The Arri Alexa has been my favorite digital cinema camera since it was released several years back, which is why I was so excited to hear about their new camera, the Amira, when it was announced last year. Yesterday the Amira prices were revealed and are extremely competitive, coming in at a much lower cost than many had expected.
For a quick reminder on the impressive specs of the Amira, take a look at this brief list:
- Super 35mm 16:9 Sensor (Same Exact Sensor as Other 16:9 ALEXAs)
- 14.5 Stops of Dynamic Range
- 2K/1080 Rec 709/Log C using ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ, or 444 codecs
- Up to 200fps
- Records to CFast 2.0 (New Compact Flash card standard)
- 1280 x 1024 OLED Viewfinder and Separate LCD Monitor
- Internal ND filters
- 4-Channel PCM Audio: 48KHz 24-bit
- Selectable 3D LUTs can be recorded
- Aimed at Documentary, TV Magazines, Trailers, Corporate, Factuals, Live Events
- Interchangeable Lens Mounts: PL, PL Broadcast, B4, and Canon EF
It’s obviously an impressive list and one that will look very familiar to you if you’ve ever shot on an Alexa. The biggest differences between the Amira and the Alexa are of course the Amira’s ENG style body, and the fact that the Alexa can shoot RAW.
As for the pricing, there are three models currently listed with the following prices: $35,444, $39,537, $44,994. The camera is by no means cheap, but it is much more affordable than the Alexa, and the fact that it doesn’t really need to be accessorized makes the relative cost much lower as well.
Many of you have probably seen this image floating around the internet lately, showing that not a single RED camera appeared on the list of Oscar Nominations this year, and in fact it was all about Arri:
There is clearly something to be learned from this. The vast majority of professional DPs are chewing Alexa (or other Arri cameras) when it counts. Sure, there are plenty of examples of blockbuster films that have been shot on RED, but there is a very obvious trend on the high end film moving away from RED and towards Arri. This is an interesting fact in itself as the Alexa (even in RAW) can only shoot at 2.8K, which goes to show the lack of importance that 4K holds for the majority of high end productions.
The recent press that Arri has been getting, coupled with the new, low cost Amira, is bound to shake things up in the camera world. It may look on paper like the Amira is still much more expensive than the RED Epic for example, but in reality it will cost less. Remember, the Amira works right out of the box and is designed like an ENG camera which will make operating it and setting it up extremely easy and cost effective. The Epic on the other hand, requires lots of rigging, accessories, and peripherals that drive the cost through the roof. It’s not uncommon for an Epic support package to cost several times that of the camera body itself, so while the Amira price tag may be higher, the actual cost of shooting with the Epic is much more.
How Will This Affect Indie Film?
Currently, the majority of budgeted indie films that are shot digitally are using the Epic. Up until this point it has simply been the most cost effective way to shoot digital cinema. Yes, there are great alternatives like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, but the reality is that most budgeted films will still opt for the Epic as the feature set is richer and the camera is more robust.
The Amira is going to change all of this though. Current RED productions aren’t usually choosing Epic because they like the look more than the Alexa, they are doing it to save money and still get a good result. But now that the Amira is going to become an affordable option (especially if you’re renting), this is inevitably going to cause a shift in the industry. I would speculate that within a year of the Amira’s release, the majority of current RED projects are going to switch over. After all, even if the image quality isn’t the selling point for some Producers/DPs, the ease of use and cost will be. Using modular cameras like the Epic have their advantages, but more often than not they can be a drain on production time.
This shift to the Amira will also have ramifications for other, lower end cinema cameras. I would suspect that we will start seeing more manufacturers following Arri’s lead and developing cameras that are more focused on ergonomics and dynamic range, than on modularity and resolution. Traditionally, camera manufacturers innovate based on what sells, not what they think will sell. And as the sales of the Amira increase, it will have a very positive effect on the industry as a whole, as we will start to see some amazing new cost effective options coming out. More cameras like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera are inevitable, and Blackmagic themselves may take a note from Arri’s book and create a camera that is designed with an ENG format.
Only time will tell how this will all play out, but if nothing else the Amira will be an excellent alternative to the Epic and C500 and will spark some new ideas in other manufacturers.
For those of you that do need 4K though, or at least are interested in it, check out my article “2014: The Year Of The 4K DSLR”.