Nikon acquires RED Digital Cinema: what’s next?

Michelangelo Torres
4 min readMar 8, 2024

On March 7, 2024, an announcement shook the foundations of the film and video industry: Nikon Corporation officially acquired RED Digital Cinema. This strategic move marked a turning point in the sector, paving the way for an unprecedented collaboration between two titanic forces in the imaging world. It’s also surprising considering the lawsuit brought by RED right against the Japanese manufacture

With a long history of excellence in optics and photography, Nikon has established itself as one of the most renowned brands in the industry. On the other hand, RED Digital Cinema has quickly gained fame for its innovation and uncompromising image quality. The union of these two companies represents an epochal moment, promising to redefine the landscape of professional digital video cameras.

Some historical notes:

Nikon Corporation, one of the leading companies in the field of photography and optics, has a rich history of innovation and success. Founded in 1917 in Japan as Nippon Kogaku K.K., the company began by producing optics for microscopes and binoculars. However, in the following years, Nikon achieved worldwide fame with its cameras.

In 1948, Nikon introduced its first 35mm camera, the Nikon Model I, followed by a series of successful SLR cameras such as the Nikon F, launched in 1959. The Nikon F became an icon in photography, beloved by professionals for its robustness, reliability, and versatility. Over the years, Nikon has continued to innovate, introducing cutting-edge technologies in its cameras.

RED Digital Cinema, on the other hand, was founded in 2005 in the United States and quickly became a driving force in the world of professional digital video cameras. With groundbreaking products like the RED ONE 4K and the V-RAPTOR [X], RED has earned a prominent place in the film industry for its innovation and image quality.

Credits: TopSphere Media / Unps

The Acquisition:

The acquisition of RED by Nikon may seem surprising, considering past tensions between the two companies. However, this agreement marks a new era of collaboration and synergy. Nikon acquires 100% of RED’s shares, paving the way for a partnership that combines the expertise and resources of both companies.

According to Nikon’s press release, this move was motivated by the desire of both parties to meet customer needs and provide exceptional user experiences. By combining Nikon’s expertise in product development, reliability, and image processing with RED’s knowledge of cinematographic cameras and its image compression technology, the goal is to develop distinctive products in the professional digital video camera market.

Management of the REDCODE Raw License by Nikon:

An intriguing aspect of this acquisition is the management of the REDCODE Raw license by Nikon. This image compression technology, widely used in the film industry, could be a valuable resource for Nikon and its future products. The integration of REDCODE Raw into Nikon’s cameras could offer users the ability to record in a high-quality format directly from the camera, simplifying workflows and providing a convenient solution for professional cinematography.

Alternatively, Nikon could explore the possibility of licensing REDCODE Raw to other manufacturers or producing a compatible external recorder, opening up new opportunities in the industry and providing greater access to this innovative technology.

It would be particularly advantageous for filmmakers who can’t afford a RED camera and use editing software like Final Cut Pro for editing and DaVinci Resolve for grading. The integration of REDCODE Raw would allow for a smoother and more integrated workflow, eliminating the need for complicated workarounds to convert files (think about who shot on Braw and edits on FCP). This could significantly simplify the post-production process for editors working on platforms like Final Cut Pro, allowing them to focus more on creativity and less on file management.

Production of Accessible Cine Lenses by Nikon:

Another fascinating aspect of Nikon’s acquisition of RED Digital Cinema is the possibility of expanding into the production of accessible cine lenses. Nikon has a long tradition in the field of photographic optics, with its renowned Nikkor lenses appreciated by professionals and enthusiasts around the world, including indie filmmakers. Nikon Nikkor AI-S lenses, in particular, have gained considerable popularity for their optical quality and versatility.

Nikon’s experience in designing and manufacturing lenses could be a valuable asset in developing a new catalog of cine lenses aimed at a wide range of users, including indie filmmakers. With the expertise gained through the acquisition of RED Digital Cinema, Nikon could leverage its reputation and infrastructure to develop accessible cine lenses that offer high performance at a more affordable price, targeting the market segment of lenses like the recently released Zeiss Nano Prime by the German brand.

Credits: SIDDHARTHA DE

Conclusions:

Nikon’s acquisition of RED Digital Cinema offers a unique opportunity to explore new horizons in the film industry. The production of accessible cine lenses could be an important step towards democratizing professional cinematography, allowing a wide range of talents to realize their cinematic visions with high-quality and accessible tools. With its commitment to innovation and quality, Nikon could play a significant role in shaping the future of the film industry.

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Michelangelo Torres

Filmmaker, colorist, and motion graphic designer with a keen interest in short documentaries and brand films. My works at www.michelangelotorres.net