Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K Review

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K

MSRP $1,295.00

“Blackmagic Design has delivered one other revolutionary filmmaking instrument.”

Execs

  • RAW and ProRes filetypes
  • Stunning 5-inch Full HD show
  • UHD and DCI 4K as much as 60p
  • Intuitive person interface
  • SD, CFast 2.0, and SSD storage

Cons

  • Ineffective autofocus
  • Inconsistent battery efficiency

MiniDV. Last Minimize Professional. Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Of their time, every of those merchandise modified the way in which we create digital video, repainting the canvas of the trade in broad strokes. Time and time once more, the bar for entry to skilled movement manufacturing has been lowered because of such revolutionary applied sciences. Right this moment’s movie college students have entry to instruments that yesterday’s professionals solely dreamt about, and it’s solely getting higher.

However the place Canon’s success with the 5D Mark II as a video camera was largely a fluke, there’s one other producer that has been engaged on the purposeful democratization of high-end video manufacturing: Blackmagic Design. Since its first Cinema Digicam in 2012, the Australian firm has continued to push prices down whereas blurring the traces between shopper {and professional} merchandise. Its latest camera, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K (or BMPCC 4K, for these within the know), is the most recent instance of this, bringing a staggering quantity of worth to the unbelievably low worth of $1,300.

That is the cinema camera for the remainder of us, nevertheless it stays very a lot a cinema camera. That’s to say, it’s specialised. Its measurement and worth — and use of the Micro 4 Thirds mount — will naturally draw comparisons to hybrid mirrorless cameras just like the Panasonic GH5S, however these aren’t direct opponents. Regardless of the accessibility, the BMPCC 4K is constructed for skilled filmmaking workflows, and thus it might not swimsuit the wants of the extra informal person.

Nonetheless, Blackmagic Design has blended collectively glorious {hardware}, prime quality filetypes, and a fantastic person interface that make this a beautiful camera for quite a lot of video shooters, from college students to working execs.

Greater than a camera

Additional separating the Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K from would-be opponents is that Blackmagic Design isn’t only a camera firm. Actually, up till about six years in the past, it wasn’t even a camera firm. Earlier than then, it was finest identified for its DaVinci Resolve shade grading software program — initially bought as a $20,000 suite full with bespoke {hardware} interface. The complete model of the software program now prices simply $299 (sans management panels), whilst Blackmagic has constructed it out with enhancing and compositing capabilities. And DaVinci Resolve Studio is now included with the BMPCC 4K at no extra cost.

There’s a degree to bundling every thing collectively and making all of it extra reasonably priced: Blackmagic Design needs you to get essentially the most out of its merchandise, each software program and {hardware}, and one is required for the opposite. Actually, one of many key causes the corporate initially entered the camera market was to offer a wider vary of filmmakers entry to a camera that would actually benefit from DaVinci Resolve. The BMPCC 4K, with its CinemaDNG RAW and 10-bit ProRes filetypes, means that you can push the footage to extremes when shade grading. The reverse can also be true, as DaVinci Resolve has Blackmagic’s shade science inbuilt in order that your video — significantly when capturing in RAW — appears pretty much as good because it presumably can.

That is the cinema camera you’ve gotten been ready for.

On the identical time, there’s nothing proprietary to Blackmagic happening right here. ProRes (knowledgeable compressed format developed by Apple) and CinemaDNG (an open RAW video format spearheaded by Adobe) are trade requirements. The ProRes information work flawlessly in Apple Last Minimize Professional, whereas CinemaDNG sequences are natively supported in Adobe Premiere Professional, so that you’re not pressured to make use of Blackmagic software program in the event you choose to not. Extra thrilling, the upcoming Blackmagic RAW format (extra on this later) is being developed as an open customary, and Blackmagic Design will supply an SDK to builders and producers to allow them to incorporate it into their very own merchandise.

This isn’t an ideal camera and has some faults that may preserve it out of the palms of sure customers, however no different producer can do what Blackmagic Design is doing. In case you have even a passing curiosity in high-level video manufacturing, this camera must be in your shortlist — it’s not the very best instrument for each job, however nothing else brings this a lot worth to the desk.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Constructed for video from the bottom up

The BMPCC 4K continues Blackmagic Design’s pattern of creating weird-looking cameras. It’s excessively huge from left to proper, however oddly quick from entrance to again. It doesn’t seem like a film camera. Choose it up, and it’s surprisingly mild because of its carbon fiber and plastic composite shell. There’s a great measurement grip with entry to regulate dials, operate buttons, and the document button. On the aspect of the grip you’ll discover reminiscence card slots for each SD and CFast 2.0 playing cards; the other aspect homes a USB-C port that can be utilized to attach a strong state drive (SSD), which the camera can document to immediately.

However the place it actually will get fascinating is with the huge, 5-inch, 1080p show. That is merely the nicest built-in monitor we’ve ever seen on a camera, not less than anyplace close to this worth level. It makes nailing focus (which, as we’ll get into later, you’ll nearly all the time should do manually) extremely straightforward, even with out magnifying the picture. Whereas DSLRs and hybrid mirrorless cameras usually use a 3:2 or 4:3 side ratio for his or her screens that’s then cropped in video mode, this one is 16:9 so that you simply get a full-screen image. That additionally explains why the camera physique is so huge.

