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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera first impressions


Andrew Reid

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It's called the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. It is marketed as a Pocket camera with cinematic capabilities.

It's like saying the iPad was designed to sit on your desk at home. Imagine having to be forced to use an external battery just to make it what it is - portable.

I'm going to the river to play with stones and sticks. It's much fun.

Hmm with a crap battery and large sensor with no pocket lens supplied.

Would you use pro lenses for its only attribute its pro picture Or would you use not so good pancake lenses if so maybe get a cheaper DSLR with compression

tripod3.jpg

 

 

Taken from the Pocket cameras BMD advertising blurb. Now is that a canoe or pocket camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me.

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Camera supplied by CVP who came through and fulfilled my pre-order from NAB in early April. Personal note: I was saddened to learn of the death of CEO Phil Baxter earlier this month and

Caption: I was expecting raw meat but I got crappy a ProRes sausage instead!

Caption competition...  

GH3 battery and grip would have been perfect for this camera. I have no idea why they went for the Nikon J1's crappy battery.

 

The DMW-BLF19 battery of the GH3 has a size of 5.1 x 5.1 x 7.6 cm = 197 cm^3, and a weight of one pound/450 grams.

The EN-EL20 battery of the Nikon J1/Blackmagic Pocket  has a size of 5.0 x 3.0 x 1.4 cm = 21 cm^3, and a weight of only 36 grams.

 

Nine times the weight and nine times the size would be quite a price for twice the battery capacity!

 

(I strongly suspect that the Blackmagic design team settled on the EN-EL20 because its capacity-vs.-size efficiency, and because it's a battery that is easily available. One can find the EN-EL20 or compatible batteries in practically any consumer electronic store, including airport shops, which can be an advantage on the road. The DMW-BLF19 is more exotic since the GH3 is rather sold by camera shops than your average mass market consumer electronics retailer.)

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The GH3's battery is not 9x the weight and size of the EN-EL20.

 

I stand corrected; the information I had on weight and size came from B&H's site (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/902115-REG/Panasonic_DMW_BLF19_Battery_Pack_For.html) but seems to be wrong. If we believe the data on Amazon.com, than it weighs 3.2 ounces = 90.7 grams. Regarding the actual size, information online is highly contradictory, and Panasonic's own site doesn't give any data. Maybe you could shed some light on this mystery in your final review of the camera?

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Would you use pro lenses for its only attribute its pro picture Or would you use not so good pancake lenses if so maybe get a cheaper DSLR with compression

 

If I might chime in: For running & gunning outdoors (with an ND filter!), one of the stabilized (with on-lens O.I.S. switch!) Panasonic MFT zooms such as the 14-140mm, 12-35mm or the old 14-45mm is fine. For low light and/or planned shots, the MFT Speedbooster in combination with (preferably manual) Nikon or Samyang primes is just great. A speedbooster-ed Nikon 28mm/2.0 Ai-s I use produced beautiful, rich, organic images and color rendition, and still is a normal focal length (56mm full frame equivalent) on the Pocket. I can't say the same positive things about adapted 16mm/c-mount primes many of which are soft, have blurry corners and render not-so-great colors. 

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Hmm with a crap battery and large sensor with no pocket lens supplied.Would you use pro lenses for its only attribute its pro picture Or would you use not so good pancake lenses if so maybe get a cheaper DSLR with compressiontripod3.jpg Taken from the Pocket cameras BMD advertising blurb. Now is that a canoe or pocket camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me.

This is clever marketing by Blackmagic. My belief is that they have put this image on their website just to show you that the Pocket camera is in fact, a capable, professional cinema camera.

If this wasn't a Pocket camera, wouldn't they call it the Blackmagic Lite? The Blackmagic Mini? The Blackmagic Pocket name makes you believe you can in fact carry this camera around in your pocket and capture professional cinematic images. This is true.

It is your choice entirely if you want to rig this camera up for the long haul, and it is possible of course. But with all this battery life talk, doesn't this suggest., well, this thing is Pocket after all? Get out there, grab a few shots on the London Eye to match my BMCC footage?

Lets read the title again... Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. A cinema camera that can fit in your pocket. It's true isn't it? If not, what the hell is it? What were the marketing department thinking? It's no way a Pocket camera! My lenses are huge and my battery pack is bigger than my head.

My point is.... The camera is a Pocket camera, marketed as a potential professional camera. Some of those buying the camera will get excited by the Blackmagic pictures, because they think they are buying into a piece of proper movie gear and they will now make super super movies. Potentially they could be. Blackmagic says they will be. Because they said so. ;)
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This is clever marketing by Blackmagic. My belief is that they have put this image on their website just to show you that the Pocket camera is in fact, a capable, professional cinema camera.

