It’s been a good 18 months since I started filming with both the Blackmagic Cinema camera (EF) version and the 4K ‘Production Camera’ which is also an EF mount. Although I had an interest in the Cinema Camera aka ‘BMCC’ it was the 4K Production Camera aka ‘BMPC’ that I ordered first. Why? To me it was appealing because of the internal 4K recording, global shutter and relatively large Super 35 size sensor. If I recall correctly, it was announced at NAB (April 2013) and Blackmagic Design promised the delivery of the camera in July so happy days! But sadly, I was to be kept waiting. I somehow wasn’t as pissed off with the delay in shipping as other customers because I knew I’d have to get finances together to pay for it. Not only was I buying a camera but I’d need accessories to make it work such as batteries, a rig of some sort, SSD cards and other film-making items such as tripods and lighting etc – all of which was gonna cost a bit. As Christmas approached and still no sign of my BMPC 4K camera I began to doubt the very existence of it. I had a few video jobs coming up that I needed start and I began to panic a little. Thats when I decided to order the BMCC. I had been browsing on some UK camera gear sites and came across quite a nice deal on the BMCC including a rig by Lanparte. It came with a full rig with follow focus and battery so all I needed was the SSD. It was too good to turn away and at this stage I thought I wouldn’t ever see the BMPC 4K. So I ordered it. Christmas was gonna be good that year!
I had been used to using only a Canon 6DD dslr so taking the BMCC out of the box I was immediately impressed by the weight and the ‘robustness’ of it. It’s basically a solid block of aluminum with the components inside. Other than the delicate screen, the thing is a tank! Although not the most ‘ergonomic’ camera according to the experts, (who are everywhere it seems) I liked holding it in my hands. So there I was with my new BMCC, ready to start filming. Then something strange happened. I barely had the SSD in the camera when the phone rang and I noticed it was a UK number. It was a salesman from the company CVP from which I had ordered the BMPC4K almost a year previous. ‘Mr. Sweeney Sir, you’re camera has been delivered’. I had a mixture of excitement and worry as I had used the funds for this camera on the BMCC camera. Without boring you with the epic story of how I came up with the extra dosh, I somehow gathered the money and within a few days the second Blackmagic design camera was on its way to me. Now I had 2 cameras, one that shot an impressive 2.5k RAW and another that shot UHD (3840 x 2160). What was I gonna do? Firstly, I considered selling the BMCC as for some insane reason I thought I wouldn’t use it as I had the 4K. How bloody wrong I was!
What happened over the next year and a half until today has been a bit of an epic journey to say the least, somewhat scary in places! I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gone from being a hobbyist learning the art of composing shots to a working almost ‘full time’ filmmaker. I prefer that term over ‘videographer’. It sounds better. What do you work at Hugh? ‘I’m a filmmaker’ – yeah that sounds better!
Anyway, what do I think of these two slightly unusual and interesting cameras, one of which is practically of cult status? Well to give you the quick answer, I like them. They have issues which have been repeated over and over again of forums and groups, mostly by people who have never owned them! But they also have amazing abilities. I’ve been using them repeatedly for 18 months so I should know I guess.
For many, the major downfall of this quirky camera is the huge crop factor. Its sensor in comparison to a full frame camera (which everyone seems to think is a ‘standard sensor’) is about 2.3 : 1. In other words, the image is very cropped. This to me, isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. Why? For ‘zoom’ purposes it,s great, for those who don’t have many lenses. It transforms your lenses into zoom lenses so to speak. A 50mm lens now acts as a 115mm and the 100mm lens I happen to own now works as a nice 230mm zoom! Bear in mind this comparison As I have the BMPC 4K which has a larger sensor that captures a bigger frame, the BMCC now becomes a perfect second camera for close ups, even macro shots. Watch my video of The Jeweller where the two cameras worked great together. > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wln4zXn-JdE
Again, this camera has always been compared to the Canon 5D mk2 for ‘low light performance’. This is its weakness, although it shoots RAW and you can stretch the image a little in post. It’s not in the same ball-park as a 5D and nowhere near the new Sonys in terms of sensor light sensitivity but unless you’re filming in very dark situations it should be adequate for you – especially if you’re filming using lights. And compared to the BMPC4K its like a pair of nightvision goggles! The BMPC4K is not good in this dept as I’ll get to below.For me, by far the worst thing about this camera is the lack of 60fps or above. This camera only captures up to 30fps and this has caught me out quite a bit. We all want those slo-mo shots, at least for work reasons. Filming a movie, you can get around it but if a client wants a slo-mo you could be in trouble. Other than the lack of slo mo, the rolling shutter can be a bit of a pain. Its very bad.
The BMPC 4K
After using the BMCC when you start using this cam the first thing you’ll notice is the global shutter in action. This is definitly the strongpoint of the camera. No ‘jello’ it’s beautiful. Even with a zoom lens on the image is tight and responsive. I use this as my main work camera. I shoot 4k mostly, only opting to shoot in hd when I’m either running out of disk space or shooting a long boring shot! 4k in prores hq is my go to setting and if I’m filming something that doesn’t take long and I want to do a really nice colour grade after then I’ll select RAW 4K. Bear in mind that the 4K RAW image is larger than the ‘UHD’ image prores will give you. If you’re not wanting to shoot in 4k but want something higher than HD, you’re stuck. It would have been great if you could film in 2.5 or 3k as an option but thats not how it works!
The low light performance of this camera is diabolical, looking at the screen it reminds me of working indoors with a dslr when you’ve a 5.6 + aperture lens, it just looks dark! And unfortunately there’s little stretching you can do with the image to increase the exposure in post production as you’ll introduce that awful fixed pattern noise. This camera really needs light. I’ve filmed one or two live stage events with this camera and it was just horrible colourgrading the footage afterwards. Its the type of camera that works best if you’re in control of the lighting. That said, I’d avoid harsh lighting as it blows out the highlights a little. In daylight scenes I find the camera works pretty well. Like the BMCC the screen is very hard to use in daylight. I find myself throwing a jacket over myself so I can see the screen!
One last advantage of the camera before I keep complaining about the negatives is 4k recording options. Although theres loads of 4k recording cameras out there now, theres nothing in this pricerange capable of shooting 4k raw internal. It really is great value and if you want ‘bang for buck’ quality it’s hard to beat.
So to recap, here’ss the pros and cons of both the BMCC and BMPC:
1 – Beautiful ‘filmic’ image very like the image from a much more expensive camera like and Arri Alexa.
2 – Shoots RAW in 2.5k which is still pretty decent.
3 – Decent dynamic range, although newer cameras are improving their DR’s.
1 – Lack of high speed frame rate. No ‘slo-mo’ as such. Only 30fps which can be reduced to 24fps.
2 – Rolling shutter – very noticeable when panning and when zoom lenses are attached.
3 – Small sensor – it crops the image so much that its hard to get proper wide shots. Though there are some advantages.
1 – In camera 4K RAW and 4K Prores HQ.
2 – Global shutter – a great advantage and still not seen in most cameras.
3 – Decent sized sensor. ‘Super 35’ – similar to most ‘movie’ cameras.
1 – Low light perforamce is terrible with not real useable iso settings other than the lowest iso of 200.
2 – Fixed pattern noise ‘FPN’ quite obvious on any dark shots.
3 – Internal battery barely gets the camera up and running.
That’s ‘part one’ of my experience using these cameras. I’ll share more information on my experiences using these cameras soon. If you’d like to drop me a note please email me. Also, feel free to check out my YouTube channel for loads of content filmed with both cameras.