Phil Rhodes takes an indepth first look at the new ARRI Amira
ARRI's stated grab for the documentary market can be interpreted in two ways: as simply that, or as a slightly indirect way of offering a lower-cost Alexa without risking any loss of value to its Alexa brand. There's no cynicism inherent to that second interpretation, especially in the light of Canon's C series cameras which, at the high end, compete with Alexa, and at the low end compete with Sony's F3. There's nothing wrong with a desire to have a finger in both those pies and well-differentiated products to do so, although I suspect we shouldn't hold our breaths for Amira to compete on price with the C300 (I'd have expected it to go for about twice as much).
The key to a reasonable evaluation, then, is your interpretation of the word “documentary”, something that has already caused significant buzz. It's a difficult term because it tends to mean different things in different markets, and even among different production sectors with respect to the sort of resources and personnel available to a production. Something like the BBC's Horizon series is a documentary, and consists mainly of sit-down interviews, lab tours, and a lot of computer graphics. Amira might be entirely usable on a show like this. On the other hand, there is some concern over how suitable it would be for the most remote, least supported, most run-and-gun style shows.
Why? Well, several characteristics hang over from Alexa which conspire to mean Amira will, in all practicality, require more support than a more conventional ENG camera, which is what Arri seem to be packaging it to compete with. This may be OK, or it may not, but it's worth considering.