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Is the Arri D-21 any good?


Georgio Agusto
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I have the opportunity to purchase a used Arri D-21 from a local rental shop for $6000. I have heard that the D-21 footage has a unique film like quality that surpasses most cameras, even the Alexa. Although it's dynamic range is limited to 11 stops and low lightcapabilities seem to be quite poor.

 

Can those of you who have used the D-21 please share your experiences.

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I shot a short on it, and yeah it was a fun little camera-- but I'd not buy one because no one is going to rent it out these days. It was fantastic for what it was, when it was, and still is an interesting camera for very specific shoots, and can make some beautiful images (though be very careful about moire) but it's not a money maker these days.

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Here's a test some Motion Picture Science majors did at my school with 4 cameras, including the D21. It might help you with a couple of questions.

 

http://sofatube.cias.rit.edu/videos/show/2671

 

I haven't used it personally, but all I've heard about it is how much of a pain in the ass it is to shoot on because you have to tether it, though that could be solved with an SDI recorder like the Samurai I suppose. I wouldn't say 11 stops is really a limit, that's a pretty acceptable range, especially if you want a falloff to black. I've seen some pretty beautiful stuff shot on it.

 

 

There's a short film also shot at my school, which intercuts the D21 with Kodak stock, I'm not sure which one exactly.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I'm totally stumped how the D-21 works. I'm also thinking of getting one because it produces beautiful images, and i've also found a cheap one. However i'm not familiar with working with external recorder and have no clue how they work! I've done some googling on the subject and can't seem to learn anything. How do you get the best out of the camera without paying for an arriraw recorder?

 

Cheers

 

Matt

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Most people used to send a dual-link HD-SDI signal out of the D-21 to an HDCAM-SR deck to record 1080P HD 4:4:4 -- nowadays you could record 1080P if you wanted to an external recorder (non-tape), you don't necessarily have to record ArriRaw (I'm not even sure if the flavor of ArriRaw that the D21 produces is supported by many onboard recorders that claim to handle the Alexa's ArriRaw.)

 

The sensor is not particularly fast, more in that 200 to 320 ISO range.

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When I was an operator, I worked for Derek Suter BSC a few times, who used to shoot it at either 200 or 500 ISO. He got great results either way, but actually preferred the look of 500 ISO. We were shooting tethered to an HD-CAM SR deck, which at the time was pretty much the only way to do it.

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I have never used D21, but assuming the SR deck wasn't using special techniques to suit the camera, it just sounds like it has a dual-link out. So, yes, you could get a dual-link to 3 gigabit SDI converter (the Blackmagic "Mini Converter SDI Multiplex 4K" will probably do it, but there are probably less overspecified approaches) and record it to something like an Atomos Samurai Blade as ProRes. Presumably. Probably. All things being equal.

 

Or, if you're happy to go tethered, you could probably just use a Hyperdeck Studio recorder on its own, which might give you an uncompressed option. Various configurations are possible.

 

What're you going to do for lenses?

 

P

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  • 2 weeks later...

An FS700 with an Odyssey 7Q costs roughly that, but gives you 4k 12 bit raw up to 30 fps, 2k raw up to 240 fps and even prores 4444. It's more sensitive and has roughly the same DR.

 

And it's just one of the many options.

 

The D21 produces really nice pictures tho.

 

It's easy to look at the specs for a camera and say "hey this is way better" but it's a bit like judging a cake on its ingredients.

 

Definitely the D21 is not that practical in a lot of ways if you are on a low budget. It is slower (200 or 500 ASA) and it doesn't record sound at all, so no plural eyes or anything, you have to work in an old school kind of film kind of way.

 

The FS700 is a fantastic camera for small indie films. It just depends on what suits the job.

The D21 makes nicer images tho.

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black
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Is D21 rolling shutter?

Since it has an optical viewfinder and a mechanical mirror shutter, generally there wouldn't be rolling shutter artifacts (though a spinning mechanical shutter is in fact a form of rolling shutter). I don't know if you could just run the camera with the rotating shutter open and only use an electronic shutter, and if that was global or rolling.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ahh thanks, ok, I can't afford a tape recorder though. What about them blackmagic hyperdeck ones? would they work? Also is 1080p the highest resolution you can record without the use of arriraw?

 

Cheers

 

Matt

Matthew,

 

Mark Mervis is selling several D-21s, and has a digital recorder option to go with the camera, for a reasonable price.

If you are interested, message me here and I can put you in contact with him.

 

-Jerry Murrel

Little Rock, AR

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I don't know if you could just run the camera with the rotating shutter open and only use an electronic shutter, and if that was global or rolling.

Wouldn't leaving the mechanical shutter open render the viewfinder useless? Of course, you could always operate off a monitor, but one of the major attractions of the D-21 was its optical finder.

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Yes, it would require using a monitor to operate.

 

Funny thing is that after so many DP's saying they needed an optical viewfinder, a rental house told me that they can't get anyone to rent their Alexa Studio that has one, it's much less popular than the Alexa's that only use an EVF/monitor.

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a rental house told me that they can't get anyone to rent their Alexa Studio that has one, it's much less popular than the Alexa's that only use an EVF/monitor.

I guess from an operator's point of view the Optical VF is much nicer to have, but if you're lighting & operating, as so many of us are these days, it's just more convenient to have an EVF as a rough guide to lighting and exposure.

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  • 10 months later...
Hello everyone!

I still wonder how they can make the picture so cinematic. I know it's a matter of dynamic range but still after all this time I realize that for me is the only problem. There is the red dragon that is 16.5 compared with 11 stops of d-21. But if you watch a movie made by professionals this difference is not known. All images are just cinema! Can anyone help me?

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