ARRI ALEXA XT BW Monochrome-InfraredSeems like it's all ARRI news lately, but the company has another new product coming out. We've talked a bit about the RED EPIC Monochrome camera that shoots only in black and white, and it gives spectacular results. Now, ARRI is coming right back with their own monochrome camera, which takes most of what people like about the current ALEXA, and pumps up the performance even more. Not only is this camera monochrome, but it's capable of shooting infrared with the switch of a filter. Check out some of the footage shot on the new B+W:

This music video was also shot on the camera:

Here are the specs:

  • Sensor Modes: 16:9, 14:3
  • Maximum number of sensor photo sites: 2880x2160
  • Exposure latitude (stops): 15
  • Base sensitivity (EI): 2000
  • White balance (fixed): 2000
  • Exposure Index (EI): 160 - 3200
  • Frame rate: 16:9: 0.75 - 120fps
  • Frame rate 4:3: 0.75 - 90fps
  • Sound level: < 19 db (A)
  • Electronic shutter angle (degrees): 5 - 358°
  • Weight: 8.7kg/19.2lbs
  • Electronic viewfinder: Yes
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • In-camera recording to SxS PRO cards: No
  • In-camera recording to XR Capture Drives: Yes
  • In-camera recording to CFast 2.0 cards: No
  • ARRIRAW recording: In-camera
  • In-camera ProRes HD recording: No
  • In-camera ProRes 2K recording: No
  • In-camera DNxHD HD recording: No
  • ProRes Pre-recording: No
  • Integrated CDL Server: Yes
  • Lens Data System: Yes
  • HD-SDI video output connectors: 4
  • 24 V accessory power connectors (RS): 3
  • Integrated wireless camera and lens control: Yes
  • Tilt and roll sensors: Yes
  • Electronic horizon: Yes
  • Behind the lens ND filter(18): BG39 (B+W), BG87C (IR pass)

Some more about the camera from the ARRI website (emphasis added):

Sensor configuration and filter system

The ALEXA XT B+W sensor assembly has no Bayer mask, optical low pass filter (OLPF) or IR block filter, allowing each photosite to capture the full spectrum of visible light and upping the base sensitivity to 2000 ASA. Images from the camera are therefore sharper and display more contrast than those from a standard ALEXA with the color wound down, delivering a classic black-and-white look that is very much like a 35 mm camera loaded with panchromatic film. In addition to black-and-white, the camera can also be easily configured to capture infrared. In this mode the camera only 'sees' the reflected, infrared, non-visible light. These images appear radically different, producing white foliage, blemish-free skin, black eye pupils and moody dark skies. Switching between these modes can be done easily through the use of two new interchangeable internal filters - a BG39 filter for stunning black-and-white or a BG87C infrared pass (visible light block filter) for dramatic infrared. 

Recording options

The ALEXA XT B+W utilizes the same in-camera ARRIRAW recording system as the ALEXA XT family, recording to 512 GB XR Capture Drives. The native resolution of ALEXA XT B+W images is the same as a regular ALEXA recording ARRIRAW - i.e 16:9 format at 2880 x 1620 and 4:3 format at 2880 x 2160. Spatial resolution, sharpness and image contrast however, are all improved over a regular color ALEXA XT. ProRes HD/2K and DNxHD recording is not supported in camera, but these file types can be quickly and efficiently generated off-line during ingest and archival using Codex VFS software that has been optimised for the ALEXA XT B+W.

Infrared is simply the light that humans can't perceive, but can be picked up by a camera sensor if you block the visible light (which is what's happening when you're using a lot of ND filters on a color image). It gives a really interesting look when you leave it in color, but it is more traditionally shot to be converted into black and white. This spot was made with an infrared ALEXA:

And another shot infrared:

Essentially what ARRI has done is created the ultimate monochrome camera. Not only are the specs above and beyond what the standard ALEXA is capable of, but it's also an infrared camera at the same time. RED has their EPIC Monochrome, but they also have some cameras converted to infrared. Here is a particularly interesting example shot on a RED infrared-converted EPIC, and then simply left in color in post:

So the topic always seems to come up regarding the cameras: why would you want to use this? It's a specialty camera for situations like above, and even though you may have more pinpoint control of channels shooting color for black and white, the images are just that much silkier when they originate this way (and that's ignoring the added sensitivity and dynamic range). With a traditional Bayer filter in front of your camera sensor (which almost all digital cameras have), you're losing resolution because colors have to be interpreted:


With the color filters removed, every single pixel is accounted for, and thus the image is essentially the true resolution on the spec page. RED's Monochrome camera has similar advantages, and now ARRI has their own solution. You do lose ProRes recording with this new model, so it's not going to be as quick of a workflow if you're used to that, but you can either transcode the RAW to 2.8K ProRes on the fly with the Codex Vault, or in post later with the ARRIRAW converter.

If you want to rent one in the US, ARRI CSC is offering it at various locations throughout the country. For those handful of you who want to buy one, it's likely going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 or more for a full package (hence the rental suggestion).