If this wasn't a Pocket camera, wouldn't they call it the Blackmagic Lite? The Blackmagic Mini? The Blackmagic Pocket name makes you believe you can in fact carry this camera around in your pocket and capture professional cinematic images. This is true.

It is your choice entirely if you want to rig this camera up for the long haul, and it is possible of course. But with all this battery life talk, doesn't this suggest., well, this thing is Pocket after all? Get out there, grab a few shots on the London Eye to match my BMCC footage?

Lets read the title again... Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. A cinema camera that can fit in your pocket. It's true isn't it? If not, what the hell is it? What were the marketing department thinking? It's no way a Pocket camera! My lenses are huge and my battery pack is bigger than my head.

My point is.... The camera is a Pocket camera, marketed as a potential professional camera. Some of those buying the camera will get excited by the Blackmagic pictures, because they think they are buying into a piece of proper movie gear and they will now make super super movies. Potentially they could be. Blackmagic says they will be. Because they said so. ;)

Well its not just me Its anyone with an ounce of common sense.

http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?5730-Show-us-your-Pocket-Cinema-Cam-Rig

 

Maybe its time to have a rethink in who you climb in bed with?

 

To answer your question yes they do call it a pocket camera because its a nice description of its size but it is only part of a camera package like the red. You have to add to it in order to make it fully work. That may have escaped some of the more intellectually challenged but most fully understand its use.

 

Some may not like BMD and that's fine but I don't see it as a reason to try to undermine it to lose them business. All you are really doing is shortchanging those you are professing to help and that might be overlooked but people still remember the game. Probably best to be straight and say you don't like the manufacturer for whatever reason. I think BMD's dealings with people have been awful and I would gladly have gone elsewhere. However for professional value for money they are presently unbeatable.

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My ill conceived views? Are all views different to yours ill conceived?

 

If you insist the pocket camera is designed to be for incognito and pocket portability use and  that is your view and wrong and really mate you need to support it or give it up. One thing that annoys me is deceptive misleading information based on a whim or preference. You need to give the full facts without subversion to be a trusted reviewer.  

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If you insist the pocket camera is designed to be for incognito and pocket portability use and  that is your view and wrong 

 

You can shoot with the Pocket in the same mobile way as with a GH2 - and you can't shoot with a GH2 without somehow stabilizing the camera either. If you don't believe me, here's my first rough cut of a video I literally had to run&gun yesterday with a Pocket, a Panasonic 14-140mm lens (interior shots with a Nikon 28mm 2.0 + MFT Speedbooster) and this "rig", a Braun mini chestpod made for Super 8 cameras in the 1970s. It's 20 cm long and weighs 215g:

 

 3NY9VJ5e7AkT137122451382P5913.jpg

 

The video documents an audio walk (no sound on it yet). I had to follow the participants and shoot whatever happened, no time to plan any shot. Aperture mostly at 8, exposure correction with a variable ND, all manual focus (which was the hardest part and not always accurate). Only one single shot (1:23-1:25) was stabilized in post.

 

https://vimeo.com/75723978

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Equally, people shot with Super 8 cameras in a similar way. Pistol grip and nothing else.

 

It's a style. If one does not like it, get a tripod or a shoulder rig with EVF.

 

The beauty of the Pocket is that it's small whilst the BMCC is rather chunky and heavy. You can't run & gun with the BMCC as easily as you can with the Pocket. That's why they wanted to get those 13 stops into a smaller camera, to give us the other style of filmmaking and another application for the technology.

 

If only the Japanese were as imaginative about applying their technology to the creative world.

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You can shoot with the Pocket in the same mobile way as with a GH2 - and you can't shoot with a GH2 without somehow stabilizing the camera either. If you don't believe me, here's my first rough cut of a video I literally had to run&gun yesterday with a Pocket, a Panasonic 14-140mm lens (interior shots with a Nikon 28mm 2.0 + MFT Speedbooster) and this "rig", a Braun mini chestpod made for Super 8 cameras in the 1970s. It's 20 cm long and weighs 215g:

 

The video documents an audio walk (no sound on it yet). I had to follow the participants and shoot whatever happened, no time to plan any shot. Aperture mostly at 8, exposure correction with a variable ND, all manual focus (which was the hardest part and not always accurate). Only one single shot (1:23-1:25) was stabilized in post.

 

That's some really nice handheld footage with very little gear!

