At the National Association of Broadcasters Show 2018, known generally as the NAB Show, Blackmagic Design from Australia dropped a minor bombshell on the attendees, revealing the newest iteration of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC). The NAB Show is primarily dedicated to the display of all things related to video, those involved in broadcasting, as well as pretty much anything to do with video production including cinematography. If you’re interested in video production, the NAB Show is certainly the place to be which, unfortunately, was not a place that I could attend. However, I have been monitoring what happened there though various video dedicated websites and YouTube videos. In my case, I was very interested in learning more about the BMPCC 4k as it’s called.
I’ve spoken about the first BMPCC previously and I’ve coveted the BMPCC for years and have always been poised to buy one, but then held off because of one major issue. The BMPCC camera has a lens mount that takes the lenses that I own but, because of the size of the sensor, all the lenses would become much longer in focal length (or narrower in angle of view to be more specific). That meant that even the widest of my lenses would become closer to a normal focal length lens, something that I simply did not want. There were other issues with the camera as well, but for many who own this camera, these were things that could be overcome and forgiven because of the quality of video that the camera produced. But it was the lens issue that I couldn’t overcome, which others did by using different lenses and a special adapter that widened the field of view. All that would have meant for me was just an increased cost for not that much gain from what I already had.
But Blackmagic Design changed all that with the introduction of the BMPCC 4K. Now they still call it the ‘Pocket Cinema Camera’ but I suspect that some dry Australian humour has crept in, as the new camera is anything but pocketable and is vastly larger than the original. In fact, the original BMPCC is almost the same size as my Olympus Tough TG-5, being just a little wider. Something that small and with the lenses I wanted to use would not have been a good thing when it came to ergonomics. I would have had to build the camera up with all manner of cage additions, which is what many have done from what I’ve seen on websites and videos. But with the additional size of the BMPCC 4K comes additional benefits and this is what has excited everyone who attended the NAB Show and got to know more about the camera and handle the pre-production version.
Once again, I’m not going to go into the technical specifications and review every nook and cranny of the camera, my eventual review will be about its intended use and seeing if it delivers the goods. And by no means will my future examples be up to the professional quality that’s going around the traps, but it will at least demonstrate what someone getting into video can expect from this camera. Now some have questioned why I bought the BMPCC 4K rather than a Panasonic GH5s or GH5; well, the answer is pretty simple. The BMPCC 4K does everything that the GH5s or GH5 does from a video perspective, but is $1000 cheaper than the GH5 and $1500 cheaper than the GH5s and has features not available in the GH5s. The BMPCC 4K also includes the full DaVinci Resolve Studio video editing package that normally costs around $400 and the BMPCC 4K will soon be available with Blackmagic RAW. So all in all, the BMPCC 4K is an absolute bargain for any video shooter.
A couple of things that some point out as negatives about the BMPCC 4K are that it doesn’t have continuous auto-focus (C-AF) ability with micro-4/3 lenses, but that’s somewhat irrelevant to me as I use the older 4/3 lenses and Panasonic cameras don’t have very good auto-focus even in still photography mode when it comes to 4/3 lenses. The Olympus cameras aren’t that good at continuous auto-focus (C-AF) either and not at all with video, so C-AF isn’t a priority. In most cases I’ll just be using single AF and locking that in when filming or manual focus using a follow-focus wheel on a rig. Some also have complained that the BMPCC 4K doesn’t have built-in image stabilisation like the Olympus E-M1 or Panasonic GH5, but nor does the Panasonic GH5s and most other high end video cameras due to heat issues. Image stabilisation makes it difficult to get rid of the heat that’s generated when recording in the higher end formats. That’s why I think even my Olympus TG-5 has such a short video recording ability in 4K as being a fully sealed camera, there’s no where for the heat to dissipate effectively. The BMPCC 4K even has fans to draw in air to keep the camera cool because some of the available formats will really stress the sensor.
The other thing that quite a number of pundits have said is a deal breaker is the lack of an electronic viewfinder (EVF), but since I started doing video in earnest, I don’t think that I’ve used the EVF in my E-M1 more than once in the entire time. I’ve been using the monitor (LCD) exclusively, as an EVF can’t be used with a gimbal or slider, or all that well on a tripod. I don’t think any serious videographer uses a built-in EVF for focus and composing anyway (I’m mainly talking about DSLR type cameras). Most videographers use an external monitor and in other cases a special EVF that stands out from the camera. But with the bright and very large rear screen (5″), I think the BMPCC 4K may work reasonably well on its own (though that remains to be seen). Though an external monitor can be very handy when using a gimbal, a shoulder mount or working in awkward situations, which applies to just about any camera type. What’s funny is that so many people were making all manner of judgements about the BMPCC 4K months before anyone was able to do more that get a rudimentary feel for the camera and predicating opinions based on other Blackmagic cameras or comparing it to DSLRs used for video.
But as soon as video footage started to appear and people could download copies of files for themselves, reports began to appear expressing how impressed they were with the quality and flexibility of the files for colour grading and other work. With Blackmagic RAW soon to be available in the BMPCC 4K, I think this camera is going to be very much sought after by professional videographers. It’s not to replace main cameras, but it’s going to be an outstanding secondary camera that will complement the main cameras and allow seamless production workflow, especially for those that already use other Blackmagic cameras such as the Ursa. As far as I’m concerned, I wasn’t after another hybrid video/stills camera, but wanted a fully dedicated video camera that allowed me to use my existing lenses and the BMPCC 4K is just that camera. Whether I can get the best out of that camera remains to be seen, but if I can’t get good results, I’ll just have to look in the mirror to see where the problem lies.
As a final note, I think I may well be the only person in the world (not an exaggeration) that will be using a unique set of Olympus 4/3 lenses with the BMPCC 4K. The vast majority will be using either m4/3 lenses or those of other brands with an adapter. The following are just two that I’m looking forward to using on my BMPCC 4K when it arrives.
Speaking of when it arrives, I was hoping to have it in my hands this week, given that units seem to be arriving all around the world and featuring in video reviews. I hope that Australia isn’t the last country in the world to get these, noting that Blackmagic Design is located in Melbourne not far from where I used to work. As soon as it lands, I’ll have a video up on the BMPCC 4K and some of my initial findings and I’ll follow that up with one covering the accessories that I’ve put together and then a following one covering a camera rig that I’ve assembled. All of this hopefully interspersed with video from the camera. I’m really hoping that I have at least a week before 20 Oct with the BMPCC 4K, as that’s when the 2018 Blessing of the Bikes event is happening and I wanted to cover that entirely with the BMPCC 4K. The story continues in Part 2.