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DaveAltizer

ARRI Alexa cheap enough to own now?

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I was curious to see what used ARRI Alexa's were going for and I was shocked to see that a Classic EV model goes for $8k-$10k on average. Is this camera using the same sensor technology we have in the modern ARRI's? Is this a practical thing to get into? $10K is very doable and reasonable...and for ARRI...gosh darn it....

Why keep comparing everything to a standard when you can just OWN the standard?
 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/ARRI-Alexa-Classic-EV-High-Speed-Camera-TESTED-AND-EXCELLENT/302511937364?hash=item466f1dd754:g:jb8AAOSwFnJZeina

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

That's the one! I think the biggest issue is the size and operation. It's meant for crews and all of that, as far as I know. Might be a tough go for a solo operator. 

But damned if you won't have the best image in town. STILL, after 8 damn years or whatever it's been. 

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@dbp

I would be happy to deal with the sluggish workflow for that DANG SEXAYYY IMAGE! I shoot 90% on sticks anyways! 

I'm going to be digging around for one. Arri Alexa would be worth selling my 1DC for! Lol.

Leitax makes a great Canon EF adapter for Alexa too that would be perfect for my CONTAX Zeiss kit. They have the Leitax mounts on them already. http://www.leitax.com/conversion/Cine/Alexa/index.html

DANG..imagine my youtube content shot on ALEXA lol. MKBHD on steroids. 

 

Had a conversation with Roman Alaivi about his on vimeo....insane.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 10.51.49 PM.png

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There's also the risk that clients and distributors will start demanding a minimum of 4K deliverables in the future.

I mean, people have been claiming that for like 10 years now, so who knows. But just a thought. 

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Arri Alexa has been around the $10K ish market on eBay for quite some time now, well over a year, I've pointed it a few times already. 

But is it a wise choice? For almost all of us in this forum the answer is: no.

Perhaps never been on a shoot with an Arri Alexa firsthand? But ever shot a multi day shoot with a RED ONE maybe? The experience would have a few similarities. You're dealing with a big, heavy, and power hungry beast. 

And $10K will be bit a tip of the iceberg, you'll need to upgrade your tripod/slider/jib/lenses/media/batteries, all at likely greater cost than you think. (for instance a quality tripod that can support a full rigged out Alexa isn't cheap! Can't use the $150 tripod you've used before with your DSLR. And this theme repeats itself over and over, what about costs for SxS media? Just to throw another example out there).


Also $10K ish is a *LOT* of money, you've got tonnes of other options. 

Let's look at a few other options:
Secondhand Sony FS7 (as THE MOST POPULAR midrange camera, you'd likely be able to find and do more work with this)
Secondhand Sony F5 (basically a "more professional" FS7)
New Panasonic EVA1 (want to take a bet on the next generation of midrange cameras? Might be this, maybe)
Secondhand Sony FS5 (very compact! Nothing with its features and compactness can touch it, well until the EVA1 comes out... )
New Kinefinity Terra 4K/5K/6K
New/secondhand URSA Mini 4.6K (original or Pro version)

All these options you could easily afford if considering the Arri Alexa, might even leave thousands of dollars spare left in your pocket!

And if you're a non-professional, then none of those should even be considered by you. Instead go for a Panasonic GH5/G80, JVC LS300, BMD Micro Cinema or a secondhand FS700/F3/BMPCC.


So who do I see the "cheap eBay" Arri Alexa being for?

I think they need to meet a few of these criteria (ideally all of them):

1) have the cash at hand and existing clashflow to justify such a very large purchase (don't be buying one without a business plan of some sorts beforehand! Run the figures, such as exactly that is the total cost vs what revenue you might get from it a minimum realistically speaking)
2) either are producing in house and/or have clients who will pay the premium vs just doing it with a camera that costs a quarter as much
3) don't mind the large weight and power requirements, because you either already own all the extra support or have budgeted for it. Plus your projects have the budget for the assistant(s) all this extra overhead will require. 
4) you're already renting on at least a somewhat semi regular basis an Arri Alexa
5) you don't already have some other big gaps in the filmmaking process which are more deserving of the funding. For instance, do you already have all the lighting and audio gear you need? (or hopefully, you always hire gaffers / sound recordists who come with their own gear)
6) have no need for 4K right now (or have another camera for that), and can get a return on the Arri Alexa before the demand for 4K becomes mainstream (which is tricky to predict when that will happen? Or has it already.... a risk to take!)
7) live locally to an Arri Alexa seller with a good price, or willing to roll the dice on shipping/importing an expensive and bulky item. (this is a bummer for people like myself in New Zealand! But if you lived in LA, this is something to stick in the pro column instead)

