ALEXA LF Camera announced, ARRI finally goes 4K

Today at the BSC Expo, ARRI has launched the 4.4K ALEXA LF (large format) camera. We were honoured to have Rodney Charters ASC attend the show and interview ARRI Product Manager Marc Shipman-Mueller about the new camera, as well as the accompanying lenses which you can see here.

The ALEXA LF’s A2X sensor isn’t really new per say, it’s based on two vertical ALEV-III sensors, which are stitched together to create a seamless large format image. This is the same principle of how they created the ALEXA 65, which uses three Alexa sensors that are arranged vertically.

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF

This marks the first time (if you don’t count the ALEXA 65) that ARRI has released a camera with a sensor that is capable of recording 4K images without the need for upscaling. The ALEXA LF can record in Open gate in a resolution of 4448 x 3096.

It’s interesting to see that ARRI has decided to go with a slightly larger than full-frame sensor that can only record in resolutions no higher than 4.5K. With Sony and RED both offering cameras that are capable of capturing images in 6K resolutions and above, ARRI has decided not to jump on the resolution bandwagon and go down that path. The only reason I can think of is that ARRI believes that 4K is enough for the foreseeable future, and if you need higher resolutions they already have the ALEXA 65.

AbelCine CTO Andy Shipsides gives a great first-look at the camera and its features in the video below.

 

3 Sensor modes


The ARRI ALEXA LF Large Format Camera features a 36.7mm x 25.54mm sensor that is slightly larger than full frame. It’s 1.5x bigger than the ALEXA SXT, and the ALEXA 65 is 1.5x larger than the ALEXA LF. To put the sensor size is perspective, the Sony VENICE uses a 36.2 x 24.1mm sensor. The MONSTRO 8K VV sensor that can be found in the RED WEAPON and just announced Panavision Millennium DXL2 is 40.96mm x 21.60mm, and ARRI’s own ALEXA 65 has a whopping 54.12mm x 25.58mm (active image area) sensor. Just like the Sony VENICE’s aspect ratio-agnostic sensor, the ALEXA LF has the ability to be used in three different sensor modes:

LF Open Gate – 36.70 x 25.54 mm with (4448 x 3096) @ 44.71mm image circle
Delivers the ALEXA family’s optimal pixel size for highest overall image quality results in a 4448 x 3096 picture

LF 16:9 – 31.68 x 1782 mm with (3840 x 2160) @ 36.35mm image circle
Maximizes lens options while meeting 4K deliverable standards

LF 2.39:1 – 36.70 x 15.31 mm with (4448 x 1856 photo sites) @ 39.76 mm image circle
Combines a cinematic widescreen image with high frame rates up to 150fps for slow motion

All sensor modes offer true 800 ASA sensitivity, as well as reduced noise.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it


The ALEXA LF is more of an evolution than a revolution. ARRI has taken everything people love about the ALEXA and put it into a camera that solves their problem of not being able to produce a 4k image that isn’t upscaled. The ALEXA LF records native 4K with ARRI’s renowned image quality. The ALEXA sensor everyone loves retains all of the same characteristics while delivering an immersive, larger format aesthetic for filmmakers. ALEXA LF includes the same exposure latitude of 14+ stops as is the case on all previous ALEXA branded cameras. ARRI claims it features low noise while also maintaining pleasing skin tones for both HDR and WCG Workflows.

It is interesting that ARRI hasn’t decided to go with a new sensor. Seeing as the ALEV-III sensor is almost 8 years old, did ARRI get it so right back then that they couldn’t improve on it? The ALEXA LF will still have the same 800 ASA sensitivity and it will be interesting to see just how much the low light performance has improved over any of the existing ALEXA models. The EI values are between 160-3200.

What’s also interesting is that they haven’t released a version in the same form factor as the very popular ALEXA MINI. I am sure there are many cinematographers who would have liked to have seen the ALEXA LF MINI. According to ARRI they are looking into the feasibility of building a MINI version but nothing has been decided; in any case, it would be difficult because of the high data rates.