Different camera firms would tremendously profit by finding out Blackmagic Design’s person interface.

The display screen is contact delicate, and whereas that in and of itself is nothing to flaunt — most cameras have touchscreens today — Blackmagic Design is the one firm that has constructed its interface from the bottom as much as play properly on a touchscreen. Navigating menus and altering settings has by no means been simpler. Every little thing is strictly the place you’d look forward to finding it, labeled in plain English, and the faucet targets are massive so that you gained’t unintentionally hit the fallacious button.

You’ll, nevertheless, profit from a primary understanding of cinema camera terminology, reminiscent of realizing the distinction between shutter angle and shutter pace. Actually, although, there’s nothing overly advanced happening right here — Blackmagic Design has taken what appears to confound different producers and turned it into one thing elegant and approachable. Sure, this can be a skilled instrument, however it will even be extremely straightforward for a newbie to study on — different camera firms would tremendously profit by finding out this interface.

Some customers will lament the dearth of an digital viewfinder (EVF) or the truth that the display screen doesn’t articulate, nevertheless it’s exhausting to fault Blackmagic Design right here given how a lot different tech they’ve pumped into this camera at such a low worth. You do get a full-size HDMI-out port, so connecting an exterior EVF or monitor is straightforward.

There’s additionally no shoe mount on high, changed as a substitute with a screw thread for connecting a camera cage or mounting plate. Oddly, the underside tripod mount is a sole 1/4-inch socket, lacking the additional pin usually discovered on video cameras. That is, then, a camera you’ll actually need to decorate to get essentially the most out of it.

Skilled-grade file sorts

In talking with Digital Tendencies, a degree that Blackmagic Design emphasised was that the Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K gives no shopper video codecs. Every little thing is not less than 10 bit with 4:2:2 shade, bypassing the 8-bit 4:2:0 codecs of most different cameras on this worth bracket. Meaning smoother gradients with out banding, higher shade decision, and extra flexibility for compositing and grading.

For this review, we shot totally in ProRes 422, which on the BMPCC 4K is merely a midrange high quality possibility, nevertheless it simply outclasses what’s accessible on most mirrorless cameras. Cameras just like the Panasonic GH5-series and the Fujifilm X-T3 supply high-bitrate codecs with comparable high quality to ProRes, however they aren’t edit-ready and can run a lot slower on a pc except transcoded first. ProRes footage, however, might be dropped straight onto a timeline in hottest enhancing applications and manipulated with ease.

When you can abdomen the storage and processing necessities (and the price of a high-speed CFast card), you will get even higher high quality by leaping as much as CinemaDNG, a RAW filetype that’s supplied in each uncompressed and compressed varieties. Based mostly on Adobe’s DNG (digital damaging) format for nonetheless images, CinemaDNG is type of a hack job — primarily, it shops each video body as a person picture file and doesn’t help video-specific metadata. It additionally is sort of demanding in your pc.

Conscious of those drawbacks, Blackmagic Design developed its personal RAW format. Whereas not but accessible for the Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K, Ursa Mini Professional customers have had entry to it for a number of months now, and the studies we’ve seen are extremely constructive. Blackmagic RAW’s purpose is to ship the standard and adaptability of a RAW file with the smaller storage necessities of ProRes, all whereas making it a lot much less taxing in your pc in comparison with CinemaDNG.

Blackmagic RAW will likely be supplied in each “fixed high quality” and “fixed bitrate” modes, with the latter providing as much as 12:1 compression. That feels like loads of compression, however Ursa Mini Professional customers report just about no efficient high quality loss. That stage of compression will will let you document RAW video straight to an SD card on the BMPCC 4K, which merely blows different mirrorless cameras out of the water. Blackmagic RAW is coming “very quickly,” in line with Blackmagic Design, and will likely be accessible through free firmware replace.

Picture high quality and audio

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K makes use of a full-size 4 Thirds sensor (in comparison with the smaller Super16 sensor within the unique Pocket Cinema Digicam). That is nonetheless smaller than the Super35 customary used within the Ursa Mini Professional, Canon’s Cinema EOS line, and most different high-end cinema cameras, nevertheless it punches above its weight. It may possibly shoot UltraHD (3,840 x 2,160) and DCI (4,096 x 2,160) resolutions at 24, 30, and 60 frames per second.

Like different Blackmagic Design cameras, you’ve gotten a alternative of both “movie” or “video” dynamic vary, with the previous being a logarithmic tone curve that preserves extra spotlight and shadow element however outputs a really flat trying picture that must be shade graded to look regular once more. The ten-bit ProRes information grade fantastically, so even when you could underexpose to protect highlights, you’ll have little hassle lifting the shadows and midtones in submit. The colours, in every thing from extremely saturated parts to delicate pores and skin tones, reply very properly to changes. There may be merely far more info within the information than what you get on different $1,300 cameras.

