I've been shooting with RED pretty much exclusively for more than three years now, but when I pre-ordered my RED Scarlet-X back when it was released, it was THE ONLY affordable RAW recording cinema camera on the market. The one reason I put down more money than I actually had was for 16-bit RAW moving images...not 4K (or let's be honest, 3.2K)...not because red-fan-boys told me to and certainly not because I wanted brand recognition. I still love my RED and I'm still trying to master the thing! But I never planned on being a "RED SHOOTER"...the plan was, and still is, to create images that express what I can't say. It's a wonderful thing :)
In the past few years, more and more camera companies have been motivated to produce cameras that deliver similar specs, and this is exciting :) Although, the first chance I've had to shoot anything other than RED, in RAW mode didn't come until Magic Lantern hacked the 5D Mark II (amazing!)...but then recently, the opportunity to play with a Sony F55 came up when Grass Valley asked me to shoot some content for the NAB Show in Vegas. With 3 days and no notice, a tiny, tiny budget (after camera & lens rental I had enough for a tennis racket, a ball, some food and transport) and no idea what to shoot....I began brain-storming, but specifically brainstorming how I could make the most of the camera and it's capabilities.
Let's take a brief look at the cameras specs for a second, because as much as I hate "this camera is better than that camera" debates, there really are some great things about the Sony that attracted me to it, and motivated me to shoot slow motion specifically- things that RED (and I'm talking RED Epic-X in this case) just doesn't quite deliver.
When it comes to latitude, detail and bit depth, the RED Epic-X and Sony F55 are pretty close. Close enough not to worry about, as far as I'm concerned. I know I can get beautiful images from both cameras but let's look at some of the things the Sony address's when comparing it to a RED Epic-X, especially since the content I chose to shoot for NAB was slow motion, and my camera options weren't huge considering I didn't want to shoot anything higher than 300fps (this time round).
This by far is my biggest annoyance with RED. Even when I put my deposit down for the camera years ago, I remember thinking "Man, I won't even need to worry about shooting 4K. 2K is plenty enough! This camera is gonna be freaking awesome!". And no doubt, the camera is awesome, but the way it records different resolutions is not. When you switch resolutions on a RED, any RED, it literally crops the image to record a smaller portion of the sensor. This sucks for many reasons....larger noise pattern, less resolution and detail, and let's not forget that literal CROP! For example, a 50mm lens shooting at 2K on a RED Scarlet-X (or RED Epic-X) see's the same field of view (roughly) as a 173mm lens!! That's a crop factor of 3.46x!!! And sure, it is POSSIBLE to shoot with such a crazy crop, but let's not forget the other more significant pitfalls - larger noise patters (like seriously....much larger) and less detail (like seriously, way less detail).
The Sony on the other hand has the option to either crop in like the RED (which can be useful for extra reach), or down-sample (in camera) the full resolution image to 2K. The crop factor doesn't change, noise patterns are now SMALLER and detail is now SHARPER...plus...there's the ability to record more frames per second...10-times more in fact :)
Although RED came up with the motion mount, which is an ingenious invention, their sensors do suffer from rolling shutter - although be it quite minimal, it's still noticeable when shooting hand held on a long-ish lens or when strobes go off in frame (camera flash for example). The Sony on the other hand, uses a global shutter, so you don't get these artefacts. Just another thing I don't have to worry about!
Shooting with quality ND filers is definitely something I encourage and I myself have spent stupid amounts of money on a set of Schneider 4x4's for my own kit. But sometimes, having to change ND can be a pain....especially when your camera is wrapped in plastic, you don't have an AC around and it's raining...