The Arri Alexa has been my favorite digital cinema camera since its release a few years ago. That's why I was so excited to hear about her new camera, the Amira, when it was announced last year. The Amira prices were announced yesterday and are extremely competitive. They cost a lot less than many expected.
Take a look at this short list to quickly remember the Amira's impressive specs:
- Super 35mm 16: 9 sensor (same exact sensor as other 16: 9 ALEXAs)
- 14.5 Dynamic range stops
- 2K / 1080 Rec 709 / Log C with ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ or 444 codecs
- Up to 200 fps
- CFast 2.0 recordings (new Compact Flash card standard)
- 1280 x 1024 OLED viewfinder and separate LCD monitor
- Internal ND filter
- 4-channel PCM audio: 48 kHz, 24 bit
- Selectable 3D LUTs can be recorded
- The target group are documentaries, TV magazines, trailers, companies, facts and live events
- Interchangeable lens mounts: PL, PL Broadcast, B4 and Canon EF
It is obviously an impressive list that you will find very familiar if you have ever shot on an Alexa. The biggest differences between the Amira and the Alexa are of course the Amira's ENG body and the fact that the Alexa can record RAW.
In terms of pricing, three models are currently listed with the following prices: $ 35,444, $ 39,537, $ 44,994. The camera is by no means cheap, but much cheaper than the Alexa, and the fact that it doesn't necessarily need to be equipped with accessories also significantly reduces the relative cost.
Many of you have probably seen this picture on the internet lately, which shows that not a single RED camera was on the list of Oscar nominations this year, and in fact it was all about Arri:
Something can clearly be learned from this. The vast majority of professional DPs chew Alexa (or other Arri cameras) when it matters. Sure, there are many examples of blockbuster films made on RED, but there is a very obvious trend that RED's high-end film is moving away and towards Arri. This is an interesting fact in itself, since the Alexa (also in RAW) can only take pictures at 2.8K, which shows that 4K has no meaning for most high-end productions.
The latest press Arri has received along with the new, low-cost Amira is sure to upset the camera world. On paper it might look like the Amira is still much more expensive than the RED Epic, but in reality it costs less. Remember that the Amira is ready to use and is designed like an ENG camera that makes operation and setup extremely easy and inexpensive. The Epic, on the other hand, requires a lot of rigging, accessories and peripheral devices that drive up costs. It's not uncommon for an Epic support package to cost multiple times the camera body itself, While the Amira price can be higher, the actual cost of shooting with the Epic is much higher.
How will that affect the indie film?
Currently, the majority of budgeted indie films that are digitally made use the Epic. Up until that point, it was simply the cheapest way to make digital cinema. Yes, there are great alternatives like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, but the reality is that most films on a budget still opt for the Epic because the features are more extensive and the camera more robust.
However, the Amira will change this. Current RED productions don't usually choose Epic because they like the look more than the Alexa. They do this to save money and still get a good result. But now that the Amira becomes an affordable option (especially if you're renting), this will inevitably lead to a change in the industry. I would speculate that most of the current RED projects will be upgraded within a year of Amira being released. Even if the image quality is not the sales argument for some producers / DPs, the user friendliness and the costs are the same. Using modular cameras like the Epic has its advantages, but can often take a lot of production time.
This shift to the Amira will also have an impact on other cinema cameras in the lower price range. I would guess that we will see more manufacturers following Arri and developing cameras that focus more on ergonomics and dynamics than modularity and resolution. Traditionally, camera manufacturers innovate based on what they sell, not what they think is sold. And if Amira's sales increase, it will have a very positive impact on the entire industry as we will see some amazing new affordable options. Other cameras like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera are inevitable, and Blackmagic itself may take a note from Arris' book and create a camera designed with an ENG format.
Only time will tell how all this will develop, but if nothing else, the Amira will be an excellent alternative to the Epic and C500 and will trigger some new ideas from other manufacturers.
For those of you who need 4K or are at least interested in it, read my article "2014: The year of the 4K DSLR".
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!