Updated: May 4, 2021
Two of the more popular high cinema cameras for indy filmmakers are the AARRI ALEXA Mini and RED KOMODO. But what are the differences? Which one is better? Well, it's subjective. Both cameras create a high-resolution, professional image that can be used on any scale production, from a commercial for Nike to a Hollywood movie to an indy short.
However, there are minor differences in using the camera and what each one does better than the other. For example, the Alexa Mini has more latitude or detail in the highlights and can keep more color detail in an over or under-exposed image. The RED KOMODO, on the other hand, has less noise at higher ISOs than the Arri Mini and has better color fidelity (captures colors closer to what your eye sees) when compared to the Alexa Mini.
The ARRI ALEXA Mini stays more even throughout an image and creates a more warm, creamy, and saturated look. The RED KOMODO adds a lot of contrast to shadows and has a more natural, moody, and dark look.
OBSTACLES WITH RED
RED is very picky when it comes to accessories. They want you to use RED proprietary products, which can be expensive and a pain. But one of the great things about RED is that it can be used both as a cinema camera and as a run-and-gun camera and looks great. You can choose to pile on accessories or keep them lightweight.
But while the RED is much more versatile, RED cameras have a reputation for suddenly shutting off, getting hot, and not working. Arri cameras never have this issue.
The Arri Alexa is slightly easier to learn, especially if you know your way around a DSLR. The RED will take more time to learn, especially the settings, how RED names things, navigating the menus, and learning things specific to RED.
OBSTACLES WITH ARRI MINI
The ARRI ALEXA Mini can't shoot over 3200 ISO, it doesn't have exceptionally high frame rates, it only shoots 4.5K, and it is expensive; the body alone costs around $36,000. Where the RED KOMODO starts at $8,000
Another problem is the viewfinder. It alone costs $7,500, but you don't technically need it. You can use Wi-Fi control to connect it to an i-pad and control the camera's settings, but having the controls on the camera makes it easier to operate. It's not a perfect scenario to use an iPhone or tablet to control the settings, but it works.
Another thing is the HDMI connection; it doesn't have one. The camera does have two SDI ports, but there's no HDMI port. That's not necessarily a problem because SDI is a much more solid connection than HDMI. But for smaller productions, it can be an extra step or cost to get an SDI cable and a converter.
In the end, both cameras look great and have worked on major productions in the industry. Its things like usability, reliability, customization, workflow, and ease of use that professionals look for in a camera. These are all things you rarely hear people talking about, but these traits separate good cameras from great cameras.
Lastly, if you rent a camera in Tokyo, RED cameras are easier to get than ARRI cameras; if you need help renting in Tokyo, let us know!