 

I've myself had major issues getting stable handheld footage and I've just ordered myself an edelkrone pocket rig, since it seemed to be one of the more portable solutions for bigger dslrs. But that little chestpod of yours looks extremely portable and yet you got nice handheld footage with it!

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've myself had major issues getting stable handheld footage and I've just ordered myself an edelkrone pocket rig, since it seemed to be one of the more portable solutions for bigger dslrs. But that little chestpod of yours looks extremely portable and yet you got nice handheld footage with it!

 

Hey, thanks! For sure, the optical stabilization of the Panasonic zoom lens helped me. (And perhaps the years of practicing a steady hand with cameras like the GH2.)

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Looking back at what I shot with the GH2, it's like night and day - or plastic vs. organic image. Honestly, I would keep using this camera even if it were much quirkier than it already is. As one can see in the first shots of the video that I posted, not even the white orb issue has been fixed on my camera yet. The real 'downside': You can't go back to AVCHD/8-bit consumer cameras anymore once you've got used to this video quality. It's like the red pill in "The Matrix".

 

(Important things to mention in the review, IMHO: The current 180º shutter bug and its 172.8º workaround - the sensible setting for 24p in PAL/50 Hz countries anyway. Another big issue is the lack of green/magenta white balance compensation which creates lots of issues for indoor shooting, especially under available light with energy saving bulbs. 

 

And perhaps it's just my obsession, but I'd insist that the camera looks best with modern, contrasty and sharp lenses while most vintage glass disappoints on it. Unlike the GH2 whose video image shows crushed shadows and highlights when the lens is contrasty, the Pocket can adequately handle high contrast with its high dynamic range sensor. It also renders sharpness organically, with a pleasant fine sensor grain, whereas the combination of sharp lenses, in-camera denoising and artificial in-camera-sharpening of the GH2 resulted in plasticky images. So I'd go for soft, low contrast lenses on the GH2, and the opposite on the Pocket. Paradoxically or not, lenses like the Panasonic 14-140mm are a much better match to the Pocket than to the GHx. Modern primes like the Samyangs seem to be the ideal budget solution for the Pocket. Having said that, my old manual Nikon primes are fantastic on the camera, too, especially in combination with the MFT Speedbooster.)

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I've seen some very nice vintage lens footage. Some Kern Switar stuff anyway. I find my Kodak Cine Ektar pretty sharp on the GH, but I haven't shot much with it on the Pocket yet.

I've read all your posts on the c mount thing and I've tried to stay out of it because I'm not a professional.

I can agree that if i was shooting for paying clients I'd probably use modern lenses all the way. Some modern lenses are better than others of course. I'm not that excited by my MK1 14-140mm Panny.

I just ordered another Kodak Ektar and a Switar because I love the character of the images with this camera. 

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Equally, people shot with Super 8 cameras in a similar way. Pistol grip and nothing else.

 

It's a style. If one does not like it, get a tripod or a shoulder rig with EVF.

 

The beauty of the Pocket is that it's small whilst the BMCC is rather chunky and heavy. You can't run & gun with the BMCC as easily as you can with the Pocket. That's why they wanted to get those 13 stops into a smaller camera, to give us the other style of filmmaking and another application for the technology.

 

If only the Japanese were as imaginative about applying their technology to the creative world.

Andrew If you are doing a review then maybe I should help you.

 

1) The real advantage of the pocket is not its size as that soon becomes irrelevant the moment you add a viewfinder outboard battery Mattebox ND filters and lenses. So pocket camera in name only.

2 One advantage it has is if you strip it down of the accessories you need you can film incognito although for many making a film that is unneccesary But for those making a film it is useful for those hard to get to places and of course on a gimbal.

3) The biggest advantage is you can use it with old super 16mm lenses. A lot has been said recently about these ancient lenses but some of them are high end glass that made real films. Some will be amazing. You could use the BMCC with 16mm lenses but then you have to crop and no real way of framing on the monitor.  

4) The picture performance is professional Some complain about many different things like sound Batteries etc but its like complaining that a formula one car eats petrol and an uncomfortable ride.

5) Only buy this camera for the picture quality Don't buy it for any other reason.

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5) Only buy this camera for the picture quality Don't buy it for any other reason.

 

I had the BMCC and traded it for the pocket cam. With the exception that the BMCC has 2.5k raw, most would say the picture quality between the two is the same.

 

So, picture quality aside, there are- for me, at least- definitely other reasons to get the pocket cam over other cameras, including its big brother. I shoot handheld footage of my daughter running around the park all the time, with nothing added to the camera but a lens, and its great. Hoping to use it for more 'art films', as you'd say, but for everyday, pocket-use, its f'ing awesome as it is.

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