February 2, 2018

ARRI Finally Releases a Real 4K Alexa (and on Their Terms)

Popular German camera manufacturer ARRI has released a 4K version of their dominant camera platform with the new Alexa LF for Large Format.

Whether or not you can actually see the difference, large pressure continues to mount for 4K capture solutions, especially from online platforms like Amazon and Netflix. For a number of years, ARRI has kept trucking along with the Alexa, a 2.8K camera making the argument that color accuracy, flesh to neutral reproduction, build quality, latitude, and overall beauty mattered more than just "more Ks." In fact, when the real pressure increased from the streams for 4K, ARRI appeased them by simply adding in-camera upscaling of the native 2.8K imagery to 4K files. It was impressively stubborn. Considering the dominance of Alexa on everything from Sundance indies to Oscar nominees, their solution has always appeared as a smart one.

Credit: ARRI

While they released the ALEXA 65 in 2014—capable of 6k capture—the platform has always been rental-only, clearly focused on the top end of the marketplace. That changes now. ARRI has just announced a 4K ALEXA that is clearly more targeted to the rest of us: the Alexa LF.

While there are some innovations, the platform is built around the same ALEV III sensor (dating to the original 2010 Alexa) used in both the Alexa line and the Alexa 65. Within the Alexa 65, it's actually 3 ALEV sensors turned vertically and mounted together in what ARRI call an A3X layout. In the new Alexa LF, it's two ALEV III sensors turned on their side in an A2X pattern. ARRI is confident that the ALEVIII has a good sensor and the company clearly wants to maximize its use, which is impressive considering the generations of sensors that RED has gone through since 2010 (when they were on MX, and have since gone through Dragon, Helium, and the current Monstro). 

Credit: Arri

Aside from the marquee feature (you know, real, not-upscaled 4K capture on an affordable Alexa that people might actually purchase), the LF has another innovation: a brand new LPL lens mount.  This mount is not only bigger than the traditional PL lens mount, but it's also different from the XPL lens mount used on the Alexa 65.  XPL was originally developed in the 1980s for film 65mm capture formats, and thus has a deep flange focal distance of 72mm, which makes sense when you need to squeeze a spinning shutter behind the lens. Since digital is largely mirrorless (with the exception of the Alexa Studio and its optical viewfinding option), ARRI has the freedom to push the distance shorter, and has done so with the new LPL mount.

The new mount has a flange distance of 44mm, which will allow for more options in the lens design to cover the larger sensor. It also allows for ARRI to inclde an LPL-to-PL adapter with every LF it shipps, although, of course, Super35mm lenses will need to capture imagery windowed since they won't be able to cover the full sensor. Being ARRI, they are always careful to launch a fully integrated system together, and they are launching a new line of ARRI Signature lenses to work with the LPL mount and the LF sensor.

Credit: ARRI

Through some feat of magic German engineering, they have also made the LF not much larger in size than the current SXT W. It's only 12mm in width and length, as opposed to the significantly larger Alexa 65. While four years of evolution in processing power is part of it the ability to get small, the last four years have also seen an absolute explosion in stabilized work. The pressure for smaller bodies is growing more intense, making the LF a smart solution and a possible C-camera option on Alexa 65 jobs.

Bodies ship March, lenses ship June 2018.  Learn more at ARRI Large Format

Tech Specs

  • 36.7 x 25.54mm maximum sensor size
  • 4448x3096 maximum capture resolution
  • 150fps possible in 2.39x1 4448x1856 ARRI Raw
  • ALEV IIII Sensor
  • A2X layout
  • Brand new LPL lens mount
  • Ships with LPL to PL adapter
  • 44mm flange focal distance
  • 12mm wider and longer than standard Alexa

Your Comment

26 Comments

The problem with Arri marketing the sensor as 2 XT open gate sensors tuned on their side is that it is incorrect and makes people believe the wrong thing. They are trying to say that there is a single stitch line through the center of the sensor. If it was two sensors, they would not be able to get them close enough to make a single sensor. Also the LF sensor is 36.7mm x 25.54mm. If it was 2-XT sensors it would be 36.26mm x 28.17mm. It is not two sensors, but a stitched sensor, just like ALL other large format sensors. The big question is how they are dealing with the stitch. Alexa65 deals with the stitch in the Vault65 because they couldn't do all the image processing in camera. Did they fix that?

