The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K was a hotly anticipated product on its first release. One of the main reasons for this was the promise of high-end footage, excellent lowlight performance, and great dynamic range. This is an updated version and promises to bring better quality with added features.
Now that we have had some time to dive into this new camera, we’ll see if it can provide pro-level quality at a reasonable price point.
The first striking thing about the camera is that it’s not exactly small. The Blackmagic URSA Mini wasn’t exactly a dinky device either, but large dimensions can be forgiven when you know you’re getting superior output.
One aspect that makes the camera much larger than expected is the 1080p, five-inch multitouch display on the rear of the camera. Having a large, high-quality screen to judge your footage is a great addition, especially when there isn’t a dedicated viewfinder.
A lot of the functionality is accessed through the rear touchscreen, but this also means that working in sunny and very bright conditions means you have to shade the screen in some way. The other point to note here is that the screen is also fixed. For such a unit it would have been nice to have a screen that tilts or moves in some way.
As for technical specifications, the features are meant to reflect the marketing blurb of a next-generation handheld 4K digital film camera. It incorporates a 4/3 size sensor with 13-stops of dynamic range and an ISO range of up to 25,600. When fitted, the lens has Iris focus and zoom control on supported lenses and frame rates that go from 23.98 to 60fps in 4K and 120fps in HD.
There are enough external buttons and switches to cover the essentials which include the power switch, record button, function keys, buttons for ISO, shutter, and white balance. Rear buttons are included for focus, Iris, zooming, menu, and playback.
There’s a decent amount of inputs on the side of the camera, such as a microphone jack, headphone jack, HDMI sockets, USB-C, and a mini XLR with phantom power. Add in storage in the form of SD cards and CFast 2.0 and there are a decent amount of specs for some quality footage.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K in Use
The camera body itself feels like an oversized compact camera with enough grip to give confidence when holding the thing. Ergonomically, light enough to be handheld all day, but with enough weight to feel like you have a good balance in your hands. The camera itself uses an MFT sensor and a dual ISO of 400 and 3200. Noise starts to creep in at the higher ISO levels, but even at the highest settings, the noise isn’t so bad that it’s distracting.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K can also shoot in 12-bit RAW and 10-bit ProRes formats. No Blackmagic RAW as yet, which is quite high quality for this price point. The ability to shoot 4K in 60fps gives footage a silky smooth high-quality. If you want the frame rate even higher you have to go to 1080p and press the sensor crop button.
On the front of the camera are two microphones to capture stereo sound. They are of a reasonable size and are fine for low-level audio recording. As with all built-in microphones, they will be susceptible to wind noise and you will soon outgrow them for a dedicated external mic. However, they are better than nothing when this is your only way to record audio.
Once you flip to the rear of the camera, configuring all your settings on the touchscreen is a breeze. This is mainly due to the simple menu layout, which is straightforward and functional.
One thing to note is the use of batteries with the device. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K can use Canon LP-E6 type batteries, which is great news if you already own a Canon camera, but on the flip side, the power doesn’t last that long with usage only going up to 45 minutes at a time. In this respect, you’re either going to need a bunch of extra batteries every time you shoot or an external power supply.
You’ll probably also want to use the camera with something like the 8Sinn Cage for easier holding, protection, and stability. These things don’t come cheap, but they are a dedicated fit for the camera.
How Does It Compare?
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is an odd one for comparisons. There are plenty of DLSRs with video capabilities and other dedicated video cameras on the market, but the Blackmagic tries to fit into the semi-pro video camera market with DSLR looks. Thus no direct comparison table with this one, sorry.
However, there are likely candidates as alternatives. The Canon EOS M50 can act as a world cam and shoots in 4K with an additional crop. The JVC GY-LS300 is still a worthy world cam with a Super 35mm sensor with plenty of video features and is dedicated 4K. Then there’s the mighty Sony a7iii. Lightweight and can take a variety of lenses with an adapter and shoots 4K UHD. This one could be considered more for stills than video, but it’s definitely a great all-rounder.
Blackmagic did a lot of research when it came to this update and really upped the ante. It’s packed full of features that can produce great images with a cinematic feel and lots of dynamic range. Just as good or better than the rest of the competition.
The camera isn’t without its faults, but the purchasing decision will come down to what facilities you need in a camera like this and if you also require still images or just a full-blown video unit. For what it can provide, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is definitely worth checking out.