First play with Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is really turning out to be an awesome dedicated video camera - especially when coupled with some great lenses.  I use a lot of video, animation and still photogrpahy most days and picking up the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera just seems to comfortably fit in your hands.  It looks slim and light but definitely does not have a cheap and plastic feel to it - in fact it is a little heavier then you would expect from its size.  I am sure that you will end up using a rig with this little beast once you start adding some heavy lenses to it - though when choosing to add external view finders or monitors to it pls do remember it has a micro hdmi connection for video out.  Unfortunately my setup has a mini hdmi connector and finding an adapter in Brisbane, Australia is hopeless.  This camera is capable of 1920 x 1080 at a maximum of 30fps and uses a Super 16 size sensor with an active Micro Four Thirds mount.  With he latest 1.5 release firmware it is capable of recording not just in ProRes 422 HQ but also lossless compressed CinemaDNG raw. I was drawn to this camera initially through the many great reviews/expectations that I was reading and also due to the fact I had a nice collection of micro four thirds lenses to mount on this camera.  I currently use a Panasonic GH3 for most of my video work so it makes sense to use another camera that excepts m43 lenses (or even fourthirds lenses with an adapter). The following video was a quick test and all details of the shoot are available on the vimeo page.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera quick test from kangawallafox on Vimeo.

Now if you are new to creating video on a dslr style camera and using manual lenses you might be in for a big learning curve as well as being quite disappointed when your initial video comes out looking flat - and I mean very flat. Initially I was quite surprised by how flat the video looked on the lcd display, however once I brought the video into Film Convert and chose the correct profile and added a little grading the resulting video looked great (to me anyway).  This flat look is also achievable on the Panasonic GH3 and other DSLR style cameras if you play around in the settings and this makes it easy to grade various video clips ffrom different cameras. 

This camera tends to stand out in so many ways though it does have its weaknesses - such as battery life.  Just unpacking the camera you can see that they have thought of quite a few things such as including the manual and software on an SD card.  This was just a great little idea as I haven't owned a computer with a cd or dvd drive for quite some time.The camera also has 13 stops of dynamic range which really makes it great for bringing out the detail in shadows and highlights.  Given its price range there are very few cameras in this range that are capable of this dynamic range or even being able to record in ProRes 422.  This ability to record in ProRes 422 really allows for increased colour detail to be brought out through colour grading (though I still have a lot to learn in this area with this camera).   The camera is capable of shooting in a Film mode (Log) or video mode (Rec 709) at frame rates of 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.  The camera display is a 3.5 inch 800X480 LCD screen.  There is no ability to monitor audio levels and it is possible to view focus peaking (though only in green which is not great when shooting a green background) and zebras which seem to work well for pickinh out highlights.  The shutter is set with combinations of 180 degrees or 270 degrees (+ a couple of other options) rather then the typical method of setting the amt of time in seconds as is used by many standard DSLR's that are used for video recoding.

The camera takes an EN20 battery which is essentially a Nikon battery.  I purchased 2 generic brand batteries though I think I will change to a better battery as 1 of mine is already expanding and they just don't hold their charge for long ebough which is quite important for this camera that chews through batteries.  I will definitely be using an external battery for this camera when I get the chance to buy one as well as a view finder or external HD monitor (when I get the adapter).  I have only used the Voigtländer lenses on this camera in the initial test but will do a little more testing with some panasonic and olympus lenses shortly. Another point worth noting is to read the manual - you should format your SD card on the computer and it supports both exfat and hfs+ (something I initially omitted to read).

Overall this camera is a great camera for the money you pay but be prepared to spend a little more on other accessories to ensure that it is usable to your liking.  At one stage I ended up having to drape a towel over my head and the camera to be able to see the LCD screen in bright outdoor light.  It is definitely a camera I will be using a lot more. I hope to post a few more examples of footage and more about my experiences with this camera over the coming weeks.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera with Voigtländer 42.5mm lens attached

without lens and showing the side connectors including the LANC port

A simple control layout on the back