Is This the Best Digital Sensor Ever Made? Meet the New ARRI Alexa 35

Arri Alexa 35
Credit: ARRI
ARRI has just officially announced the Alexa 35 to meet the demands of the streaming era and to give us the first new sensor in over a decade.

It’s been 12 years since ARRI released the first Alexa cinema camera with the ALEV III sensor. That same sensor technology would be used in every ARRI camera for the next decade and some change. It has also been the standard by which every other camera was measured. 

That’s why today feels like not only the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one. 

The ARRI Alexa 35 has been officially revealed to the world with a brand new Super 35 ALEV 4 CMOS sensor. ARRI hopes this new native 4K camera will not only be the best A-camera but also the best B-cam and action camera on the market. All in one package. 

But why should filmmakers care about a camera that costs $64,880 for just the body and an LPL Mount Set? That’s a full year’s salary for some people. 

Well, because a new standard may have just been set, and the camera landscape may be about to change once again.

ARRI Alexa 35 On Location
Credit: ARRI

The ARRI Alexa 35

Even after years of making full-frame cinema cameras, as well as the beefy Alexa 65, ARRI has returned home to embrace the Super 35 format—the frame size has defined the look of movies for decades. 

The new ARRI Alexa 35 will be a native 4K cinema camera capable of frame rates of up to 120fps out of the box. No licenses will be needed. Not for high frame rates or anamorphic options. It feels like what the Amira should have been back in 2013. 

The new Super 35 ALEV 4 sensor will measure 27.99 x 19.22 mm with a 4.6K resolution and have internal motorized FSND filters with ND 0.6, ND 1.2, and ND 1.8. An electronic rolling shutter will offer exposure control with shutter angles between 5.0° – 356°.

ARRI Alexa 35 Front View
The ALEV 4 SensorCredit: ARRI

Recording options will include MXF/ARRIRAW or MXF/Apple ProRes in 422 HQ, 4444, or 4444 XQ. This will record onto the in-camera Codex Compact Drive which comes in at 1TB or 2TB.

ARRI states the new camera will offer interference-free WiFi and ARRI Electronic Control System (ECS) white radio signals via two built-in wireless radios with separate external antennas.

How this will work in a busy Wifi environment like NAB remains to be seen, but if anyone can do it, ARRI can.

ARRI Alexa 35 Resolution and Recording Formats
Resolution and Recording FormatsCredit: ARRI

The External Goods

Externally, the new camera will measure 5.8 x 6.0 x 8.0" (with the LPL mount) and offer five interchangeable lens mounts. This will include ARRI LPL, two versions of ARRI PL, ARRI EF, and Leitz M Mount. A new interface on the operator side will also offer FPS, shutter angle, EI, ND, and white balance info. 

On the AC side, assistants will find a whole slew of connectors. An LBUS connector for daisy chasing lens motors, a serial port for distance measuring devices (including timecode IN and OUT), an ETH connector for remote controls, SYNC IN that is switchable to SDI, and a USB-C port for user setups and look files, among other things.

ARRI Alexa 35 Operator Side
Operator SideCredit: ARRI

On the rear, ARRI is offering several module options. The Power Distribution Module PDM-1 will offer seven extra power accessory outputs, while the Audio Extension Module AEM-1 combines power outputs with two mic preamp channels for onboard audio recording. All with their new B-mount standard. 

Other inputs include two 12G SDI outputs completely independent from each other, an ethernet connector for metadata, and regulated 12 V and 24 V power outputs for accessories. 

Whatever your production needs are, there is enough here to tackle anything you throw at it.

ARRI Alexa 35 AC Side
Credit: ARRI

A Technical Achievement, a New Baseline

Port, NDs, and recording options aside, everything about the new ARRI Alexa 35 is overshadowed by the new technological development of its new sensor. 

The ALEV 4 is the first new sensor from ARRI in 12 years. It builds upon everything ARRI has done in that time and will deliver 2.5 stops more dynamic range than any other model in its product lineup. That’s a whopping 17+ stops. Here are some specs to keep things tidy. 

