RED Carbon Fiber Weapon tested by the Australian Cinematography Society

The ACS Technical Committee and FXPHD have done an “Introductory Video” looking at RED’s Carbon Fiber Weapon. The video looks at the new features, performance levels and where the new camera sits in the production ecosystem. Ben Allan ACS narrates the test video.

Included are some specific tests to see how the tweaks on the Dragon sensor and upgraded signal processing improve the Weapon’s dynamic range performance over previous Red’s Epic Dragon.

The committee shot overexposed and underexposed test images, then graded back to nominal exposure for a comparative dynamic range test. The test used a “real world” human subject rather than charts so this is a more practical, rather than scientific, result. An Alexa XT was used as the benchmark for comparisons as it’s considered the gold standard for Dynamic range. All three cameras used the same 85mm Zeiss Master Prime lens. The camera position was adjusted to compensate for the different sensors. The lighting consisted of a 2.5 and 1.3KW HMI, both through a 6×6 diffusion. All cameras worked from a base ISO of 800.


We found that the Dragon sensor in the Weapon is a good half stop quieter in the shadows compared to the Epic Dragon. There is also a small improvement in the highlights as well. This puts the Weapon in the top performance bracket for dynamic range, only about a stop short of the Alexa’s world leading dynamic range – which remains an impressive achievement.

On a general note it seems that RED has listened to its users base and addressed the weak points of the Epic camera. In testing we found the following:

Better form factor both lighter and quieter and cooler running.

Better module and expansion options

More recording Bandwidth and faster media means less compression at high frame rates and faster downloads.

Better PL mount and interchangeable optical low pass filter (OLPF) latching mechanism

Better noise performance, more dynamic range with CMOS smear suppressed

ProRes recording up to 4K on the carbon fibre model

Support for LUTs

Better calibrations/auto cal options

We look forward to the RED Weapon joining the production family and are excited by the future of this camera. In the next few months there will be a full-frame or VistaVision option for the Dragon Sensor – offering widely accessible large sensor photography in a professional cinema camera for the first time. Further down the track RED say they will allow for a further upgrade once they develop the next generation of sensors, hopefully taking the Weapon camera to the next level.

Cinematographers now have many amazing digital cameras to choose from. It was only ten years ago that digital cinema cameras arrived with the un-purchasable tape based Arri D20 and Panavision’s Genesis.

The ACS would like to qualify that any test shoot is specific to the nature of the shot(s) in that particular test and it is dangerous to extrapolate too far. While we believe our results are indicative they are not comprehensive nor definitive and we always encourage shooters to do their own tests.

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