Welcome to The Arri Amira Owner/Operator Blog!

IMG_3394rmPlease allow me to introduce myself: My name is Christopher Rowe, I am a British DP resident in and working out of Berlin, Germany. I worked my way up through the ranks of news and current affairs while the Berlin Wall came down, shot music videos in the heyday of the techno scene, and completed my education with a two year post-graduate course tutored by Michael Ballhaus, ASC. Since graduation in 1998 I have split my time between fiction and non-fiction, shooting 2 feature films, episodic TV, TV-Movies, docudramas, and also documentaries and reportage ranging from the highly stylized to run-and-gun vérité.

If I make changes will the order change? I started out as a Beta SP owner/operator from 1990-94, but since then I have been very happy to have the freedom to select the camera that best suits the project at hand, be it film (35, 16 & 8mm), video (Beta SP, DigiBeta, HDCAM, among others) or digital (Alexa, Red, XDCAM, C300, 5D, among others). And I thought things would stay that way, until the news from last year’s IBC that Arri was planning to release the Amira electrified me.

Like so many of us, shooting video with 2/3″-chip cameras was always fraught with compromise – of course they have their uses and even advantages in certain situations, but from an aesthetic point of view the bench mark was 35mm film, and the deep depth of field and limited dynamic range inherent to the system was a huge disadvantage we often tried to work around (remember the P+S Adapter :-) ) but were never really satisfied with.

The advent of HD-capable DSLRs opened up a whole new range of aesthetic options, and enabled many of us to (re)discover the beauty and the drawbacks of selective focus, but the ergonomics of the lower budget cameras are a huge drawback, and limit our creativity in many situations, while high-end cameras are beyond the reach of many, if not most budgets and also require a relatively large camera crew.

  • I’m fed up with building rigs from so many different pieces that don’t really fit together and still fighting with a poorly balanced imaging device – I want a camera that sits firmly and comfortably on my shoulder straight out of the bag.
  • I’m fed up with weighing up the pros and cons of aesthetics vs. operability – I want both in one piece of equipment.
  • I’m fed up with artistic compromises and cameras that get in the way of the shot I’m aiming for – I want a camera that enables me to realize my vision and allows smooth and flawless operation.

You probably know where is is going – Arri Amira, what is there not to love about it! The first and still the best camera that combines the user-friendly ergonomics of the traditional ENG camcorder with the superior aesthetic only a 35mm single sensor can offer. Add in the widest dynamic latitude and best colour reproduction of any digital camera system and the robustness and reliability that comes with over 75 years experience making cameras, and you have the only digital camera I will ever want to use again!

Once I was sure my dream camera had finally been developed and would soon be made available, the logical question was how to ensure I could work with it as often as possible, and 20 years after selling my first camera I was on the road to ownership again. Now that my dream camera is due to arrive, I want to share with all of you out there my Amira experience and hope you tune in regularly to this spot. The next post might be my first unboxing video!

15 Gedanken zu „Welcome to The Arri Amira Owner/Operator Blog!

  1. Stefan Klein

    herzlichen glückwunsch! wie sieht denn die Audio Abteilung bei der Amira aus? gibts die oder hält sich arri da komplett raus?

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      Aber sicher doch! Die Kamera ist in jeder Hinsicht den herkömmlichen EB-Kameras überlegen, auch beim Ton – hat 3 Eingänge für max. 6 Kanäle – 1 x 5-Pol XLR Stereo schaltbar +48V/Mic/Line (fürs Kameramikro gedacht, kann aber auch anders belegt werden) und 2 x 3-Pol XLR belegbar +48V/Mic/Line/AES3.
      Wenn Du Zeit hast, komm nach Kreuzberg, ich zeig Dir gern die Kamera.

  2. Joshua Dixon

    Hi Christopher, thanks so much for the video and this site! I am in a serious internal debate…to buy or not to buy an Amira….

    I shoot mostly feature and narrative, and the occasional doc type or “pretty looking” Natgeo/History channel type stuff. I am an Epic owner, so I come from the world of many “K”s of resolution. However, I just directed a TVC on Alexa a couple months ago, and I could not get over how great and easy it was to get a great image out of that camera. ProRes looks fantastic…and I have always been a proponent of the argument of “being for” 4k and to always shoot RAW etc… I recently heard a panel type discussion with Geoff Boyle and the pro and cons of 4k vs 2k vs upscaling etc… and it seemed to have left me with hope of not having to have a 4k camera, and that it might just be fine at 2k.

    So I am now considering buying an Alexa or maybe even better yet, the Amira. Here are some points that apply to my dilemma.

    - I don’t need ARRI RAW format, Pro Res 444 and lower at 2k is great for me
    - I love highspeed. 200FPS Amira vs 120FPS Alexa
    - I shoot low-budget features, so lighter weight is great and that means it’s easier on the already limited crew
    - C Fast technology seems extremely promising
    - I am assuming it’s going to look beautiful since it’s the same sensor as the Alexa
    - It’s cheaper than Alexa

    Is there a reason you could think of on why I should buy an Alexa over the Amira? Again, I shoot mostly narrative, but it seems like the Amira would get the job done…and maybe even have advantages over the Alexa….I’m just not understanding because of the price point I suppose… I am hoping you have had a chance to compare these…?