  • Sensor Type: Super 35 ARRI ALEV 4 CMOS sensor with Bayer pattern color filter array
  • Sensor Photosites and Size: 4608 x 3164 Ø 33.96 mm / 1.337″
  • Sensor Frame Rates: 0.75 – 120 fps
  • Photosite Pitch: 6.075 μm
  • Image Circle: 33.96 mm
  • Resolution – 4608 x 3164 \ Max FPS – 35 / 75 fps (in ARRIRAW)

Cinematographers are already saying that the ALEV 4 is the best digital sensor ever made for motion picture photography.

Could this be the final blow to traditional film? Probably not, as long as hipsters are around. 

But the one thing that will make this sensor shine is the new color science.

ARRI REVEAL Color Science

A new sensor is only as good as its color science, and every camera manufacturer has tried to emulate what ARRI achieved back in 2010. 

We spoke with Sebastien Laffoux, ARRI’s Vice President of Camera Systems Sales about the new tech they’ve developed. Laffoux was adamant that anything new from ARRI must show a noticeable improvement in image quality. Anything less wouldn’t have been good enough to release. 

So ARRI did just that and packaged its new sensor with a suite of new image processing steps that the company has called REVEAL Color Science. While this is used by the Alexa 35 internally, it is also available via third-party post-production tools for ARRIRAW processing. 

ARRI REVEAL Color Science
REVEAL Color Science PipelineCredit: ARRI
​The Alexa 35 brochure elaborates on this to say, “It includes an improved debayering algorithm for cleaner compositing, a new color engine for more accurate color reproduction, a new wide gamut native color space for faster grading, new LogC4 encoding to contain the increased dynamic range, and new LogC4 LUTs for enriched color fidelity.”

ARRI has also included backward compatibility so the ALEXA LF and Mini LF with ARRIRAW can use the REVEAL Color Science workflow. 

Creatives can also alter the grain that the Alexa 35 produces something called ARRI Textures. This includes adjusting the amount and character of the grain, as well as the amount of contrast. Older ARRI cameras all had a pre-programmed texture pattern, but the Alexa 35 puts that power into your hands. 

This is kind of like what Fuji has done with its grain options, but with so much more control.

If you want a look at the workflow, check out ARRI’s workflow guide found here

ARRI Texture Options
ARRI TexturesCredit: ARRI

Should You Get One?

No. Not unless you’re a rental house, super-rich, or have the work lined up to pay for it. 

An ALEXA 35 Production Set will run you $77,940, while the body only will cost $64,880. However, if you are rich, do consider using the affiliate link below. 

But should you use one if you can? Abso-fucking-lutely.

The original Alexa was the standard by which almost all cameras were judged. A used one can still cost more than a RED Komodo or URSA Mini Pro 12K even though it's a decade old. It was the baseline that forged almost every camera on the market, that is until Sony and RED started making their own image standards. 

If the trend continues, which I think it will, the Alexa 35 will be the new baseline. Even if it’ll have a fraction of the impact that the original Alexa had on the market, cameras will still strive to achieve the technological achievements of the ALEV 4 sensor. 

Or maybe I’m wrong and this will just be a $64,000 paperweight. But I’m willing to make that bet.     

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Your Comment

3 Comments

Very curious to see the evolution of the Alexa 65 based on this new sensor :)

June 1, 2022 at 2:18AM

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Nice to hear they've rolled this out. Unless it was high-end film capture Arri digital has produced the most beautiful and powerful cinematic images of the last decade.

June 2, 2022 at 1:07PM

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Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics
264

"Should You Get One? No. Not unless you’re a rental house, super-rich, or have the work lined up to pay for it."

Gosh, I wouldn't have known that unless you said. Get a proper review over at Newsshooter. It's dead around here.

https://www.newsshooter.com/2022/06/01/arri-alexa-35-first-look/

June 2, 2022 at 2:29PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1955