The ALEXA 35 is the shiny new cinema camera from ARRI and so it is (rightfully) getting all the attention these days. We shouldn’t forget about their existing cameras, especially the ALEXA Mini it is almost replacing.
I say “almost” replacing because it is still an incredible camera that even being a last-gen product maintains an advantage over the latest and greatest: color.
The interesting part is why this comparison even exists in the first place. Joel took the leap and picked up his very own ALEXA 35.
Over time he noticed that he wasn’t quite in love with it and the reason for this was the color. Everything else was a huge improvement over the Mini. Resolution, texture, and sensitivity all are objectively improved. That color though…
One idea he has for why this has happened is that ARRI originally was focused on delivering a more “filmic” image and over time have become more focused on delivering an accurate image. Makes sense, but it could be a bit of a change for those already familiar with ARRI’s looks.
Time to check out the side-by-side footage as well as his solution for getting the best of both worlds with the ALEXA 35.
With matching glass and settings he put the ALEXA 35 up against the ALEXA Mini to create a huge library of footage with all different colors and settings.
Creating a mixed-lighting scene he pits the cameras against each other. Watching all the colors in the scene you can see how the different colors are treated. This becomes more apparent as you adjust exposure as the ALEXA Mini does not have a linear color shift and different colors will react differently to things like underexposure.
He made sure to get a good variety of objects. He very much likes to use kids’ toys since they have such bright, bold colors.
There is also real greenery and grass in the scenes to create a better reference than just a chart. With all that done he was able to create an ALEXA Mini Emulation LUT for the ALEXA 35.
Comparing the footage directly you can pick up some differences quickly:
- The global saturation is a bit lower on the ALEXA 35
- Skin tones and warmer tones feel richer on the ALEXA Mini
- The ALEXA Mini would “enhance” the scene with complexity in the color rendering
These are all very personal opinions on how the footage feels to him (besides the saturation point), though you can definitely see what he is getting at when you look at the clips.
Getting deeper into the shadows you can see the ALEXA Mini footage has a gentler falloff. Saturation tends to disappear in the shadows and in the blacks. Losing that warmth in the skin tones is likely more accurate but less interesting.
Creating an image with more colors sometimes comes across as more true-to-life since it feels better.
When underexposing the ALEXA Mini he was a lot more comfortable since it maintained these rich colors in the scenes while the ALEXA 35 seems to lose some of that richness.
In tungsten lighting you can easily see how there is extra red in the skin tones on the ALEXA Mini emulation. This makes the ALEXA 35 footage feel like it has a much narrower array of colors to work with and makes it feel flat.
Heading outdoors we are seeing similar effects. The skin tones are looking more saturated and richer. Looking at the shadows you are getting a more blueish-green there which has a more film-like look.
Daylight scenes shot indoors show some issues with the skin tones on the ALEXA 35 while the ALEXA Mini seems to handle any skin well no matter the lighting.
It does look like the ALEXA 35 shifted too far from their distinct color rendering to a more “accurate” one that feels a bit flat compared to what we are used to with ARRI cameras.
Luckily, with some color work and a LUT you can reclaim some of that vintage ARRI feel.
What do you think about this comparison? Are you for the newer look of the ALEXA 35 or do you prefer the vintage feel of the ALEXA Mini.
[source: Joel Famularo]
- ARRI ALEXA 35 Cinema Camera (B&H)
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