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How reliable is the BMPCC 4k actually?


Milton Lopes
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Hello everyone, whats up?

 

I had to sell my trusty Lumix G7 last year to solve some financial issues (moved out to another city, lots of things to buy and my main gear comes from my employer) and now i'm back on the market for a new camera. I'm pretty much sold on the BMPCC 4K to be my new workhorse, but i'm a bit worried about reliability as it will be my one and only camera for my personal projects and freelance work.

 

I've never used a Blackmagic camera before, but most os things i've read on my research point out to "great image, but quirky to use, sometimes buggy and need to be rigged". I'm used to doing everything on manual, carry a tripod/monopod around, never used AF-C and only used a good IBIS for photos on my old EM10 MK1 (although AF and IBIS would be two nice tools to help on some shots). So how bad (or good) will it actually be right now in 2020? Is there anything i should be aware of? Is it reliable enough to be an A-Cam?

 

Just for some background on what it will be used for, i do mainly doc work, interviews, speeches, concerts, sometimes events and i'm willing to do some more short narrative work. Besides been working for quite some time as camera operator/editor, i've mostly worked as somebody's else employee, using my gear only for personal/passion stuff and minor/side freelance stuff. Right now i'm willing to try and up my game, work more on my own, and the whole Blackmagic ecosystem seens very promissor with good higher end cameras i could rent if everything goes well and i manage to get some bigger projects.

 

I've got my eyes also on the Fujifilm XT4, but then i would be blowing all my budget on the body, which i think would be unwise as there's some other departments i need to upgrade (a gimbal to replace my broken cheapo steadycam, better mics, media and etc). An XT3 was on the radar but unexpectedly seem some rises on price on my country, coming to close to XT4 to be worth it, and costing more than the BMPCC 4K (which also comes with Resolve Studio and would save me some money) it seems just not like a good deal. The GH5 would be nice, as i'm already used to the system, but got no official support from Panasonic on my country and can only buy it from grey market, so its a big no.

 

If anyone could share theirs experiences, i would be greatly thankful 😃

 

Thanks and see ya!

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I can speak on BM Pocket cameras reliability! ive had two 4Ks and two 6Ks. my first unit of both had to be replaced (4K for power issues) (6K for dead pixels on monitor). Both the replacement units however have been rock solid, never had an issue with them. I think its more of a case that some units are bad but when you get a good one it's reliable. I would buy from a reputable reseller and open a ticket with BM if you have any issues with your unit.

I may be outspoken but I don't think the camera doesn't really need to be rigged. Ive shot documentary style films just using LPE6 and Cfast cards. You will need a fair few batteries though. Braw Q5 is surprising efficient on card space btw. Ive been considering the battery grip for when I need longer than 45m continuous. If you are using the 4k I would skip the speed booster and just use native lenses.  

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First P4K lasted a year but became unreliable after a firmware update.  Returned and got a replacement free of charge and its been great.  I would say given the abuse I put mine through, it's done better than some of my GH Panasonic cameras I've owned on the score of reliability.  

I'd say take a chance and put the camera through its paces when you get yours.  I put mine through a Wedding 2 weeks after getting it and it worked very well and rarely let me down.  There are plenty of people out there relying on P4K or P6K for paid work and I think that speaks for itself. 

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I’ve had nearly every single BM camera to date and I’ve never had 1 issue. 
 

Ive left them in storage for months, and they revive like Lazarus. 
 

I once thought I was having sensor issues on a UMP Pro. Sent it in and they quickly calibrated sensor. It was already good but I guess they tightened it up. 
 

BM cams sometimes have quirks upon first release, but those quirks get fixed and generally they release updates that add more features than when they were first released. 
 

I absolutely love BM. I do wish that they’d do some things a bit different here and there, but there is not another manufacturer who is so interested in delighting their customers. Panny would be a close 2nd IMO. 

