There is one name that is synonymous with cinema in the mind of any filmmaker, and that’s ARRI. Going back to the roots of cinematography itself, the company has a long history in camera gear, both on the camera side and in the lighting and grip world as well.
Skypanels, rosette mounts, steady cams, there’s almost any kind of gear with an ARRI logo on it. But why it’s not so common to see indie filmmakers shooting with an ALEXA all the time? Well, it’s a matter of cost overall. That’s why when Potato Jet saw an ARRI ALEXA at $6K, he could not resist and bite the bullet.
We’ll gliss over the “spy-story-esque random stranger encounter” and the envelope of cash needed to settle the payment, but we can surely say that it is fun to watch Potato Jet heading to meet the seller, now friend, and owner of an ALEXA.
After a couple of roundabouts and a detour to another internet stranger to get the appropriate cards (those are SxS cards if you are wondering), he was finally able to get his hands on a classic ALEXA, a legend in its own league. So, getting finally the hands on the camera, the question pops up immediately: was it worth it?
$6,000 is a huge amount of money in today’s market: at the same price point, you could get a URSA Mini Pro, a brand new one or a Canon C200, or a plethora of mirrorless cameras that can shoot 4K and beyond.
The 2K resolution of the sensor inside the ALEXA seems like quite a bad deal if compared to what the market offers. That’s not even taking into account warranties, since buying from a private seller doesn’t include the latter.
If indeed you’re set to buy a used ARRI camera, you should probably consider to get it through ARRI’s pre-owned program, since it offers cameras that have been quality controlled and fully inspected by professional technicians and come with a full year of warranty. But let’s get to the main course of this article: how does a 10-year-old legendary camera hold on now? Spoiler alert: it’s beautiful.
In the soft light of twilight, the camera produces some stunning and vivid images. The ALEXA look is much more than cinematic, the texture and the feeling of the image are still completely on par, if not beyond the capabilities of most cameras on the market right now.
The color science embedded in ALEXA’s brain is over the top, seeing these images from a 10 years old camera suddenly makes you realize that there’s a reason behind the insane prices ARRI are selling their brand new cameras.
It’s not all good vibes, though: the body is a small tank, and weights like one. You’ll find yourself needing to rest now and then if you plan on shooting handheld, and even your tripod will need an upgrade if you’ve got one of those that are made for mirrorless and DSLRs.
You should wave goodbye to any kind of guerrilla filmmaking too: the ARRI ALEXA marks you as a professional from miles away, it’s impossible to hide or conceal, or even to rig it up quickly, so keep that in mind if you’re on the run’n’gun side of shooting.
So, drawing our conclusions, was it worth it? If we are speaking of image quality, build quality, and overall value of the purchase, it’s undeniable that the $6K price tag is a good deal, we all dream of using an ARRI ALEXA at some point of our career, right?
But in a real-world scenario, where you have to deal with clients, tight schedules, 4K and beyond delivery requests and whatnot, a camera with this form factor is not a feasible choice for most of the filmmakers. But, if you’d like to make yourself a wonderful gift and have the cash to spare, well, then go for it, all your fellow filmmakers will envy you!