The Blackmagic Cinema Camera, released in 2012 and capable of recording in RAW, was revolutionary. No one expected a cheaper and smaller model, but that’s just what we have here now. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is a high-end camera with a very affordable price.
What is it?
It is a 775-dollar camera, surprisingly small, with a 16-size sensor. You can mount micro four thirds (MFT) lenses and it can record video in CinemaDNG RAW format and save it into an SD card. It can be considered a smaller version of the original Camera Cinema, with a width of just 128mm wide and a weight of 355 grams.
Why is it important?
Like the original Camera Cinema released in 2012, a camera capable of recording RAW for this price is amazing. It opens the door to users on a budget who want a professional camera in terms of image quality and post-production options.
For the uninitiated, the RAW format is a digital image file containing all the image data as it is captured by the camera sensor. You can manipulate and edit it later without losing quality. Generally, professional recording studios use RAW, and until recently, only cameras more than $10000 had it.
The Pocket Cinema Camera is very similar to the Sony NEX. It is thin and light with a rubber-covered grip. It is important to note that the original Camera Cinema offered no grip. The back of the camera features a 3.5-inch LCD screen and buttons to adjust many parameters and configurations, plus some buttons on top, including the recording and playback buttons.
Its design is minimalistic and simple, which is understandable considering its cost. The result is a product that feels and looks professional, albeit slightly weak.
Since it has the same sensor as the Cinema Camera, it offers the same high quality pictures. That means a greater dynamic range and detail than any DSLR and a decent performance in low light scenarios with little noise. Nothing new there. It is very easy to use, probably its main novelty.
The controls are clear and intuitive, just as the menus. After turning it on, you can control the aperture, autofocus and little else. Yes, it’s very simple, but also very limited.
You have to access the menus to change the ISO, shutter angle or white balance. It’s a bit odd, because these functions could easily be accessible from a button, but instead you have to access the menu. The worst is that it takes a while to change even the simplest settings. If we are forced to access the menu, the first options should be the ISO, white balance, format and frame rate, among others. However, the first thing we see instead is the Camera ID, date and time. Why?
There are other annoying details such as the inability to format an SD card. Some settings and preferences reset when you shut it down, but it’s nothing major.
The autofocus button is painfully slow (it only works with micro 4/3 lenses); you can also enlarge the picture and focus manually. Trying to focus only with the picture of the LCD screen is almost impossible.
Sound recording is another issue. The integrated microphone is tiny and although you can use external microphones, the camera is not powerful enough to produce a high quality sound So, the sound is pretty basic. You can adjust the audio levels in the camera menu, but there are no indicators on the screen while recording.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the camera is the absence of stabilization. The camera supports optically-stabilized micro four thirds lenses, but only those with a physical button on the lens can activate the function, and those tend to be rare. Without them, taking stable pictures in certain situations is difficult. It performs well when recording home videos, but the camera is not designed for that. It is designed for those who want high image quality. This can be solved by adding an external stabilizer, as well as an external audio device, but this defeats the purpose of offering great imager quality for a low price.
Despite its flaws, the picture quality is the same as that obtained by the Cinema Camera. The fact that you can record in ProRes or RAW formats gives you much more post-production possibilities than the standard AVCHD or H.264 formats. These cameras were designed to play with color gradation, but that’s only part of its good features. The picture quality is outstanding, so you will forget about its weaknesses. Basically, that’s the strategy of this Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera: offer a very high picture quality at a low cost, sacrificing some things in the process.
It is capable of producing images comparable to a 5000-dollar camera. The possibility to record in RAW is great. It is small, portable and easy to use. The micro 4/3 mount allows us to use a lot of different lenses. It’s very cheap.
It has a lot of limitations. There are very few ways to configure it and do even basic functions aside from the camera menu. The audio quality is subpar even with an external microphone. The absence of an internal image stabilization system makes it unsuitable for some kinds of pictures and circumstances. The battery life is also quite poor.
Is it worth buying it?
The Pocket Cinema Camera has many drawbacks, but depending on your needs it can be a great investment. If you need a cheap camera with great image quality, it can be a great option. It is neither for beginners nor for people who want to record home videos. There are other good options like the Sony RX10 (over $1300) or the Canon C100 (about $5000, but none will offer the flexibility of the Blackmagic.