    Thanks for any help Christopher! I am waiting for your second video with your camera built out! :-)

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      Dear Joshua,

      Thank you for your question, and may I extend a particularly warm welcome to you as the first person to start the sort of debate that I hope in time will become the main feature of this interactive blog, especially once I get the forum up and running.

      I never considered purchasing an Alexa, as I intend to use my Amira mostly for documentary work, and have long been waiting for a camera with these features but designed to be operated by a single person rather than attended on by a crew. But you are quite right of course that there is an Alexa at the heart of every Amira, and that within a newly designed and streamlined body you get the unsurpassed dynamic range, beautiful highlights and natural colours the Alexa is rightly famous for, combined with some advances and improvements like 200 FPS and internal NDs.

      I find it interesting that you as a Red user have become enamoured of the Alexa just by using it and experiencing the difference first hand rather than through persuasion (coming from a film background I have appreciated the quality and robustness of Arri cameras for a long time and never cared much for Red cameras). I agree with every point you mention, and definitely think you’re on the right track preferring the Amira over the Alexa for all the reasons given, because apart from RAW the Amira can do everything the Alexa can and more.

      What reasons could there be not to prefer the Amira over other cameras? It is not the most compact camera out there – if you are in tight spaces a lot, cars for example, the Epic might be a better choice, but apart from that it really boils down to whether you follow the Arri philosophy that higher resolution is only one parameter and not the most important one, and that 2K is preferable to 4K if that choice enables the superior aesthetic quality the Amira and Alexa indisputably possess.

      So good luck, and let me know how you decide. I will soon be posting reports and footage from my first outing with the Amira shooting a documentary for German TV in British Columbia.

  3. Thomas

    Hallo, erstmal Glückwunsch zu dieser tollen Kamera. Ich hatte gestern selbst das Glück ein paar Test Shots mit der Amira zu machen. Handling usw. gefällt auf Anhieb. Ich konnte auch kaum ein Rolling Shutter Problem entdecken – obwohl die Amira eigentlich nicht als Global Shutter Kamera ausgewiesen ist. Wir waren untertags unterwegs und die Aufnahmen und Dynamik in den Highlights etc. sind schon sehr beeindruckend. Immer mit der Fujinon 19 – 90 hatte ich dennoch oft Probleme mit dem VF und dem Peaking. Mir kommt vor es reagiert nicht exakt genug – mag auch nur der erste Eindruck sein vielleicht.

    Etwas was mich allerdings schon mehr beschäftigt, ist Lowlight Fähigkeit der Kamera. Was ist eigentlich die native ISO Einstellung bei der am wenigsten rauschen zu erkennen ist (800) – maximales ISO 3200 ist für das Jahr 2014 dann doch etwas wenig finde ich. Zumal das rauschen bei 3200 in meinen Augen zuviel ist. Ich bin selbst aktuell viel mit meiner C300 unterwegs. Nebeneinander habe ich die Kameras noch nicht verglichen dennoch glaube ich dass das Rauschverhalten bei der C300 wesentlich cleaner ist?!

    Welche Erfahrungen hast du bis jetzt im Lowlight gemacht? Vielleicht merkt man da doch dass der Chip zwar eine unglaubliche Dynamik etc. hat aber trotzdem 5 Jahre alt ist fast und im Lowlight einfach nicht mehr zeitgemäss oder übertreibe ich da?

    Besten Dank jedenfalls

    Grüsse Thomas

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      Lieber Thomas,

      entschuldige Bitte, dass die Antwort auf Dein Post so lange gedauert hat – ich war die letzten drei Wochen auf einem Dreh mit der Amira und hatte wenig Zeit und selten eine Internetverbindung, aber jetzt sollen nach und nach Berichte von diesem Dreh hier veröffentlicht werden.

      Zu Deinen Kommentaren und Fragen:
      Es gibt zwar m.E. keinen besseren Sucher auf dem Markt, trotzdem finde ich die Sucheroptik und das Peaking in der Tat etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig. Gerade bei Halbtotalen unterscheidet das Peaking nicht fein genug zwischen scharf und unscharf, und manchmal ist das Peakingsignal grober aufgelöst als sonst, ohne dass ich dafür eine Ursache entdecken konnte. Ich hatte sehr oft mein Finger am (gut erreichbaren) Peakingknopf und habe viel hin- und hergeschaltet, um mit und ohne Peakinghilfe die optimale Schärfe zu finden. Die Methode hat gut funktioniert, die Bilanz am Ende von drei Wochen Drehzeit war, dass es weniger softe Aufnahmen gab als bei anderen Kameras mit 35mm-Sensor.

      Die native Empfindlichkeit der Amira ist 800 ISO. Ich habe mit diesem Wert gedreht, oder bei hochkontrastigen Tagaufnahmen mit 1600, um mehr Belichtungsspielraum in den Lichtern zu bekommen. Zum Thema “richtig belichten” wird es noch einen Blog-Beitrag geben, und über das Lowlight-Verhalten auch, hoffentlich auch im direkten Vergleich mit der C300 und F55. Beim Dreh hatten wir nur ein Dämmerungsbild am Lagerfeuer, es schien mir mit 1600 ISO natürlich und ausreichend hell abgebildet, aber eine genaue Auswertung davon, und von Testaufnahmen mit 3200 ISO steht noch aus.

