Note that this article is just a transcript of the video above so I’d recommend you watch the video if you can 🙂
When this camera was first announced at NAB in April and I saw all the specs & features, I thought : this is not possible, this Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is too good to be true, there’s gotta be a huge catch. We finally got our hands we’ve been using it for a few days now so it so the aim of this video is to check whether the camera lives up to its expectation in the real world.
Let’s start off with the positives.
What sets Blackmagic Pocket apart from cameras in its price range from Sony, Panasonic or Canon is that it has been designed by video people. Blackmagic has a strong history of video processing technology and instead of trying to combine stills and videos into one single device like many competitors, they’ve always focused on video, which is why it uses Apple Prores which is one of the best video codecs on the market, for instance.
Here are 9 things I really love about the camera.
1. Low Light Performance
The original Pocket Cinema Camera was known to behave very poorly in badly lit situations and that was quite disappointing because many other brands such as Sony or Panasonic had cameras in its price range that were much better at dealing with low light environments.
Now trust me, this is definitely over, the pocket has improved A LOT. It has what we call a dual ISO, which means that instead of having only one “ideal” ISO setting of 400 from which noise is introduced when we push it up, there is a second ideal ISO setting of 3200, which means that the noise level resets itself when you cross ISO value 1250, giving you a new gamma curve with a noise free image. In practice I have found that the best settings to shoot at are 100 to 650 and 1250 to 4000. You should avoid using other values if you want minimal noise.
Overall, it is clear that Blackmagic worked hard on these aspects because I find its low light performance much better than the previous generation.
The new autofocus is surprisingly accurate. I own several Blackmagic Cameras and as many owners I really didn’t expect great breakthoughs in that area, since the autofocus function is always lightyears from competitors. They really worked on the autofocus and I really like the reactivity and precision of this new “Tap to focus” feature. It’s not as good as the A7S or the GH5 autofocus , and doesn’t have any continuous AF, but it’s definitely much better than any other BM camera, and I personally use it almost all the time with my Olympus lenses, which was not the case with the previous version. Bear in mind that although it worked very well with my Olympus lenses, it did not work with the Metabones Speedbooster ULTRA, which might be fixed in a future update , I hope.
Lots of changes here. Actually almost every connector has changed ! There is now a sturdy full size HDMI for video monitoring, XLR input for a lav or boom mic, another jack microphone input, headphones output and a USB type-C connector. You can do three things for now : firmware updates, charge the camera or record to an external SSD. The jack audio input is actually also a timecode input, because the camera automatically recognises timecode with devices such as tentacle SYNC.
There is no LANC port so you cannot start and stop recording using a wired remote. However since you can control almost any control using bluetooth, , I believe hardware solutions will eventually come.
The only hiccup I found is the rubber caches, I hope I won’t loose them too soon.
Even if you have a sound guy taking care of the audio, there are many situations where you want to have decent camera audio, which was absolutely not the case of the previous pocket camera. This is a whole new world now since we have much much much much much better in-camera microphones, the sound is really good. It also has good pre-amps for the XLR input, which has Phantom Power. It’s also very very easy to assign which channels should get which source through the menus. I’ll personally use the onboard mic sound a lot more for ambient sounds in final productions.
It definitely will not fit into your pocket but when you look at what all the camera has to offer, it’s fine really. I really like the black design, it sits very nicely next to the other blackmagic cameras. It doesn’t feel too heavy when shooting handheld and I’ve managed to shoot a lot of scenes with my HD1000 Glidecam + Sigma 18-35 and speedbooster without too much pain. It also works very well with the Ronin-S. When it come to water resistance, there is no IP rating set by Blackmagic Design.
6. The screen
I love the 5 inch the touchscreen. It’s bright, it’s beautiful and very precise. It’s definitely one of the things that sets the camera light years from competition, because this screen has been designed for video and not stills. You can adjust many settings directly and go through the menus easily. Bear in mind that you cannot twist the screen. And my guess is that they actually tried because there is this rec button here which would logically be used this way. But since there is no flip out screen it’s pretty useless, so for engineering reasons they probably left the screen this way, which is a good thing because I’d rather have a sturdy fixed screen than a wobbly fragile flip out screen.
7. Battery & Media
When it comes to battery life I must say… it has improved, but not that much. In practice I’ve managed to run for a maximum of 45 minutes on a single Canon LP-E6 battery. Also, the battery percentage indicator was only usable with genuine Canon batteries. The good thing though, is that they are used in many DSLR and are much easier to find than the previous generation batteries. Please note that Blackmagic has released a cable pack which allows you to plug in a Vmount battery through DTap power, or even make your own battery grip.
You can either record on a SD Card or the more expensive but faster CFast cards, very good choice blackmagic ! However you cannot record on the two cards at the same time, or on the SSD and on a card at the same time.
8. Image Quality
To finish with, I must say that I’m very glad to find the usual amazing image quality which we’re used to with Blackmagic. They has never let us down on that one and I was extremely pleased to see that this new pocket camera lived up to my expectations. The footage is very clean, the colors are gorgeous, and it is very easily matched with the URSA Mini Pro. You can shoot 4K at 60fps and Full HD up to 120fps in window mode which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Of course many competitors offer these shooting modes but they tend to put a very crappy bitrate and compression. Here the quality of the slow mow shots are really really good.
I didn’t see any moire or aliasing and the picture definitely looks even better than the original pocket camera. But at the end of the day I think that what will have the biggest impact on your work are the ergonomics, which have been completely redesigned from the ground up.
All in all, I think we have a big breakthrough and the camera is going to be very successful in the indie world :I expect plenty of beautiful short movies and videos shot with this camera. I think it’s not really ideal for Vloggers because of the screen. I have not been paid by Blackmagic, I paid my camera in full like every other customer, and I must say I do not regret purchasing the camera, I really really love it, it will follow me every single day.
I hope you liked this review, I’m going to do an extensive side by side comparison with the Ursa Mini Pro shortly as well as many other videos. Thanks for watching ! (and reading)