Over the past few years, DxOMark's tests and scores have provided a numerical measure for the Raw image quality potential of cameras. They've therefore been debated at some length by enthusiasts looking to see where their favourite model stands in the rankings. Now there's a new DxOMark Sensor score champion, but perhaps surprisingly, the first camera to break the 100-point barrier isn't a full frame model from Nikon or Sony, but the RED Epic Dragon movie camera. How did it manage that? 

The enthusiastically-named RED Epic Dragon is capable of 6K movie recording at 85fps, output in a proprietary REDCODE RAW format from a 19MP, APS-H size Bayer sensor.

Of course, what's really interesting isn't so much the RED Epic Dragon's epic score, but how it was achieved. DxOMark provides a detailed analysis of the data in an unusually extensive review (click the link above to read it), but in short the sensor exhibits remarkably low read noise. This results in record-breaking scores for both Dynamic Range and Color Depth, at 14.8 Ev and 26.5 bits respectively. In turn this places the Epic Dragon fully 6 points ahead of the previous champion, the Nikon D800, which offers 14.4 Ev Dynamic Range and 25.3 bits color depth to give a DxOMark Sensor score of 95. The Epic Dragon's slightly smaller sensor means it doesn't do quite so well for low-light ISO though, where it comes 10th in the overall rankings.

So what does this all mean for the man in the street? Given that the RED is primarily a movie camera and costs $29000 for the body alone (with plenty more accessories needed to make a fully-functional video setup), perhaps not all that much. And there's a caveat to DxOMark's findings - the test data hasn't been analysed in exactly the same way, as RED's proprietary REDCODE format doesn't provide direct access to the Bayer pattern data.

However, what certainly is interesting is how these results appear to show that there's still plenty of room for improvement with conventional Bayer CMOS sensors. You may not get your hands on a camera with quite such a capable sensor for a while yet, but RED has apparently shown that the potential is there. For photographers who demand ever-improved technical quality from their RAW files, that can only be something to look forward to. 

The RED Epic Dragon dressed-up in a full video rig