Noise can also be stored impressively low, not less than by means of ISO 1600, the very best sensitivity we wanted throughout our review. ISO maxes out at 25,600 which is definitely a number of stops larger than the Ursa Mini Professional. We did run into some shadow noise in some conditions, significantly after brightening the picture in submit, however that is to be anticipated and positively wasn’t worse than what we’ve seen from different cameras.

4k body grabs (click on thumbnail to enlarge)

For recording audio, the camera has each a 3.5mm and mini XLR audio inputs along with stereo microphones on the entrance of the camera. Audio high quality from an exterior microphone is superb, proof {of professional} high quality preamps. That is one space the place shopper mirrorless cameras usually skimp.

As for the onboard microphones, they sound as first rate as on-camera mics can. They’re helpful for scratch audio or for syncing in the event you document major audio into one other machine, however you in all probability shouldn’t depend on them for a lot past that.

What we actually like, nevertheless, is the sheer variety of choices you’ve gotten for the audio settings. You’ll be able to have each an exterior mic and onboard mic be energetic on the identical time, and you’ll select which channel which microphone goes to and independently management ranges for every. Need each onboard mics to document to a mono channel whereas an exterior mic data to a different? You are able to do that. Need simply the left or proper on-camera mic to be energetic? You are able to do that. And you are able to do all of it very simply thanks once more to the implausible person interface.

Autofocus and battery woes

It’s important to fall earlier than you may fly, and Blackmagic Design remains to be stumbling in some areas. The non-continuous autofocus on the Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K is beneficial as little greater than a spec sheet bullet level. Does the camera have autofocus? Technically, sure. Will you need to use it? Most likely not.

In our expertise, the autofocus was usually slower than merely focusing manually (which, once more, is sort of straightforward to do because of the nice monitor). Worse, it solely focussed appropriately about 50 p.c of the time, usually lacking focus even in well-lit conditions with loads of distinction.

It’s not the very best instrument for each job, however nothing else brings this a lot worth to the desk.

Extra regarding is the ability administration. That enormous display screen consumes loads of juice, and we went by means of 4 batteries in slightly below 2.5 hours. That isn’t so dangerous by itself — the camera makes use of extensively accessible Canon LP-E6 batteries — however the camera may even shut down with out warning if the battery will get too low.

How low is just too low? It could be 10 p.c, or it could be 20. Each battery appears to be completely different. When you’re in the midst of an interview, significantly in the event you’re a single operator and may’t always watch the monitor, this could possibly be a probably disastrous subject.

After all, many customers within the true goal demographic for this camera (that’s, individuals who really use cinema cameras) will get round these limitations by placing the camera in a cage, attaching a observe focus system, hooking it as much as exterior energy, and dealing with a devoted cinematographer or camera assistant. That may be excellent, however not everybody available in the market for a $1,300 camera is pondering that manner.

Some potential prospects may even level to the dearth of in-body picture stabilization as a damaging, however Blackmagic Design’s palms had been in all probability tied. Most cinema camera customers don’t need sensor-shift stabilization, because it may trigger undesirable motion in the event you mount the camera to a automobile or different fast-moving object.

However, once more, videographers taking a look at $1,300 cameras usually do need stabilization, so it’s a conundrum. At any price, we achieved first rate handheld outcomes utilizing stabilized Panasonic lenses, however an exterior gimbal would undoubtedly be most well-liked.

Our Take

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Digicam 4K is a revolutionary product, one which has once more lowered the bar for entry into skilled video manufacturing. It’s going to discover a heat welcome in unbiased productions, pupil movies, and documentaries. Indie filmmakers can really afford to purchase it, relatively than having to lease a camera; college students will profit from its skilled workflow, easy to study interface, and low value; documentarians will respect its small measurement and ease of use, which makes getting arrange on location a breeze.

Sadly, it’s not fairly proper for one-person crews like YouTubers and vloggers (and Digital Tendencies camera reviewers) who rely on dependable steady autofocus and may’t monitor battery life like a hawk. Nonetheless, it’s in any other case such a refreshing camera to make use of and produces such nice outcomes that it could be definitely worth the minor complications.

Is there a greater different?

Nothing else does what this camera does anyplace close to this worth level, so no. Blackmagic Design has primarily no direct competitors right here. That mentioned, many individuals will discover a hybrid mirrorless camera to be simpler to work with. The Panasonic GH5, with inside stabilization and face-detection autofocus, is an effective different in that case — however it is usually costlier.

How lengthy will it final?

It is a very well-built machine and there may be little to fret about mechanically as there are so few shifting components. Blackmagic Design has already demonstrated a willingness to maintain the camera contemporary with firmware updates, as properly, as now we have seen with the announcement of the upcoming Blackmagic RAW format. We count on you might simply get a number of years of use out of it.

Do you have to purchase it?

If you’re an unbiased, documentary, or pupil filmmaker, sure; that is the cinema camera you’ve gotten been ready for. If you’re a one-person crew, it’s possible you’ll need to maintain off — however even then, it’s not a strong no. You could but have the ability to make this camera give you the results you want, simply know you’ll should clear some small hurdles first.

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