An "anonymous source who follows us daily" alerted us to the fact that On Semi has a couple of new Super35 sensors that they think could end up in an upcoming ARRI camera, since On Semi also makes ARRI&s ALEV-III sensors.
The new XGS 45000 sensor series are indeed very exciting models for possible large-sensor cine cameras, but some of the features also speak against their use at ARRI. So let&s take a closer look...
This new sensor series are 8K sensors with 44.7 megapixels using the full S35 sensor area (8192 x 5460 sensel). At first glance, it is not primarily a special cine sensor, as the aspect ratio is approximately 4:3 and not 16:- or 17:9. However, this does not necessarily mean anything, as the 4:3 ratio could also be very suitable for optional anamorphic recording. The maximum sensor readout of 48 fps speaks for a cine use. This "frame rate" is double the typical 24p for cinemas and is hardly ever used in other applications.
The horizontal 8K-DCI resolution of 8192 sensors is also rarely found outside of cine applications. Here, 8K is more typically obtained from 7680 horizontal sensors. In 17:9 with 8192 x 4320 resolution, the sensor can also be read out at up to 60 fps, which also suits broadcast applications well. The width of the usable 8K-DCI sensor area is already significantly above APS-C at approx. 26.2 mm and fits perfectly to a 17:9 frame in an S35 image circle.
The interface itself outputs a maximum of 12 bits of colour depth per sensor, which is significantly less than the ARRI ALEVIII sensors, which deliver 16 bits (via 2 x 11 dual gain). Also, this sensor series does not seem to be a model with a dual gain output. ARRI has also announced an S35 camera with 4K for 2021, to which such an 8K sensor does not seem to fit at first glance.
With a little imagination, however, the new sensors could still end up in an ARRI camera. Perhaps ARRI (like Blackmagic with its URSA 12K) is going down the offensive downsampling route. And that would mean that they want to achieve a higher dynamic range primarily by merging sensors, and then the 12 bits per sensor could be enough. (With a sensor size of 3.2 µm, more than 12 bits RAW is probably really pointless). And at the same time, an option to 8K could be kept mathematically open (which was not so easy to communicate with the AMIRA with 4K upsampling from 3.2K).
We haven&t even touched on perhaps the most exciting feature yet. The XGS 45000 sensors are global shutter sensors. Again, this is a most welcome feature for film and broadcast use, and one that ARRI would certainly like to support with their cameras. However, the entire large sensor competition also seems to be moving in this direction, which is why a global shutter sensor no longer seems to be a particularly exclusive feature in 2021.
So we will have to wait and see which sensors will soon be found in which cameras. We think the On Semi XGS 45000 models in ARRI use are rather unlikely, as ARRI would be departing from its previous design principles. However, it is not completely inconceivable that ARRI will enter completely new territory with a 4K S35 camera.