It looks like an ALEXA SXT

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF
The body of the ALEXA LF includes the same user interface and features found on the ALEXA SXT W, including the integrated wireless video transmitter. ARRI has decided to do this so they can make transitioning to this camera a very easy process for anyone who has worked with ARRI cameras before. The base of the camera body includes two ARRI Rosettes to add arm extensions and grips, plus 15mm LWS rod ports and a shoulder mount indentation on the base.

Lens metadata can be recorded from your LDS-1, LDS-2 or /i capable lenses. ALEXA LF is compatible with the optional new ARRI Signature Prime lens family, that I will talk about at the bottom of the article.

The ALEXA LF certainly hasn’t been put on a diet by ARRI engineers, the body weighs 17.2lb (7.8kg) with the LPL Mount. This is slightly lighter than the ALEXA SXT Studio with PL mount (8.2kg/18.1lbs). Size wise it’s between the ALEXA 65 and ALEXA SXT W, the ALEXA LF is the same height, but not as wide.

Media & Maximum Frame Rates

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF
The ALEXA LF can record onto either high-performance SXR Capture Drives or SxS PRO+ cards. The camera only has a single card slot. Included with the LF is a SXR adapter, just like the one used SXT W, to record to SXR drives.

SXR Capture Drives – deliver top speeds of 150 fps with ARRIRAW and 100 fps with ProRes
SxS PRO+ cards – provide top speed of 90 fps with ProRes

The faster processing capabilities of the SXR allows faster frame rates for most recording formats. Their maximum write speed of 20 Gb/s allows for higher maximum frame rates with some recording formats, while the 1 TB (red collar) or 2 TB (blue collar) capacity permits longer recording times.

Also, note that the SxS PRO+ Cards should be 256GB and up in capacity.

Recording Resolutions

4.5K in LF Open Gate and LF 2.39:1
UHD in LF 16:9
2K 16:9 with in-camera downscale in LF 16:9
HD 16:9 with in-camera downscale in LF 16:9
Provides Anamorphic de-squeeze for 1.25x, 1.3x, 1.5x, 2x lens squeeze ratios.

Apple ProRes 4444 XQ – with SXR Capture Drives: 40fps in LF Open Gate Sensor Mode; 60fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 60fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode. With SxS PRO+ cards: 30fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 30fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode
ARRIRAW – with SxR Capture Drives: Max 90fps with LF Open Gate Sensor Mode and LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 150fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode.
Apple ProRes 4444 – with SXR Capture Drives: 60fps in LF Open Gate Sensor Mode; 60fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 100fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode. With SxS PRO+ cards: 40fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 40fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode
Apple ProRes 442 HQ – with SXR Capture Drives: 60fps in LF Open Gate Sensor Mode; 60fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 100fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode. With SxS PRO+ cards: 60fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 60fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode
Apple ProRes 422 – with SXR Capture Drives: 60fps in LF Open Gate Sensor Mode; 60fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 100fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode. With SxS PRO+ cards: 60fps in LF 16:9 Sensor Mode; 90fps in LF 2.39:1 Sensor Mode

LPL Mount

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF
A crucial element of the new ALEXA LF system is the LPL lens mount, which is optimized for large format sensors and comes with the purchase of the camera. A wider diameter and shorter flange focal depth allow the new ARRI Signature Prime lenses and all future large format optics to be small and lightweight, with a fast T-stop and pleasing bokeh— a combination of features that would not be possible within the confines of your PL lens mount. The LPL mount features a larger bore to accommodate the Large Frame format.

The LPL mount transfers LDS protocol and is LDS-2 compatible.

PL-to-LPL Adapter

In the future, an LPL mount will also be available for other ARRI cameras, such as your ALEXA Mini, and is being licensed to third-party lens and camera manufacturers. The LPL mount transfers LDS protocol and is LDS-2 compatible.

The ALEXA LF also comes standard with a PL-to-LPL Adapter so you can use existing compatible lenses on the new Large Format camera. The adapter features black earlobes, while the LPL mount includes blue earlobes. You can set the mount and adapter to 12:00 or 3:00 to accommodate third-party lens positioning. The adapter passes LDS protocol and is LDS-2 compatible.

