requires extensive planning and takes on a cinematic aesthetic
  • Corporate and Event Videography
    • Situations where ease of use and reliability is more important than the film look
  • Marketing Video Production
    • Short-form video produced on a schedule

Specs:

Sensor type:KOMODO® 19.9 mp super 35mm global shutter cmos
Effective pixels:6144 x 3240
Sensor size:27.03 mm x 14.26 mm (diagonal: 30.56mm)
Mount type:Canon RF mount
Max data rates:up to 280 mb/s on cfast 2.0 media cards
REDCODE® RAW max frame rates: 40 fps at 6k 17:9 (6144 x 3240)
50 fps at 6k 2.4:1 (6144 x 2592)
48 fps at 5k 17:9 (5120 x 2700)
60 fps at 4k 17:9 (4096 x 2160)
120 fps at 2k 17:9 (2048 x 1080)
Playback frame rates (project time base):23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60 fps, all resolutions
Best available REDCODE® settings: REDCODE HQ, MQ and LQ at 6k 17:9 (6144 x 3240) up to 40 fps
REDCODE HQ, MQ and LQ at 4k 17:9 (4096 x 2160) up to 60 fps
REDCODE HQ, MQ and LQ at 2k 17:9 (2048 x 1080) up to 120 fps
REDCODE® RAW
Acquisition formats: 6k 17:9 (6144 x 3240), 2.4:1 and 16:9
5k 17:9 (5120 x 2700)
4k 17:9 (4096 x 2160)
2k 17:9 (2048 x 1080)
Apple ProRes: 4k (4096 × 2160) at ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 422 up to 60 fps
2k (2048 × 1080) at ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 422 up to 120 fps
Construction: aluminum alloy
Weight:2.10 lbs (without body cap and cfast card)
Battery type: two slots for bp-9xx series batteries
Dc power input: +7 to +17 v dc via the integrated 2-pin dc-in port
Color management: image processing pipeline 2 (ipp2)
Audio: integrated dual channel digital mono microphones, uncompressed, 24-bit 48 khz
Additional dual channel: integrated 3.5mm audio jack, uncompressed, 24-bit 48 khz
Remote control: wifi for camera control via interchangeable antenna with SMA connection, genlock, timecode-in, GPIO and ctrl (rs232) via the integrated 9-pin ext port
Wired control: komodo link adaptor, using usb-c or gigabit ethernet (compatible usb-c to ethernet adapter1 required) allowing camera control and live mjpeg preview video feed
Monitor outputs: 12G-SDI with 6G-SDI, 3G-SDI and 1.5G-SDI modes
12G-SDI: up to 4096 x 2160 4:2:2 for 60p
6G-SDI: up to 4096 x 2160 4:2:2 for 30p
3G-SDI: up to 2048 x 1080 4:2:2 for 60p
1.5G-SDI: up to 2048 x 1080 4:2:2 for 30p, 24p
SMPTE timecode, HANC metadata, 24-bit 48 khz audio
Monitor options: integrated 2.9″ 1440×1440 touchscreen lcd with preview and camera control
Wireless live preview video feed: 2.4ghz/5ghz wifi for framing