The ARRI AMIRA – What you need to know..

ARRI Alexa

Brief intro to the ARRI Amira

Smaller, lighter, shorter and less expensive than the ARRI Alexa but most unmistakably an ARRI nonetheless – only with Canon EF and B4 Broadcast lens compatibility, enter the ARRI AMIRA.

Jon Fauer of the Film and Digital Times commented that the new ARRI Amira reminded him of the ARRI 16SR — the 16mm documentary camera that launched his career.

Now some years into its release, the ARRI Amira has become a standard goto solution for documentary productions due to its robust built quality, legendary ARRI reliability and production-ready form factor, which does not need lots of bolt-ons in order to use it in the field.

What many camera operators don’t realise however, is that the Amira can be fitted with a PL mount adapter to easily mount 2/3” Broadcast HD lenses.

In Jon’s words, the new ARRI Amira is reminiscent of the 16SR for the Alexa age. More info on ARRI’s website.  Fits comfortably on the shoulder, very versatile, comfortable and lightweight.  Most importantly, it is one of the only digital cameras that doesn’t require a cage, rig or a multitude of mods.

ARRI Amira Summary

  • 2K to 200 fps.
  • Same sensor as the ARRI ALEXA,
  • records  HD 1080 or 2K onto CFast 2.0 CF cards
  • Rec 709 or Log C ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ or 444
  • Shoots to new CF2 Fastcard storage (up to 120GB)
  • Smaller and lighter than ARRI Alexa
  • Easy shoulder-mount operation

The Amira is a “documentary-style” shoulder-mounted camera built around the same sensor as the Alexa and designed for single-operator use. The camera shoots in 1080p HD and 2K at up to 200 fps, claims the same 14-stop dynamic range as the Alexa, and includes pre-loaded looks based on 3D LUTs for in-camera colour grading.

Important changes to the Alexa are that it is significantly shorter and lighter than the Alexa and has a much smaller power draw as well.  Saying that though, it feels like a regular Sony full-size documentary camera and feels very robust with excellent build quality.

It records to a new recording medium – these are just like CF cards but more robust faster versions called “CF Fast cards”, which claim up to 600MB/second read/write speed.  They are also supposed to be cheaper than SxS Pro cards and capable to record 4444 Prores logC at a very impressive 200fps at 2K! (Up to 120GB per card capacity at present and 2 x slots available).

The Amira records Rec. 709 or Log C images in camera to SanDisk’s new CFast 2.0 flash memory cards (read on for more on those) using ProRes 422, 422 (LT), 422 (HQ), or 4444 codecs — but not ARRIRAW. This is important, as it shows that the Amira is built for utility and speed in both production and post and won’t compete head-on with ALEXA. 

It boots quickly with no set-up tasks or other delays to slow it down in run-and-gun environments and stressed that the Amira has a rugged construction that will be an asset under punishing field conditions.

And ARRI seems to be making sure shooters have options for managing their colour in camera, rather than relying on fiddling in post. In addition to the pre-loaded looks, DPs can load custom LUTs into the camera before the shoot, and 3D LUTs can even be modified during the shoot.

Also on board are motorized ND filters, zebra and false-colour displays, and an advanced peaking function for aiding quick focusing. Both a flip-out LCD monitor and an OLED eyepiece are included.

By the way, ARRI was a collaborator with SanDisk in the development of that CFast 2.0 standard, which is widely supported as a recording medium amongst many similar cameras.

The cards, which have a pinless design to reduce the chances of damage on insertion or removal, are available in 120GB, 240GB and 512GB capacities, and support writing at up to 350 MB/sec — enough to record ProRes 4444 at up to 120 fps. ARRI said CFast 2.0 card recordings, like those on SxS Pro cards, are closed continuously, so if the card is accidentally ejected or power is lost during a recording, the file on the card is not corrupted. 

ARRI’s latest Alexa software update (v9.0) enables the higher-speed ProRes recording as well as a ProRes Pre-Recording option that keeps the camera recording in a continuously buffering mode so that nature cinematographers don’t miss their shot. Also new is DNxHD 444 support for all DNxHD-licensed cameras, a “self-healing metadata” feature to repair a prematurely closed file an allow the media to be reused, and support for Cooke /i lens data in Alexa Classic cameras with a PL-LDS mount.

Drive the AMIRA using the ARRI AMIRA Simulator

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