ARRI has just unveiled its latest cinema camera: The ALEXA 35. This camera is very special for ARRI, as it is the first to feature a completely new sensor: the 4.6K ALEV 4. This is a big step forward, as its predecessor, the highly acclaimed ALEV 3, was used for a whopping 12 years straight.
So this is it. The new gold standard for Hollywood-grade feature films is here. This is of course a bold statement, but since ARRI ALEXA is the go-to make and model for many cinematographers, the new ALEXA 35 with its new ALEV 4 sensor might be just that. Especially since ARRI claims a massive dynamic range of 17 stops!
A new camera with a new sensor may not seem like much; other manufacturers do it all the time. But since ARRI has a reputation for doing things thoroughly rather than quickly, this is big news indeed. According to ARRI, the company is launching nothing but ‘the next era of digital cinematography with the new ALEXA 35 camera’.
ARRI ALEXA 35
From the outside, the new camera looks a bit like an ALEXA Mini at first glance, but in reality, the ALEXA 35 has been designed from the ground up. The new ALEXA 35 is built on the legacy of the original ALEXA sensor and its image processing.
The ALEXA 35 is a true s35 camera, and by the way, according to ARRI, no successor to the ALEXA Mini LF is planned for at least 2-3 years. The basic specs of the new ALEV 4 sensor are as follows: Open Gate 3:2 – 4608 x 3164 pixels and 27.99 x 19.22 mm in size.
It sports internal ND filters (Clear, ND 0.6, 1.2, and 1.8) and it also features two fully independent SDI ports along with 12V power out, TC connectors, and other I/O ports, so nothing Mini here.
You can choose between five interchangeable lens mounts:
- LPL (LBUS)
- PL-to-LPL adapter
- EF Mount (LBUS)
- PL Mount (LBUS)
- PL Mount (Hirose)
The camera also has two internal microphones for recording scratch audio and an input for four line-level audio channels.
In terms of recording modes, you won’t miss anything here: spherical and anamorphic modes are there, of course, MXF/ARRIRAW or MXF/Apple ProRes can be used as recording formats and the sensor supports all s35 and LF lenses. Open Gate can be cropped with custom frame lines to 3.8K 6:5 for 4K recording with 2x anamorphic lenses.
ALEXA 35 is the smallest fully-featured ARRI production camera to date, packing the features and processing power of a “larger” ALEXA into a Mini-sized body. According to ARRI, it is twice as efficient in cooling as the original ALEXA Mini. It uses a vertical ‘chimney’ design with a single, large and quiet fan.
According to the company, this new 4.6K 3:2 Super 35 sensor is capable of capturing an astonishing 17 stops of dynamic range. That means 2.5 stops more than its predecessor and even more than any other digital camera on the market.
The new sensor gains 1.5 stops of highlight details and a full stop in the shadows. In particular, increased dynamic range in the highlighted area is achieved thanks to a natural-looking highlight roll-off, ARRI claims.
With low noise and sensitivity settings ranging from EI 160 to EI 6400, ALEXA 35 is a “High ISO” camera. An optional Enhanced Sensitivity Mode can be applied to settings between EI 2560 and EI 6400, producing an even cleaner image in low light.
REVEAL Color Science
In order to make the best out of what this groundbreaking sensor can capture, ARRI engineers had to develop a whole new image processing pipeline from scratch. So please welcome the new REVEAL Color Science. It consists of the following steps:
- ADA-7 (ARRI Debayer algorithm) – This new demosaicing algorithm takes sensor RAW data and converts it into RGB image data. It should produce cleaner images and crisper edges.
- ACE4 (ARRI Color Engine) – During this step, de-bayered RGB images data gets converted into the newly-developed ARRI Wide Gamut (AWG4) color space. This process should result in more accurate colors than before, with a natural-looking reproduction of skin tones. Moreover, it should preserve extremely saturated colors, such as those caused by strong neon light sources.
- AWG4 (ARRI Wide Gamut) – ARRI has developed a new ACES-compatible camera color space. It is even larger than Rec.2020 and serves precise color space conversions.
- LogC4 – This new gamma curve is engineered from scratch to handle the increased dynamic range that the sensor can capture.
- LUT – The final step of REVEAL is the application of a conversion LUT from the LogC4/AWG4 color space to the most common display gamuts and gamma curves for proper monitoring.
These new image processing tools are used in-camera to process RAW data into ProRes files or for sending a video feed to the viewfinder and SDI outputs. However, they are also available in-post to properly process ARRIRAW data.
Finally, although the new REVEAL Color Science has been developed specifically for the ALEXA 35, the good news is that it is backward-compatible with footage shot in ARRIRAW on the ALEXA LF and Mini LF.
A new feature of the ALEXA 35 in tandem with the new ALEV 4 is called Textures. ARRI thinks of this as a “film lab” inside of the camera. They control the amount of grain and fine-control the amount of chroma in grain at different brightness levels. They also control the amount of contrast, perceived as sharpness.
As the whole image pipeline has been reworked, cinematographers can use subtle “baked-in”, well, Textures to give the image a certain feel. Think of it as different film stocks which react differently to light. These Textures can’t be altered in post since they are being applied in-camera even before ARRIRAW steps in the processing pipeline.
They can be chosen in-camera, just like Look files, and several of them are already pre-installed. Applied Textures are visible in the viewfinder as well as on SDI outputs.
As for naming conventions, Textures work like this:
P425Cosmetic – P: type of grain, 4: amount of grain, 2: contrast at fine image structures, 5: contrast at coarse image structures, Cosmetic: description.
The new ALEXA 35 supports 1TB and 2TB Codex Compact Drives and of course the MVF-2 viewfinder, now with HDR. All ALEXA 35 cameras produced undergo a strict Advanced Color Match process, meaning they mix’n’match seamlessly on multi-camera shoots.
Along with the camera, ARRI launches a completely new set of mechanical support items which provide flexible options for any shooting situation, scaling quickly and easily from a small and lightweight setup to a full-blown production configuration. The list includes:
- Compact Bridge Plate CBP-5/6
- Center Camera Handle CCH-5
- Viewfinder Mounting Bracket VMB-5
On the digital side of things, the ALEXA 35 is supported by ARRI’s suite of online tools, as well as standalone apps like the iPhone/iPad Camera Companion App, ARRI Reference Tool, and ARRIRAW HDE Transcoder. The companion app offers remote control and configuration, multi-camera support, sports a customizable user interface, and it supports the ARRI ALEXA 35, Mini LF, Mini, and AMIRA. It is available for iOS/iPadOS, M1 Mac, and Apple Watch for now.
B-Mount batteries can be mounted directly to the back of the ALEXA 35 via a B-Mount Adapter plate, but you can also mount several optional modules between the camera and battery:
- Power Distribution Module PDM-1 (4x regulated 24V power out, 2x regulated 12V power out, 1x 12V D-Tap power underneath, internally powered and cable-free)
- Audio Extension Module AEM-1
Well, we all know that this camera will not be cheap. According to ARRI, the new ALEXA 35 will cost about the same as the ALEXA Mini LF, which is about $65,000. However, you also have to factor in the viewfinder and other accessories. And a few new B-Mount batteries won’t hurt either, I guess.
So, only one question remains: will you get one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!