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Is Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera good for documentaries around the world?


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Hi, I need a very good image quality for my videos and I need a small handycam or camera.

I'm thinking about Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. I am a solitary traveller and I make documentaries about indigenous peoples in remote areas. Now I'm using a Sony NX5 but I'm noticing it is too much big and heavy and I'd like to replace it. I'd like to get a smaller camera. But my worries are: is Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera lighter with its zoom lens than NX5? Is it handy like a camera? Above all will it give better image quality than Sony NX5? How much more? Thanks


PS: In your opinion can it replace a good camcorder?


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(Following based on other peoples opinions)

This isn't really suited to run and gun doco work, if only for the battery and storage consumption.

As noted above and in Philip Bloom's rolling review you need fast cards, fine but you cant format or delete clips then in camera. You will need a computer to manage your clips with lots of storage. Raw workflow is another thing which will really eat up your time and its currently only records in ProRes, might be a problem for Non-Mac/Final Cut users.

This camera appears to be designed as a supplement to the bigger versions and is suited to a workflow where by you have lots of  time and control.


You might want to look at the Gh3's little brother GX7. It has in body IS and looks to be smaller than the NEX 5.



I'm not at a point were RAW is needed, I'm still working on editing and shot design as the primary way to increase my results.

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The stabilisation on the GX7 doesn't work for video. Also, it is not smaller than a NEX-5. It does offer better video quality though.


I actually can't quite grasp your complaint about the NEX-5 being to big and heavy. Maybe the lenses you are using? The NEX is one of the smallest interchangeable camera's on the market.


If size/weight is what you are concerned about, you should have a look at the Sony RX100 / RX100 II:


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I neither see battery, nor storage consumption as such a big issue. A 64GB Sony 95MB/s card can be bought for less than 60 Euro and holds 50 minutes of the Pocket's ProRes HQ footage. Likewise, the EN-EL20 batteries can be bought for 10 Euro a piece on Ebay, with 27% higher capacity (1020 mAh) than the 800 mAh battery included in the camera package (and used by Ph. Bloom for his camera test).


The real issues are others:

  • No really good stabilized lenses are available for the camera because the optically stabilized Lumix zooms have strong barrel distortion (which gets corrected in-firmware by cameras like the GH2 and GH3, but can't get corrected on Pocket material without degrading resolution);
  • The white orb issue kills the camera for shooting in many real life conditions: night street scenes, concerts, clubs/pubs for example, anything with a high contrast ratio. Let's hope that it will get fixed.
  • The real issue, however, is the camera's user interface. White balance, shutter and ISO adjustment are buried in the camera's menu and not quickly available on dials or hotkeys. Adjusting any of those parameters requires at least 7 clicks on the miniature menu/arrow keys. You see that the user interface - which is the same as on the larger Blackmagic cameras - is optimized for touchscreens and raw recording, not for the arrow keys and ProRes recording of the Pocket.
  • White balance only has 6 preset values, no possibly of individual adjustment through locking a subject (such as a grey card), and offers no green/magenta tint compensation. Again, you see that camera's interface was designed for raw shooting, where this doesn't matter, but not for ProRes.
  • Also, focusing and exposure are much trickier than on cameras like the GH2 or Canon DSLRs with Magic Lantern. Focus magnification gives you a much smaller zoom into the image because of the sensor's lower native resolution; focus peaking isn't really precise by design for critical focusing, or low light conditions. Exposure is difficult because there are no Histograms, and Zebras only for highlight clipping. You have no idea or indication of underexposure.
  • The audio recording limitations of the camera have been sufficiently covered elsewhere.
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I would have to say the BMPCC may not be an ideal run n gun documentary camera, although it seems like it would be on the surface. The large file sizes, batteries and additional accessories (audio) you'll need won't make it the ideal candidate for a traveling low budget doc. There are workarounds of course, but it may or may not be worth it given your intentions for the project. I also really think it needs a rig as I personally am bothered by the micro jitters when hand holding a camera of this size.


I think all BM cameras are best for narrative. I recently finished shooting a short on the BMC (EF Mount) and it made it abundantly clear to me that it's strong suit is in narrative. If you're interested, here's my blog post on shooting with it in a narrative environment: http://noamkroll.com/shooting-narrative-with-the-blackmagic-cinema-camera/

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  • 2 weeks later...

For documentary work in the field, I think it might be best to think of this camera in terms of getting b-roll.


I've used a first-batch BMPCC as a b-camera for narrative work (and next week I'm sending it in for calibration to eliminate the white orb issue), and if I were to use it as a run and gun documentary camera, I'd certainly want a few extra SD cards - I'm getting about 40min per 64GB card, and probably a few more batteries. I currently have 9 and feel like that's sufficient for 6 or so hours of shooting. Audio isn't great, so rigging an external recorder and mic would be necessary. It would be a little cumbersome, but could work. 


In this price range, though, you might be better off getting a GH3 or G6 for running and gunning documentary work - better battery life, fewer storage needs, better in-camera audio. Or, for a few grand more, jump to a C100.

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