At Cine Gear Expo, it felt like Alexa Expo. ARRI Alexa cameras were everywhere. They were as ubiquitous as Canon 5D and RED cameras that populated previous Expos. Alexas were so busy on shows that some exhibitors at Cine Gear had to sub-rent or ship from Europe.
Never before have so many cameras been built each month on Tuerkenstrasse in Munich. I’m guessing that over 1500 Alexas have shipped. Why all the fuss? Alexa fit the cinematographer’s quartet: 1. The image looks great. 2. The camera is small and relatively light. We’ve gotten used to the shoebox shape, and the new PLUS side module gives the camera a more sculptured shape. 3. The ARRI logo is like camera crew comfort food–with worldwide service centers and reliable reputation. 4. The menus are iPhone-simple. None of this is new news.
The Alexa triplets are soon to be quadruplets. The third sister was shown at Cine Gear, coming soon as Alexa Studio. She’ll have a full frame, 4-perf size 4:3 sensor (image area of 23.76 x 17.82 mm — 29.7 mm diameter) with a spinning mirror and optical finder.
The fourth sibling will be Alexa M. With a sensor head that separates from the camera body, it will allow for lighter, smaller 3D rigs as well as all kinds of mounting possibilities on remote heads, Steadicam Tangos, cars, crash housings and underwater systems.
Nevertheless, the pace previously enjoyed in analog film camera development is over. There’s barely time for R&D. Old routines of 18 month development cycles are victims of Moore’s Law, also 18 months long. But, before we wonder when a 4K Alexa might appear, I think the next big thing is going to be Alexa Studio anamorphic: 4:3 2x squeeze widescreen. And then, of course, there’s 16:9 with 1.3x squeeze anamorphic for all the other digital cameras available.