The Arri Amira and 4K

Arri Amira from the operator side

Arri Amira from the operator side

Arri dropped some big news today at IBC when they announced their new smaller, lighter Amira camera aimed at documentary filmmaking and ENG work. It shares the same sensor as it's older sister, Alexa, and can shoot HD (1920x1080) or 2K (2048x1080) resolutions.

With the same internal components and colorimetry, you can expect to get the classic Alexa look with the Mira - including 14 stops of dynamic range and up to 8 stops overexposure latitude! The camera will record Rec709 or Log C images in all flavors of ProRes (from LT to 4444), direct on-board to CFast 2.0 Compact Flash Cards at up to 200 frames per second.

The body of the Amira is designed to be extraordinarily rugged with ENG ergonomics and a shoulder-balanced design. It includes internal ND filters, an OLED eyepiece, fold-away LCD, and "multi-channel audio options." The camera also has humidity and dust sealing along with an efficient thermal core cooling system to withstand the elements of any environment.

Sandisk's new CFast 2.0 Compact Flash card, which boasts read speeds of up to 450MB/s and write speeds of up to 350MB/s. Expect to see more camera manufacturers embrace this standard for internal 4K recording.

Sandisk's new CFast 2.0 Compact Flash card, which boasts read speeds of up to 450MB/s and write speeds of up to 350MB/s. Expect to see more camera manufacturers embrace this standard for internal 4K recording.

What's even more exciting about this camera, though, is the possibility of more lens mounting options than just PL. While PL is the cinema standard, there are some incredible lenses in a variety of mounts that users have become accustomed to using and having access to. Most notably, there is a planned EF mount option coming for the camera, which means having access to hundreds of Canon EF still photo lenses and Canon's line of Cinema Primes on an Arri sensor! 

No official word yet on shipping or price yet, but Andy Shipsides from AbelCine mentioned on Twitter that Arri is trying to stay competitive with the Canon C500 and Sony F55, and Arri has said that the Amira will cost significantly less than the Alexa - which is starting at about $44K for the body only. Based on that, I would expect the Amira to fall somewhere in the $30K price range, maybe just a little shy of that if we're lucky.

This is a bold move by Arri to expand into the middle & low budget level of production. Alexa's are often the preferred digital cinema camera for many top-tier blockbuster films, and much of that is owed to how well the camera handles color rendition, highlights, and skin tone. No doubt the Amira is going to share these qualities in a more affordable package that just works. The big question is how will the industry respond to this 2K camera given the recent heavy push by manufacturers into the world of 4K? Arri clearly sees more life ahead in HD, and are betting on it with the Amira.

Personally, I think they are making a smart move. While 4K delivery may be future (and eventually 8K), no one really knows exactly when that future is going to arrive, regardless of it's technical feasibility in capture.  Ultra HD television sets will continue to drop in price and become the norm - but that doesn't necessarily equate to consumer demand for 4K content. Considering that most people sit far enough away from their television to make the benefits of 4K over HD moot, demand on the consumer side for premium Ultra HD content could prove to be as lackluster as demand for 3D programming. There is also the issue of bandwidth and delivery for 4K content, which has not matured quite yet. No doubt high resolution video delivery is coming, but the question is, when will the consumer care enough to want to pay for it? In the same way that most people still watch SD content on their HD flat screens, consumers will likely own Ultra HD television sets long before they pay the premium for 4K content. 

If that proves to be the case, then color rendition and dynamic range performance may prove to be more important to image making than just a higher pixel count - and with the Amira, Arri is doubling down their bet on 2K and HD to stick around for a long time.