ALEXA in the wild

ALEXA in the wild

Wildlife and documentary lighting cameraman Mark Payne-Gill recently took ALEXA out on a natural history shoot to see how well suited it is to his line of work. After years of working with an ARRIFLEX SR 3, he was pleased to find himself immediately familiar with ALEXA's controls. These are his thoughts and observations:

The ALEXA was a breath of fresh air.

"I had been shooting wildlife documentaries with ARRI film cameras for over 15 years until about 4 years ago when the natural history filmmaking industry made the switch from film origination to digital HD. Having shot with Varicams & Sony HD cameras in this time I was given the opportunity by ARRI in London to test the ALEXA in a natural history context.

The ALEXA was a breath of fresh air. It was just like going back to my old ARRI; I could even employ accessories from the SR 3. The familiarity was immediate and I was operating out of the case within minutes, such was the intuitiveness of the menu. This really is a digital camera designed for cameramen, but with huge benefits to the production in its speed of operation and simple workflow. The camera interface is laid out in a simple and logical way, unlike other digital cameras, which are often cluttered with dozens of distracting and redundant switches.

I also liked ALEXA's robustness. This is a sealed unit, which I've not come across before in a camera of this type. The advantages are obvious when I can be filming close to salt spray one day and then dusty desert conditions the next. I can imagine employing the ALEXA in harsh environments without hesitation, just like I did with my SR3, making this very suitable in the field as a doco-style camera.

ALEXA in the wild

The electronic viewfinder is equally impressive, with incredible clarity and the sensitivity of the sensor is astonishing. On some scenic shots I actually needed an ND to knock the exposure back under dark cloudy skies! Depth of field is everything in many wildlife filming situations, whether it's pulling focus with a long lens on a bird in flight or macro filming of busy insects. The larger sensor size made this more of a challenge, but being able to achieve a smaller stop than I'd expected helped offset this problem.

 

You can tell the heritage of this camera; 90 years' experience of building cameras really shows."