On February 20, 2013 Arri announced the new Alexa “XT” model camera. The XT stands for extended technology. The XT model is a refinement on the original design but sensor wise nothing has changed and every camera is still the same in this regard. But the similarities kind of end with the sensor as almost everything else has been overhauled. Fortunately, Arri is offering upgrades for 1st generation Alexa, which is a testament to Arri’s promise on modularity and upgradability for it’s user base.
So what’s new? The most exciting new feature for the XT camera, or upgrade that can be purchased separately is 2K uncompressed RAW recording at 120fps. This is huge. Existing owners need only pay for the new CODEX XR recording module that would replace the current SXS module. The new module was co-developed by CODEX the company that makes high-end off board RAW recorders. Media will be massive 512GB Codex capture drives. Current 32GB SXS sticks seem so tiny now but Arri standing in the face of competition from Sony’s F55 needed to bring this out as soon as possible to remain relevant and competitive.
Another exciting new feature of the XT model which is also available as an upgrade is an internal ND filter stack which is a hybrid feature of how cinema cameras and ENG cameras deal with Neutral Density filtering. It works exactly the same way as an ENG camera by filtering behind the lens, except the ND filters in the Alexa will follow traditional one-stop increments from N3 to N2.4 or exactly 1 to 5 stops of ND. The advantages of this are obvious. Behind the lens filtering will save huge time on set, reduce weight, reflections and operational complexity. Exposure can be controlled easier through a combination of shutter angle, ISO, and the new ND filter stack in one stop increment. Why ENG cameras never did this is beyond me. It’s a really brilliant move on Arri’s part and an innovative twist on something that has been around forever in ENG cameras, so who says you can’t break the rules? You just need to know when you can, and Arri does.
Other highlights include a redesigned eyepiece mount, LDS lens mount (lens data system) metadata from over 41 lens manufacturers including the Arri Alura lenses! Also is an anamorphic de-squeeze license for widescreen shooting which is primarily good for features, music videos and the odd commercial. And last but not least is a super silent fan but I’ve never encountered any issues with the current fan with the work I do.
So that’s it but it’s pretty big news. A new model that streamlines and builds upon the success of the first model and offers the extras as optional upgrades to the older models. Bravo.