Hands on report on the BlackMagic Cinema Camera

by planetMitch16 Comments

Matt Battershell sent us info about his recent ‘hands on' with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and we thought you'd like to know a little more.

Matt will also be joining planet5D as a writer hoping to specifically target the Blackmagic Cinema Camera so you'll be hearing more from planetMatt in the future!

Matt hands on:

So in lowly Rancho Cordova, Sacramento CA, Blackmagic visited a film and meet gathering and I spent my time talking with Dan, holding, using and shooting on the BMCC and asking questions. I hope to share some nuggets of information, but most of it you all already know.

About the Keynote:

First, the presentation was really cool because they show the actual Leah footage from a "well known DSLR" and then from the BMCC. It actually includes her walking into the scene with the camera on a dolly following her through the room. One of our vendors had a super high resolution 4k+ projector doing the presentation, so the HD examples were totally vivid and sharp (and didn't fill the entire screen obviously).

Let me tell you one thing: the footage comparison is completely AWESOME! The DSLR is pretty bright, windows are all blown out, walls are blown out, Leah has magenta cast and of-course, from line-skipping, is soft. However, the funny thing was, I didn't really notice that UNTIL I was shown the footage from our little friend.

It is night and day different! The sharpness difference is well noticed even from 20 feet away, all the windows are exposed with the BMCC, Leah's face looks like flesh, the overall cast was a bit darker – but it was all ungraded (from both cameras). There is so much latitude. The DSLR footage looked like bright polished video whereas the BMCC looked right off a film set. Again, no color grading so it could be pushed in amazing ways.

Out of maybe 50+ people there, many were very surprised. Again, the BMCC had such a different mood and film look to it that right then and there, I knew I was pleased with my pre-order.

Dan said they hope to release samples next week to the world.

Then the presentation showed stills in a subway, and different models' faces, all looked like really nice DSLR RAW images with more dynamic range. That is impressive!

A note on Thunderbolt: it is not for monitoring or hooking up to a computer to transfer data through (unless using their data express? I missed some of that sorry) – but Thunderbolt is for scopes on your laptop.

Dan said the number one request was 60p and they are discussing it but really their main emphasis right now is to ship in July and not frustrate people with a product that doesn't function properly or over-promise something.

Obviously, RAW in 2.5 k and 60p is too much for SSD's to record properly, but doing something in 1080 with ProRes could happen *no guarantees* but this will all be discussed after launch. In his presentation, Dan was the one who said "now as you know, the sensor can record higher frame rates." Now, Dan said the product has a USB port and firmware upgrades will be something they WILL do.

PS: Davinci 9 looks awesome and is redefined in the GUI for faster navigation and a much cleaner look. Version 8 users will have a free upgrade.

About the Launch Date:

Blackmagic has "thousands" of cameras on order from vendors. I asked, "hundreds of thousands?" No, but still, they a lot more then they could of dreamed about and are very excited about the buzz and so is Apple who have been very supportive of them (as you know, including a screen shot of the BMCC in their keynote). But they are also aware of the work involved to get things going and shipped. So, hundreds will be fulfilled in July, and the thousands filled by October into November. Basically, they will be working really hard to meet all these orders, it is all up to where you stand with the vendor and how much they decided to get in the first batch run.

Hand On Impressions:
The camera was fit with a Canon 24-105mm F4 L lens and the first thing I experienced was a breath of release seeing 24mm. It was surprisingly wide for the room (an office building). In fact, I was zooming on the lens to frame more, so my 16-35L lens is going to be great for me. I thought the lens was a 2.8, but online, I can only see F4, so that helps too because at 800 ISO (the native ISO), and wide open, everything was exposed fine, even stopped down. The room was not very bright, more dim – basically an office building with half of the lights on.

Now this Camera was the NAB camera so not all the menu items were fully working.

