Well it’s NAB once again. It was a year ago that Blackmagic blew everyone’s mind by launching a high dynamic range DNG RAW uncompressed 2.5K cinema camera for three thousand bucks.
It’s worth taking note of the fact that it was the first camera at ANY price point to offer on-board uncompressed RAW recording as well as ProRes and DNxHD.
Even a whole year later, that’s still an amazing and impressive set of features. And more importantly, I think everyone agrees the camera has a great look right out of the box. Their colour science and high image quality has become their trademark.
Whilst BMD have certainly had trouble getting the cameras shipping when they said they would, they seem to now be shipping in some more serious volume. It’s been hard seeing how difficult it has been for the BMD camera team to be frustrated by issues largely beyond their control. Even though they actually make all the parts that go into the BMCC, they don’t make the sensor, and that’s been the bottleneck. There’s certainly plenty of BMCC’s out there now though that people are shooting with. They seem to have dramatically sped up production in the last month or so, probably not wanting to be dealing with the lynch mob of customers with preorders at NAB ! Here’s one I like. Meet me in Big Sur
I have been shooting with both the EF and mft versions continuously on the three different episodic TV drama series Puberty Blues, Underbelly Squizzy and the fourth season of Offspring (still in production).
With the tumult off the last year, BMD have managed to develop not one but two new cameras.
The more developed camera of the two that I’ve been road testing is the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.
As you can see, they aren’t kidding with the pocket bit ! And it’s a LOT of fun.
What BMD have done with this camera is to take a super 16 size version of the exact same awesome sensor that’s in the current BMCC and shrink the form factor down to that of an iPhone with a lens mount. Then they added what many have clamoured for. An internal battery that can be easily switched out.
The camera has an ACTIVE m4/3 lens mount. That means you can use any of the Panasonic / Lumix or Olympus m4/3 lenses that are already out there, and using dumb adaptors you can mount almost any other lens to the camera, including SUPER 16 cinema lenses, which will cover the sensor perfectly, and are ideal if you want that vintage look.
The great thing about the camera having an active mount is that you can now tap the already extensive list of native m4/3 lenses . Many of the Panasonic / Lumix lenses also have image stabilisers as well. I think IS is more of a want because the smaller sensor size and the much smaller and lighter form factor means rolling shutter will be more noticeable when you’re handholding the camera. The Panasonic / Lumix 12-35 F2.8 is a treat on this camera. It will be probably be the GO TO zoom.
In theory you can also use some of the great 4/3 lenses (not to be confused with m4/3). I happen to own a few. Unfortunately the adaptor doesn’t yet seem to work (though it’s meant to) so these images are just suggestions of what should be possible. But it’s still a work in progress.
You can also use PL mount lenses and I think a lot of Super 16 PL mount lenses like Zeiss Superspeeds and Canon Zooms are about to surge in price.
The camera records a smaller 1920x 1080 size instead of the larger 2.5K of the BMCC. Ideally with Bayer sensors you do want to have a bit more resolution than your distribution medium, which is why 2.5K is a good size to rescale down to 1920. However, testing the 1920 native sensor, there’s not a lot of discernible difference between the two resolutions. There’s a crop factor of about 1.3X to the 2.5K BMCC.
As I mentioned the Pocket cinema camera also has an interchangeable battery and records to regular SD cards. Though you can’t get away with any old SD card. I’ve been using only the SanDisk Extreme Pro 64Gb. Like we’ve discovered with the SSD’s, they aren’t all created equal, even when the specs say they are. BMD are doing the research right now on this so expect to see a list of SD cards that will be recommended.
The sensor is exactly the same generation as the 2.5K BMCC, but it’s active area is 12.48 x 7.02mm, close to Super 16.
The Super 16 camera aperture is actually 12.52mm x 7.41mm. So at first glance it seems like there’s a difference, BUT let’s remember the extra height is because super 16 camera aperture is actually 1.66. The 1.78 (16×9)extraction from Super 16 size is actually 11.95mm x 6.72mm. If you’re being fussy and want 1.85 it’s 11.75mm x 6.35mm
So the pocket camera active sensor actually is slightly bigger than Super 16 extracted for 1.78, BUT any super 16 lens will be designed to cover the slightly larger 1.66 size. In other words, any lens that works for Super 16 will work with this camera.
