Video / Buying Guide

The Three Digital Cinema Cameras at The Heart of The ARRI Cinematic Universe

0Share

I can remember the SMPTE meeting that took place in 2010. It was a defining moment in digital capture, with discussions comparing three sensor-prism cameras and single-sensor cameras, all following the news that after 88 years, a prominent film lab in New York had decided to stop processing film. Then, ARRI showed the demo footage from its newest digital camera. The subject of the footage was exactly what we all asked for, but never seemed to get to see, until then. I’d love to write that you could hear the jaws hitting the floor, or wild cheers and applause, but that was so long ago now that all I can remember is dancers in white make-up against extremely bright backgrounds, and being able to see detail in their faces easily, detail in their darker clothes, and detail in the bright white backgrounds, which showed nary a hint of the usual yellow artifact that afflicted such video footage in the past. That first ALEXA had a beauty in the image, and simplicity of design. The ALEXA has come a long way since 2010, spawning new and improved versions, a documentary-style camera, as well as a small ALEXA with a carbon fiber body.

B&H Photo has always provided the widest variety of gear and, now, we here at B&H are thrilled to be able to offer ARRI’s three Digital Cinema Cameras to our customers: the ALEXA, THE AMIRA, and the ALEXA Mini.

ALEXA

At the core of the ALEXA is its single image sensor. The sensor is compatible with Super 35mm lenses, including vintage, as well as modern lenses, and it is the same width as a Super 35 film frame, which provides for the familiar cinematic depth of field. However, the sensor is taller than a Super 35 film frame, and this allows you to record an anamorphic image on a 4:3 sensor for an improved anamorphic image. Although technically, the sensor does not meet a 4K pixel count, pixel counts aren’t everything. More pixels don’t automatically make a better image, and the ALEXA proves this with the relatively large size of its pixels/photosites that strike a balance between resolution and image sharpness, coupled with high dynamic range, high sensitivity, and low noise. The color science, performance, and Dual Gain Architecture of the sensor prove that there is more to the image than just pixel count, and that is one reason why films shot on ARRI ALEXA cameras have been nominated for numerous Academy Awards in Cinematography. It isn’t just the sensor, though—there is a fair bit of image processing that goes on and, at 16-bits, transporting and processing the raw image data is no mean feat, but one the ALEXA pulls off beautifully—delivering you ProRes, DNxHD, or ARRIRAW, as well as HD-SDI for monitoring. The ALEXA SXT-W is the current flagship of the ALEXA lineup, with the W referring to the built-in wireless technology. One of the advantages of the Alexa is its simplicity of design, its upgradeable electronics, as well as internal and external recording that enable you to configure your camera to each shoot’s needs.

ALEXA

AMIRA

Cousin to the ALEXA is the ARRI AMIRA. Designed so you can shoot with an AMIRA right out of the box—you need only add a lens, battery, and recording media – the AMIRA was conceived as a documentary camera. However, the AMIRA is far more than an ENG camera and has exceeded its humble design origins. The AMIRA is a single-sensor camera that records to C-FAST 2.0 media at up to 100 FPS (200 FPS—AMIRA Advanced and Premium), and it is suitable for use on shoots ranging from corporate, TV dramas, low-budget films and, of course, documentaries. Available with a choice of PL, EF, and B4 lens mounts, optional accessories even add a 6G fiber back to the AMIRA, which allows it to be in a studio environment and interface with select Sony CCUs. It features the same proven sensor that is in the ALEXA, recording ProRes, which still provides you with post-production color-grading capabilities. It comes as standard shooting HD, but a license to shoot UHD is available, so the camera is then fully 4K UHD capable. Sliding dovetails allow you to adjust the camera’s shoulder-mounted position so you can find the perfect balance when shooting handheld. The OLED eyepiece provides critical viewing of your image with deep blacks, so you have a good idea of the contrast range of your image. For distant viewing, the foldaway LCD monitor comes in handy, provides a live view and access to camera functions. One of the AMIRA’s strengths is the in-camera grading features, and the AMIRA now ships with a “Look Library” built into the camera. This large catalog of LUTs can be applied by baking it into the recorded image, or you can instead choose to apply the LUT to the monitor output, leaving the original footage untouched for maximum post-production flexibility.

AMIRA

ALEXA Mini

The ALEXA Mini has quickly become the darling of the production world, with its popularity far exceeding the expectations of ARRI. Small, Lightweight, made with a carbon fiber chassis, and using the same sensor as the ALEXA, while recording the same formats as an ALEXA SXT (including ARRIRAW with 4:3 Open Gate) the ALEXA Mini becomes the perfect B camera when working with an ALEXA. Although designed to be lightweight, the Mini does not sacrifice strength, durability, or image stability, using titanium for the PL and sensor mounts. Originally conceived as a camera for gimbals and drones, the Mini can be controlled by attaching the ARRI version of the Transvideo HD5 LCD monitor and using the user button interface on the camera, or via the ARRI MVF-1 multi viewfinder, or by wireless remote control. Available with choice of PL, EF, and B4 lens mounts, once you’ve set up the Mini, you can remove the viewfinder or LCD, and just use the built-in Run/Stop button on the camera. This provides all the capabilities without the bulk of the viewing system. Although designed for lightweight applications, the Mini is fully featured, and can be built up into a shoulder-mounted camera rig or studio-style camera for use as an A camera. Like the AMIRA, the ALEXA Mini comes with ARRI’s Look Library, providing you with rapid access to a vast variety of premade LUTs, which can be viewed quickly on the camera, helping you to refine your look. As with the AMIRA, LUTs from the Look Library can be baked in, or sent as metadata to be worked with in post.

ALEXA mini

Wrapping it Up

With three cameras to choose from, ARRI has created a complete shooting ecosystem for high-end Digital Cinematography featuring world-class image quality and flexibility. Used to capture the images in big-budget films, as well as smaller films, the ALEXA, AMIRA, and ALEA Mini are powerful production tools worth considering for almost any project. The Studio at B&H can help you with your ARRI camera purchases, as well as a range of related ARRI services.

Close

Close

Close