First, there is no f stop value displayed in the menu and it may not be displayed on the shipping model either (Dan had conflicting reports from the lead engineer), so you just use your arrow buttons to open or stop down. (That is why I was unsure of the lens' f stop). I told Dan this needs to be a firmware update ASAP but it is not a deal breaker once you see the image.

I cranked it to 1600 ISO, stopped down the lens a bit, then put my face right against the 20″ cinema monitor it was hooked up to and pixel peeped. Guys, noise is minimal and has a grain / RED nature to it (albeit without the grid-like-banding on the Red One *whew!*) I am very pleased.

Then I did some whip pans. Rolling shutter is *definitely* better than the 5dmkII IMO. I'm not worried.

The touch screen is fast and large and great resolution, I'm very happy. One thing I was already asking for though was a zoom in feature before recording like the DSLR's have because, unless you have an external monitor, I was still unsure of critical focus. Dan said that it certainly is something a firmware upgrade could do because hardware wise, no changes there would have to be made. I told them I wanted it!

Take Away:
I was never too worried about my pre-order on faith, never having touched the camera nor seen really many samples, but now, I am not worried in the least. I'm excited. The quality, DR, noise and sharpness are cinema in nature, the FOV was not as bad as I was thinking based on everyone's talk and worry. I'm going to have a go with my 16-35 L 2.8 and probably get a Samyang 24 1.4. I may not have the camera as soon as I want, shipping is going to be a little crazy, but we must have patience.

Finally, the company is really cool. Their history is one of innovation and breaking down walls of impossibility -like creating their own camera. They will certainly deliver on future firmware updates and things will only continue to get better – which is simply cool!

via Talked to Dan and used the Camera 6/27/12.

(cover photo credit: snap of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera)


  1. To me 2.0 crop (a huge flaw) can not call itself a “Cinema” camera.
    Though does not make a bad camera either.
    Because of the crop factor alone its a bit over priced even with the DiVinci software, I believe.
    Non swapable or even changeble battieries is another problem, so we’re talking additional cost to really use on a normal film set.
    Funny seems like the 2 articles I read on this camera were written by Black Magic employees 🙂

    1. It’s actually a 2.4 crop factor, which chokes the lens to death. Even though the crop will utilize any given lens’ sweet spot, the CHOICE of lenses must be different than for Super 35 or full frame (especially).
      Folks who are hyped up by this camera are downplaying this quite a bit, but it will bite them in places they don’t want/expect it to.
      The non-swappable battery is a design flaw for certain, and requiring some work-around right off the bat isn’t cool at all (more money to spend, like a RED). It may have been an engineering decision that was brought about by time constraints, and budget, but it’s not what pros or semi-pros are used to.
      The DR is yet to be seen. 13 stops on this small of a sensor may be possible, but until it’s been proven by those I trust, then it’s a spec that may not be inferring ‘usable’ DR.
      I really like the metadata abilities, the form factor (to some degree), the menu colors/font/layout, and that the company is willing to listen to what could be considered future customers. I think with that attitude, they will be very successful in this.
      This camera is the FIRST design from them. I’ll wager that the next iteration will have addressed the shortcomings (maybe even the sensor size, albeit for slightly more money), and will be all black.
      I’ll be watching this camera and company, and wish them well.

      1. Author

        For the industry standard 35mm, the BMCC is only a 1.6 crop factor. For talent, medium to CU shots are rarely shot with a wide angle lens unless a look for a dream sequence with severe facial distortion was called for. Really, having a crop factor will enable a 200mm to be even longer for greater background separation and facial flattery/flattening.

        John Brawley was using 400mm on Puberty Blues with extenders.

        Really, I WAS worried about crop but not any more. For my 48 hour film festival competition, with actual talent and staging, guess what happened on the 5dmkII? The 16-35mm was thrown out for 70-200mm and a 100mm macro, f stop was increased to 4.5 or greater to keep faces in focus.

        Really, for characters, ultra wides are not good.

        That said, 18mm on the BMCC is wide and a 16mm will work for indoor cars and you can get a Tokina 11-16 for your ultra wide shots.

