Review: the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera

Super16mm cameras

A camera for creative film making

This, though, might not be the point of the Pocket Cinema Camera. If the objective is to deliver beautiful images in a small, low-cost package then Blackmagic Design has succeeded.

Whether it is the right camera for any particular project depends on the demands of the film being made. Users of DSLRs can overcome the limitations of internal compression with external recorders, and capture footage to ProRes.

Dynamic range is a more complex issue. Nikon’s D800, for example, is reported as having a dynamic range of over 14 stops. What it does not have is the Log recording option of the Pocket Cinema Camera, or any form of in-camera raw recording.

Unfortunately we were not able to test a D800 with external recorder alongside the Pocket Cinema Camera. For in-camera recording, though, graded Log footage from the Pocket Cinema Camera produced a better result than in-camera footage from the D800 – although for web video, it would be hard to tell the difference.

Making direct comparisons to other video cameras might, though, miss the point of the Pocket Cinema Camera

As a full-frame camera, the D800 does have the advantage of a shallower depth of field and a greater choice of wide lenses. But you can buy three BMPCCs for the price of a D800.

Making direct comparisons to other video cameras might, though, miss the point of the Pocket Cinema Camera. There is really nothing else like it on the market, either in size or in price. And, whilst the sensor is smaller, it still allows for a fair degree of creative control, and certainly more than on a small-chip camcorder.

If you have the time to explore the creative options it offers, and are comfortable with grading footage, it has plenty of potential; perhaps more so, because of its size and price, than a Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

The right camera for the right job?

It is hard to come to a firm conclusion about the Pocket Cinema Camera. It is rather a Marmite product (or maybe Vegemite, as it’s Australian): you either love it or hate it.

We initially didn’t like the footage from outdoors, and were disappointed with the audio monitoring, overall audio quality, and the autofocus. Pushing the camera by shooting in difficult conditions failed to produce footage that could be “fixed” by grading, although that may be our inexperience with grading work.

But filming in a more controlled environment – for a music video – changed our view. The Log footage graded very nicely indeed, with shadows especially more detailed than on the comparison footage (compressed, in-camera video from a Nikon D800 and a Panasonic GH2). The camera’s small size also meant that it could be used unobtrusively in such an environment, and be put much closer to an artist than even a DSLR.

Would we rely on a Pocket Cinema Camera as a main or only camera? No. If we had a spare £600 ($850) or so, would we buy one to drop in the kit bag? Certainly. It is capable of very good results, which is remarkable given the price, and above all, it is fun.

It’s just rather a shame it can’t shoot stills.

  • For the test footage in the two clips here, we used the plug-in for Final Cut Pro X by Nick Shaw at Antler Post (for more information on this, contact Antler Post. Blackmagic Design also offers a free “lite” version of Davinci Resolve.