June 5, 2015

ARRI ALEXA Mini Product Manager Michael Jonas Walks Us Through the New Camera

ARRI made a big splash a few months back by announcing the ARRI ALEXA Mini, a scaled-down version of their larger camera with the same image quality but the addition of internal 4K (and of course plenty more). We talked with Michael Jonas at NAB, who served as the product manager for the Mini:

Here are just some of the basic specs of the camera:

  • Same Super 35mm 3.4K Sensor as other ALEXA cameras (which is then upscaled to 4K)
  • ProRes: 1920x1080, 2048x1152, 2048x1536, 3200x1800, 3840x2160
  • ARRIRAW: 2.8K 16:9 2880x1620 & 4:3 2880x2160
  • Codecs: ProRes 4444XQ, 4444, 422 (HQ), 422, 422(LT), ARRIRAW
  • Frame rates: ArriRAW up to 30fps, ProRes up to 
  • 14 stops of dynamic range
  • 800 Base ISO
  • Built-in motorized ND filters 0.6, 1.2, 2.1
  • Built-in Wireless Control
  • Lens Mounts: Titanium PL mount with L-Bus connector and LDS, EF mount, PL mount with Hirose connector and LDS, B4 mount with Hirose connector
  • CFast 2.0 memory cards
  • 2x HD-SDI out 1.5G and 3G: uncompressed HD video with embedded audio and metadata, SDI-6G interface to external CODEX recorder 
  • Audio Lemo Input
  • Weight: 5 lbs. with PL Mount
  • Available Now
  • Price: Starting at $45,000, and goes up from there depending on options selected

You can watch some of the recent work shot with the camera here (though what's interesting is the way it's being used, as image quality should be pretty similar to the old ALEXA models):

The camera has started to ship in some quantities, but due to the incredible demand, it's not really possible to order one and expect it to come tomorrow (and if you pre-order right now it could be quite a wait). As far as the price, it will all depend on what hardware and licenses are added to the overall package. A fully tricked-out Mini will run up into the high 50s/low 60s, so certainly it's approaching the territory of their bigger cameras. In the end though, the vast majority of folks will be renting as opposed to buying, but when there are more available I have a hard time believing these are going to be in stock for very long anywhere, especially with how gimbal and drone work is increasing every day. If you would like to purchase one, you can find them for sale at places like AbelCine.

An interesting discussion surrounding this camera has been the price. From conversations I've had with people close to the company, part of the pricing decision had to do with the rest of ARRI's product line, and also the state of the camera industry as a whole. They don't believe that the current race to the bottom, with some manufacturers halving the price of their current cameras in a year, benefits the industry. Their goal is to make sure that if you buy an ARRI camera, not only are you going to get stellar service from them (something that gets harder with greater volume), but you also know they aren't going to cut the price in half in just 6 months, making your investment worth a lot less than it might have been otherwise. Of course everyone would buy an ALEXA if it was less expensive, but the economics of this are tricky, and above all, ARRI has gained the trust of rental houses and owner-operators, something that might be shaken if they turned around and offered a camera like the ALEXA Mini for a fraction of what it currently costs.

Whether or not you're on ARRI's side when it comes to this discussion, there is no question that camera cost has had a huge effect on the industry, and will continue to do so.


No Film School's complete coverage of NAB 2015 is brought to you by Color Grading Central, Shutterstock, Blackmagic Design, and Bigstock.

No Film School's coverage of NAB is brought to you by Color Grading Central, Shutterstock, Blackmagic Design, and Bigstock

Your Comment

29 Comments

As someone who recently purchased this camera, I can say that the minimum you'll spend is around 52k. If you want the Amira VF add another 8k. 52k is for brain, pl mount, ef mount, Transvideo touch screen monitor for control, and minimal cage parts. This does not include any media or batteries. A lot more than the 36k number people were quoting when they launched.

June 5, 2015 at 3:38PM

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domenic barbero
Director of Photography/Director
81

The price difference between what was originally quoted had to do with the fact that the camera is much more expensive in the US than it is in Europe. Why exactly that is I'm not sure, but a direct translation of Euros to Dollars is not how they ended up pricing the camera.

June 5, 2015 at 3:53PM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Yeah, it's really weird. With a Euro / Dollar conversion, it's $10,000 more in the USA for the body. Terrible pricing translation IMO.

June 5, 2015 at 4:50PM, Edited June 5, 4:50PM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
547

Hi Domenic, since you own both the Dragon and the Mini, can you share with us a little on the pluses and minus of each system? I'm in the market for a high end camera and trying to decide between waiting for the Weapon or the Mini (which I can barely afford). I love the Alexa image and color science more, but the Weapon will be about $10K cheaper and has a bit more features. Tough choice.

June 5, 2015 at 4:54PM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
547

Weapon is more expensive by about $5000 that's just the brain. If you pre-order the 8k sensor, you're looking at another $10k. CFast is also way cheaper then red mags. If you can barely afford the mini, I suggest going that route, because unless you already own a red epic dragon, the weapon will end up being around $10-20k more expensive before you're ready to shoot.

June 30, 2015 at 2:22PM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
988

Did you purchase this in the US? And have you received this yet?.. I am on the list for one of these little guys as well, but haven't heard about any actual delivered units..

June 5, 2015 at 6:00PM

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Scott Bryant
Creative Director
25

Yea I purchased through Abelcine. Has yet to arrive here so far. And the Euro conversion seems weird since 36k euros is only around 40k USD currently. I own a RED Dragon, and do love it so much. Dragon is a most welcome upgrade from MX. The only issue is the gate shadow on that camera makes it very unusable sometimes. I love my flares and when I have to constantly avoid them it makes me cry a bit on the inside. I have actually very little experience with the Alexa system to date but have avoided it in the past due to its size and accessories. With the capabilities of the mini, I'm finally excited to see what it can do. Alexa def handles highlights and shadows better, while RED has more latitude for sure. I love the options the RED allows with RAW, compression settings, ease of use, latitude, modules, size, etc. To me they are two totally different looks and good tools for most jobs. I'm getting my mini to add some options for clients on commercial and narrative work. Chances are I'm gonna love it. Plus now I'll have an Alexa I can fly on my Movi and put in the air. Pretty sweet deal :)

June 5, 2015 at 6:41PM

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domenic barbero
Director of Photography/Director
81

May I have a test model... Like, forever??? Love the quality of Alexa footage. I'm convinced those awesome skin tones it produces has to do with the larger latitude.

June 5, 2015 at 3:44PM, Edited June 5, 3:44PM

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Donovan Vim Crony
Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Sci-Fi Lover
251

4:3 is a "mode". I thought only the ST or older d21 had a native 4:3 sensor. Thanks

June 5, 2015 at 4:05PM

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Anthony F. Marino III
produce shoot edit
239

It's basically 4:3, as the max recordable area is 3414 x 2198, which is 1.55, since all of them use the same sensor. This camera isn't capable of Open Gate mode though, just the higher end cameras. But it's taking the 3.4K and upscaling that to 3.8K.

June 5, 2015 at 4:27PM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

which is it the crop factor? thank you

June 5, 2015 at 4:31PM

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4:3 2K: 2867 x 2150

June 5, 2015 at 4:42PM

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Anthony F. Marino III
produce shoot edit
239

I mean if I put a 35mm lens on a DSLR canon I must multiply 35x1,6 (canon APS-C crop factor). So for example 35mm lenses on the Canon 7D is equal to 56mm.
If I use the Alexa Mini which crop factor should I calculate? thanks again.

June 5, 2015 at 6:02PM

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There isn't a "crop factor" because it is a cinema camera, not a DSLR. A Super 35mm sized sensor is based on 35mm motion picture film, not 35mm still photography film (which is what full-frame DSLRs are based on). So with cinema, Super 35 is the standard to be compared with rather than a full frame photo camera like a 5D. The APS-C sensor is actually pretty close to Super 35 so your 35mm lens that you would use on a 7D or 70D would be pretty close to the same view on an Arri.

Or in other words, when talking about cinematography, NOT photography, it is better to think of it as the 7D is not cropping your lens. Instead, the 5D is making it wider.

June 5, 2015 at 6:37PM, Edited June 5, 6:47PM

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I'm sure it's a wonderful camera for some folks but I just can't see paying 50,000+ for a kinda sorta 3k camera with increasingly average dynamic range and an okay-verging-on-poor base ISO. It takes lovely pictures but so does an a7s.

June 5, 2015 at 5:39PM, Edited June 5, 5:44PM

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J Robbins
273

Highlight Rolloff is still great and it's light years better than A7S in any mode.

