NAB 2019: Why Filmmakers Are Excited About The New ARRI Alexa Mini LF Large-Format Camera System

For many filmmakers, the Alexa Mini, which was unveiled four years ago at NAB 2015, was an extremely sought-after camera. But four years is a long time in the tech world. So, ARRI’s new announcement was welcome news to many in the film and camera industry: Earlier today, ARRI announced the new Alexa Mini LF camera, which the company says is designed to combine “the compact size and low weight of the popular Alexa Mini with the large-format Alexa LF sensor.”

From the specs and features alone (see below), it’s an impressive camera. But according to HD Video Pro’s contributing editor and documentary filmmaker, Dan Brockett, there’s a very practical reason ARRI might have developed this new camera: “The Alexa Mini LF represents ARRI’s answer to …Netflix’s mandate that all commissioned programming must originate from cameras that utilize at least a native 4K imager. This mandate had made utilizing the existing, very popular ARRI S35 cameras difficult to impossible for commissioned programming for Netflix.”

The New ARRI Alexa Mini LF Large-Format Camera (front view).

Over the past decade, says Brockett, “ARRI’s line of cameras have dominated both feature and episodic production in Hollywood. However, up until recently, they were only available with native imagers that were smaller than 4K, shooting an S35-format image.” And while the company had introduced the Alexa LF (large frame) full-sized camera last year, using the larger camera with gimbals, drones, Steadicams and filming in tight locations was a challenge. 

Cinematographer Heiko Knauer with the new ARRI Alexa Mini LF large-format camera.

One of the features Brockett finds enticing is that the new Alexa Mini LF allows the use of popular full-frame lenses with three stops of built-in neutral-density (ND) filters. “That’s a rare feature among higher-end digital cinema cameras,” says Brockett. “The Alexa Mini LF also records its footage to a new proprietary media from industry standard-bearer Codex instead of CFast or XAVC cards since neither format would have provided enough throughput to record all of the output specifications of the Alexa Mini LF.”

The New ARRI Alexa Mini LF large-format camera (center) next to the Alexa LF (left) and Signature Prime lenses.

However, it seems ARRI isn’t just overhauling specs and features for the sake of introducing a new product. For example, the new 4.5K-resolution image sensor makes clear that ARRI doesn’t intend to get into a resolution war that some competing camera companies seem to promote as superior technology. “ARRI has always promoted a ‘better pixels, not more pixels’ strategy that eludes other camera manufacturers,” says Brockett.   

The Alexa Mini LF will be available in Mid-2019 in several different configurations. Brockett says he believes it will be a popular addition to rental house lineups. The new camera will also not replace the current S35 imager models. Both S35 and LF versions will be supported for the foreseeable future.

Other features include:

  • Internal recording of MXF/ARRIRAW or MXF/Apple ProRes in a variety of formats and aspect ratios.
  • A new MVF-2 high-contrast HD OLED viewfinder, which also comes with a large, 4-inch flip-out display.
  • Internal motorized FSND filters, extra connectors and user buttons.
  • A new 6-pin audio connector.
  • Built-in microphones.
  • Enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities.
  • 12-V power input and extra power outputs.
  • A rugged carbon body, which is able to withstand a temperature range of – 4° F to 113° F.
  • Compatible with many Alexa Mini accessories.
  • A USB-C Compact Drive Reader.

At press time, ARRI did not provide US pricing information, but the new ALEXA Mini LF will be shipping in mid-2019.

For more details on the new camera, see the press release (below):

The New ARRI Alexa Mini LF Large-Format Camera (angled rear view).

[[press release:]]

New ALEXA Mini LF expands ARRI’s large-format camera system

  • Large-format ALEXA LF sensor in an ALEXA Mini body
  • New, cost-efficient Codex Compact Drive for fast and open workflows
  • New MVF-2 high-contrast HD viewfinder
  • Internal motorized FSND filters, extra connectors, and user buttons
  • Best overall image quality with much higher usable sensitivity

March 28, 2019, Munich – ARRI today unveils its new ALEXA Mini LF camera. Combining the compact size and low weight of the popular ALEXA Mini with the large-format ALEXA LF sensor, ALEXA Mini LF brings exciting new creative possibilities to ARRI’s large-format camera system. Robust and reliable, it provides the best overall image quality for large-format shooting, and features three internal motorized FSND filters, 12 V power input, extra power outputs, a new Codex Compact Drive, and a new MVF-2 high-contrast HD viewfinder.

