While it may disappoint many observors who had hopes of a truly affordable ARRI camera, the premium pricing of the ALEXA Mini may be justified by saving productions money down the line.
Anybody who follows video camera development understands ARRI's dilemma: how does a camera maker at the premium end of the market continue to differentiate its products with lower-end cameras of increasing quality and feature sets? Over the last six months, we have seen ARRI answer the challenge, first in the surprise announcement of 4K recording on its AMIRA (through a 1.2x upsample to UHD), then by introducing the much rumored ARRI ALEXA 65, which perhaps signals both the beginning of real medium format video recording and the the final push of film to obsolescence.
This past week, ARRI continued its run of shock announcements with the debut of its ARRI ALEXA Mini camera. It's the ALEXA shrunken down to a lightweight, carbon fiber weather sealed cube, utilizing the same sensor as the ALEXA and AMIRA, with recording up to Prores 4444 4K/UHD internally at 60 fps (using the same internal trickery as the AMIRA to achieve the feat) and external HD and 2K recording up to 200 fps.
Priced to sell?
Some optimistically wondered if the ARRI Alexa Mini would arrive at a price level to directly compete with lower priced options. News of the ALEXA Mini's actual price, around 32,500 EUR (or a shade over $36,000 before license upgrades), obviously crushed the dreams of those who had unrealistic designs of owning their own ARRIs.
But this pricing for the ALEXA Mini is fairly sensible for what you get, for its capabilities, and its place within certain productions. While I don't see many individual operators outright purchasing this camera, it will undoubtedly be a popular rental item, as any production that features the ALEXA XT as its main camera will look very seriously at the ALEXA Mini as its go-to 'B' camera. On the production side, it's diminutive size and cubic form factor means you can stick it in tight places its big brother could never go, whether it's in the floorboard of a car, on a UAV drone or in the ocean (with underwater housing, of course).
I'm sure there are some that will say, "The ALEXA Mini is unneccessary; the [INSERT CAMERA NAME HERE] works just fine as a 'B' camera to the Alexa." Of course, those folks may also be shielded from having to make that footage truly match. Using any non-ARRI camera in production as its 'B' camera in prodcution is a compromised decision and the balance occurs in post, when time (and therefore money) is spent to bring a result that could never parallel what's possible by simply acquiring the footage from multiple ARRIs. Now, with the introduction of the ALEXA Mini, no matter what the shooting circumstance, you can ensure matching footage at capture, thereby streamlining the workflow.
The ALEXA Mini is definitely a specialty device catering to a niche segment of filmmakers and production. But ARRI has always made products for high-end productions and with its new ALEXA Mini, it once again answers the needs of its elite user-base.
Credit goes to Newsshooter.com for alerting us to this story. You can read the full interview with ARRI Product Designer Michael Jonas HERE.