The Arri Alexa 35 set a new benchmark for dynamic range in 2022, measuring just over 15 stops according to Xyla/Imatest. How does this compare to cinema cameras of yesteryear? In High Dynamic Range Video: Concepts, Technologies and Applications, (2017) the authors published the results of various cameras, including the Arri Alexa Classic, the RED Epic, the RED One, the RED Dragon, the Canon 5D Mark III (using Magic Lantern software) and the Blackmagic Cinema 4K, as well as a couple of machine vision cameras (Toshiba and Hitachi) used in scientific and engineering applications. Since then, we’ve seen significant gains in the lower end of the market, with several affordable entry-level cinema cameras reaching as many as 12-13 stops of dynamic range, equalling or surpassing that of analog film (the digital intermediate has appreciably less DR).
Meanwhile, as resolution and dynamic range increase, the weight of professional cinema cameras has been shrinking: the Arri Alexa Classic tipped the scales at a whopping 16.9 lbs vs. the Alexa 35’s svelte 6.4 lbs; the RED One weighed 10 lbs while the flagship V-Raptor XL is just shy of 8 lbs. Too light can be a liability as well, particularly when it comes to handheld work, which is why I might end up adding a battery plate to my Komodo.
Even at SNR = 2 RED has the 15 stops they advertise, plus with their ISO you get to choose where to have them.
Red’s HDRx® captures 2 frames and merges them into one.