Everything We Know About the New ARRI ALEXA Super 35 4K Camera

ARRI is developing a new Super 35 camera. Here's what is known so far. 

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of its most popular cameras, ARRI, which has been in business for over 100 years, has shared new details of its ARRI ALEXA Super 35 4K. 

According to ARRI, the digital camera will feature a Super 35 4K 4:3 sensor, and have "image quality that is as good or better than the ALEXA image quality." ARRI also said the physical size will be similar to the Mini LF and will be capable of using the same MVF-2 viewfinder and CODEX media as the Mini LF. The S35 4K camera was expected to arrive in 2020 but has been pushed back in order to implement new features and software updates to the LF system.

So, why Super 35 4K? 

Well, ARRI is a very focused company. They unequivocally believe in the Super 35 format. Stephan Schenk, managing director at ARRI, has said, "Not everybody will shoot large format or full-frame. Many productions, in particular in TV, will remain with Super 35 for the foreseeable future." This is why ARRI is dedicated to a new Super 35 4K camera that's not LF. Marc Chipman-Mueller, the product Manager of ALEXA LF, adds to the mantra, saying "We [ARRI] strongly believe that there's a place in the world for large format and there's a place in the world for Super 35." 

They are not wrong.

Both visual formats won't be going away anytime soon. ARRI moves at a different pace than its competitors. This is not to say the company doesn't have a pulse on the future of filmmaking. They absolutely do. But they go about it in their own way, at their own pace. They're methodical with their approach and consider the entire ecosystem of what they offer, including lenses, accessories, and lighting. Everything connects.

So, what can filmmakers expect when the S35 4K does arrive? To better understand, let's look at the current digital models.  

ALEXA 65 

  • Sensor Size: 54.12 x 25.58mm 
  • Max Res: 6560 x 3100
  • Max Image Circle: 59.87mm

 ALEXA LF / Mini LF

  • Sensor Size: 36.70 x 25.54mm 
  • Max Res: 4448 x 3096
  • Max Image Circle: 44.71mm 

ALEXA SXT W / ALEXA Mini

  • Sensor Size: 28.25 x 18.17mm
  • Max Res: 3424 x 2202
  • Max Image Circle: 33.59mm 

AMIRA 

  • Sensor Size: 28.25 x 18.17mm
  • Max Res: 3200 x 1800 (4K UHD upgrade to 3840 x 2160) 
  • Max Image Circle: 33.59mm

In making the ALEXA LF and Mini LF, the sensor uses the same size photosites and color science as the ALEXA Super 35 sensor, which is quite an accomplishment. If ARRI is able to do that while increasing the resolution to 4448 x 3096, the S35 4K camera could have a true native 4K sensor of 4096 x 2160. One question that remains is if ARRI oversample the sensor to create the image? That's yet to be determined, but if history tells us anything, it may not be in the cards. 

ARRI is known for it's operating modes. The ALEXA LF and Mini LF have 3 different ones that are Netflix approved for 4K production. Open Gate, LF 2.39:1, and LF 16:9. The latter records 3840 x 2160. So at the bare minimum, the new sensor should have a similar mode. The actual sensor size is the bigger question. 4-perf Super 35mm is 24.89 x 18.66mm and 3-perf Super 35 is 21.95 x 13.9mm. ARRI most likely wouldn't reprise those exact formats in the digital realm. 

The original Mini and AMIRA sit at 28.25 x 18.17mm. It's possible the S35 4K could be a Super 35 version of the Mini with 4K DCI resolution. This would make it compatible with platforms requiring 4K resolution, and it would easily integrate with current accessories. What it does beyond that, filmmakers will have to wait and see. Expect its arrival in 2021.      

Your Comment

9 Comments

I will be agree here. Full frame is overrated and bring more constraint than a real "size advantage". It's a niche market and the aesthetic of S35 is well balance for almost all situations.

June 4, 2020 at 5:29PM

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visionrouge.com
DoP freelance cameraman 4K HK & Shanghai.
501

I agree. LF and 65mm sensors should be used sparingly - specifically on EPIC films. It just doesn’t look right on a small intimate piece.

