8 min read


Pocket Cinema Camera. Updated.

It’s been years since I posted this …. and fun to read what I thought back then, but hey it’s mid-2018 now and my dream has come true. At the end of this summer, we’ll finally get to paint light with a brand new BMPCC. I’ve updated the video with a brilliant review I found on a new YouTube Channel and I don’t think there is much more to say. Well, actually there is: THANK YOU BLACKMAGIC!!!

I’ll leave the old story below but I’ll give it a quick proofread and might cut it short.

Nikon and I are breaking up. Sort of. I’m deeply in love with BMPCC. I could blame Matteo Bertoli. I can’t believe I’m living in a time when I can get this quality at such a too-good-to-be-true price. Unbelievable. What’s the catch?

Once you understand that BlackMagic took a 16mm film camera, made it digital and added a viewfinder, then you will understand what you’re buying. You don’t need 4K. You need exposure latitude and beautiful resolution.

The Blackmagic is the Delorean of the film industry. Rugged, Raw, unorthodox, same black and metallic look and feel. If you’re keen to improve your color grading skills, this is the one.  Learning color grading, in my opinion, improves your cinematography. Download Davinci Resolve 15 BETA

If you’re not ready for a RAW workflow, the camera can also shoot in various flavors of ProRes at bitrates as high as 220 Mbps, which still captures plenty of data to play with in post.

The only question remaining, where’s the new Pocket Cinema Camera? It’s 2017, not 2013! 4K RAW, up to 60fps and 14+ Stops. That would be gold!! For now, I’m going for the good old BMPCC. I do hope Blackmagic will do a proper sequel to the Pocket Cinema Camera at some point. Its interface is pretty simple but I wish there were dedicated buttons for ASA or shutter angle.

Nothing is automatic, so it forces you to learn stuff. White balance, ISO, shutter angle…there is no aperture priority, no AWB… it will force you to think. All the lost skills of by-gone days of photography.

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

The Blackmagic Super 16mm sensor size works wonders when paired with the Metabones Speed Booster. The world is going large sensor, high frame rate crazy and 4K-ready but there’s still a lot of stories you can tell with 1080p on the Pocket Cinema Camera. I’ve already seen it used as a B cam to Red and ARRI. The RAW is very large (and upscales nicely to 4K). It is best to ETTR, the shadowy areas can get a bit noisy at the native 800 ISO. It could easily be cleaned up with noise reduction (you’ll need the studio version of Davinci Resolve). The noise/grain is more fine and similar looking to film grain, almost monochromatic, so very different from the awfulness of DSLR noise. The picture quality is the most compelling reason to use this camera. The raw image can be intercut with many of the more expensive cinema cameras costing 20x-40x the price.

Next, to add to the mix, there’s the Zacuto Z-Finder (or the Kinotehnik) which gives you a much steadier way to handle the camera, whilst staying true to what the pocket form factor is all about – fuss-free, lightweight shooting with no spidery arms and monitors attached. That makes the Pocket a very pure filmmaking tool, one that gets out of the way to an almost invisible degree, even so far as removing tripods from a set. With a Stabilizer in DR15, you can control in post, just how much of a handheld feel you want.

The viewfinder adaptor from Kinotehnik fixes the “hand-held” issues and being able to see the screen in the sun. The focus peaking is bright green and easy to see, so pulling focus is a breeze. Zebra stripes work the same as the BMCC, so dialing in exposure is easy as well. The screen isn’t nearly so reflective as the BMCC, so even outdoors I’ve found an external monitor isn’t a necessity (although in some cases, certainly makes life on set easier).

Adding a clunky external monitor kind of defeats the purpose of a pocket-sized camera. (haha that’s funny to read that, especially seeing my current rig, I could no longer live without false color) This camera is great for shooting in stealth mode. It looks just like a little point and shoot, so you can get away with shooting in places not normally welcoming of big cinema cameras. On the outside, the camera does not look professional and that’s the beauty of it.

Another innovation that will last a decade? The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8. The reason is simple. It is as good as using a set of three primes. There are absolutely zero trade-offs for it being a zoom. The aperture is fast. It is constant. It is sharp. Incredibly sharp with Speed Booster. I’m talking Leica and Zeiss sharp wide open and Angenieux Optimo sharp when stopped down just slightly by half a stop.

My advice is to avoid using active Micro Four Thirds lenses on this camera unless you’re prepared for some hassle. Try and use glass with a manual aperture or Speed Booster with the lovely continuously variable Nikon aperture ring on it.

Optical image stabilization is the main reason for using Panasonic lenses on this camera, even though I much prefer the look of the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 on Speed Booster than the 12-35mm F2.8. I’m not a huge fan of the rather clinical Lumix zooms with OIS.

I would love to try the SLR Magic 12mm and Voigtlander 25mm F0.95, as they add a cinematic character. Active MFT mount can be adapted to an assortment of lensing dating back to the beginning of photography and/or cinematography and to the latest! And that is gold.

Audio is the only major weakness of the camera. The internal pre-amps are poor, the circuits are noisy, monitoring it is tricky and there’s hardly any audio features. The missing functionality of no audio meters isn’t a deal breaker. It is a Cinema Camera so treat it as such: record audio separately with appropriate quality gear.


BMPCC Final Shopping List:

ND Filter to shoot in the sun. Aperture will not close enough to give proper exposure, even when you set the ASA to 200 on a sunny beach day. If you are going to shoot outdoors during the day either you will need to have a matte box with filter trays or attach ND filters directly to your lenses.

The sensor has a “quirk” similar to the Leica M8… sensitivity to IR. The result of this is polyester black appears brownish/purplish and wool black is pure black. The solution, like the Leica, is a UV/IR Cut filter on the lens.

The crop factor is significant, so you want to get a Metabones Speedbooster if you need to go wide. Also, if you do any pro handheld work, a steady hand will be necessary. I love it on the Glidecam HD2000 and the Tripod/Slider.

SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro 95mb/s. About 20 minutes of RAW recording.

The BMPCC runs happily on just about any 12v source… so all you need is a cable to connect them. You can get about 2 hours of usage on one LP-E6 battery. If you plug it into the ac adaptor it will get hot.

The HDMI port needs extra support; something that firmly secures the cable and the camera body. Smallrig has you covered

What’s disappointing is the rolling shutter. Use a shorter focal length i.e. more wide angle so you can lower pan speed while covering the same area during panning. Try to pan in the other direction (R2L). The results from rolling shutter correction in postproduction can be good.

More options: https://kit.com/livethelifetv

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

If you are interested in filmmaking this is yours! The color science is completely underrated and is honestly awesome. There are plenty of quirks to this camera. That’s part of the charm, at this point. It’s not going to kill the Alexa, but there really is no reason to ever deal with DSLR madness again. Oh, it does not take still photos, it is not designed for that. (as I said I’m having fun and have been smiling a lot re-reading my old post after the press release of the new BMPCC).

Anyway, … let’s cut to the chase,…

Granted we just got married but I’m deeply in love. Soon we’ll go out on our honeymoon. If you’re an old-school s16mm film fan, then she will give you that nostalgic feel when you look at the memories you collected and the experiences you shared. Perfect for a home cinema projector. Pure Magic. Black Magic. Thank you

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