Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – Dual ISO Explained and Lowlight Footage

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While the anticipation for the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is increasing, we were lucky enough to be invited by Blackmagic to a small event, dedicated to exploring the camera a little bit further. During the one day occasion, we had a chance to “play with it” and get answers to our questions. Mind you that throughout the event we were NOT allowed to film with the camera by ourselves and all the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K images above are courtesy of Blackmagic.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – Solid Body construction

Camera Availability

It seems like an eternity since we conducted the exclusive interview with Grant Petty, Blackmagic Design’s CEO at NAB, yet actually, it happened 5 months ago… Now, after being able to see the camera again – what has changed since the announcement? Well, maybe the most essential piece of information we got (On top of the excellent technical presentation from the Blackmagic guys) is that the camera is on track to be delivered in time. (B&H is stating Oct. 5th as expected delivery on their site). This is certainly good news to anyone who is waiting for his/her camera to arrive and start shooting with it.

A graph taken from BM presentation simulating the camera ISO range and latitude

Dual ISO Explained

In addition, we have learned that the Dual ISO in this camera works in an “intelligent” way, meaning, there are two native ISO values (400 and 3200), but this breaks into two “banks”, from ISO 100 to 1000 and from ISO 1250 to 6400. Within the transition between those blocks (ISO 1000 to 1250), the LOG curve resets itself, so the Dynamic Range in all ISO values stays the highest possible. In order to achieve this, the camera is designed to increase ISO values by 1/3 stops instead of the usual stop increment. In other words: “No matter what ISO value you are using, expect to get the best possible latitude coming out of this camera”. (I’m quoting Blackmagic Design here).

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – Have a large hand? You will feel comfortable holding it

External recording solution via USB C is a very welcomed feature

We also learned the following (In no particular order)

  • Blackmagic is promising 13 stops of Dynamic Range. We are looking forward to testing this in house
  • Rolling shutter has not been tested yet. (We will test it in house, as well)
  • The camera can be charged via the USB connector. With no doubt, a welcomed feature
  • A Canon LP-E6 battery should last for around 50 minutes
  • While recording to an external media via the USB C connector, the images can not be captured internally simultaneously
  • The HDMI output signal supports images in full HD 10bit 422 only
  • ProRes 10bit Extended Video Mode retaining greater latitude is also available with this camera (I really appreciate having this feature, especially when shooting for a production that requires “out of the box” good images, as this mode helps in protecting highlights better)
  • Photos can be taken with the camera in 4K resolution (Can be useful to create “continuity photos”, for example)

A photo taken from BM presentation simulating the extended Video Mode. In the right hand side, the Extended Video Mode

 

Extended Video Mode in color science 4 OS

Final Thought

All in all the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is a very promising device, for a very competitive price, which carries the need to provide a certain picture look and feel on its shoulders. Saying that, as its bigger (and more expensive) siblings are know for their “cinematic aesthetic” and picture quality. When it comes to lowlight picture performance, the samples we saw looked good up to ISO 4000. As we were not permitted to film by ourselves, we could not stretch it and see how the camera behaves when shooting in higher ISO values. My main concern regarding this camera actually is not the picture quality – as Blackmagic Design is usually doing well in this department – but its usability. It is not that small and it is shaped a bit differently than most other popular mirrorless cameras (Good or bad, time will tell), although its size could be quite comfortable for larger hands. It has a very large LCD screen and no matter how bright it is, for some users like me, a viewfinder is really missing in order to be able to judge exposure and framing (Not to mention the additional stabilisation support through the body contact point). The autofocus functionality is a bit limited (Not continuous) and before getting flamed, when working with a gimbal as a single operator this might be a helpful feature. This brings me to the next point: In-Body Image Stabilisation. As this camera lacks this feature, we will have to rely on stabilized lenses, especially for some run & gun jobs. Reviewing what I just wrote, I’m asking myself if I got too spoiled while building expectations, as the latest offerings from reputable companies are quite intriguing. At times, when working “solo” all those features are needed in order to execute my work in the best possible way. On the other hand, when it comes to recording formats (ProRes and lossless 12-bit RAW in 4K DCI up to 60fps) at this price point, Blackmagic Design surpasses  every competitor! I’ll become more knowledgeable after receiving the camera and after I will start working with it. I’m looking forward to testing it soon. Only while working with it and simulating a real production, I will be able to make thorough conclusions.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – Looking forward reviewing the camera

The music used in the video above is courtesy of Music Vine. Get 20% off with code C5D20 (valid until 31st of March 2019)

What do you think? Will you be picking up the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K when it ships later this month?

Full disclosure: Johnnie and other media representatives were guests at the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K pre-launch event in Manchester, England. Blackmagic Design paid for the transport and accommodation for this day trip. There was no other payment involved whatsoever. 

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 Craig Seeman
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Craig Seeman

Regarding stabilization, one key factor will be rolling shutter which can impact how the image looks when doing post stabilization. I believe a couple of the released shot footage sequences were shot handheld as noted by the DP/Camera Operators. I asked and one said they did do some post stabilization on some but not all shots. I was able to spot those shots though but it did hold up much better than the original pocket did. I’d love to see test comparisons between GH5, GH5s and the BMPCC4k on the “difference” features. Codec, color sciences, stabilization, dynamic range. Perhaps having… Read more »

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Sicuramente si. La prenderò

 Funky Punky Monkey Junk
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Funky Punky Monkey Junk

Look at the size of this thing. It should have an APS-C-sized sensor and an EF mount. I’d buy that immediately.

This thing makes no sense.

 Craig Seeman
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Craig Seeman

Given the engineering and the power requirements it makes good sense. Bigger sensor would probably but additional power demands and it would need to be even bigger. Consider how long the Canon batter lasts compared to how long that batter lasts in a Canon DSLR.

It’s the smallest camera on the market that records cDNG raw and/or Apple ProRes HQ.

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