Pocket Blackmagic Cinema Camera Review

  • Added:
    Feb 19, 2014
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Attack of the pocket cameras
Attack of the pocket cameras
Photo by unten44


If you ask a professional cinematographer, videographer or cameraman which camera is the best camera around these days, what they’ll always tell you is the there is no perfect camera. It all depends on many variables such as your experience, what you need it for, price point, etc, etc. This came to mind especially when reviewing Blackmagic Design’s new camera, the Pocket Blackmagic. What you mainly have to keep in mind when judging this camera is it’s price point, about $1000, as even if it has a few shortcomings, what you get at that price it’s pretty impressive.

The Camera

The Pocket Blackmagic is made by the company Blackmagic Design, a company that started out making post production software and now is making inexpensive cameras capable of shooting RAW.

It sells for about $1000 and has a super 16 sensor size. To be exact, the camera’s sensor is 12.48mm x 7.02mm. A super 16 sensor is slightly smaller than a MFT sensor. Even if the camera presents several shortcomings, it can be considered a unique product in the market, as it allows filmmakers, videographers or even amateurs to capture RAW
images that can get the best out of the post-production workflow and have an incredible dynamic range.

First Impressions

When you first hold it in your hand, this camera will feel solid and smaller than you thought it would be. I like the combination of rubber and magnesium alloy. The grip has rubber so it feels comfortable and secure. It is made of magnesium alloy which makes it very solid.

On the back you’ll find the 3.5 inch LCD as well as the menu button, iris and focus controls. The LCD is not touch screen like its big brother the Blackmagic Cinema Camera but has physical buttons.
On the left you’ll find various ports like a headphones jack, a LANC port for a remote control unit, a Micro HDMI, and the 12V input for charging the batteries. The battery and the card are inserted at the bottom. A ¼-20 inch thread can be found both at the bottom and top of the camera. That allows you to mount all kind of accessories on top of the Pocket Blackmagic.
The Pocket Blackmagic, unlike the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, has an active lens mount, that allows you to use Panasonic lenses and be able to use features such as iris control and auto focus.

Recording formats and operation

The Pocket Blackmagic can shoot two different formats. It can shoot CinemaDNG RAW with its 1.5 software update which adds a 12-bit Log CinemaDNG RAW recording format, and Apple ProRes 1920x1080 with a 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, a 10-bit depth and 220Mbit/s bitrate. 1 minute of ProRes is about 1.3GB. The most important feature of this camera is without a doubt its dynamic range, which according to Blackmagic Design, is 14 stops.

When you shoot ProRes, you can either shoot in “film style” or “video style”. “Film style” is flat and doesn’t have much saturation as it is meant to get the best image in post production. The “video style” shows more contrast and has an image closer to what you would get with your DSLR camera. If you go in the menu to change shutter, you’ll see that it uses shutter angle, not shutter speed.

In general we can say that the Pocket Blackmagic is pretty easy to use but for many features you need to go into the menu. On the back of the camera you’ll see an iris and focus control buttons but if you need to change WB, ISO or shutter angle, you need to go in the menu and that might not be very practical in many situations.

The Pocket Blackmagic shoots on SD cards unlike the Blackmagic Cinema Camera which shoots on SSD cards. However, keep in mind you can only use the super fast SD cards such as the SanDisk 95MB/s Extreme Pro cards.

One important thing to point out is that audio recording is pretty far from professional standard audio quality. There’s no audio levels and the camera has very low preamps, therefore if you need to record audio and are shooting with the Pocket Blackmagic, you will definitely need an external audio recorder.

Another feature a lot of filmmakers will find useful is the autofocus which obviously only works with micro four thirds lenses, the Lumix series. The autofocus system works but it’s not the fastest around. Sometimes it goes the wrong way before finding the right distance and might take a while to get it right. As with autofocus, the stabilization feature will only work with Lumix M43 lenses and will only work with the ones that actually have the actual button on the lens. Without it, it won’t work and to get steady shots will be hard when using long lenses and operating hand held.


The Good

First and foremost, you are shooting RAW and ProRes with a $1000 camera. The dynamic range is impressive

You can use it to steal shots in places where you can’t use professional cameras as it looks like a regular point and shoot camera. Also, just to steal shots in places where you can’t even use cameras as it is very small.

This camera shoots 4:2:2 which means that it has a lot of color information.

Grain is very fine, looking close to film.

One of the best features this camera has is the time-lapse function that lets you select the interval between frames then puts the frame into a video instead of different snapshots like most DSLRs.

The Bad

No precise white balance control as values jump from 3200K to 4500K to 5000K and so on

Lack of exposure control

Formatting issue, you can’t delete files in camera

No slow motion

EN-EL20 batteries don’t last long, less than an hour, depending on the LCD brightness

Audio issues when using the internal microphone. The audio from the camera is not usable for a professional video and even if you plug in a mic, the preamps are not strong enough.

2.8 crop factor


To conclude this review, first off we need to say that the Pocket Blackmagic is not really a “pocket” camera. It won’t fit in your pocket after you add the lens and accessories needed to make it work.

It is for sure a very unique camera. Its definitely not a game changer. People won’t be dropping their 5Ds, C300 and such to shoot RAW with the Pocket Blackmagic. But it is the first camera to give you the possibility to shoot RAW at a great dynamic range at a $1000 price point.

I would consider this a great “B” camera to have on set when shooting with a Red Epic or Alexa. If you want to steal shots for your feature in places where you can’t shoot, instead of using your 5D, the Pocket Blackmagic will be even less noticeable and will give you RAW footage to match your high end camera footage.

The camera sure has it’s shortcomings, but when you figure out a way to deal with them, you’ll get amazing images that can be pushed in post.

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