Blackmagic Pocket 4k Cinema Camera : First impressions

After waiting about four months for the delivery of my new work tool, the Blackmagic Pocket 4K Cinema Camera (BPCC4K) finally arrived at my office thanks to the good care of the company No Trouble. After the excitement of the first shootings and a (very) short month of use, I give you my first impressions on this camera that brings the low cost in the (very) big league.

Exceptional image quality

No need to keep the suspense alive, the BPCC4K offers unparalleled image quality in its price category. For 1200€, you get a camera capable of recording in 4K at up to 60 frames per second in Blackmagic Raw 12 bit. Simply unthinkable two years ago, it is to wonder what separates this camera from the very high end. At least not the image quality.

A micro 4/3 frame and a DUAL ISO exposure

Those who are used to working with LUMIX or Olympus cameras are familiar with this mount, which has the advantage of considerably reducing the size of the lenses and the weight of the equipment on board. Not to mention that it is compatible with ALL existing lenses on the market.

For those who like me have bet on the micro 4/3 mount, it is a real delight. Because in addition to supporting natively all the lenses of this format, the camera makes up for one of its biggest inherent shortcomings, namely the sensitivity in low light. Where the Panasonic GH4 tended to show its real limits in a darker environment, the blackmagic relies on a dual sensitivity mode: ISO 400 and ISO 3200. This is enough to compete with the Sony Alpha 7S on the territory of low light by offering a recording codec otherwise more qualitative.

It’s a real pleasure to shoot with this camera and it becomes almost difficult not to make beautiful shots. Colors are rich, skins are authentic, the 13-stop latitude offers enough flexibility even in high contrast conditions, and the slow motion is just crazy.

But to work in the best possible conditions, cameramen and filmmakers will have to get Davinci Resolve (included with the camera). Although it is quite possible to shoot with a basic look and be satisfied with it, the real interest of the camera is to retouch the image in all its aspects. Fascinating work, but it can quickly become time consuming and requires a solid learning curve. And of course, a state-of-the-art workstation, a well-calibrated monitor and terabytes of free space on your hard drives.

A powerful OS but some scares

On the operational side, not much to complain about. The functions are easily accessible, the menus are clear and well structured. The only big flaw here is in the algorithms for assessing battery and media size. While many complain about the short life of the CANON LP6 batteries, I find that the real concern is that it is impossible to have a clear estimation of the remaining time. In fact, as soon as the battery level drops below 50%, it is better to change it directly because the camera cuts off without warning and with a bit of bad luck, you lose the clip you were recording. Stressful and grating. One thing is for sure, you must absolutely feed the camera with an external solution for a serious shooting. Fortunately, there is no lack of options and we can find adapters for Sony NPF batteries for 50€ on Amazon, without forgetting the possibility of powering by VLOCK or the Battery Grip promised by Blackmagic in August.

The same remark applies to the calculation of the remaining space on the disks, it happened to me to see this estimate revised upwards or downwards in the middle of the shooting, which does not necessarily give confidence. In the same vein, when you try to review your rushes after a long shoot mixing shots in Braw and others in Apple Pro Res, some become inaccessible on the camera, without understanding why. I had to hold my breath and rush back to the office to realize that my rushes were indeed on the hard drive. Here’s something to boost your adrenaline.

Many media possibilities and a not so small camera

One of Blackmagic Design’s strokes of genius is to have installed a USB-C port on the camera, allowing it to be powered and, more importantly, to install a low-cost SSD drive for recording. Rather appreciable especially when one sees the cost/GB of the other possibilities of recording, namely the SD cards (but attention to choose it well because only the most powerful will be able to be appropriate) or the CFast 2.0 cards. But once you add the cage, the hard drive, the external battery, the monitor (essential for outdoor shooting) and possibly the matte box, you end up with a configuration that has nothing at all pocket. Afterwards, it is precisely this modular aspect that is pleasant and nothing prevents you from removing everything to film freehand when the situation allows it.

A camera that will change the game

No doubt; there will be a before and after to the BMPCC4K. The forums are already full of feedback from cameramen who have been using the RED and Alexa Mini and swear by Blackmagic Design’s new product. Compact, powerful and well designed, the only thing we could wish for in a future version would be integrated ND filters. For my part, I can’t wait to get back to shooting with this little gem that may well accompany me for a long time!

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