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF

Wireless

Like its ALEXA SXT W predecessor, the ALEXA LF camera reduces the number of cables required as a wireless video transmission and remote lens & camera control are built into the camera body.

WiFi

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF
The ALEXA LF can transmit uncompressed data with record start/stop, timecode, and audio under low-latency (<1ms) with one set of antenna. The second set of antennas on the ALEXA LF is dedicated to the onboard WiFi radio which offers wireless camera remote control via the ALEXA Web Remote. It also can handle color management. The fifth antenna, which sits between the other two pairs on the top/rear of the camera body, is assigned to the ECS or Electronic Control System. The ECS functions with ARRI’s WCU-4 Wireless Control Unit which offers lens FIZ and camera control. These Antennas fold down for travel and camera storage.

Wireless Video Receiver WVR-1

ARRI include the WVR-1, which depending on conditions can receive a signal from as far as 2,000′ (600m) from the transmitter. The minimum distance for all units is at least 3′ (1m).

The housing is spray (water) resistant and dustproof aluminum with integrated collars for antenna and BNC connectors and offers several mounting options. The WVR-1 also has a wide operating temperature range, from -4°F to 113°F (-20°C to 45°C).

The receiver can be powered from an AC power supply, Gold Mount, V-Mount, or SONY L series battery. The receiver has a 12V power output for accessories like a director’s monitor, reducing the size and weight of handheld monitor configurations. Depending on your configuration and the power consumption of additional accessories, a single L series battery might not be able to supply enough power through the PWR OUT connector of the WVR-1. In that case, either add a second L series battery or use your Receiver Power Supply RPS-1, which is sold separately.

Simple ARRI Workflows

ALEXA LF offers the same tried-and-true workflows as other ALEXA cameras. Recording at various resolutions is possible in uncompressed, unencrypted ARRIRAW or fast, efficient ProRes. Existing ARRI Look Files can be used with ALEXA LF, plus the entire range of ARRI workflow software tools will also support ALEXA large-format images.

Sample workflows might include:

ALEXA LF Camera > ARRIRAW > SXR Capture Drive (1TB or 2TB) > Computer for Post

ALEXA LF Camera > ProRes > SXR Capture Drive (1TB or 2TB) > Computer for Post

OR

ALEXA LF Camera > ProRes > SxS PRO+ 256GB > Computer for Post

ALEXA LF Camera > ARRI Look Management > ALF-2 Look File > Computer for Post

NOTE: Capture Drives and Memory Drives are sold separately.

EVF-1 Viewfinder Included

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF
The ARRI ALEXA EVF-1 Electronic Viewfinder is a film-style, low latency (≤ frame delay), color electronic viewfinder with a 1280 x 768 F-LCOS microdisplay and ARRI LED illumination, both temperature controlled. A straightforward operation is assured through camera status visible in the viewfinder and a number of quick access buttons for often used functions such as zoom and exposure assist. The viewfinder’s settings, as well as basic camera settings, can be changed by the operator directly on the EVF-1.

The EVF-1 image exhibits high resolution, high contrast, low distortion, and an evenly illuminated viewing area. The EVF-1 includes a state-of-the-art F-LCOS (Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal On Silicon) microdisplay with 1280 x 768 pixel resolution, a high screen refresh rate, plus an ARRI optical design which employs the highest quality coated glass optics. Reliable color reproduction at all temperatures is assured through the auto-calibrating, temperature controlled ARRI LED light engine.

Tools

With the Free ARRI Frameline Composer App, you can create custom frame lines online, based on your specific requirements.

With the ARRI Formats & Data Rate Calculator (FDRC) online tool, you can calculate the record durations and data rates of your different camera settings (combinations of camera model, codec, resolution, project rate, sensor speed, recording media, and audio on/off).

Color Management and Image Processing

The camera supports ARRI Look Files available for SDR, HDR PQ, and HDR HLG. ARRI ALEXA LF offers 16-bit linear in ALEXA Wide Gamut/Log C color space. It includes Target output color spaces: Log C, Rec 709, Rec 2020. You can also obtain a free color tool from ARRI, their ARRI Color Tool (ACT).