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Thanks for the input guys, its good to hear such positive experiences, it calms me down a bit 😃

Changing system sounds a bit scary as i've been using DSLR/Mirrorless since i was learning the basics and this is going to be my first video only camera. Panasonic would be my safe bet, but wages in my country are too low to risk that kind of money in a grey market product 😅

Guess it is just down to find a good deal with an official reseller and call it a day. Hope Black Friday may help me in this regard haha

@JordanWright Nice to hear your input about rigging the camera, thats exactly what i was planning to do at a first, get some LP-E6, one CFast (or one of the recommended SD's at first if my budget falls short), a cage to protect the camera, give me a top handle and then just start shooting to get the hang of the camera and add things as/if i need them. Do you know if the camera can be wall powered with the LPE6 inside as a backup to kick in if the AC power disconnects? Most of my long continuous shots are usually in places where i could easily get it wall powered, but i could never trust it without a backup, Murphy's law gotta be respected 😅

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I had a pretty bad experience with the P4K. If I did it again, I would probably buy the 6k for the native S35 sensor, eliminating the need for the expensive speed booster. I also would skip the SSD and just bite the bullet and buy c-fast cards. I had a gnarly situation where the SSD lost connection and took me a few minutes to get it back up and running. A few minutes feel like an eternity when the camera won’t respond...

On top of that, the Metabones adapter and external hard drive eat though battery. I was forced to use an external power source, which adds more cable clutter and the need for mounting solutions. 

In my opinion, interviews, docs, and everything that you list sounds like you’d be way better off with a c200 or some sort of all in one cinema camera. I don’t absolutely love Sony images, but a used Sony FS5 is probably a steal right now and very well suited for the type of work you describe. 

I’ve used the C300 Mk2 for years on projects like those and couldn’t imagine having to carry ND filters, a clumsy mounted hot shoe shotgun mic, Lav Mics, while having to control audio through a menu based system.

I know any camera is capable, but cameras that are designed to allow solo operators to work reliably and quickly, while improving the quality of the production and reduce the chance for error are a beautiful thing. There is a reason docs are shot on the FS7 / C300 (tiger king,) and not a Black Magic camera. Ease of use and reliability. Auto Focus, 5 hours off a single BP60 and dual slot recording 4K beats the SSD hanging of a BM4K and a “fair amount of LP-6s.”

All of the Black Magic cameras will produce great images. They all have quirks but at the end of the day produce amazing images for the price point. They’re certainly not run and gun doc cameras out of the box, but with the proper rig and the experience, I am sure you can make great looking images.

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8 hours ago, BenEricson said:

I had a pretty bad experience with the P4K. If I did it again, I would probably buy the 6k for the native S35 sensor, eliminating the need for the expensive speed booster. I also would skip the SSD and just bite the bullet and buy c-fast cards. I had a gnarly situation where the SSD lost connection and took me a few minutes to get it back up and running. A few minutes feel like an eternity when the camera won’t respond...

On top of that, the Metabones adapter and external hard drive eat though battery. I was forced to use an external power source, which adds more cable clutter and the need for mounting solutions. 

In my opinion, interviews, docs, and everything that you list sounds like you’d be way better off with a c200 or some sort of all in one cinema camera. I don’t absolutely love Sony images, but a used Sony FS5 is probably a steal right now and very well suited for the type of work you describe. 

I’ve used the C300 Mk2 for years on projects like those and couldn’t imagine having to carry ND filters, a clumsy mounted hot shoe shotgun mic, Lav Mics, while having to control audio through a menu based system.

I know any camera is capable, but cameras that are designed to allow solo operators to work reliably and quickly, while improving the quality of the production and reduce the chance for error are a beautiful thing. There is a reason docs are shot on the FS7 / C300 (tiger king,) and not a Black Magic camera. Ease of use and reliability. Auto Focus, 5 hours off a single BP60 and dual slot recording 4K beats the SSD hanging of a BM4K and a “fair amount of LP-6s.”

All of the Black Magic cameras will produce great images. They all have quirks but at the end of the day produce amazing images for the price point. They’re certainly not run and gun doc cameras out of the box, but with the proper rig and the experience, I am sure you can make great looking images.

I mean throw on a stabilized zoom lens with a variable ND and you are good to go. A slightly more reliable option over USB C might be the SSD to CFAST. I've had seen issues with the USB-C options on the pockets. I always like to carry back up media in case of an issue though. 

