ARRI ALEXA LF – Camera Test
We took delivery of our brand new ARRI ALEXA LF here at VISION5 headquarters last week. As many of you know, ALEXA LF refers to the new large format ALEV III sensor. This along with a few other advancements, puts this ALEXA LF at the top of the range of several amazing ARRI cameras. Before that new camera smell wore off, we set out to try and quantify the differences between our new baby and our previous favorite, the Alexa Mini.
While the differences weren’t stark, there are a few reasons we feel that the ALEXA LF will become a favorite for commercial and feature work.
The first thing you’ll find and probably the most important, is the fact that this is the first true 4k Alexa camera outside the Alexa 65. The ability to meet those 4k standards is a big step forward regarding all the major online content producers.
Another important aspect is the wider field of view that the large format sensor creates while at the same time maintaining the shallow depth of field most DOP’s like. See below.
ALEXA LF - 70mm
ALEXA Mini - 70mm
The final thing we noticed is the ability to move into higher ISO’s without adding as much noise. The Alexa LF also comes with a new noise reduction feature. Based on our tests it smooths the image out a tiny amount when moving between 1600-3200 ISO. We’re not sure yet whether you’d get that same effect by taking in the image into a program like DaVinci Resolve or not. Either way the image seems to hold up in the low light really well.
THE JURY IS STILL OUT
It wouldn’t be fair to write this without talking about a couple things that some people will not be happy about. There are solutions showing up quickly though.
Over the past 5-10 years we’ve all become really comfortable shooting with smaller camera bodies. The Alexa Mini is proof of that. Well the ALEXA LF isn’t going to be a hit in regards to a lightweight, run and gun camera. This camera takes us back to the film days not only in size but also aesthetic, which in our opinion is somewhat refreshing. Needing a heavyweight dolly, crane or steadicam to create camera movement has somewhat become a thing of the past. We’ve become so overwhelmed with all the gimbal solutions and the ability to make every shot look similar to a steadicam that the creative preparation has gone away. Why are we moving the camera? Nonetheless the ALEXA LF is not a light camera coming in at about 18 lbs for the camera body alone.
The next obstacle is battery power. This is something that’s being looked at by many battery manufactures and the solutions are starting to come out more frequently. As you know the ALEXA LF requires 24V so all those V-Mount / Gold Mount batteries used to power up most cameras on the market can’t be used without a specific battery plate solution. For an easy solution that is working right now there are Hawk-Woods batteries which were designed for the Alexa LF. They make a 26V battery that has capacity up to 350 W/h. Bebob has a solution that has the potential to be really great. They make special 12V batteries, that come with a “High Load” contact strip. This makes them able to withstand the load required by the Alexa LF and still be used with 12V cameras. Unfortunately as of today the plate needed for the ALEXA LF is still backordered. Finally there is the solution by Wooden Camera that allows you to use 2 of your existing 12V batteries in tandem to create the 24V power needed by the Alexa LF. This is a newer solution so we’re still waiting to get more information.
Finally your lenses. Everyone was initially worried about the ability to use the camera without having the LPL mounted lenses like the ARRI’s Signature Primes. This is something ARRI really put some thought into before making this camera. The PL to LPL mount is extremely simple to use and our experience with the FF Cooke S7I lenses was great. We know that not everyone has a set of those beautiful lenses but there are other full frame solutions out there. ARRI has also communicated to us that many lens manufactures are currently working on LPL mounts for their lenses. The reality is that this LPL mount could be the next standard in the future.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
In closing we think the ALEXA LF will be a hit with online content producers like NETFLIX, HULU and Amazon but we think most will be surprised at how much this will be used in the lower to mid range budget features along with commercials. Most importantly this camera might end up creating a shift back towards the way in which we approached shooting film. The question is, have we created the smallest camera possible and is the filmmaking community ready to move back towards an older approach. Only time will tell. We look forward to sharing our next video where we tested the ALEXA LF on real production.
If you’re interested in renting our ALEXA LF please call us at 602-910-3132 for pricing.