Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Review

For the past few months I’ve been shooting on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. It’s a camera that has intrigued me since it was launched at NAB 2012. A couple months ago I finally received Blackmagic’s next camera, the much smaller, S16 sensor sized Pocket Cinema Camera. It’s a quirky little camera that has its set backs, but for the price ($995) it is the only camera of it’s kind to be offering a 12-bit RAW and 10-bit Prores shooting format. That is incredible! There is no doubt that Blackmagic is moving the market forward, making affordable cameras for low-budget filmmakers, but without losing the professional image-quality. With their other offerings like the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera, it will be exciting to see these cameras grow. Right now, I’d consider all the Blackmagic cameras to be “works in progress”, as there are some much needed firmware updates and features to be added to the camera.

The Pocket Cinema Camera lacks the ability to format the SD card or delete single clips in camera. The audio quality is also not great. The battery life is not great. There are other intuitive problems such as the pixel gridding and lack of a fluid user interface that are just nit-picky, but distract you from capturing the best image. The S16 crop is about 2.88. That’s nearly 3 times, making even a 14mm a 40mm. The crop is hard to get use to, but fortunately a company named Metabones has a speedbooster adapter specifically built for the Pocket Cinema Camera that will not only give you back around an APS-C field of view, but also increases your aperture by over a stop.

In time, as firmware is updated, and additional accessories, such as the Metabones speedbooster become more available, this little thing will become a beast of a camera. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera has all the potential to be your “must have on every shoot” kind of camera. I can see it being a great addition to any low-budget filmmaker’s kit.

Magic Lantern vs. Canon H.264

This video was uploaded in 1080p (1920x1080)

This was shot with a 50mm 1.4 lens. All settings are constant. The only change is going from the default h.264 codec to raw using Magic Lantern v2.3 on the Canon 5D mark ii.

This is not an official test, but rather some results I found interesting when experimenting with the hack.

The raw files were converted to dng, then prores.

I think it’s worth noting that when shooting raw, the mark ii caps out at 1880x720, a resolution smaller than 1080p. Although the resolution is smaller, the image quality is much more clear and sharp when recording in raw with a larger dynamic range.

It’s interesting to see the smaller resolutions holding up against the h.264 even when upscaled to fit a 1080p timeline.

While recording, I did experience some frames being dropped, which is why I cut some of the clips short.
I look forward to shooting more raw footage. I’d like to experiment more with upscaling the 720p raw to 1080.