February 2, 2018 at 12:03PM

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Don't be silly. Arri (or any other company for that matter) doesn't stitch sensors. It's only to illustrate how big the sensor is, not how it's made. There's absolutely no reason to stitch sensors. They can easily cut a bigger piece out of a wafer. Sony makes 100MP medium format sensors and and they don't stitch either.

February 3, 2018 at 3:53AM

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Mark
26

Let's hope this will finally translate in more 4K DCP released :)

February 2, 2018 at 12:18PM

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Alessandro, what good will more 4k DCP released get you? .... the overwhelming majority of theaters still only project 2k DCP

February 2, 2018 at 2:17PM

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Why should movies on the big screen be limited to 2K?
I think You're greatly underestimating the number of 4K screen, in Italy alone we have around 250 screens equipped with 4K projector, the vast majority of them are using the wonderful Sony machines, while the Vue group switched around 400 screen in Europe to Sony 4K, so it is not hard at all to find a 4K screen ;-)

February 2, 2018 at 6:07PM

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You don't want that.
It doesn't matter if the DCP is 2k or 4k they still get encoded at a bitrate of 250Mbps. Why waste those Mb's on resolution when you can have better color and dynamic range.

February 2, 2018 at 4:51PM

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I really do not understand what You're talking about:
HDR and dynamic range are not related to resolution, You do not waste anything using a 4K (or better) pipeline in order to finish in 4K, rater resolution, colors and dynamic range they all go together, You can see and example of it with ECLAIRCOLOR platform :)

February 2, 2018 at 6:25PM

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We aren't talking about finishing outputs for a feature. We're specifically talking about DCPs. I wasn't saying that DR and color are related to resolution. They're only related through bitrate. If you have 250 Mbps going through a pipeline and you use more of that information for resolution, then DR and color are going to suffer because they're getting less information than the 2K encode. I don't know this world where you can have higher resolutions and the same amount of data being pushed through. That doesn't make sense.

February 5, 2018 at 10:17AM, Edited February 5, 10:21AM

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I don't know all the options offered by DCP standards, but are you sure you can trade spatial resolution for color resolution?

For the tradeoff you're implying to be true, DCP would have to give you the choice of trading spatial resolution to go from 10-bit color to 12-bit color (for example).

February 9, 2018 at 6:00PM, Edited February 9, 6:00PM

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David Gurney
DP
1421

DCP are *always and only* 12bit 4:4:4 encoded in JPEG 2000 with variable or fixed bitrate, at 2K or 4K resolution. I repeat there is no reason to use a sub 4K worflow in 2018 and to not release it as a 4K DCP, at least speaking about feature.

February 10, 2018 at 2:35AM

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Well here are reasons to avoid 4k. Also regardless if it's fixed or varied, the max bitrate for all DCPs is 250Mbps. I have seen some messed up DCPs because people have tried to go higher than 250.

Also, theaters do have 4k projectors but a lot of them only have one. In NYC I can name a few theaters that have only one 4k projector. You can play a 4K DCP on a 2K projector but the image comes out to look like a high quality blu ray.

February 12, 2018 at 11:16AM

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It is very uncommon to see DCP with those bitrates today, in fact I can't remember anyone.
And still, no reason to use a less than 4K workflow other than costs.
I don't understand the blu ray comparison, it doesn't make any sense, can you elaborate?

February 14, 2018 at 12:30PM

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Has anyone noticed how in camera groups everyone has been talking about the Ks in this camera? What fascinates me more is the massive sensor size. They had to make a whole new mount with new lenses for it work. It's quite incredible. Large Format is coming and it's going to rock the cinematography world. I bet 10 bucks Black Magic is going Full Frame as well next year.

