Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera test and first job
A few days ago I shot a commercial job with the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera – here are a few notes from the experience.
First of all, I understand that it was a risk shooting an actual commercial job with only minimal testing before (the camera had only arrived a few days ago at http://www.rentphotovideo.gr and I only had it for 24 hours to do some quick tests). For a more complicated shoot, I would probably not risk going with a new and untested camera system, but I felt that on this particular occasion, everything would be rather straightforward.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Canon 17-40L with adapter for wider shots (wasn’t needed)
Edelkrone follow focus
Gossen handheld light meter
various daylight balanced lights and grip gear
There are quite a lot of reviews of this camera around, so I will not repeat things already written elsewhere, I will only try do add a few notes from my point of view, and from actually shooting a commercial job as opposed to testing and pixel-peeping.
The first consideration is lens choice. If you need to shoot wide, you have to find a very wide lens (maybe the Tokina 11-16mm) or a Super 16mm lens. I wouldn’t have used this camera on such a short notice if I had to shoot wide, because I feel that more testing would be in order before finding a good solution. In my case, I had a storyboard that only needed medium to telephoto shots, so I decided to go ahead and use a Nikkor 35/f.2 almost exclusively. We shot at ISO200 (the lowest setting) with an 180 degee shutter and around f2.8 to f3.5 (“around” because the Novoflex adapter does not have an aperture scale) and I am very happy with the results.
Compared to a DSLR, I would say that I got better results effortlessly. I have read other reviews that state that you need to do a lot of colour grading in order to use a BM camera properly, but I find this to be true only if you choose the “Film” dynamic range. If you shoot on “Video” mode with the correct exposure and white balance, you get great footage that is not at all video-like! It is a misleading name that might push you to shoot on “Film” instead, but I really believe that you should give “Video” a chance and not pay attention to its name.
What I like
The dynamic range, gamma, colour palette etc are outstanding. Using the “Video” setting, with proper lighting and the right white balance for the mood I needed (slightly warm for indoor shots and slightly cool for rainy shots) I got footage that looks great right out of the camera. Only very minor colour grading was needed, even though the ProRes codec is way better than DSLR footage when you need to stretch something. I tried the “Film” setting but decided not to use it for this particular job, even though it looks very promising for other types of projects.
The “focus” button is very useful as it highlights the sharp edges that are in focus, helping a lot with accurate focus.
What could be better
Battery life is short! You need at least three batteries (one in the camera, one ready to swap and one charging). You also need to buy an external battery charger (not included).
There is no indication of remaining space in the cards! I suppose that it is a matter of a future firmware upgrade, because it is very strange that you have to shoot and keep track of the stopwatch to calculate how much you have already shot and how much is still remaining. On the other hand, this creates a pressure similar to the film days: since you are counting the feet of film that you use, you don’t just “spray and pray”, you are forced to be more careful with your shots. Anyway, I think that this is something that should be fixed.
The menus could also be a little quicker to navigate, given also the fact that the screen is not touch-operated as in the larger Blackmagic Cinema Camera. A White Balance and ISO button would be much better than having to use a menu.