        Regarding batteries: who on a professional shoot does not use power bricks? The fact that the BMCC accepts 12-30V DC power is an extreme plus, allowing for CHEAP options with long lasting effects. Even cheaper than 5dmkII batteries that will not last nearly as long.

  2. This camera is basically a digital version of 16mm, which is very cinematic for those who know what they are talking about.
    Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild shot on s16 film released this summer.

  3. OK 2.4crop is even crazier.
    Get a nice tokina 11-16mm cine modified from Duclos that will help 🙂
    I love the DiVinci color grading software and can’t wait to see this line develope more as well.
    A DSLR sized camera with full sensor 2-3K RAW up to 60fps for $5K please!
    If it did 120fps $10K would work too. LOL

    1. The thing about Davinci Resolve is the machines required to use it properly. They say Intel-based machines with Nvidia graphics cards ONLY (and multiple cards work better).
      That leaves out the guys with AMD-based machines, which makes the software totally useless to them.
      I agree about the 60fps, but would like to see the price stay the same.

  4. I wish they’d toss one over to Phil Bloom. If they’re supposed to be fulfilling orders in July, you’d think they’d have put the camera in some professional reviewer’s hands by now. I’ve been skeptical of the camera for this reason only. The footage they have on their website is TERRIBLE and doesn’t look cinematic to me in the least bit.

    That being said, behind closed doors, I’m sure these guys are working their ass off around the clock thanks to the international spotlight that is now shining bright upon them. The camera will be ready when it’s ready and I’m just gonna have to patient.

    1. John Brawley has been working with Balckmagic Design on this camera– he’s pretty professional ;o)
      Philip Bloom doesn’t say much in the technical aspect of a camera.

  5. Come on people, be objective! The truth can hurt if you choose to be blind! You want the BMD Cine Cam to be “the” camera, but there is no such thing.
    Get mad at the facts, and press ‘dislike’, cause you know you want to, ha ha! 🙂

    1. I think that sums up a lot of opinions on the BMC. People want it to be the perfect camera but there just isn’t such a thing out there and there probably never will be. This camera will fulfill certain needs and situations just like every other camera does. It’s a viable option at the price point but it’s not the only camera at that level.

      1. Totally agree with Luke. I see people overlooking the little things that actually matter. Yet if another manufacturer did the same they’ll be complaining. People are simply trying to delude themselves into thinking this is the perfect camera…it’s not.

        It’s nice but not the 2nd coming.

  6. It is a nice camera, but the biggest thing for me is, it’s a move towards a new beginning. Big sensor camera in a box that is designed to shoot video exclusively. I agree, there is no one perfect camera, but from what I’ve seen, for the money, the GH2 hacked with almost any of the Driftwood hacks is damn impressive.

  7. —if a REDMAG can handle the that Rez at those high fps I’m sure a “OCZ Vertex 4” would do fine recording 2.5k @ 60p-fps.

  8. This article says: “RAW in 2.5 k and 60p is too much for SSD’s to record properly”

    —uhhhh what are you talking about??— RED EPIC records 5k @ 120fps and 2k @ 300fps to REDMAGS (SSD)— this statement doesn’t make sense??

    —if a REDMAG (SSD) can handle that high of a resolution at those high fps I would think a “OCZ Vertex 4” would do fine recording 2.5k @ 60p-fps.

    1. The difference is, that RED compresses their RAW files (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Digital_Cinema_Camera_Company#Recording_formats_2). The higher the frame rate the more they compress. The BMD camera records uncompressed DNG files. (Would be cool if they can add compression. CinemaDNG afaik supports a lossless compression)

      Uncompressed 60p would be 60*5MB=300MB (which current SSDs with SATA-III should support, but maybe the camera doesn’t).
      On the RED side the wikipedia article says: “The Epic records at a data rate of up to 225 MB/s to proprietary SSD drives called RedMags.”

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