Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Review

FullSizeRender“The best camera is the one you have with you.”

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera makes quite the first impression–it’s tiny. Absurdly small for a professional video camera, it could be mistaken for a point-and-shoot from ten years ago. Throw on a pancake lens, and it’ll fit in a reasonably-sized pocket.

This is a major advantage, as the BMPCC is small enough to bring along on your daily routine. Returning to smartphone video after spending some time with this little monster would be tough.

Small dimensions aside, this petite cinema camera has a lot going for it. At $1000, it’s the cheapest way to access RAW and ProRes recording, and has a greater dynamic range than the competition at this price point.

IMG_0021It features a micro 4/3 mount and a super 16mm sensor. The smaller sensor means a slightly tighter crop relative to the micro 4/3 standard, though you can compensate for this with a Metabones Speedbooster ($600). The Speedbooster is an adapter which allows the use of full frame lenses on the micro 4/3 mount– you’ll gain 1 f-stop, as well as a wider crop.

There’s a downside to putting this much power in a small body–the camera absolutely chews through batteries, and the metal frame gets quite toasty during filming. While recording ProRes HQ, the BMPCC ran out of juice in as little as thirty minutes. It’s clear Blackmagic is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a camera this size.

There are other limitations as well–recording tops out at 30 frames per second, and max resolution is 1080p.  The lack of slow-mo capability is disappointing, but RAW 4K would’ve been a stretch for a camera this miniscule.

IMG_0016 2The display is small and dim–plan on using an external monitor on sunny days. The interface was clearly designed for a touch screen, but we’re stuck with buttons here. Given the price and size, these concessions are unfortunate, but understandable.

If you’re used to shooting video with DSLRs, the BMPCC’s terminology can be confusing. For instance, you’ll need to set the shutter angle instead of the shutter speed. Pro cinema cameras from RED and Arri have long used the shutter angle standard, but it’s uncommon in this price range.

If you’ve only got $1000 to spend on a camera for filmmaking, this is the one to get. The additional dynamic range and RAW/ProRes support mean you’re getting a better picture relative to cameras that cost more. Thanks to the small form factor, you’re also more likely to have this camera with you when you need it.

If you’ve got more to spend, a GH4 + Atomos Ninja Assassin will give you 4K and more versatility, but at nearly triple the price. You could get better lowlight performance from an A7S, but again, you’re going to pay a lot more. Blackmagic has brought some high-end features into the budget market, and that’s a good thing for filmmakers.

 

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