ARRI Unveils Large-Format 4K Alexa Camera, Solves Netflix Spec Dilemma

Oscar-nominated ‘Shape of Water’ cinematographer Dan Laustsen shot test footage with the new camera.
Courtesy of ARRI
Dan Laustsen on location with the ARRI Alexa LF camera.

Camera maker ARRI has unveiled a 4K version of its widely used Alexa digital cinematography camera, supporting the growing use of higher-resolution large-format digital cameras — and effectively giving cinematographers the option to use the familiar Alexa on Netflix original productions by meeting the streaming services' technical requirements.

The widely used Alexa (the company also offers a top-of-the-line 6K Alexa 65 large-format camera) has a 3.2K resolution, and ARRI has long stood by its belief that resolution alone doesn’t produce the best images. The company has emphasized its wide dynamic range and other image characteristics that have made the Alexa the most widely used digital camera in Hollywood.

Netflix, however, has firmly stated that it would only use 4K cameras for its original productions, which has been a source of frustration for some cinematographers that use ARRI gear and work on Netflix projects. “The ARRI Alexa and Amira are fantastic cameras, and we stream plenty of content that was captured with these cameras. However, since these cameras do not have true 4K sensors, we cannot accept them for our 4K original productions,” Netflix explains on its website. “For those who pay a premium for our UHD 4K service, we only deliver content that was shot and delivered at a true UHD 4K resolution.”

With this new camera, ARRI ends this dilemma. The new Alexa LF records native 4K — actually 4.5K according to CEO Glen Kennel, "with the same [colorimetry], dynamic range ... but in a format that supports [4K] resolution in terms of pixels." Accompanying the Alexa LF camera launch are 16 new large-format ARRI Signature Prime lenses, ranging from 12 mm to 280 mm and fitted with the new ARRI LPL mount. Existing Alexa lenses and accessories are also compatible with the new camera.

The first test footage shot with the new camera has also been released, including clips from Oscar-nominated The Shape of Water cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who put the camera through its paces last month on location at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. “It’s a fantastic large-format camera, and the new lenses that I used are really great; I like the wide angles very much,” Laustsen said. "This is also going to give cinematographers [the option to] work with a smaller [Alexa] camera if you want to shoot 4K.”

Cinematographers Bill Bennett, Tom Fahrmann, Matias Boucard and Wang Yu additionally lensed test material with the new model.

The first Alexa LF cameras will be available in late March, and an initial set of four Signature Prime lenses will be available in early June. The remaining lenses will be released over the course of the year.