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@IronFilm

Nailed it. For sure! I have the lenses, tripod, filters, etc...so all I would need is a few V mount batteries and some SxS Cards I would be set. 

I don't talk about this much on this forum but my Dad is a director or feature docs and I shoot with him a lot. The last two films we made went to theaters and we have a few more in the works. The fact that ARRI Alexa is so obtainable is revolutionary and really really exciting! 

I shoot all 1DC right now and love dealing with ridiculous cameras for a gorgeous image payoff. 

I rent Alexa often for high budget commercials and music videos I direct. Here are a few projects I directed that were all Alexa 

 

In Nashville, there is a large community of people that I work with that rent Alexa's and I would imagine if I had a ready to go kit that I could rent it out. 

Problem is..I would have to sell a lot of crap to pay for it and I would not want to go into debt to purchase it. 

Roman on vimeo brought up a good point in his comment to me: 
 

"My guess though is that it's only going to get cheaper very soon here. The Alexa and the sensor that's been used in every single version of the camera is pretty much at the end of its rope. I'll bet you anything by NAB next year they'll finally release a new version of the Alexa that can be purchased by rental houses with a brand new sensor. At that point... it's going to be a free-for-all. Like... so SO many bodies are going to be dumped left and right it's gonna be nuts."


Chances are..the best time to buy it will be when the newest sensor comes out.

 

REGARDLESS...the fact that we are justifying the purchase of an ARRI ALEXA that is the same price of a C300 mkii blows my mind. REALLY exciting. 

 

 

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49 minutes ago, DaveAltizer said:

Leitax makes a great Canon EF adapter for Alexa too that would be perfect for my CONTAX Zeiss kit. They have the Leitax mounts on them already. http://www.leitax.com/conversion/Cine/Alexa/index.html

What I'm curious about, but still haven't found an answer for is if SxS adapters for SD (or XQD) cards work in an Arri Alexa? Haven't ever yet found an answer for that. As if they are compatible (I use SD cards in their SxS adpater for my Sony PMW-F3) then that is a tremendous cost savings if buying a secondhand Arri Alexa. 

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6 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

What I'm curious about, but still haven't found an answer for is if SxS adapters for SD (or XQD) cards work in an Arri Alexa? Haven't ever yet found an answer for that. As if they are compatible (I use SD cards in their SxS adpater for my Sony PMW-F3) then that is a tremendous cost savings if buying a secondhand Arri Alexa. 

Nice!! Very clever. I’m not sure. You would think it would work? 

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Just now, DaveAltizer said:

Nice!! Very clever. I’m not sure. You would think it would work? 

Seeing as you rent them now and then, please give it a go! 

The SxS adapter for SD cards is dirt dirt cheap, so zero harm trying at least! (and I'm sure you already own SD cards, but ideally try it with some fast ones such as Extreme Pro cards)

I just used the cheapest one on eBay from China, not this one (I purchased mine a while ago), but same kind of thing:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/SD-SDHC-SDXC-to-34MM-Express-Card-reader-SXS-adapter-for-sonyEX280-EX350/291799349554


Ditto the XQD adapter is quite affordable too (although you might not own Sony XQD cards? But is easy enough to ask around and find some to borrow I'm sure):

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/840666-REG/Sony_QDA_EX1_SC1_XQD_ExpressCard_Adapter.html

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2 hours ago, DaveAltizer said:

Nailed it. For sure! I have the lenses, tripod, filters, etc...so all I would need is a few V mount batteries and some SxS Cards I would be set. 


Ah I imagine then you're quite ahead of the weight needs when it comes to tripods and other supporting needs for an Arri Alexa, so you won't need to be rebuying this? As that would then increase your needed budget significantly. 

