The original ARRI ALEXA is still a beast of a camera and that is proven by how it currently goes for 5 or 6 thousand dollars in auctions. Or, you could consider doing what FoxTailWhipz did and pick up five broken ARRI ALEXA Classics for just $1,250—that’s only $250 per camera.
The plan is to take the various pieces and parts from all of them and hopefully find enough to put together a single working camera. That’s a very risky strategy, but if it pays off then that is some massive savings. For the rest of us, it should be very interesting to see the process unfold.
One thing to remember about high-end cinema cameras like the ARRI ALEXA is that it isn’t just the camera that is pricey. All the accessories and parts are expensive too.
His initial list of pieces to find and pick up includes a lens mount, media, and power options and some of those items when new cost more than the bundle of cameras. This is going to be a struggle.
Honestly, the initial unboxing would scare me for spending that much money. Cameras had some random parts just hanging out, other pieces were loose, and some were just plain missing.
There are some good-looking pieces to work with though. At least one camera is fairly complete and there were some parts that look like they are in perfectly good shape.
This is going to require a lot of research and work. Labeling them first he found one that is seemingly the best bet and that became #1. An important part was that it had a DC input so he could power it up. The first test is plugging in some power and getting it to boot up. Amazingly, he gets it to power on.
Shockingly, the camera gets all the way to the menu screen. What shouldn’t be a surprise is that there are some errors. Another issue is that this camera doesn’t have any buttons or controls for navigating the menu. The next plan is to swap the side panels from another camera.
A fair bit of work later and it seems like he was able to get the “new” side panel installed on camera #1. It works and now he can navigate the menu using the dial and buttons. There is an error with the memory card, which seems to be because ARRI is super particular about exactly what type of SxS cards will work and that is holding up any serious testing.
Doing an inventory at this point he has the following:
- 3 x ARRI ALEXA Classics
- 2 x ARRI ALEXA Ms
The M models are almost identical internally to the Classics, but they don’t have sensors due to their “modular” design. They will be useful for parts but not much else. The Classics all do seem to come with all the sensor components.
There are some spare parts in the kit as well. A fan cover, rear set, extra screen, and more. He also had to buy an SxS card, a card reader, an SDI to HDMI converter, and a lens mount. There is still the power question since none of the cameras have plates. The power cable he picked up cost $100 alone, so that’ll likely do for now.
One attempted step was updating the firmware. Unfortunately, that errored out and he couldn’t fully update the camera. At this point there is a long list of errors to try and sort through. At this point it is time to take a break and check out what is going on with the other cameras. By moving the DC input to the other cameras and inventorying their errors and see if one of the others might have some better components.
There will be a second part coming with (hopefully) a working ARRI ALEXA. If you are curious about understanding how the internals of a cinema camera work this should be very educational.
What do you think? Was it a good idea to pick up a batch of broken cameras for what seemed like a steal?
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