Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera from Blackmagic Design is a compact Super 16 format camera designed for digital film production.

The Super 16 sized sensor has an effective resolution of 1920 x 1080 and is capable of capturing 13 stops of dynamic range.

The Pocket Cinema Camera records Full HD video in either the lossless CinemaDNG RAW or Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) format.

The active Micro Four Thirds lens mount can accommodate a growing range of MFT format lenses as well as a host of excellent legacy lenses via optional adapters.

Blackmagic Design has packed all of these impressive features into a remarkably compact (5 x 2.6 x 1.5") and lightweight (12.5 oz) magnesium alloy chassis.

Review:

I am using it everyday. Power keeps on running out but battery is very inexpensive so I bought a few. There are some draw backs on in-camera fuctions, such as no format option, audio, histogram, exposure meters and a dozen of tools that are normally in most cameras.

Since Blackmagic is not a major player like Sony, Panasonic, Nikon and Canon, they may not have enough man power but I think these upgrades will come with the new firmware. It is an excellent pro video camera, easy to lug around and gets the job done.

Its ISO performance is not comparable to the 5D in low light but under adequate lighting or outdoor it's sharper with more detail than a full frame. Anyway since the sensor is a small super 16, I didn't expect lower noise at high ISO. Still sensors in general have better ISO performance but they are prone to have moire issue and lower dynamic range. Even the Red Epic has noise problem in low light and I am hoping it will get much better with the new Dragon.

There are an abundance of Micro 4/3 lens available for this camera but a wide lens is hard to find, only the Panasonic aspherical 7-14mm is wide enough. Anything wider will be a fisheye lens.

I tried the Olympus 9-18mm and when framed in 9mm, it was comparable to my 24mm on the 5D.

I have not measured it with a protractor but I am guessing the crop factor is more like 2.5 despite what was claimed.

The BMPC may not be a consumer camera but I can't imagine any pro or enthusiast wouldn't want one in the bag. However, even for a rookie that can change with a bit of training. I must say when I first received it, I was a quite frustrated. It took a while to figure out the memory chip must be reformatted to exFAT with a PC and then I ran into problem playing back the clips. If it had been shipped with a quick start guide, it would have saved me time. It was a PITB so I will be focusing more on the initial setup which hopefully will make your life easier.

The following are what I feel should have been labeled on the box when it was shipped:

1. Only 94 mB/s or higher speed memory chip can be used. Otherwise you may get dropped frames even if it records. I have tried Sony and Sandisk Extreme Pro, both worked fine. I am sure most people get this one just by Googling.

2. The one that really got me was that you need to reformat the card with a PC and the format must be exFAT, not other formats. I've found this information extremely difficult to find online and hidden in the manual. I thought the camera was broken, the error message NO SD will not turn off and the record button won't work. Finally after some major tinkering, I reformatted the card and everything started to work beautifully. This is normally a no brainer for a consumer camera or any pro camera so it caught me off guard.

3. My next problem was that none of my video players would play the clips and I have tried a lot of them, not even my Vegas Pro would import the ProRes .mov format. I tried downloading DaVinci Resolve 9 on Blackmagic-design website. It was free but the bad news was, I couldn't get it to open or import a file. I have loaded and reloaded it on 3 of my PC and only one worked after hours of tinkering. This is a major manufacturer's oversight as they could have made it much more user friendly and transparent to the user.

4. The next puzzle was that the video appeared washed out. I later discovered the reason was because it records in log format. Blackmagic adapted this format because it is easier to grade color during post editing. After I color graded the footage, it had more detail than the 5D Mark III. The 13 stops of dynamic range seems to be as advertised.

Video quality:

Rolling shutter feels to be a bit better than the Canon 5D. I can pan the camera faster now. It does not show in Youtube that well due to the compression. It is as expected, the sensor is dedicated to video not still. Oh, it does not take still photos, it is not designed for that. The BMPC handles moire quite well. Check out the unedited footage in Youtube by searching "Turbo Ace Matrix Quadcopter and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera unedited aerial footage". For in-depth review of the video quality, try using the Google Chrome browser and set resolution to 1080p.

Benefits:

The dynamic range of 13 makes the video sharper with more detail than any of the DSLR including my 5D.