 

Signature Primes

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF
ARRI’s family of Signature Primes, which are sold separately, provide a modern take on a historic look with a creamy bokeh and natural skin tones and fit the ALEXA LF Large Format Camera without an adapter. The Signature Primes also feature a rear magnetic filter holder that accepts masks and filters. They have been designed specifically for use with the ARRI ALEXA LF large format digital cinema camera. There are 16 focal lengths available, from 12mm all the way up to 280mm.

The ARRI Signature Prime range are the first cine lens series to feature machined magnesium lens barrels, making the optics incredibly lightweight and robust. The lenses are up to 2lb lighter than a Master Prime, which is impressive given they have to cover a much larger sensor. They are also the first to incorporate ARRI’s next-generation LDS-2 Lens Data System, with high data rates and absolute encoders for fast initializing. LDS-2 extends the possibilities of lens data and is being licensed to other lens and camera manufacturers.

Features:
Exceptional resolution, with natural skin tones and creamy bokeh
Future-proof telecentric optical design results in better contrast, skin rendition, and flare behavior
Next-generation LDS-2 Lens Data System with 10x precision of original LDS (1 Mbps vs 115 Kbps)
Excellent optical performance across the whole aperture range from T2.8 to T22
Magnesium construction makes each lens ~2 lb lighter than Master Prime (on average), at comparable overall size
Uniform positions of iris and focus gears
Universal net holder & magnetic positioning system
LPL Mount

ARRI finally goes 4K with the ALEXA LF

The Signature Primes are available in the following focal lengths:
12mm T1.8
15mm T1.8
18mm T1.8
21mm T1.8
25mm T1.8
29mm T1.8
35mm T1.8
40mm T1.8
47mm T1.8
58mm T1.8
75mm T1.8
95mm T1.8
125mm T1.8
150mm T2.5
200mm T2.5
280mm T2.8

There is also a 6 lens set available that features the:
ARRI 18mm Signature Prime T1.8 – LPL Mount (KK.0019189)
ARRI 29mm Signature Prime T1.8 – LPL Mount (KK.0019197)
ARRI 35mm Signature Prime T1.8 – LPL Mount (KK.0019099)
ARRI 47mm Signature Prime T1.8 – LPL Mount (KK.0019104)
ARRI 75mm Signature Prime T1.8 – LPL Mount (KK.0019106)
ARRI 125mm Signature Prime T1.8 – LPL Mount (KK.0019108)

The lenses are not cheap. The lenses vary in price but fall between $26,900 USD to $43,300 USD per lens.

Price

The price of the ALEXA LF is not for the faint hearted. The ARRI ALEXA LF Large Format Camera Basic Set is a whopping $98,200 USD. The ARRI ALEXA LF Camera Pro Set with 1TB SXR Capture Drive is $122,700 USD, the ARRI ALEXA LF Camera Pro Set with 2TB SXR Capture Drive is $128,900 USD, and the ARRI ALEXA LF Camera Pro Set with 256GB SxS PRO+ Memory Card is $112,300 USD.

The first ALEXA LF cameras will be shipped at the end of March 2018. The initial set of four Signature Prime lenses (35 mm, 47 mm, 75 mm, and 125 mm) will be shipped in early June 2018.

No matter which way you look at these prices, they are extremely high, considering the Sony VENICE can be purchased for $42,000US (body only), and the RED WEAPON MONSTRO 8K VV is $79,500US (body only). Despite the high price of the ALEXA LF, they are sure to be snapped up by rental houses everywhere. When we are talking about movies or episodic television with huge budgets, productions won’t even blink when it comes to hiring this camera.

Conclusion

Maybe we all expected more, but as I said earlier, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Everyone loves the image, reliability and simplified operation of ALEXA cameras, so all ARRI really had to do was take all of that and put it into a new camera that was capable of meeting proper 4K requirements. Could they have gone further? Probably. Should they have made a camera with an even larger resolution? Maybe.

