Arri Alexa: The Cinematic Standard
If you are a filmmaker, you probably know the brand Arri. They made several popular 35mm film cameras back in the day plus they still make the classic tungsten lights and several new LED fixtures that everyone loves.
And of course, they make the Arri Alexa line of digital cinema cameras.
The Arri Alexa has undergone many different phases. It started out as the D21 – a beast of a camera that utilized a 35mm film scanner sensor inside a heavy 35mm film camera body.
As Arri perfected the technology, they rebranded to what is now known as the Alexa.
Why Is It So Popular?
Many filmmakers consider the Alexa to be the “holy grail” of digital cinema cameras.
This is demonstrated by the fact that most award-winning films from the past decade have been shot on Alexa cameras.
But why is it so beloved? After all, for a long time the camera maxed out at 2.8K resolution, even after 4K delivery of feature films became standard.
Well, firstly, it’s important to note that even at 2.8K, the Alexa footage can be delivered in 4K and still look amazing.
Secondly, in my opinion, the most important aspect is the color science.
The Alexa renders skin tones like no other camera…
They come out with this creamy, beautifully rich tone that is extremely appealing and that many believe is the closest to being “like film”.
In any case, this is all besides the point.
The Alexa is an amazing camera. New models retail for over $50,000. And used models often show up for sale for over $10,000.
So how did we get one for $3,500? Let’s explore that next.
The $3,500 Alexa
I have been scouring the internet looking for deals on film equipment since I was 18 years old and living in a dorm room.
I had it down to a science.
I knew all the websites, all the apps, I had alerts set up and I knew all the best negotiating tactics. It was great! I was the King of Craigslist.
But it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I discovered the REAL secret to getting the most killer deals on film equipment.
I always knew auctions existed. I had been to some as a kid where I bought my first TV after selling some of my old items at a garage sale.
But, it never occurred to me that there would be auctions for film equipment.
Even if it had, I would’ve thought to myself – well, I’ll have to go down to the auction house, put down a hefty deposit, sit there all day as lots go by – it’s just too much work.
Little did I know, it’s the 2010s! We have the internet, and everything has changed since I went to that auction with my dad.
My First Big Auction Find
The first auction I discovered was in New Jersey, of all places.
Well, that’s the end for me! I’m on the west coast. But it just so happened that one of our friends was out doing a gig in New Jersey and could pick up our equipment for us and bring it back.
So, the first thing I snagged at this auction in New Jersey was a Sony F23 Digital Cinema Camera.
The F23 is brother to the Sony F35! It shoots great quality footage at 1080p. The only difference was that it had a smaller sensor and a B4 mount instead of a PL mount for lenses.
I honestly had no idea what I was buying. In fact, I thought it WAS an F35, so I was in for a little bit of a shock when I got it in my hands.
But either way, I bought it for $250, so not a huge risk.
When I got it back to LA, I borrowed a lens, turned the thing on and plugged it into a monitor.
A real life digital cinema camera for $250. I was hooked.
This auction also had an Alexa camera. My colleagues and I discussed going in together to buy it and we placed a hefty bid that (thank God) did not win. The Alexa ended up selling for just under $14,000.
Feeding the Addiction
Ever since that first deal, I was on the auction train hard.
I ended up buying tons of grip – stands, clamps, flags. Plus, tungsten, Kino Flo, and LED lighting fixtures.
Enough to fill a whole small studio.
I would offset all my purchases by buying things I didn’t want to keep and selling them in order to pay for the items that I did keep.
Not too bad, we were doing okay.
Then, an auction came up with dozens of Alexa cameras.
I didn’t get my hopes up. After all, the last time I saw an Alexa in an auction, it went for over $10K.
But, the first one came up to the block. It got up to $3250 and was about to end.
“Is this really happening?” I thought to myself.
I put in a bid of $3,500 and won!
I couldn’t believe it. The first Alexa and it went for super cheap!
Needless to say the remaining cameras did not go for as low as mine did.
I got lucky.
But now, we have a real working Arri Alexa Plus that we use to shoot some of our projects and we rent out to other filmmakers.