Note: On the Production Camera 4K we tested we later found sensor problems which we looked further into in this post.
When the first Blackmagic Camera with RAW capabilities was announced at an extremely competitive price it made a big impact on the film industry. A year later the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K was presented and its specs shook us once again. At $3000 these are very amazing specs for a camera and finally we get a chance to see if the camera can live up to its expectations.
Since we had two of the really cool Sigma 18-35mm F/1.8 lenses lying around we equipped the Blackmagic 4K and Canon 1DC with them and went out to shoot some first side by side tests. This is the first batch of our Blackmagic Production Camera 4K reviews. More will follow in the next days.
You can see the results in the video above and since the video was uploaded in 4K we recommend you download the source file to see the full quality of it over on vimeo (source is 4K).
The first thing that strikes you is the pricetag. $3000, for a 4K camera that shoots the Apple ProRes (HQ) codec. Wow. And yes, that is a wow, it can’t be neglected. The camera we compared it to costs $12,000 and that’s a whole different league indeed, but it’s our reference camera in 4K, producing beautiful results.
In terms of ergonomics nothing has changed. Blackmagic decided to use the same housing as the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. We, as run and gun shooters were not too fond of the design and though it was not very ergonomic, but we also know Blackmagic has put a lot of thought in it and had a reason for every design choice, even the internal, non-removable battery and we as filmmakers should respect that. This camera is officially laid out for production environments, it’s created not for the lowlight run and gunner, but for using it with accessories and a crew. Fair.
In terms of image quality the 4K of the Blackmagic very well matches the 4K of the 1DC. Sharpness is visually identical and gone is moiré and aliasing as we had seen it on the first Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Nice!!!
In terms of image size the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K has a slightly lower resultion than the 1DC. The 1DC sports a full 4K (4096×2160) as it is used in cinema, the Blackmagic uses the 16:9 aspect (3840×2160) UltraHD. To be honest, at 4K that is so sharp I personally couldn’t care less about a few missing pixels. Actually 16:9 serves me well as it is still the most commonly used aspect.
Another size difference can be seen when looking at the sensor. The 1DC uses an APC-H crop of its full frame sensor which in our comparison proved to be 28% larger than Blackmagic’s Super35mm sized sensor. This is a big step up from the previous Blackmagic Cinema Camera that had a very small sensor.
The result is a more shallow depth of field on the 1DC, but on the downside it usually requires full frame lenses. The Blackmagic can take APS-C sized lenses.
In the lowlight and dynamic range test the Blackmagic has room for improvement in comparison to the exceptionally lowlight powerful Canon 1DC. The Production Camera was said to be weak in this area which can be a reason to hold back for many who want to shoot quickly and efficiently. Just like on most RED cameras with the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K you will sometimes need additional light sources indoors. If you have those available then this will not be an obstacle, but it is definitely a point to consider.
Finally rolling shutter: A weakness many HDSLR cameras suffer. On the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K there is no more of that. The global shutter reads out the whole image and once and wins in this category.
All in all this camera is very noteworthy and exceeds our expectations in terms of quality. There is the known weakness in ergonomic design, lowight and dynamic range, but here’s a camera that records directly to ProRes (HQ) in a very evenly balanced and sharp 4K. This is truly a production camera, so if you have a studio setup there’s hardly a question whether this investment makes sense.
Sidenote: Blackmagic promised a free firmware update unlocking the RAW functionality for this camera soon.
Find part 2 and part 3 of our BMPC4K review here:
Review Part 2: Blackmagic Production Camera 4K in the field
Review Part 3: Blackmagic Production Camera 4K – sensor problems or not?
Song kindly provided by themusicbed
Steven Gutheinz – With the Leaves