While a lot of people are going to complain about the incremental improvement in resolution and the high asking price, the actual cinematographers and camera operators that will be using this camera probably won’t. ARRI has been successful because they know the market and they know what their users want. There is a reason the ALEXA is such a popular camera and why ARRI dominates the high-end rental market. They don’t buy into the marketing BS, and they aren’t going to start following companies down the never-ending resolution road. As ARRI has always said, it’s about better pixels, not bigger pixels.

Stay tuned for our video interview with ARRI coming later in the day.

Specifications

Camera Type
Large Format (LF) digital camera with electronic viewfinder EVF-1 and built-in radios for ARRI Wireless Remote System, ARRI Wireless Video System and WiFi

Compatibility
All current ARRI ALEXA accessories,
LPL lenses and PL lenses with PL-to-LPL adapter

Sensor Mode
LF Open Gate
36.70 x 25.54 mm
4448 x 3096, ø 44.71 mm
ARRIRAW: 0.75 – 90 fps,
ProRes: 0.75 – up to 60 fps

Sensor Mode
LF 16:9
31.68 x 17.82 mm
3840 x 2160, ø 36.35 mm
ARRIRAW: 0.75 – 90 fps,
ProRes: 0.75 – 60 fps
Sensor Mode
LF 2.39:1
36.70 x 15.31 mm
4448 x 1856, ø 39.76 mm
ARRIRAW: 0.75 – 150 fps,
ProRes: 0.75 – up to 100 fps

Shutter
Electronic rolling shutter, 5.0º – 358.0º
Internal ND Filter
One of 8 available Large Format Full Spectrum Neutral Density (LF FSND) filters can be inserted manually in front of the sensor (ND 0.3 to ND 2.4)

Exposure Latitude
14+ stops

Exposure Index
EI 800

Sound Level
Sound level ≤ 20 db(A) while recording LF Open Gate ProRes 4.5 K 4444 @ 30 fps and ≤ +30° Celsius (≤ +86° Fahrenheit), measured 1 m/3 feet in front of the lens

Power In
11.5 to 34 V DC

Power Out
4x RS (24 V), 1x 12V (12 V), 1x EXT (24 V), 1x ETH (24 V)

Weight
(body + LPL)
7.8 kg/17.2 lbs.

Dimensions
(body + LPL)
L 364 mm/14.33”
W 201 mm/7.91”
H 158 mm/6.22”

Operating Temperature
-20° C to +45° C (-4° F to +113° F)
Lens Mount
62 mm LPL mount (LDS-1, LDS-2 & /i)

Flange Focal Depth
44 mm

Recording Codecs
ARRIRAW (.ari)
QuickTime/ProRes (422, 422 HQ, 4444 & 4444 XQ)

Recording Resolutions
4.5K (sensor modes LF Open Gate and LF 2.39:1)
UHD (sensor mode LF 16:9)
2K (in-camera downscale in sensor mode LF 16:9)
HD (in-camera downscale in sensor mode LF 16:9)

Supported Media
SxS PRO+ 256 GB (ProRes)
SXR Capture Drives 1 TB (ARRIRAW or ProRes)
SXR Capture Drives 2 TB (ARRIRAW or ProRes)

Monitor Outputs
MON OUT 1a, 1b and 2: SDI 6G UHD or SDI 1.5G HD up to 30 fps.
MON OUT 3: SDI 1.5 G HD up to 30 fps, also wireless video
Anamorphic de-squeeze for 1.25x, 1.3x, 1.5x, 2x lens squeeze ratios

Image Processing
16 bit linear in ALEXA Wide Gamut/Log C color space
Target output color spaces: Log C, Rec 709 or Rec 2020
Supports ARRI Look File (ALF-2) with CDL values and a 3D LUT
3D LUTs available for SDR, HDR PQ and HDR HLG

Playback
ARRIRAW or ProRes

Audio
1x XLR 5 pin AUDIO IN for 2 channels, line level

What do you think about the new ALEXA LF? Let us know in the comments section below.

Want to learn more about the ALEXA range? Follow on to my next article looking back at the history of the ALEXA here.

Subscribe to our newsletter