What about lenses, are they a full set of PL lenses? As if they're SLR lenses then I'd email Leitax before buying the camera, so that you're 120% certain they have the adapter in stock! (because sometimes with these small stores and old stock, then they might list on their website as "in stock" but in reality they ran out and it never got updated. And you'll have a hell of time trying to track this down secondhand! Might be near on impossible)

2 hours ago, DaveAltizer said:

I rent Alexa often for high budget commercials and music videos I direct. Here are a few projects I directed that were all Alexa

You might be the perfect niche candidate for buying one then! Look at how often you're sure you'd be renting one over the next 18 months, would that come up to over half the cost of buying one? If so, then you're starting to build up a more solid case to at least consider buying one yourself. 

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2 hours ago, IronFilm said:

What I'm curious about, but still haven't found an answer for is if SxS adapters for SD (or XQD) cards work in an Arri Alexa? Haven't ever yet found an answer for that. As if they are compatible (I use SD cards in their SxS adpater for my Sony PMW-F3) then that is a tremendous cost savings if buying a secondhand Arri Alexa. 

SD would be neither quick enough nor robust enough, I would imagine. Basic SxS cards are 400MB/s read and 350MB/s write. I was under the impression that you couldn't use the SD card adapters despite being able to use them on the F3 because of those kinds of limitations. I haven't considered it for a few years at least. XQD cards could potentially work, but I don't know that I'd really want to try it out on something mission critical. Realistically, if you're looking at SD cards that are high speed enough vs SxS cards that are second hand, or the original ones - you're not really saving all that much money, and I'd rather just go for the proper cards.

Here's the problems I see with a second-hand Alexa that will affect you differently depending on what you shoot, how you shoot, who you shoot for and who you shoot with:

-they generally have thousands of hours on them, which is one of the biggest reasons for me to steer clear. The cheaper ones could easily be 7 years old, and could easily have 5,000-7,000+ hours on the sensor. A sensor which is difficult and expensive to service.
-you have no way of knowing what condition it is in or what it's been through. Whether it's been serviced at all and if it's been serviced by reputable companies. Arri are usually very hesitant to touch second-hand cameras and if they do, it comes at a very high cost.
-the things are ridiculously heavy. They're not really built for much hand-holding. It can be done, sure, but it's far from the best option for handheld.
-they're designed for use with a camera crew. Most of the settings are dialled in on the assistant side of the camera. Basic stuff can be done through the EVF and on the operator side, but to really do much you need to be on the assistant side. Fine if you're shooting with a crew. Annoying if you're not
-they often don't even come with a battery plate, so you have to buy a plate for the camera before you even buy batteries. 
-they suck batteries like nothing else. If you haven't got stupidly high capacity (and therefore very expensive) V-Locks, you'll be lucky to get 20 minutes from a single charge.
-you need a (not inexpensive) license to shoot 60fps
-you need a (not inexpensive) license to shoot ARRIRAW
-they're overall much slower cameras to work with than any modern camera
-they require much bigger (and therefore much more expensive) support and other equipment to make them 'work' or usable for a shoot. Handheld rigs are in some cases 10x the price, and it's still far from ideal for handheld work. You're going to need a pretty decent head & legs to support it. You're probably looking at $5k+ for an appropriate head. PL glass. IRNDs, and a whole set as there's nothing internal...

If you can deal with, or get around, all of these things (and some are doozies - like not knowing the state of the sensor, nor how far away things are from carking it), then it could be a potentially viable option. I think this is the reason you don't see many more Alexas out there.

You have no idea if the RS port is on its last legs, or anything like that. The things are put together just-so. You have no idea if you're going to buy it and then need to replace the sensor within a few months because you happened to damage a part that just so happens to be a part of the sensor wiring (I've seen it happen).

If you have the cash that you don't mind, then sure. For the type of jobs that operators who would be looking at the $10k mark for a camera, the Alexa Classic is one of the least appropriate options on the market, despite the fact that it's got the best image on the market. At most budget levels where an Alexa would be a consideration, you would generally have the budget to cover the hire anyway.

If I had money I was happy to throw away, I'd probably take a gamble on it, but I don't have $10k USD to potentially throw away on an Alexa body right now...