      Den Chip als nicht zeitgemäß zu bezeichnen ist aber nicht richtig. Seit Einführung der Alexa wurde der Alev-Sensor immer weiter entwickelt, es handelt sich heute keineswegs um den gleichen Chip wie vor fünf Jahren, sondern um die 3. Generation. Alev 3/c (Amira) ist der gleicher Chip wie in der aktuellen Alexa (Alev 3/b), nur schneller getaktet.

      PS. Ich habe gerade einen Test entdeckt, der Dein Eindruck mit dem “Rollinmg Shutter” bestätigt und besagt, dass die Amira in dieser Beziehung sich wie eine Kamera mit Global Shutter verhält:

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      Hi Joe,
      you’re entitled to your opinion, and it won’t come as a big surprise that mine is different, but just let me highlight two reasons why I prefer the Amira over the F55 for my field, which is documentary shooting.
      1) when shooting hand-held with a heavy lens like the Cabiro 19-90mm, the F55 cannot be balanced on your shoulder without adding a lot of accessories to the rear end. The Amira can be balanced perfectly in a matter of seconds by shifting the shoulder pad forward. “Pick Up and Shoot” is not just a slogan – this really is the first large sensor camera which is perfectly adapted to hand-held shooting, ready to go without adding more than a lens and a battery – out of the bag, onto your shoulder, start rolling!
      2) The dynamic range of the F55 is pretty good, and it’s debatable whether the 1/2 -2/3 edge that the Amira has over the F55 really makes a difference in most real world situations, but recent tests I performed have confirmed to me that Arri’s CLog is definitely more beautiful than Sony’s SLog 3. With CLog, the highlights roll of in a very natural and pleasing way, whearas the Sony highlights are still a bit harsh and cold. It’s not a cliché – with Arri’s CLog you really do get a look which is closer to the film look than from any other digital camera, whilst Sony still can’t shake its video ancestry.

  4. Edward Holub

    Headed to Munich next month to get my Arri Amira. Excited to blog about it. Do you know of any user forum where people chat about their rigs and gigs? I’ll be looking to join crews in Germany and the US. Also looking for other owner operators when I need multi-cams (most jobs)

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      Hi Edward, nice to hear from you. Congratulations on (soon to be) owning this great camera – are you making the trip to Munich just to pick it up from the factory? That’s cool!
      I do not know of any forums, and am not in touch with any other owner/operators. I had expected that this blog could help create a user base, but it hasn’t happened so far.
      Where are you located? We could meet up in Berlin if you’re passing through any time. And you can certainly contact me if you are looking for crew for those multi-cam jobs.
      All the best, Chris

  5. Edward Holub

    I’ve noticed a staggering choppiness noticeable with pans on the Alexa. Is it a function of shutter angle? It may be more “filmic” but I hate to see that godamn jitter. I want my pans to look smooth as silk, film be damned! Any help?

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      If you’re shooting 24/25P with a 172/180° shutter then there will inevitably by some choppiness in pans if they are too fast – a rule of thumb we used in the old days to avoid this shutter effect was to adjust the speed of the pan so that a fixed object takes at least five seconds to traverse from one side of the frame to the other.
      But now there are ways to make the motion look more fluid as we don’t need to take into account the time needed to transport the film in the camera, which is what caused that break in the motion between each frame characteristic of the film look. You could use a 360° shutter on selected shots, this increases motion blur and does not leave out any part of the motion between frames, but it is a look I don’t really care for as the increased motion blur tends to make the image feel less sharp. Or you could shoot the whole project @ 48P, 50P or 60P with a 360° shutter – you’re not missing any action, but the exposure time is back to 1/50th, so motion blur is normal. The downside is that the look of 50P is very similar to interlace video, which I personally detest, but if that’s what you like then go for it. Or experiment wiht a 270° shutter (the way The Hobbit was shot), that might be a good compromise. Just remember that at 50P the data rate doubles as you will be recording twice as many frames compared to 24/25P, so make sure you have enough memory cards with you!

  6. David Winters

    Greetings. Just discovered your blog. I’m a DP / operator in California. Received one of the first Amiras locally and have not been this happy, with a fast covers most jobs camera, since the BVW-600. I have owned 3 different red models, currently own a C300, Epic D and steadily getting my clients on board with the Amira. And my red still has a place for high res greenscreen jobs, compact travel, and some commercial clients.

    I hope to pickup a second Amira over the next 6 months, it will support my client base for many years.

    Please keep the posts flowing.

    1. amiraownop Artikelautor

      Thanks for your comments, David. Glad to hear your clients are taking to the Amira, after a slow start last year it’s really taking off now here in Germany. I just love how it sits on my shoulder, and that I don’t have to add a whole bunch of accessories just to shoot handheld.

      I will try and put some new content up soon – watch this space!


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