RED’s Crimson Conquest: Nikon Acquires the Maverick Cinema Camera Maker

If there’s one company synonymous with boundary-pushing, bank account-demolishing cinema cameras, it’s RED Digital Cinema. From the game-changing RED One that sparked a digital video revolution in 2007 to the venerable DSMC2 line flexing silly resolutions like 8K, RED has basically been a one-company IMAX for the independent filmmaker set.

Which makes Nikon’s announcement today that it’s acquiring the entire company equal parts random and seismic. Yep, the 106-year-old staid camera stalwart just pulled off a badass corporate heist, nabbing RED and its stockpile of elite cinema tech.

It’s a wildly unlikely acquisition that seemingly materialized out of the blue. Year 2022, RED was still aggressively suing Nikon over alleged patent infringement related to the compression of RAW video files in Nikon’s Z9 mirrorless flagship. Nikon denied the claims and the case was eventually tossed, but it seemed doubtful the two companies would be breaking bread anytime soon.

Fast forward to today, and it turns out RED’s “resolution” was getting straight-up acquired. I’d say it’s a boss move, but knowing RED’s mercurial founder Jim Jannard, he probably told Nikon’s executives where to stick their offer at first.

For Nikon, it’s an unmistakable double-down on cutting-edge video tech as mirrorless cameras like the Z9 have evolved into hybrid stills/video power-houses. Owning RED gives them a new pipeline of elite video R&D while potentially clearing IP hurdles for RAW recording down the line.

But it also raises tons of questions. Will Nikon fold RED’s compact Komodo 6K cam into its lineup and switch it from Canon’s RF to its own Z-mount? What about all the other companies licensing RED’s proprietary REDCODE codec – from Apple to DJI? And just how much of RED’s cult-like Following will transfer their allegiances to Nikon’s own cinema efforts?

One thing’s for sure – the imaging industry just got a hell of a lot more interesting. RED always did things their own way. Now they’ve got the corporate backing of a mainstream giant, for better or worse. Let’s see if they can keep that renegade mojo intact.

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Max Hyland
Max Hyland
Long form contributor Apple iPhone, iPad, watch reviews, opinion, editorial

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