Recently I teamed up with my friend and fellow cinematographer Derek Cohan to test out the new Helium sensor by Red Digital Cinema. The new sensor is in the Red Weapon and Epic-W camera bodies. We put the Helium up against the Dragon sensor side by side to see what differences we could spot.
All of the tests were shot with the same lenses, the Sigma Art 50-100 zooms. To light we used a 500w china ball and a Lightmat 4. We used both the Low Light and skin tone optical low pass filters. The Helium was shot at 8K full frame and the Dragon was shot at 6K full frame. Both of these cameras were shot with with older color science Red Gamma 4 and Dragon Color 2. I expect more impressive results with the new IPP2 color science and workflow.
In the following images the Helium sensor is on the top and the Dragon is below.
What did this show us?
The first thing I noticed was just how similar these two sensors really are. The differences are there but very subtle.
The Helium appears to be a little more saturated then the Dragon sensor. It also appears that the Helium comes across with a slight green tint. Sharpness is also a little more apparent in the Helium coming down from 8K, but almost identical when down sampled to 2k. The Dragon held up really well but fell short with it's signal to noise ratio. The Helium is just so clean in it's noise.
I really think that these two cameras could be cut side by side on most projects. A difference in lenses would be more apparent then a difference between these two looks. I will mention that the Helium will hold up it's image longer, when shooting in a low light environment or for visual effects work.