July 11, 2019
Why The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is Pure Magic
Remember when the Canon 5D Mark II came out and almost immediately reshaped the filmmaking realm? Never before had HD video been available for such a reasonable price with the added bonus of low-light Canon lenses that mimicked what we then thought was a “cinematic” look. Many of us made the painful switch from photography into filmmaking at the advent of the Mark II. It was massively disruptive at the time and was a gateway for many fledgling filmmakers, cinematographers, and stock video producers.
Fast-forward more than a decade later. While DSLRs have evolved (sensors got bigger, color science improved, bit rate increased), none have been able to retain the same cinematic image quality as the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k (BMPCC 4K).
Initially we were quite skeptical. While Blackmagic’s color science has always been pretty solid, the Blackmagic sensors have suffered from a range of issues (fixed pattern noise chief amongst them). But after using the camera in the field alongside bigger and much more expensive cinema cameras, we can confidently say that the BMPCC 4K is a game changer in the industry for filmmakers and stock video creators alike. Here are a few reasons to consider the Blackmagic cam:
The BMPCC 4K body comes in at around $1300.00 USD. After another 2000.00 spent on accessories you have a really nice little kit that will do you well in most circumstances.
12-bit Blackmagic Raw
We can’t overstate how much of a difference there is between 10-bit log and the Blackmagic 12-bit raw. With the exception of a little loss in the highlights, the Blackmagic Raw (BRAW) footage can grade as well and as easily as most cinema cameras. Plus, the new Blackmagic raw codec works seamlessly with Davinci Resolve. (click here for more on ungraded files)
Free Davinci Resolve
One of the main things we love about Blackmagic as a company is that they have been developing their industry standard color grading platform (Davinci Resolve) for years alongside their cameras. At this point, both the pocket 4K and Davinci Resolve work very smoothly together. It’s pretty incredible that Blackmagic ships two licenses (for free) to Blackmagic studio with the camera, which is $300.00USD on its own.
Some cameras have a cumbersome menu navigation process. Not the BMPCC 4K. The start time on that camera is almost instant. The 7” monitor gives you an elegant interface with almost every monitor option imaginable. It’s simple and functional.
One of the major issues most DSLR cameras have is low-light noise issues. With the BMCC 4K you can crank it up as high as 3200 ISO and still get decent results.
BRAW handles colors and exposures extremely well. The image is clean yet it inherits a gorgeous, cinematic look. It’s easy to manipulate and can be pushed in any direction.
BLACKMAGIC POCKET CINEMA CAMERA 4K USABILITY + COMPATIBILITY
Interest piqued? Here’s a deeper dive into the merits, usability and compatibility of the BMPCC 4K for filmmaking and stock footage production alike.
The first thing that you will likely wonder when considering the BMPCC 4K is whether you can re-use some of the lenses you already own or now. Good news, you can — but with some caveats.
For different lens mounts there are various adapters to help you use your glass. Some of our personal choices are the VILTROX NF-M43X 0.71x Nikon and Canon Lens to Micro Four Thirds (MFT) adapters. It’s manual which means there will be no communication between the lens and the body to gather metadata, push to focus, etc. But, it has an f2-8 adjusting scale, which works great to control the amount of light needed, and it has a 0.71x field multiplier (meaning you get an improved field of view). Also, the aperture offers 1 stop more light, so using an f1.8 lens will let you go as wide as f1.2. There is, however, a certain degree of aberration and glow around the edges when shooting wide open. Stop it down a bit and you’re good to go. It’s a reasonable sacrifice when comparing the VILTROX price tag of $83.00 USD to the METABONES counterpart of $660.00 USD.
Of course, the sky (and your budget) is the limit regarding buying MFT lenses. If you want our advice, try out the OLYMPUS 12-100 f4. You won’t need any adapters and you can control focus via the touch screen and the iris for aperture. It also has built-in stabilization making it a great option for eliminating micro jitters associated with handheld rigs.
Blackmagic started a revolution with the recent introduction of BRAW. While earlier firmware versions seemed to be draining batteries quite fast, BRAW seemed to be a massive improvement. What initially was a true pain recording using the cumbersome dng format (which needed a ridiculous amount of space) became a breeze using a variety of BRAW compression levels on affordable cards.
For example, the 5:1 constant bitrate encoding, (which Blackmagic recommends) can be successfully used with preferably a UHS-II, or even UHS-I if you don’t go higher than 24 fps. If you feel like spending a bit more you can certainly go with a CFast 2.0 card that will let you shoot any of the available frame rates at a high-quality BRAW compression.
*That being said, if you are in for longer shoots that need lengthier battery life, you could do well with a V-Mount (battery/plate) of around 98Wh capacity and a 25-watt load that will last you a good couple of hours.
If you’re ready to get into third-party enhancements, start with a camera cage. This is where things can get complicated and costly but also creative considering the options you can add to streamline your workflow. You can add rail base plates and build out your camera from there by adding follow focus system, shoulder rig arms, shoulder pads, and battery mounts.
If you want to streamline a bit, the Tilta camera cage for BMPCC4K has an innovative modular design that will let you customize your rig to your needs. Working with a handheld shoulder rig, you will discover soon enough the need for an alternate monitoring screen for those low angles. While the BMPC4K has a great screen, it unfortunately doesn’t tilt or rotate to facilitate viewing from different angles.
The BMPCC works well with almost any stabilization system, including the Ronin-S gimbal. DJI even included a small plate to offset the camera due to it being too wide for the original plate. While the camera provides touch to focus with native lenses, it doesn’t offer auto follow focus. This is a blessing in disguise as it forces filmmakers and stock footage cinematographers to slow down and plan in advance, which can result in better footage capture.
For a more stabilized DIY handheld look, you can attach a camera strap. Hold your camera far enough out so the strap is fully extended and the tension created will help bring the shakiness under control. Sounds like a simple solution but it does wonders, especially for a run and gun situation.
We took the camera around and pushed it to its limits. Here’s what our run and gun setup looks like.
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