 

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1 minute ago, jax_rox said:

SD would be neither quick enough nor robust enough, I would imagine. Basic SxS cards are 400MB/s read and 350MB/s write. I was under the impression that you couldn't use the SD card adapters despite being able to use them on the F3 because of those kinds of limitations. I haven't considered it for a few years at least. XQD cards could potentially work, but I don't know that I'd really want to try it out on something mission critical.

You don't need them to be that fast to recorder ProRes HQ FHD. After all many many of us having been doing this for years and years now with SanDisk Extreme Pro cards. 

It is not like we're recording 4K 444 to them! (which QXD in SxS are capable of and are approved to work in a Sony F5/F55)

So where are the limitations:

The card itself not being fast enough: nope!
The adapter not being faster enough: nope! (no fancy electronics in there I believe, is just a straight passthrough connection I think)
Some other weird compatibility quirk: who knows.... is an open question which still needs to be answered!

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Just now, IronFilm said:

You don't need them to be that fast to recorder ProRes HQ FHD. After all many many of us having been doing this for years and years now with SanDisk Extreme Pro cards. 

It is not like we're recording 4K 444 to them! (which QXD in SxS are capable of and are approved to work in a Sony F5/F55)

So where are the limitations:

The card itself not being fast enough: nope!
The adapter not being faster enough: nope! (no fancy electronics in there I believe, is just a straight passthrough connection I think)
Some other weird compatibility quirk: who knows.... is an open question which still needs to be answered!

I know what you're saying, but this was the talk I heard a few years ago when I was discussing with a particular rental house about this exact thing a few years ago. I know technically an SD card may be fast enough to record ProRes HQ in HD, but the Alexa may still have a tough time recording to it. Actual SxS cards are not that expensive, and if you're taking the plunge with an Alexa anyway, I see no reason why you shouldn't simply use the appropriate media, especially given that SxS is significantly more robust and safer than SD.

XQD is likely a different story, though there still may be compatibility quirks. At the end of the day, I wouldn't really be too interested in risking it.

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12 minutes ago, jax_rox said:

Realistically, if you're looking at SD cards that are high speed enough vs SxS cards that are second hand, or the original ones - you're not really saving all that much money, and I'd rather just go for the proper cards.

SD cards are dirt cheap, and something everyone already owns (especially if you say have a BMPCC already, or any 4K camera). Thus cost = zero. 

For a couple of secondhand SxS cards (the minimum you'd need for a day's shooting) you're looking at five hundred bucks:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/used/1314825/sony_2sbs64g1c_sxs_1_64gb_440_200_mbs.html

I think at least finding out if they really do or do not work is still an interesting question. as a person could say buy a couple of SxS cards (I already own two that came with my F3! Although only puny 16GB cards :-/ ) then have the rest be SD cards in adapters.

That way for the vast bulk of their work they'd use the SxS, but for those loooong days where you're rolling and rolling such as a long series of interviews all day long (and without a DIT to unload them along the way) you know you can expand your day's capacity by using SD cards in a pinch.

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I've thought about buying.  

Even a few years ago when 30k used seemed viable.

I'm old enough to consider an Alexa a small camera compared to what I used to shoot, so that's not a big worry. 

But finacially it's silly.  My productions don't justify it.

Its just that I'm doing docs. And small cinema verite docs don't need a big camera.  A big Arri cam would also just get in the way "emotionally" by demanding attention. 

IQ to make you weep with joy, but I'll take the hit to use a mirror less cam...and shoot breezily all day long.

For commercials or up market corporate I'd rent. 

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Just now, IronFilm said:

For a couple of secondhand SxS cards (the minimum you'd need for a day's shooting) you're looking at five hundred bucks:

When you're buying a $10k camera, is saving a couple hundred bucks worth risking the safety of your footage...? CFast cards are about as expensive (or more) as well....

I'm talking about comparing an SD card that would even come close in terms of the read/write speed of an SxS. Don't underestimate the Alexa ;)  It was my understanding when talking to this rental house that they'd tried using a standard SD card in an adapter and the Alexa did not like it at all. YMMV of course, but again - what's the point of risking it? I don't and will never understand the logic behind spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a camera body and then attempting to cheap out on the very media that saves the precious footage - the footage you spent the thousands to try and produce!