More noise shows in low light condition with the same ISO compared to the 5D. Again that is expected from a smaller sensor.

It is much smaller and extremely light weight compared to the DSLR

After color grading the video is extremely sharp but you can't replay instantly and expect great colors.

A very nice selection of Micro 4/3 lens at great savings. I recommend the Olympus 9-18mm zoom.

Price is unbelievable for the quality it produces

Apple ProRes comes in handy for editing

Solidly built, it is mostly made of metal

Auto focus does work somewhat and it comes in handy under sunlight. It is a bit slow but not a big deal as I shoot mostly in manual.

Battery is a Nikon 7.4V EN-EL20 Type Lithium-Ion easily obtainable at great price.

Disappointments:

It is hard to find a wide lens due to the smaller sensor

Shortage of functions in the camera, no in-camera format, not a big deal for me.

No dial, makes it cumbersome to change exposure.

Run time is short and requires constant battery change. I wish the battery is twice the size because it isn't heavy anyway.

30fps is max, hope there is 60fps someday.

No exposure or histogram so you will need a light meter. But at 1/3 the price of a 5D, I can't complain.

Not user friendly, takes a while to get everything working

No audio meter but that may change with the new firmware

Wish it has the more popular mini HDMI port instead of micro. Micro HDMI is not as popular and it was painful to find a small right angle one to work on my Matrix quadcopter.

Finally, do I recommend this camera and should the average Joe buy it? Only if you really care about video quality and have the patience to put up with the initial setup.

The final production quality is stunning so it is well worth it for me.

Blackmagic has excellent technology and provides tremendous value but lacks in customer interface and proper documentation.

In the end, it delivers the quality I want and that is why I am giving it a 5 star.

Specifications:

*Super 16mm Sized Image Sensor

*Active Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount

*13 Stops of Dynamic Range

*Records Full HD 1920x1080 CinemaDNG RAW

*Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) at 220 Mbps

*Compact Design (5" Long and 12.5 oz)

*3.5" LCD Display with 800x480 Resolution

*Uses SDXC and SDHC Memory Cards

*EN-EL20 Compatible Rechargeable Battery

*HDMI, LANC, 3.5mm Audio Input and Output

Camera: Sensor Size 12.48 x 7.02 mm (effective)

Effective Resolution 1920 x 1080

Dynamic Range 13 stops

Lens Mount Active MFT

Recording:

Recording Media Removable SDXC and/or SDHC cards (exFAT or HFS+ format)

Recording Formats Lossless CinemaDNG RAW

Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) (QuickTime MOV)

Recording Resolution 1920 x 1080

Frame Rates 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p

Bit Rate 220 Mbps using Apple ProRes 422 (HQ)

Interface:

Video Output Micro HDMI type D (x1)

Digital Audio Output 2 channels, 48 kHz and 24 bit (embedded in HDMI output)

Analog Audio Input 3.5mm stereo mini jack (x1)

Analog Audio Output 3.5mm stereo mini jack (x1)

Remote Control 2.5mm LANC (x1) for record START/STOP, iris control and focus

Computer Interface USB 2.0 mini B port (for software updates and configuration)

Power Input 0.7mm DC jack for power and battery charging (x1)

Display:

Display Type Integrated LCD

Display Size 3.5"

Display Resolution 800 x 480

General:

Built-In Microphone Integrated stereo microphone

Built-in Speaker Integrated mono speaker

Mounting 1/4"-20 UNC thread (x1, on top of camera)

1/4"-20 UNC thread (x1, tripod mount on the bottom)

Supported Software Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects, Nuke - The Foundry, Adobe Photoshop, DaVinci Resolve

Operating System Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or later

Windows 7 or later

Power 12-20 VDC

Battery Type: EN-EL20 compatible, rechargeable lithium ion battery

Battery Life: approx. 1 hour of continuous recording time

Charge Time: approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes when the camera is off and approximately 2 hours when in use

Operating Temperature 32 ~ 104° F (0 ~ 40° C)

Storage Temperature -4 ~ 113° F (-20 ~ 45° C)

Relative Humidity 0 ~ 90% non-condensing

Dimensions 5.04 x 1.49 x 2.6 (128 x 38 x 66 mm)

Weight 12.52 oz (355 g)

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