I LOVE “If Beale Street Could Talk”. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Barry Jenkins used the Alexa 65 over a standard Alexa, Alexa Mini, Amira, etc. It’s such an intimate film. The shallow focus distracted from the beautiful narrative. It’s the artist choice of course. But it just seems like he wanted to test it out rather than it being appropriate for the “art” of the story.

June 11, 2020 at 9:07PM

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So in short: "we" (nfs) know almost nothing about the new alexa...

June 4, 2020 at 10:43PM, Edited June 4, 10:43PM

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DingDong
2050

After chatting to someone at Arri, without being able to confirm fully as things are in development, a new sensor architecture is on the way, a 5/6K super 35 sensor, same low light, and characteristic look of Arri Alev 3 but squeezed into a smaller space. They've taken their time to get it right clearly and tech has advanced so much since the Alev 3 sensor was released over 9 years ago. The form factor will be something similar to the minis but slightly longer probably, Arri clearly see things are moving towards smaller bodies like RED, plus with tech advances its getting easier to squeeze more functionality into smaller bodies. It will likely be a new range of cameras that might not be called 'Alexa' anymore and will perhaps become the new flagship range to eventually replace the Alexa range. He suggested it's possible Arri will create a range of cameras with this new sensor tech in future including new Large format cameras, maybe a new Alexa 65 camera too. Likely have something announced by the end of the year or early next year.

June 5, 2020 at 5:44AM

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Matt Carter
VFX Artist / Director / DP / Writer / Composer / Alexa Owner
859

Hi Bud,
The Arri rep said it might be slightly longer than the mini/mini LF to house the extra internals needed, but wouldn't likely be the size of the full size Alexa range.

Bare in mind this conversation happened in February and the camera is still in development, so it could very well end up being the same size of the current mini, or maybe even smaller perhaps. But that was just what was said at the time.

June 8, 2020 at 3:06AM, Edited June 8, 3:07AM

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Matt Carter
VFX Artist / Director / DP / Writer / Composer / Alexa Owner
859

One of the things I always admired about Arri is them keeping the resolution at 2.8K and 3.4K (yes I know it can do standard HD as well). The reason why, is because after film is put through all the processing/projection, it image quality equates to around that resolution. That coupled with the sensors dynamic range and that sweet highlight roll off, and the camera had me sold.

I work in independent productions from time to time with the Union (film, television, etc). I’ve shot in LA, NY, Miami, Peru, London, Tokyo to name a few places. I’ve been around in the field for a bit (started in my early 20’s after my first stint in college an am now in my 40’s). Arri is the easiest to emulate film, no matter the location, over all other cameras.

I’ve used RED multiple times and shot 5K/6K, and as beautiful as the image looks, it starts losing that filmic quality and begins looking like hyper realistic video. I believe people will use this of course (it’s a new Arri camera so who wouldn’t). But I believe they will stick to the usual resolution everyone has been using for the past 5-10 years for features, and the high resolution for documentaries and Netflix films/series as 4K is the requirement.

I recently watched Skyfall, and it’s truly a gorgeously shot picture. Roger Deakins was working with the Arri at it’s early age of 1-1.5 years, and DP’s were still figuring things out - and it STILL looked beautiful. Then to see Drive and The Avengers who were productions both working with the cam around the same time as Skyfall, with the images equally as beautiful.

I remember Wally Pfister in the summer of 2012 criticizing Seamus McGarvey‘s work on The Avengers and I was really turned off by that. I think Arri threatened him and his work methods because it pretty much gave the same quality as celluloid.

I hope Arri doesn’t lose that. It’s the closest some of us will ever get to shooting on something with the look of celluloid.

June 11, 2020 at 9:31PM, Edited June 11, 9:33PM

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ok\

June 5, 2020 at 8:07PM

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Who cares? 99.9% of the people reading this will never get near one of these cameras much less get a chance to use one!

June 7, 2020 at 2:43AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
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hi

June 7, 2020 at 4:24AM

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