February 2, 2018 at 3:31PM

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Julian Terry
Director
113

10 bucks only? :-D

February 3, 2018 at 2:23AM

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Gerard M.
919

Yeah, the sensor size will create more cinematic beauty. I wonder how the Thalias match up with this camera.

February 4, 2018 at 11:50AM, Edited February 4, 11:50AM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
180

Great, now we'll regress back into the 5Dmk2 days when people freak out about sensor sizes.

February 5, 2018 at 10:33AM, Edited February 5, 10:33AM

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Why? Why would you be cheerleading for larger-than-35mm-cinema formats, when they render existing cine lenses useless and introduce excessively shallow DOF that's too fussy to manage without a three-person crew running the camera?

It definitely represents a backward trend for the target audience of this Web site, and indie production in general.

February 9, 2018 at 5:51PM, Edited February 9, 5:56PM

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David Gurney
DP
1421

Nice Camera here.

February 5, 2018 at 3:27AM

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Olivia Ava
Project Manager
1

I can’t believe they just said “affordable Alexa”. Nah mate. You won’t get your money back on these things. The capture drives alone are shocking. This camera, while being shipped to ARRI offices for purchase (probably to be bought by rental houses) it will be specific to productions that might demand 4K. I know I’m sick of working on Netflix originals and using a Red.
The issue with the Alexa 65 is we didn’t even have one down here in Sydney. Multiple productions discussed having it shipped from LA but every time they ended up just choosing an SXT with some minis.

February 9, 2018 at 3:51PM

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Not to mention the exorbitant cost for the special lenses to cover these large-format chips.

Super-35 strikes a nice balance of cinematic look, manageable DOF, and lens selection and affordability. Arri copped out here.

February 9, 2018 at 5:55PM

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David Gurney
DP
1421

Well for what it is, $10k is remarkable. And the package is anything but bare-bones. But that doesn't mean it's anywhere near affordable for the vast majority of independent filmmakers or camera owners. Still, it should help a LOT with rental costs! If you knew you could stay busy for a solid 3-5 years it'd be totally worth it, and your work would look phenomenal!

February 9, 2018 at 4:08PM

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Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics
254

$10K? What are you talking about? Arri doesn't make anything for $10K.

February 9, 2018 at 6:02PM, Edited February 9, 6:02PM

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David Gurney
DP
1421

The camera's going for $98,000 with a $10k deposit.

February 13, 2018 at 3:39PM

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olejnikp
Executive Producer
8

OK, so instead of actually doing the R&D to produce a good 4K Super-35-sized sensor, they cop out and just make a bigger sensor that's incompatible with all the Super-35 lenses out there.

Yawn.

February 9, 2018 at 5:53PM

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David Gurney
DP
1421

Nobody noted the FFD of the new LPL mount?
Compared to PL, you'll be able to add Nikon, Pentax and Yashica full-frame lenses to the compatible list, but not EF, unless someone can engineer an adapter that sits recessed inside the LPL mount.

February 10, 2018 at 4:01AM

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Stewart Fairweather
Cinematographer
73

Without sounding like a negative-nancy, the LF seems like another overpriced Arri camera to be sold at half the price in less than 4 years.

It's interesting to see that once Sony Venice was announced along with the Red 8k Weapon partnership with Panavision DXL --not to mention the new Netflix/Amazon 4K restrictions— Arri is suddenly feeling the heat and playing catch-up with this "new" system.

What a shame; these guys quickly realize that they are finally losing market share, and it shows.

Arri, here's something you can do, make your cameras more affordable, scalable, and light for the new generation of filmmakers, studios, and distribution channels, and you won't have to come out with silly gimmicky 4.5 cameras with proprietary lenses; but that would just make too much sense.

February 13, 2018 at 3:48PM

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olejnikp
Executive Producer
8