That said yes its hard to beat something like a C300 but on the other hand people use to shoot DOCs on Film. The ease of use of something like a Pocket 4k is astounding compared to that. I think its all relative to some degree. 

Speedboosters also don't have to cost much, at least if you are willing to go with a non electronic one. The Pocket 6k is pretty awesome though shooting 6k raw is a bitch. 

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100% go CFast, it's so much less hassle and you don't have to worry about bad cables or securing the cable/damaging the port. Even with Tilta's screw in cables, I had 2 break on me in a year. 2 128GBs shooting 6K Q5 get me through a day of shooting. Search the used market for approved media easy enough to get great deals nowadays. 

You'll want an IRND on the Pockets, I got significant IR pollution with the Tiffen VND. Currently using Hoya ProNDs the IR is correctable but still apparent. Nisi make affordable circular IRNDs, I haven't tried them but they review well. Id go for the 3 and 6 Stop. 

21 hours ago, Milton Lopes said:

Nice to hear your input about rigging the camera, thats exactly what i was planning to do at a first, get some LP-E6, one CFast (or one of the recommended SD's at first if my budget falls short),

If your only shooting 4K ProRes i've used Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards that worked flawlessly!

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1 hour ago, JordanWright said:

You'll want an IRND on the Pockets, I got significant IR pollution with the Tiffen VND. Currently using Hoya ProNDs the IR is correctable but still apparent. Nisi make affordable circular IRNDs, I haven't tried them but they review well. Id go for the 3 and 6 Stop. 

Another example. There are tons of hidden costs and not even Black Magic documents issues like the IR pollution. 

2 hours ago, TomTheDP said:

That said yes its hard to beat something like a C300 but on the other hand people use to shoot DOCs on Film. The ease of use of something like a Pocket 4k is astounding compared to that. I think its all relative to some degree. 

True, but all of those cameras are ergonomically beautifully designed. Even a simple Bolex has a view finder, drop in NDs (which Canon just now is utilizing 60 years later,) and 50d stock that make shooting in daylight actually possible at a reasonable shutter speed without NDs. For better or for worse, the Black Magic pocket cameras are very much a stripped down sensor in a box. If it had NDs, XLR, a flip screen, and a view finder, it would cost just as much as the C200.

This sounds like I am anti Black Magic. I'm not. I own the Micro and the original pocket. Both are beautiful cameras, but have lots of flaws and quirks that took me a while to adapt to. The studio I work for has two C300 Mk2s and they're about 100x easier to setup and operate.

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34 minutes ago, BenEricson said:

I'm not. I own the Micro and the original pocket. Both are beautiful cameras, but have lots of flaws and quirks that took me a while to adapt to. The studio I work for has two C300 Mk2s and they're about 100x easier to setup and operate.

Yeah I mean Z-cam is doing it almost. They just need their E-ND to be widely available. 

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I have managed to shoot just fine with the internal battery, metabones speed booster and EF lenses, recording to cast cards.  I also rig mine up for professional work to record to SSD via Tilta cables and rig, which has never once let me down.  And the SSD drive is so much quicker to download or even work from if needed.  Plus storage space saves so much hassle.

The image and editing workflow with BRAW puts it miles ahead of other cameras with H264 or even worse H265, both in adjusting exposure and colour.  Evem today, working with both BRAW and H264, I struggle to accept the limitations of H264.  The BM image is so much more gorgeous to work with.  

In an ideal World I would own several C300, but I don't live in that World.  For me, the BM Pockets are the next best alternative.  Combine BRAW with Davinci Resolve and you have a wonderful setup for filming and editing.  Its not perfect.  Nothing is.  There are some risks, but I've shot over a hundred of Weddings with them plus countless Corporate shoots and not had an issue that has prevented me from getting the footage I needed.  

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1 hour ago, JordanWright said:

I wouldn't call it a hidden cost, your gonna need NDs with any camera that doesn't have them internally. Its just about getting the best ones for the camera!

Well yeah, I more meant the IR pollution. I know this has been taken care of on most of the hard stop filters. Still an issue with variable, no?

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