Currently the prototype camera I have records only in ProRes 422 @ 10 bit, just like the BMCC. The plan is to add a NEW compressed RAW implementation of DNG. The spec allows for this be lossless (not lossy) and at 1.5:1 – 1.2-:1.
In fact, there has apparently always been an allowance for compressed RAW in the DNG specifications, it’s just very few of the existing DNG applications have implemented it. Resolve will of course be able to read these new COMPRESSED RAW DNG files. Let’s hope some of the other terrific DNG compatible applications catch up to be able to use the compressed RAW versions of RAW.
So, let’s step back and take this all in.
Basically we have a greatly shrunken version of the BMCC with the same proven sensor DR and IQ that records 1920 instead of 2.5K to SD cards in the same compressed codec of ProRes and in a new compressed version of RAW DNG. Oh yeah…and it’s going to cost one thousand bucks.
So what’s the point ? Well. the camera is tiny. I mean it’s kind of ridiculously tiny. A tiny camera means you can get shots you can’t get with any other camera. Think of car rigging for example. but also anywhere you have a tight spot that you’d struggle to get a regular BMCC or full size camera into.
It’s also going to be great for more covert or discrete uses. The camera looks like a regular NEX style point and shoot camera so if you wanted to slip under the radar or you’re out in the general public it could easily go more unnoticed.
Frankly though, it’s insane that you can get the same DR into a camera that’s so small. Theres no reason you couldn’t slap regular super 16 lenses on there and get the great BMCC look from this camera. It would take some pimping up to make this into a production camera but frankly, I think the camera is best in its naked form.
The lower cost also means its easier to put the camera into more risky shooting scenarios where the camera might be damaged, like stunts.
And of course, it makes an ideal B camera to a BMCC if you already have one. It’s got the same sensor and the same look, plus you’ll get to access to those nice active m4/3 lenses.
The menu system is very nearly IDENTICAL to the current BMCC. The main difference being that it’s not a touch screen, so it can take a little longer to navigate to some of the menus, but I don’t think it’s deal breaker. Also, the peaking system is slightly improved now with a pleasant green colour.
The battery is actually the regular Nikon style battery and BMD choose this for it’s relatively low cost, small size and easy availability.
I’ve been using my existing m4/3 lenses and I’ve loved having the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 on there. This is one of the cheapest fast m4/3 primes and it’s just great. It means I can just carry the camera almost as a personal video camera.
Frame rate options are the same as the BMCC, and top out at 30 FPS.
This thing is just so much fun. Seriously. It’s very easy to carry it on your person. It’s not intimidating to use. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun. I’ve ended up using it more for personal use.
While you don’t get the full version of Resolve like you do with the 2.5k BMCC you do get the LITE version. The freely available lite version isn’t limited in any meaningful way for the kinds of things you’d use this camera for. The lite version is exactly the same as the full version, except you don’t have noise reduction, higher than 1920 resolution output, ability to use more than one GPU (for faster playback) or 3D. Other than that it’s the same toolset.
The camera has a stereo audio input and mini HDMI video out for monitoring. There’s also a remote LANC style control and a headphone jack. The firmware is basically the same as the BMCC, and the plan is I believe to make them the same as they go forward with firmware updates.
The Blackmagic Production camera 4K is a direct response to many of those clamouring for global shutter and higher resolutions with a larger sensor size.
The BMCC sensor is a near super 35 size, and they had to source from a different sensor family, but the early tests I’ve done are very promising with regards to maintaining the same BMCC look. The engineers are working very hard to maintain the great colour science and BMD “look” they’ve established with the BMCC. Because of the different sensor technology, and because they’ve implemented a global shutter, there will be less dynamic range than BMCC and the pocket cinema camera.
At the moment there is only the EF mount available, but they will be looking at a PL mount in the near future.
