Red Digital Camera’s Hydrogen project is off to a shaky start. Hydrogen One, the first iteration of the smartphone, didn’t exactly thrill reviewers.

A lot of that had to do — ironically — with the camera. It wasn’t very good.

RED is known for its high-performance, high-end cinema cameras. They’re used on Hollywood productions. Stranger Things, for instance, is shot on RED. So for the Hydrogen to have an underwhelming camera is a bit surprising. At $1,300, the lofty asking price (for a smartphone) didn’t help matters.

RED founder Jim Jannard notes hiccups with a Chinese supplier that led to the problems.

He also says there’s a Hydrogen Two is already in the works. And that we can expect a better camera.

Let’s hope so.

In fact, I’m hoping the RED Hydrogen re-positions the phone/camera/device itself. I’d like to see a Pocket RED. One that shoots Redcode (R3D). That would give productions a small RED camera that can be easily used in tight spaces, on gimbals and drones. With Redcode and a quality sensor footage would then be easy to match across cameras.

In his update yesterday on a RED forum, Jannard said the Hydrogen project would be moved over to the RED team under the leadership of president Jarred Land. I see that as a possible admission that the whole VR/holographic aspect of the device will be shelved in favor of making the Hydrogen Two a more convention, yet portable, RED camera. Here’s hoping that’s the case.

I’d love to be able to shoot with such a portable RED camera (in place of the Panasonic GH5) when I’m travelling or when I need to be discrete in public spaces. Matching with our RED Dragon camera we use here on Stark Insider would presumably be easier, thanks again to Redcode — RED’s proprietary RAW compression technology which is the closest digital approximation of a digital negative that I’ve yet used.

HYDROGEN Update by Jim Jannard

July 23, 2019

HYDROGEN has been the single most exciting project I have ever worked on. It has also proven to be the single most challenging program I have ever been a part of.

While Oakley sunglasses and RED cameras were (and are) built in our own factories in Orange County, building a smartphone with challenging and new disruptive technologies at the RED factory just wasn’t possible given the competitive nature of the the market. We chose an ODM in China to prepare the HYDROGEN One for manufacture at Foxconn. While Foxconn has been fantastic, our ODM, which was responsible for the mechanical packaging of our design including new technologies along with all software integration with the Qualcomm processor, has significantly under-performed. Getting our ODM in China to finish the committed features and fix known issues on the HYDROGEN One has proven to be beyond challenging. Impossible actually. This has been irritating me to death and flooding our reactor.

For this reason, after months of vetting a new design to manufacture house, we have begun the work on the HYDROGEN Two, virtually from scratch, at a new ODM that is clearly more capable of building and supporting the product we (and our customers) demand. We also have put into place a new internal execution team along with world class design-partners that we have carefully selected. The HYDROGEN Two is being methodically designed and crafted to surprise and exceed expectations… again, just as you would expect from us.

Additionally, we eventually realized that the original camera module would have to change due to the fact our ODM was not going to competently complete the module that they committed and guaranteed to do. Our best option was to modify the program and bring it back into the RED house. We have completed the new and extraordinary sensor and redesigned the package. Jarred at RED will be posting about Komodo fairly soon. Its capability will vastly exceed the originally planned module. The HYDROGEN One and Two will integrate with this new camera. While it does not replace its big RED brothers, it will certainly be a complimentary camera for cinema grade images at the highest level at lower pricing.

We fully understand the frustrations of our customers since I am one as well. While issues have been the result of our original ODM’s short comings, we also understand that customers solely look to us for their satisfaction. We remain committed to taking care of our customers the best way we can given all the circumstances. To that end, every HYDROGEN One owner will get significant preferential treatment for the HYDROGEN Two and/or new Cinema Camera model, both in delivery allocations and pricing.

HYDROGEN is still the most exciting project I have ever worked on. We continue to be committed to further advancing the “image capture in your pocket” device as well as providing the highest quality image capture devices to more people than ever before.

We are not done…



Quality image capture in a mobile device appears to be an ongoing project for the Irvine-based camera company. Jannard finishes the update with this teaser:

HYDROGEN is still the most exciting project I have ever worked on. We continue to be committed to further advancing the “image capture in your pocket” device as well as providing the highest quality image capture devices to more people than ever before.

Let’s hope the “HYDROGEN Two and/or new Cinema Camera model” yields better results. Blackmagic (specifically with the Pocket 4K) and the bevy of reasonably priced full-frame mirrorless cameras from the likes of Panasonic, Sony and Canon might suggest there’s an increasing appetite among filmmakers and videographers for more nimble devices that can still capture quality 4K footage.