March 7, 2024 ·

Swindy

In a groundbreaking move that’s sending shockwaves through the digital imaging world, Nikon, the iconic camera brand, announced its acquisition of RED, the pioneering American cinema camera manufacturer.

This merger promises to reshape the industry of photography and videography, blurring the lines between these two realms even more and ushering a new era of competition and innovation.

For those unfamiliar with RED’s legacy, this maverick company burst onto the scene in 2005 with the release of the RED ONE camera, a true market disruptor that brought high-quality cinema within reach of independent filmmakers. It was a camera that brought a seriousness to independent fimmaking giving storytellers an alternative. When the RED ONE was released it gave access for budding cinematographers (like myself) to affordably use cinema PL mounted lenses and shoot at 24p, and of course RAW.

Since then, RED’s cameras have become a widely used in the film industry, capturing the visuals in well known movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “Captain Marvel”, “The Hobbit” and numerous critically acclaimed TV shows, including “Squid Game,” “Mindhunter,” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” Nature Documentaries such as “Our Planet:2” and “Animal Journeys” used RED’s as well.

Nikon’s decision to acquire RED is a clear testament to the company’s ambition to be on top of the industry of high-end video production. RED brought up legal issues with Nikon over Nikon’s video codec use and the case was dimissed in 2023. Here we are a year later with Nikon purchasing RED.

While the exact terms of the deal are undisclosed, one thing is for certain: Nikon is doubling down on its commitment to pushing the boundaries of their digital imaging capabilities.

Imagine…. a future where Nikon’s legendary expertise in optics, functionality, and reliability, is combined with RED’s amazing video compression, color science, sensor technologies, and dedication to future innovative products. The possibilities are really exciting.

One area main area of integration will be probably be RED’s REDCODE RAW video codec into Nikon’s imaging pipeline. This proprietary wavelet-based compression algorithm has long been respected for its ability to capture high-fidelity video with manageable file sizes. So Nikon shooters could be gaining access to cinema-grade video without the storage penalties typically associated with RAW video formats. The impact for both professionals and enthusiasts alike could be huge. It’s my understanding that this will make it easier for many editing programs that now read RedCode Raw.

This certainly puts Nikon in a position to compete with SONY Cinema and their Sony Burano and Sony A9III. Will we see a cinema production camera out of Nikon?

Sensor Architecture: RED’s mastery in sensor design, particularly with the HELIUM 8K and MONSTRO 8K VV sensors, brings us high resolution with wide dynamic range capabilities. Nikon could use RED’s super 35mm and full-frame sensor technologies to further develop DSLR and mirrorless cameras with their enhanced pixel architecture. They might even adopt RED’s techniques for on-sensor phase detection to improve autofocus in video modes, a feature currently lacking in Nikon’s lineup.

The merger could also create new forms of “modular” camera systems. Drawing inspiration from RED’s DSMC (Digital Stills and Motion Camera) lineup, RED from the beginning has been a company that has let the user customize the camera system that works best for their style and budget (switchable lens mounts, sensors).

With the merger, we could see the ability for a creator to switch the capabilities of their camera to best capture the subject material.

We could – depending on the day – be both photographers and videographers- and customize our Nikon cameras with interchangeable sensors, mounts, and other “doo-dads”, and tailoring our rigs to suit our specific needs.

The crossover and customization mentality could be huge for today’s evolvoing industry.

And what’s to come of autofocus and electronic viewfinder (EVF) technologies? Nikon’s expertise in hybrid autofocus could be taken to new heights by integrating RED’s high-resolution video capture capabilities, perhaps leading to the development of autofocus algorithms optimized for video. This could develop real competition to Sony’s stronghold on the auto focus video lens systems.

What could this mean for still photographers?

This could mean enhanced dynamic range, resolution, and low-light capabilities for Nikon cameras, bringing RED’s expertise in these areas. With RED’s background in producing large format global shutter cinema cameras and compact systems like the KOMODO line, Nikon photographers might soon experience an overall better low light performing, global shutter sensor.

Meanwhile, RED’s high-resolution display technology could really improve Nikon’s EVFs, offering a better viewing capturing experience.

While we don’t know exactly what will come of it, one thing is certain: the Nikon-RED merger represents what could signal a shift in the industry.

The potential for innovation in sensor technology, video compression, modularity, autofocus systems, and connectivity means we are in an exciting time for possible new progress in imaging technology.

As Nikon integrates RED’s cinema “know-how” into its photographic heritage, this is a historical moment in time in digital imaging – where the boundaries between still photography and motion picture blur even more, creating a hybrid ecosystem that will cater to the next generation of visual storytellers.

References:

www.nikon.com/company/news (Nikon’s press release on acquiring RED)

petapixel.com/2022/05/26/red-sues-nikon-for-infringing-on-its-video-compression-patents/

ymcinema.com/2023/04/27/red-vs-nikon-case-dismissed/

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Jon 'Swindy' Swindall, based in Atlanta, GA, is a seasoned photographer, cinematographer, and skilled drone pilot, known for his dynamic visual storytelling and passion for capturing the world's diverse beauty through his lens. Sr. Editor Click, connect, and create at Luminous Landscape.

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