ARRI’s large-format camera system launched in 2018 and is based around a 4.5K version of the ALEXA sensor, which is twice the size and offers twice the resolution of ALEXA cameras in 35 format. This allows filmmakers to explore their own take on the large-format look, with improvements on the ALEXA sensor’s famously natural colorimetry, pleasing skin tones, low noise, and suitability for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) workflows. ALEXA Mini LF now joins the existing system elements: the high-speed capable ALEXA LF camera, ARRI Signature Prime lenses, LPL lens mount, PL-to-LPL adapter, and Lens Data System LDS-2. The combined feature sets and form factors of ARRI’s two large-format cameras encompass all on-set requirements.

Following in ARRI’s long tradition of manufacturing rugged, reliable cameras, ALEXA Mini LF is built for a prolonged life of tough usage in challenging professional conditions. With a hard-wearing carbon body and a uniquely wide temperature range of -20° C to +45° C (-4° F to +113° F), each ALEXA Mini LF is put through a vigorous stress test before leaving the ARRI factory and is then supported by ARRI’s global service centers.

While ALEXA Mini LF is compatible with almost all ALEXA Mini accessories, it brings significant enhancements to the Mini camera design. Among them are extra connectors, including regulated 12 V and 24 V accessory power; a new 6-pin audio connector; built-in microphones; and improved WiFi. Six user buttons now adorn the camera’s operating side, and the camera and viewfinder each have their own lock button, while user access to the recording media, and VF and TC connectors, has been made easier.

ALEXA Mini LF allows internal recording of MXF/ARRIRAW or MXF/Apple ProRes in a variety of formats and aspect ratios, and is the first camera to feature the new Compact Drive recording media from Codex, an ARRI technology partner. Small and lightweight, but solidly built, the 1 TB drive offers a reliable, competitively priced recording solution. With it comes a USB-C Compact Drive Reader that can be used without any extra software or licenses on Mac or Windows computers. In addition, a Compact Drive Adapter can be used in any dock that accepts SXR Capture Drives, potentially more than doubling download speeds.

Another development from Codex now makes large-format shooting a more practical and budget-friendly option: Codex High Density Encoding (HDE) uses sophisticated, loss-less encoding to reduce ARRIRAW file sizes by around 40% during downloading or later in the workflow. This lowers storage costs, shortens transfer times, and speeds up workflows, which translates to a direct 40% saving in time and money. HDE is free-of-charge for use with Codex Capture or Compact Drives, openly shared, and fast: ARRIRAW Open Gate 4.5K can be encoded at 24 fps on a modern MacBook Pro.

At the heart of ARRI’s new MVF-2 viewfinder for the ALEXA Mini LF are the same high-contrast HD OLED display, color science, and ARRICAM eyepiece as in ALEXA LF’s EVF-2 viewfinder, allowing optimal judgement of focus, dynamic range, and color on set. In addition, the MVF-2 features a large, 4” flip-out monitor that can display the image or the camera control menu, providing maximum flexibility for different camera configurations. The MVF-2 can be used on either side of the camera and connects via a new, flexible, and reliable CoaXPress VF cable that has a reach of up to 10 m for remote camera operations. It features a refined user interface, a built-in eyepiece lens heater for de-fogging, and a built-in headphones connector.

Stephan Schenk, Managing Director of ARRI Cine Technik and responsible for ARRI’s Business Unit Camera Systems, says: “The ALEXA Mini LF is a fantastic addition to our large-format system and will complement the ALEXA LF, rather than replace it. The ALEXA LF is a great camera capable of high-speed, which is especially important for commercials where 150 fps in 4.5K resolution and full image quality is important. It is, in fact, how an ARRIFLEX 435 still complements an ARRICAM on set. With the addition of the Mini LF we now have an answer for all shooting requirements.”

ALEXA Mini LF cameras are scheduled to start shipping from mid-2019.

For more information visit: www.arri.com/alexaminilf

About ARRI:

Arnold & Richter Cine Technik (ARRI) is a global company within the motion picture media industry, employing around 1,500 staff worldwide. The company was founded in 1917 in Munich, Germany, where the headquarters is still located today. Other subsidiaries exist in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia.

The ARRI Group consists of five business units: Camera Systems, Lighting, Media, Rental, and Medical. ARRI is a leading designer and manufacturer of camera and lighting systems for the film and broadcast industry, with a worldwide distribution and service network. It is also an integrated media service provider in the fields of film post- and coproduction, international sales, as well as equipment rental, supplying camera, lighting, and grip packages to professional productions. ARRI Medical focuses on the use of core imaging technologies for surgical applications.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized ARRI’s engineers and their contributions to the industry with 19 Scientific and Technical Awards.

For locations and more information please visit www.arri.com.

MENU