Stereo Lenses Are Integrated on a Single Interchangeable Module for Easier Swapping, More Compact Form Factor

Imax today said that it has developed a new 4K 3D digital camera system that was used by director Michael Bay and cinematographer Amir Mokri on Transformers: Age of Extinction, the first feature film to employ the camera.

The company didn't release a lot of information about the new camera beyond asserting that both left- and right-eye images are captured at a full 4K resolution with an Imax presentation aspect ratio of 1.9:1. (Standard theatrical releases will presumably be cropped top and bottom to reach 1.85:1 or 2.40:1.) Because the camera is described as "dual 65mm," we're assuming that the imagers are roughly equivalent in size to a frame of 65mm film — though we're not sure whether that would be a five-perf frame or a much larger 15-perf, Imax-style frame. Update 06/17/14: We asked for more information on the "dual 65mm" sensors and received this response: "Imax uses a custom OEM 4K horizontal sensor that is physically the largest of all commercially available cinema camera sensors."

Imax described the new camera as "fully integrated," meaning the interchangeable lens is actually a stereo pair in a single removable unit, rather than two separate lenses shooting through a beamsplitter in a bulkier rig configuration. The sleeker form factor allowed the Transformers to use the camera for "several key action sequences" — including chase scenes and helicopter shots — where an Imax beamsplitter rig would have been too cumbersome.

Michael Bay (right) on location with the IMAX 4K 3D digital camera. Photo by Andrew Cooper; courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Many Imax cinematographers specialize in wildlife, so the company was sure to build in a continuous-recording mode that makes it easier for shooters to keep rolling with a one-to-two minute buffer and capture those sudden crucial bursts of action out in the field.

No matter how good the camera's images turn out to be, they're unlikely to mollify film fans who have felt betrayed by Imax's move away from film-based capture and exhibition to digital presentations. The company made a point of saying it is continuing to manufacture 15-perf 65mm film cameras based on demand from "leading Hollywood filmmakers," calling them the "industry gold standard" when it comes to resolution.

Imax camera department director Mike Hendriks introduced the camera in a promotional video released today that includes some action shots from the Transformers production. Watch it below.

Imax 3D Digital Camera: