ARRI is Apparently Working on a 6K Super 35mm ALEXA

ARRI might have already announced a 6K camera, but there is potentially a new one on the horizon.

We have now heard from multiple sources (more than just the one source from about a week ago) that a 6K camera with a Super 35mm sensor is coming sooner rather than later (an announcement could come this year). Supposedly part of the reason for the new SXT camera is not just for internal 4K/UHD, but because the electronics will be powerful enough to handle a 6K sensor. Keep in mind we don't have all the details yet, but these are pretty strong rumors from reliable sources.

They've also mentioned that the current ALEXA sensor in the SXT will be upgradeable to this new 6K sensor, which, if true, would be the first time that the sensor on an ARRI camera is upgradeable in this generation. At this point moving to a higher-res Super 35mm sensor is the right move for ARRI, even if plenty are happy with the current ALEXA and not many high-end projects are finished in 4K yet. There will come a time where major features all want 4K finishes, and they want the best quality possible, not just an upscaled 3.4K image with no room for cropping or stabilization. The ALEXA 65 will likely remain an ARRI rental only, so having an ARRI 6K Super 35mm camera that rental houses and owner/ops can actually purchase will be huge. 

We don't have reliable specs yet, but this would probably be an entirely new sensor, because the pixel pitch of the current ALEV III sensor means that getting to 6K would make the sensor way too big for Super 35mm lenses. While the ALEXA 65 seems to be three ALEV III sensors put together (hence the A3X name), 6K on Super 35mm has to have much smaller pixels, as we can see with the RED DRAGON sensor. 

ARRI ALEXA ALEV III Sensor

  • Sensor Size: 28.17mm x 18.13mm
  • Sensor Resolution: 3414 x 2198
  • Pixel Size: .00825mm

ARRI ALEXA 65 A3X Sensor

  • Sensor Size: 54.12mm x 25.58mm
  • Sensor Resolution: 6560 x 3102
  • Pixel Size: .00825mm

RED DRAGON Sensor

  • Sensor Size: 30.7mm x 15.8mm
  • Sensor Resolution: 6144 x 3160
  • Pixel Size: .004996mm

I would expect a new ARRI sensor to have a similar pixel pitch as the DRAGON, potentially smaller if they keep the physical sensor size the same as the ALEXA. Going to this kind of resolution would be a return to what ARRI has harped on since the beginning, that oversampling is the best way to get a proper image (and something Sony also did with the F65). When you're working with 6K (and your final output is 4K), you're getting a much better image, because single sensor cameras have to interpolate colors between pixels, since each pixel can only represent one color (red, blue, or green). 

The thing that has been on ARRI's side since they started producing the ALEXA is image quality. Regardless of the resolution, they've had one of the most pleasing images and have been one of the easiest cameras to work with. They've stated numerous times that they didn't want to move to higher resolutions until they could get dynamic range and colors they were happy with, but we know that was only a matter of time. Since Sony has been able to create global shutter 4K sensors with 14 stops of DR, clearly the technology is out there now.

Let's keep in mind again that none of this is official, but we have heard from multiple reliable sources. There is always the possibility that things could change well before announcement, or they could even decide to push it back and keep with their current SXT cameras for some time to come. These things can always be fluid until just before announcements, so we'll just have to wait and see. But if you were looking for ARRI to stay competitive on the resolution front, it looks like that could be happening sooner rather than later.      

Your Comment

14 Comments

I don't see Arri doing this. One, they already have a 6K camera, so one with a 35mm sensor compared to a 65mm is pointless. Two, as mentioned, the pixels would have to be smaller to fit into the sensor. The best thing about the Alexa that Red didn't have were bigger pixels to fill in the color and DR information. A bigger sensor gave more pixels to fill in, so the Alexa 65 was a logical choice for this kind of resolution.

March 23, 2015 at 11:45AM

8
Reply
avatar
Henry Barnill
Director of Photography
686

How is it pointless? A cinema 35mm sensor gives you cinematic depth of field without the ridiculous focusing fussiness of a full-frame sensor. For general motion-picture use, a Super-35 / APS-sized sensor is the sweet spot of controllable and practical DOF.

March 27, 2015 at 12:05AM

0
Reply
David Gurney
DP
2477

Arri is already out in front, despite the fact that the Red Epic's sensor has about three times the pixels. If Arri could achieve 6K on an s35 sensor while maintaining (or even improving) dynamic range, there would be little reason to use Red's cameras. And if they can add a global shutter without sacrificing dynamic range, maybe through the use of a stacked design, then they'll have sealed their victory over everyone else.