June 5, 2015 at 11:53PM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1367

I wouldn't say light years at all. I've seen some very impressive A7s footage that colorists and DP's thought was an Alexa. Granted it does handle highlights better and is much easier to create a beautiful image with and allows much more flexibility in post but if you put an A7s in the right hands you just might not be able to tell as clearly as you think. Especially if it's SRGB online compressed footage. MAYBE in a movie theatre in full quality but nonetheless the average viewer won't be able to tell. Instead spend that money on getting together a great crew and an awesome story. I shoot Alexa all the time and would love to own one but I rent them per project because sometimes it just doesn't make sense. An A7s can handle almost everything you throw at it.

June 6, 2015 at 5:23AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
387

"An A7s can handle almost everything you throw at it." a7s is 8-bit....and its rolling shutter makes even panning on long lenses unusable.

June 8, 2015 at 5:20AM

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Rob Wilton
DoP
308

Any normal viewer and most DP's couldn't tell the difference, and rolling shutter isn't an issue if you have post production to fix it. 8 bit, yeah kinda sucks but doesn't suck enough to shell out 45K. Arri, RED, etc exist to impress clients. Other cameras exist to be practical, but still perform with the big dogs.

June 8, 2015 at 11:25PM

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Graham Uhelski
Director of Photography/Video Editor
409

I get it. This is a Ferrari camera. Sorry but I just have money for rollerblades.

June 5, 2015 at 7:29PM

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Edgar More
All
1271

Rollerblades? I can only dream of rollerblades. This is rather a specialised bit of kit, excellent for those who can get the most out of it, I'm sure.

June 6, 2015 at 6:05PM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
954

Its just roller-blades with a Ferrari badge on them. A name on a regular camera.

June 7, 2015 at 3:46AM

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Sort of an Aston Martin Cygnet, perhaps?

June 9, 2015 at 4:57AM

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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
954

This "news" is a bit late to the table isn't it?

June 6, 2015 at 4:24AM, Edited June 6, 4:24AM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1679

"Some people come to the mountains to escape, I come here to be" Baaahahahhaha

Nice shots. But could have been shot on most anything these days. A lot of shots there had blown out highlights where I wouldn't have expected. Full disclosure I'm a Sony user and not Alexa.

June 7, 2015 at 3:32AM

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The Alexa is just as capable of blowing out highlights as the next camera, but Arri's gamma curve makes those blown out highlights look way better than any other camera on the market. Also, it could just as well be the grade. Throw Rec.709 on a properly exposed Alexa image and the highlights blow quite often.

I love Sony and have worked extensively with the F55, but the Alexa still has that Arri edge over it and any other camera I've seen.

July 1, 2015 at 2:47PM, Edited July 1, 2:48PM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
988

Also this in no way makes me want a Alexa but it has convinced me on a Ronin.

And beards and hippydipy non stories don't sell cameras.

June 7, 2015 at 3:39AM

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The Alexa might be king because almost all older generation cinematographers hated digital almost as much as they hated change. Then Arri came along and they were like, oh, Arri made a camera, I know that name. Ok, goddamnit, I'll learn ONE digital camera, but that's it until retirement. We're all like, oh what's your secret? How did you make that $40 million dollar movie look so much better than my T2i vacation videos where I brought down the exposure by shooting at 1/250 at f16 on a Canon 18-55. I know, I need the Alexa too, just like Roger Deakins! This is just a maybe thing, but is it possible that those buttery Alexa highlight rolloffs don't mean jack squat to 99 percent of the audience?

June 9, 2015 at 4:04AM, Edited June 9, 4:11AM

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Derek Olson
Directomatographeditor
642

Don't really know what you're trying to say. At first you ramble about how it's just the Arri name and then mention buttery Alexa highlight rolloff. Which way is it? For me and most people who have used the Alexa, there are a fewfew things that set it apart: it's an actual camera that needs minimal rigging, it's very easy to use (in an entirely different league than Sony or Red), and most of all, the image. It looks more like film because of Arri's peculiar gamma curve. This is what gives it that buttery highlight rolloff.

Who cares what the masses have to say? They don't get paid to translate a screenplay into moving pictures. They wouldn't know what to look for, as long as the film looks good, but I bet you loads of regular people noticed those horrid gopro shots in the hobbit, but that's probably only because it doesn't say Arri.

July 1, 2015 at 2:55PM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
988