Blackmagic 4K camera test and first job

A new Blackmagic 4K camera arrived a short time ago at, and I got the opportunity to test and then actually use it for a commercial job on the next day.
I was planning to use the Blackmagic Pocket camera for this, but when the Pocket turned out to be unavailable, I had no choice but to use the 4K instead. I am glad I did, because I had an easier time, mostly due to the larger sensor that makes lens choice easier.

Here are my quick notes from the experience of testing and using the 4K for an actual job:

Equipment used:
Blackmagic 4K camera
Samyang 24mm T1.5
Canon 17-40L  for wider shots (used for 1-2 shots, probably won’t make it to the final cut)
Vocas rig
Edelkrone follow focus
Schattler tripod (not used)
Table top dolly skater with Manfrotto ballhead
various daylight balanced lights and grip gear

First of all: the reason that I chose a Blackmagic camera for this job is that I had planned a difficult shot that I felt no DSLR could have handled: I wanted to shoot the reflections of a blown-out window off a shiny wooden floor and also move the camera while playing with the reflections of these highlights (movement is an added challenge for compressed codec cameras).
It is a good thing that I had the opportunity to shoot a quick test on the night before, because I found out in time that “Film” and “Video” settings are not at all the same like on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera!
When I first used the BMPCC (see I used the Video setting and got great results right out of the camera, instead of using the Film setting and arrive at the same result through a lot of post production.
I did not go the same way with the 4K, for two reasons: I really needed maximum dynamic range for the shot with the reflected highlights off the shiny floor, but also because I found out that the “Film” setting on the 4K is quite different than on the BMPCC. It has more color and it only takes a very slight tweak to bring out a bright and colorful final result. The manual does not say anything about any difference, but, believe me, there is a difference. If you shoot the BMPCC and the 4K side by side and compare Video and Film settings, it will be very clear.
Also, I know that I had 4K but I didn’t actually use it, I shot everything on ProResHD. I knew that I wouldn’t need to crop or stabilize anything, so I preferred to work on HD for a quicker and easier digital workflow. The SSD gives more than enough space, so you don’t have to constantly calculate the remaining time like with the BMPCC (with about 1Gb/min, I had 2 hours of disk space and a second SSD just a backup).

What I like about the 4K:
This camera really gives an outstandingly vibrant image, much better than any DSLR (especially in demanding situations with strong highlights). The Focus button is great for checking focus under strong daylight (it creates an overlay that shows edges in focus). The EF mount and the Super 35mm sensor makes the camera compatible with all Canon lenses, and the touch screen makes it much quicker and easier to chance settings between shots (much better than the BMPCC).

What could be improved
It only has an internal battery, only for 45 mins or so! That is maybe the biggest drawback if you want to use the camera in the field on handheld. We managed both, but only with good planning and a specific storyboard that could fit this short battery life. We had an extension cord and a charger plugged in almost all day, so we only used battery life when absolutely needed. It can be done, but it makes you wonder why. Wouldn’t it be easier to have removable batteries like the BMPCC? Lipo technology can definitely handle the power demands.
Another thing: I would like to be able to adjust white balance in smaller steps instead of only 3200, 4500, 5000, 5600, 6500 and 7500. Also, maxing out at 800ISO, this would not be my first choice for low light documentary-style shooting (in such cases I would prefer to use the Canon C300).



Posted on April 29, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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