So I've been bumming around Canada for the past week and a half directing a documentary-style video for a client. Being a bit of a "road trip" in it's structure, the DP on the gig decided to purchase a Blackmagic Cinema Pocket Camera for the shoot because I suggested that I'd like to have a "B" camera that was easily accessible while travelling (filming out the airplane, grabbing shots from inside our travel vehicle, etc…) without drawing a lot of attention or requiring a lot of support gear. Or "A" cam is the Canon C300 complete with lens kit, batteries, tripod, blah, blah, blah. A quality camera to be sure, but I knew there would be times where I'd I'd want say, "Oh let's grab a shot of that!" without the usual hassles that come with larger body cameras. I'm guess I've become used to this style of run and gun filmmaking simply because I haven't owned a "professional" camera since the Canon XL1s (Now that's going back!) And my main camera for the last few years has been my iPhone! Seriously, I've probably shot more with my iPhone than any other camera I've ever owned.
Anyways, during our trip I've had the pleasure of shooting with this pocket camera myself and I have to say I'm really impressed. I didn't have time to read the manual and our traveling schedule has been incredibly hectic so I've been clumisly figuring it all out as I go but I've really come to appreciate the adjustable frame rates, colour temperature, shutter speeds, ASA and general dynamic range….Y'know, all the bells and whistles you associate with a professional camera!
At the moment I've only been able to use 1 lens with the camera, the 17mm Olympus - but at least it's fast at 1.8…Primarily, I've kept the ASA from 200-800 - I'm curious to see the noise / grain structure of 1600 ASA but that'll have to wait for another day. In the meantime, I'll give you a quick summation of my initial thoughts of using this camera in the field.
10 bit prores codec: After years of shooting 8 bit h264 I realize how short changed I've been when it comes to the grading and overall "robustness" of my image's quality. (Hey Ken you can also shoot RAW! - Yeah, yeah, whateves, I don't really care.) I'm sure I'll play with that at some point, but for now 1024 "shades" is plenty for me and the internet as far as I'm concerned.
The focus peaking: My god what a luxury. Finally I can spend more time concentrating on my subject and overall composition rather than obsessing as to whether the image is in focus or not.
Size: While it's true that once you put any kind of lens on the BMCPC other than a pancake lens it ceases to be a true "pocket camera" I still love the size and overall portability.
Price: Sub $1k is already an amazing deal to achieve image quality like this but the fact that the price had recently dropped by half is just cray-cray. *NOTE the price drop is temporary and ends August 31st, 2014.
The battery life: Straight up, it's embarrassing - jaw dropingly, shocking bad in fact. You'll be dumbfounded at how quickly the camera goes through a fully charged battery. I'm talking like, "you lose 1% - 2% battery power every minute the camera is on" type bad. Did I mention the camera doesn't come with a separate charger? You must plug the camera in (with the battery) to the AC power supply in order to charge…Booooooo.
The dim screen: It's very difficult to get a proper sense of exposure in broad daylight. I pumped the screens brightness to 100% but that only served to drain the useless battery even faster! Luckily the focus peaking compensates somewhat for the dim image, but that only helps you for focus, not judge exposure.
The Audio: Ok I'm not going to jump all over the camera for this, I always use an external audio recorder anyway, yeah it is quite bad but fine enough for plural eyes to marry up with an external source.
Card Formatting: At the time of this writing, you can't format the cards in camera, you must format on a computer.
Weight: The camera is really light, meaning what makes for great portability also makes for some rather nervous, hand held jitter. And I'm not talking about the generally pleasent "floaty" type movement you could still get from a Canon 5D but more of the, "I've had way too much coffee" variety.
Having only "played" with this camera for a week or so I'm sure I'll come across more of it's perks & quirks. It's nice to know that there are solutions available for most of the cons: This handy metabones adapter for achieving shallower depth of field, and better low-light performance as well as this cheap & promising battery workaround using THIS combined with THIS.
Remember, this first glance review is coming from someone who is used to shooting with his iPhone on a daily basis, I'm pretty easy to please! In spite of all of the cons though, I'd totally fork over the cash to purchase one of these bad boys simply because the resulting image is just so stunning. Throw on a metabones adapter and you've got a truly fantastic camera for very cheap.