March 23, 2015 at 11:51AM

11
Reply

I think more and more, with this camera, and the Amira and the Alexa Mini, there is less and less reason to use a Red Dragon with it's noisy sensor. I think Arri has quietly declared war on the Red Weapon, and are taking them out, limb by limb.
Sorry Red, I own two red one mx - and I still think the red one mx was an important part of cinema camera history. But unfortuately I don't feel too bad about this. It feels good actually. Red came in to "kill film" and then Arri, a film company, ends up killing "the little guy who actually is a really big guy."

March 23, 2015 at 2:42PM

1
Reply
avatar
Ed David
Director of Photography
1724

>the little guy who actually is a really big guy

FOR YOU

March 23, 2015 at 8:04PM

0
Reply
avatar
Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1626

but are only able to give examples with RED cameras or other, for you there is only Alexa?
A cinematographer who makes examples like you or criticize a camera to be a sign of weakness or not being professional.
I would never give a job to a person like you, even if I had an Alexa.

however, you can always take a look at the test cml:
http://www.cinematography.net/cml-uwe-2015.html

or go on the forums Canon, Sony, or Reduser your example and do a demonstration, as long as you are able.

March 24, 2015 at 3:39AM

0
Reply
Alexx
262

I own 2 red one and 2 sony f35s - and I have done lots of tests myself. The Sony F35 is a great alternative to the Arri Alexa - CCD is quite valuable - so are many other alternatives - the Panasonic Varicam 4k is quite amazing.

March 24, 2015 at 8:30AM

0
Reply
avatar
Ed David
Director of Photography
1724

I am no RED fan boi, but clearly the reason Arri is way out in front is because of a beautiful smooth roll off and ProRes. The new Will Smith movie was shot on ProRes. Studios look for streamlined workflows now more than ever. And even though they (RED) have said never, the new "Weapon" (ridiculous name) will shoot all flavors of ProRes, and will likely up the frame rate significantly on the Dragon 6k sensor for both ProRes and .R3D. Consider the war between betamax and VHS. VHS won, not because it was better (it wasn't) but because you could get more on a tape. Convenience almost always wins the day. There will also be less need for bolt on modules on the "Weapon" (which anybody prepping cameras hates) so I would not be too quick to pronounce RED dead.

March 23, 2015 at 7:02PM

5
Reply
avatar
Scot Yount
Director/Editor/Photographer/Motion Graphic Artist
380

Pronouncements of Red's demise are greatly exaggerated. :-)

March 23, 2015 at 5:48PM

0
Reply
Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1998

-2, lol

March 25, 2015 at 5:43PM

10
Reply
Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1998

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to images from the 6K 65mm, and this one, if this one is real. 6K is beautiful, rich color, fascinating detail. I cannot afford to even rent an Arri. But it still is a bit of a wonderment to watch the quick progress of the video world. 8K is on the way. Where's the popcorn! ;-)

March 23, 2015 at 5:54PM

0
Reply
Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1998

Makes sense, the absolute maximum resolution of full aperture 4-perf 35mm film (super fine grained slowest stock in pristine condition) is arguably under 6K of useful information in a perfect world. In general, it's common technique to scan average quality 35mm at 6K for 4K finish. Oversampling is your friend.

March 23, 2015 at 6:16PM

0
Reply
avatar
Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1626

I hope this is not true. 6k RAW is too much for almost anything. I get it that they would want 6k so in terms of full color capture there is a receptor for R, G, B to cut down on interpolation, but there are trade offs and the current Alexa proves that you don't necessarily need that to get good color.

- Too much data. Even a big show like Oblivion shot on the F65 struggled.

- Too sharp. We shoot actors, not test charts. That was one complaint about the F65. Amazing color, amazing dynamic range, but sharp to the point that it destroyed the suspension of disbelief and showed every flaw in the sets, costumes and skin. Just too clinical.

- People say you can soften 6k with filters or in post, but if you are going to do that, why push around 6k data that you have softened to 2-4k res? As far as repo goes, here's an idea. Frame the shot on set like everyone else has for the past 100 years. You'll make better movies in the long run, because you actually have thought out the whole scene.

- I wouldn't mind seeing a 4k Alexa, but that's about as high as I would go.

- I'd pass on any more resolution in exchange for more dynamic range, greater color gamut, less noise, 16bit files and a CMOS sensor with global shutter.

- I believe that the introduction of the Alexa Mini and Amira indicates that the current Alexa sensor isn't going away anytime soon. If there is any truth to this 6k rumor maybe it means that Arri will add a new highres model to the current 3.4k lineup?

March 24, 2015 at 7:41AM

0
Reply

War of The Sensors !

March 24, 2015 at 1:42PM

11
Reply
avatar
Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2864