We're not talking about thousands of dollars per card. It's a few hundred extra dollars. Though, you're right (and here's another problem with using an Alexa without a crew) - a 64GB card gets you very little recording time in ProRes 4444... which then means you need someone on call all day to dump data...

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21 minutes ago, jax_rox said:

-you need a (not inexpensive) license to shoot 60fps
-you need a (not inexpensive) license to shoot ARRIRAW

On the upside, almost all these cheap secondhand eBay auctions I see do include the highspeed license already, and often arriraw too.

 

21 minutes ago, jax_rox said:

For the type of jobs that operators who would be looking at the $10k mark for a camera, the Alexa Classic is one of the least appropriate options on the market, despite the fact that it's got the best image on the market.

This is I think the killer blow against the $10K Alexa. 

For owner ops considering a $10K camera, then most of their work isn't going to be appropriate for the Arri Alexa, and they'd get a better ROI (return on investment) from having the likes of say a Sony FS7. 

But there is still a small niche of a niche of people who it might be appropriate for, and I think the op might be one of them. Perhaps. 

21 minutes ago, jax_rox said:

At most budget levels where an Alexa would be a consideration, you would generally have the budget to cover the hire anyway.


Yup, I feel it is a very small slither of the market which exists between "can rent an Arri (and probably wants the newer Mini anyway)" and "doesn't quite afford it but still is appropriate for an Arri shoot"

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29 minutes ago, jax_rox said:

We're not talking about thousands of dollars per card. It's a few hundred extra dollars.


If you're using say four cards (and many Alexa packages might come with even more than that), then you could easily be talking about a thousand bucks. 
You might say it is "just a thousand dollars", but a few thousand here, another thousand there, and soon you're talking about serious money!

Plus it is useful and informative to think about this things for the future, as what if a new Arri camera with a brand new sensor gets announced tomorrow?
 
So that in a couple of years time from now, the prices of secondhand Arri Alexa Classics have tumbled down to just US$5K (not a totally unrealistic guess, it might be even lower!), then the question of spending an extra thousand dollars on SxS media or not will then become a relatively more important factor to consider. 

35 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

SD cards are dirt cheap, and something everyone already owns (especially if you say have a BMPCC already, or any 4K camera). Thus cost = zero. 

For a couple of secondhand SxS cards (the minimum you'd need for a day's shooting) you're looking at five hundred bucks:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/used/1314825/sony_2sbs64g1c_sxs_1_64gb_440_200_mbs.html

I think at least finding out if they really do or do not work is still an interesting question. as a person could say buy a couple of SxS cards (I already own two that came with my F3! Although only puny 16GB cards :-/ ) then have the rest be SD cards in adapters.

That way for the vast bulk of their work they'd use the SxS, but for those loooong days where you're rolling and rolling such as a long series of interviews all day long (and without a DIT to unload them along the way) you know you can expand your day's capacity by using SD cards in a pinch.


My bad, I linked to the wrong SxS cards which are not approved media, the minimum cards needed that B&H sell are five hundred dollars a pop:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1197877-REG/sony_sbp64d_64gb_sxs_pro_d.html

Thus the appeal if SD can be used instead of SxS Pro cards (and the adapters I've seen do claim specifically to be replacements for SxS Pro series cards, but who knows as to the real truth). 

 

@DaveAltizer, when you next hire an Arri, as well as trying out the best  settings recording to a SD card, could you please also give a spin recording the lowest settings? (1080 ProRes 422 24p)

 

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17 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

You might say it is "just a thousand dollars", but a few thousand here, another thousand there, and soon you're talking about serious money!

But that's exactly my point. If you think you're going to get a workable Alexa package for 'just' $10k you're sorely mistaken. You're probably looking at $500ea for V-Locks that will be viable. $250/filter for proper IRNDs. $5k for an appropriate head. Thousands for dovetails and base plates etc etc. 

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What is the weight of it?

I bought a used but very nice fluid head for the Red One + Rig and it certainly wasn't $5K. It wasn't even $500. 

But still, you will need to spend some cash. Unless you get it all included. My guess is that you still can get some back on renting the camera out as well. At least around here where rental places are almost nonexistent.

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