So in the same form factor as the BMCC, they now put a near super 35 4K sensor. Not only that but the global shutter, eliminates rolling shutter, something many found irritating to work with. The active image area is 21.12mm x 11.88mm. Super 35 @ 1.78 is 24.89 mm × 14mm. By way of comparison the Sony F5 is 22.6 x 12.7mm and they get to call theirs Super 35.
Recording to the same media in RAW would be impossible at 4K data rates uncompressed in RAW so they’ve had to stick with ProRes for the moment. It’s still visually lossless at 2.5:1 though. They are planning to introduce compressed RAW DNG’s later on down the track. This is probably one of the first cameras to use the new 6GB/s HD-SDI standard too, which allows for lots of interesting possibilities down the track. I think there’s plans for the better 12 bit flavours of ProRes but for now it’s 10bit 422.
Because of the global shutter and different sensor technology, the 4K one doesn’t quite have the same DR, but it’s still going to be very good and certainly better than most of the dSLR’s from what I can see. It’s still early days and right now they’re trying to squeeze as much DR as they can, but the global shutter mode and slightly different sensor technology means it won’t match the BMCC. I’ve shot some early engineering tests and it actually already looks very good. When you directly compare it for DR, you see the difference, but by itself, the images are still great.
There is also a slight difference in the native ISO. It’s not really been mapped out yet, but it looks like the camera will be a smidge less sensitive in terms of ISO.
At present the frame rates will be the same as the other Blackmagic cameras and go to 30 FPS.
For many, the 4K files, the very nearly Super 35 sensor size and the global shutter eliminate many of the concerns some had about the original BMCC. I’m looking forward to getting a camera in my hands to start shooting with soon and I’ll upload some clips as soon as I’m able to.
The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K will ship with a full version of Resolve, like the BMCC.
Now for those wanting an active m4/3 2.5K BMCC, I’m told that it will still be some time before that’s possible. Basically, it’s a fairly big job to redesign not only the mount, but the electronics inside. It will still be some time before this becomes an option on the BMCC, but obviously they’ve shown it can be done now ! My impression is it still months away from being able to be done.
BMD also plan to implement compressed RAW DNG’s in firmware in the future on the BMCC as well and try to unify the firmware across the three cameras.
As soon as I’m able, I’ll post some pocket footage. The 4K will be a little further along.
So now there are three Blackmagic cameras. A three-tiered structure. If Super 35 size is your thing then the Production camera is for you. RAW will still be a fair bit further along with this camera too, and it will probably be ProRes only initially. The pocket cinema camera is just a whole bunch of fun. I can’t wait for some of the great shot’s people will get with this camera.
The question for some will be…what should I do with my 2.5K BMCC camera ? Should I cancel my order ? Should I change it ?
I think there’s enough point of difference between all these cameras. I don’t think the 4K steals the 2.5K’s thunder for three important reasons, I’ll mention in a sec. The pocket’s advantages are more immediately obvious, and lets face it, 1K is nothing at all for the insane DR, look and IQ you get. It’s an ideal B camera if you already have a camera or one on order. The only downside for me was the rolling shutter felt a little bit more pronounced when hand holding. IS should help a lot though with this.
The Production Model ? Well. If 4K, global shutter and super 35 is important to you then this is your camera. But the downside is you’re going to lose some DR. At least a stop and probably more. And you’ll loose a little ISO sensitivity as well. And you might not have RAW initially when it’s released, only ProRes. The final important difference RIGHT now is the EF mount. I’d prefer PL myself, but I’m hoping BMD see that as an easy fix. Look at the upsides though. It’s 4K and Super 35 with a global shutter for 4K. That’s pretty hard to ignore if any one of those features is important to you. You get all of them for 4K. I’m also assuming that BMD can work the same magic from the look they get from this new sensor. So far it seems promising, but they haven’t finished working on it so the jury is still out. But so far to me it looks like they’re going to get it very close to it being every bit as nice.
The other thing to take away from this….
Blackmagic Design are clearly settling in to stay as a camera manufacturer. In only 12 months, they’ve come up with 2 new cameras, with amazing features for an amazing price. They aren’t mucking around it seems….
NB. DEMO footage is still to come. I’ll hopefully have something I can show before the end of NAB. Rest assured though, the Pocket looks just as nice as the BMCC….