At IBC this year, ARRI announced several products that were expected, along with a few surprises. The ALEXA and ALEXA Plus cameras welcomed two siblings to their Digital Cinema family, and it turns out pre-production versions of these new models are already out in the field working. The ALEXA Studio has an optical viewfinder with a spinning mirror shutter like a traditional film camera. It also has a taller sensor than the other ALEXAs, with an aspect ratio of 4:3 so that anamorphic lenses can be used with proper field of view. The ALEXA M is a split-head camera, meaning that the sensor section of the camera connects to the rest of the camera (where the signal processor and recording section live) by way of a fiber cable. This allows the ALEXA M to be used in various rigs where size and weight are critical issues, such as helicopter mounts, car interiors and 3D beamsplitter rigs. The ALEXA Studio pre-production units are currently testing on real shoots in Europe, while the first ALEXA M production prototypes are starting to ship to the Cameron-Pace Group, a leader in 3D production.
ARRI has partnered with Fuji Optical to create two more ALURA lenses, a 14.5-45 T2.8 and a 30-80 T2.8. Both lenses are physically small and lightweight (about 4.5 pounds) and, while designed as companions to the ALEXA cameras, both new ALURAs (as well as the original 18-80 T2.8 and 45-250 T2.8) can also be used on film cameras. In addition to the ALURA lenses with Fuji, ARRI continues to expand their unsurpassed prime lens line with partner Carl Zeiss, debuting the new Master Prime 135mm T1.3. Long-regarded as the perfect portrait focal length for S-35, the 135mm Master Prime is the 14th focal length in the set which ranges from 12mm to 150mm.
While new model cameras and lenses debut, ARRI continues to develop within the current ALEXA series. Some details of the next firmware, version 5.0 due in October, were released. Most awaited is support for the licensed-feature for 120fps capture, which will also be available in October – 120fps recording will be in ProRes 422 HQ to Sony’s new 64G SxS Pro cards. These new cards have an incredibly high sustained data read/write capability, which allows them to capture the vast amount of information with no errors or additional signal compression. A 120fps image on any of the ALEXA cameras will utilize the full S-35 image area of the chip and retain the rich picture quality and 14 stops of Dynamic Range for which the camera is known. The new 64G SxS Pro cards can also be used without the licensed-feature to record 12-bit ProRes 4444 at frame rates up to 60fps (a 32G SxS Pro card can only sustain 40fps in ProRes 4444). As the new flagship ARRI camera, the ALEXA Studio will come bundled with both the 120fps and currently-available anamorphic monitoring licensed-features already installed.
ARRI is also innovating in lighting with the release of its new LED-based fresnel lighting line, the L7 series. There are three fixtures being introduced: The L7-T (3200K tungsten-balanced), the L7-D (5400K daylight-balanced), and the L7-C (color-controllable). The L7-C can be adjusted from 2700K-10,000K with an additonal green/magenta control. The fixtures have a wide range of beam control, produce single, sharp shadows like conventional fresnel fixtures, are fully dimmable from 0-100% with no color shift, and have an even field of illumination. Most importantly, at less than 250w, the L7 LED lights use less than 1/4th of the power of the 1000w tungsten fresnel fixtures to which they are equivalent.
Finally, ARRI’s Professional Camera Accessories division has introduced new items as well. The popular MFF-1 follow focus is now joined by the MFF-2, which features a removable handwheel so that the various handwheels from the rest of ARRI’s follow focus line can be used, including the two-gear transmission FF-3 handwheel. The lightweight and petite MMB-2 mattebox can now accept two 4×5.65 filters, and ARRI offers a lightweight rod-mounted shoulder pad for small camera rigs. Yours truly begged for a way to quickly remove it for switching from tripod to shoulder, and ARRI went one better, turning the quick-release mounting unit into a universal mount plate that could also be used for attaching various accessories to rods such as a monitor, battery mount or a recorder such as the KiPro Mini.