The Real Filmmakers’ Cam
Finally a mirrorless camera that really is designed for making movies above all else.
While other companies might say they make a filmmaker-specific version of their mirrorless cameras, the reality is that they are largely just playing at it. Taking a camera clearly designed for stills and adding more features for movies doesn’t make the camera ideal for filming. There are still the handling quirks and often handicapped specs, in order to avoid cannibalising sales of their more expensive video cameras.
In comparison, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K really is designed solely for filmmaking, with specs that leave other wannabes lagging far behind. Features include a huge five-inch screen that means you can largely do away with an external monitor, and a USB-C output so you can record up to 12-bit to inexpensive external SSD drives. There’s a dual-native ISO for great low-light capture, and a claimed 13 stops of dynamic range to provide detailed HDR images. And there is a full-size HDMI socket, a mini-XLR input with phantom power for pro-style mics, and an internal stereo mic that is genuinely useful thanks to decent preamps.
But the unique selling point is that it can record up to DCI 4K at rates of up to 60fps in a variety of codecs, including different quality levels of CinemaDNG Raw and ProRes 422 to a CFast 2.0 or SD card. There are also built-in LUTs, or you can upload your own. Nothing else on the market comes close to that spec.
They’re the good bits, but of course no camera is perfect. You might not need deep pockets to buy the PCC4K but you’d need very large ones to store it in: it might be called the Pocket Cinema Camera – but you couldn’t carry it in your pocket without ruining the lines of your suit. At more than seven inches wide – which of course it needs to be as it has a five-inch screen – it’s hardly an inconspicuous run-and-gun filmmakers’ dream. There are also no auto exposure modes at all, and the AF is the old-school contrast detect that pales in comparison to rivals’ Dual Pixel AF or fancy hybrid phase detect systems. There’s also no image stabilisation, no viewfinder, no waveform monitoring, and a fixed screen that can suffer from glare outdoors. And although Blackmagic claim it’s made from carbon fibre composite material, it feels decidedly like a consumer model rather than a sturdy metal camera.
The only 120fps slow-motion is HD and is from a windowed version of the already small sensor, which is the camera’s obvious major issue. While Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and even Leica are championing the switch to full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Blackmagic sticks with a Micro Four Thirds sensor and matching lens mount. So the sensor is a quarter the surface of a full-frame 35mm chip, with all the negatives that can bring. For example, to get the very cinematic shallow depth-of-field, you need some incredibly fast glass (lenses like this are available from a range of manufacturers, from MFT pioneers like Olympus and Panasonic as well as the myriad of independent brands). These lenses are typically much smaller and cheaper than full-frame optics, and the mount is great for using adapted glass, for everything from Canon and Nikon to PL-mount cinema lenses.