As tech pushes forward, it is only natural that the last-gen just get cheaper and cheaper. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good. One thing for those interested in cinema cameras is the ability to pick up an ARRI ALEXA Classic for a fraction of the original cost—basically a steal. It is pushing 12 years old, but it is still an ARRI camera.
ARRI stills holds the title as one of the most coveted names in cinema equipment. And the ALEXA is known for having an image that just can’t be matched. With those two good reasons to consider the Classic model you might want to hear more about its viability in 2022 from the folks at CVP.
Considering an ALEXA Classic in 2022 is a choice. There are plenty of more modern options and many of them are coming in at very reasonable prices for their features. Still, there isn’t the same degree of prestige as there is owning an ARRI.
Another thing to consider is that even those the Classic is ancient in tech terms, the ALEV III sensor in that model is the same one being used today in the current ALEXA lineup. Major films are still using that chip.
The image quality and latitude of that sensor are some of the best reasons to pick up an ALEXA Classic and even over a decade later it is considered to be near or at the top of the pack.
The reason for this is that it is so forgiving thanks to such a wide dynamic range. Highlight retention is absolutely incredible. Plus, the noise structure is very pleasing, even though it is far from a low-light camera.
ARRI’s color science has also been considered the best. That ARRI look is impersonated, poorly in many cases, by so many cameras. It can’t be beat and the ALEXA Classic will be the most affordable way to get that look naturally. A huge reason for this is that so many films are shot on ARRI, meaning that their look has very naturally become tied with the look of high-end productions.
Getting to the specs, this version will only record up to 2K or Full HD internally in ProRes or it’ll do 2.8K ARRIRAW externally. Models with 4:3 recording are ideal for anamorphic.
While Full HD may sound limiting, honestly most productions will do just fine with it. Resolution is just one part of an image’s look and the other aspects of the image will have a bigger impact. And, it’s very, very good Full HD. It will hold up fairly well on modern displays.
One thing you will notice with an older camera is that they are not as efficient as modern systems. The ALEXA Classic will burn through battery packs. Power draw is around 85W for the body and EVF alone, which is about an hour of juice for a 98Wh pack. They have even noticed batteries draining even faster.
A good thing about cinema cameras is that PL has been the standard for a long while and continues to grow. Many newer companies are getting in the PL arena with much more affordable glass to use.
This is a huge system by today’s standards. The ALEXA Classic weighs in at just under 17 lb for the body. Add on a battery, lens, and accessories and you are looking at a serious kit. Consider your support systems will have to match up with those expectations. You aren’t just throwing this on any old gimbal or tripod you have lying around.
You won’t have to worry about reliability though. The body is exceptionally durable and rugged as it is designed for high-end production. These things have survived fires and still booted up. It’ll last.
Being that ARRI is still the industry standard, learning how to operate one yourself is an invaluable skill as you progress throughout your career. You will be much more comfortable and familiar with the menu system. The camera is designed to be simple to use as well, which is a benefit if you decide to purchase one for yourself.
While not a modern camera, the ALEXA Classic is an appealing choice for the price. Running at around $5,000 it is in the affordable range for many independent operators. It is more suited to productions that are more controlled, but it is a great pick.
Just make sure you are buying from a reputable dealer for used equipment. These cameras are rugged, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to some issues. And, repairing a camera like this can be expensive.
What do you think about using the ARRI ALEXA Classic in 2022?
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