Posted By:
Craig Newman
June 2, 2012
Filed Under:
Film & Video Equipment Reviews
13 comments

A Game Changer? Blackmagic Cinema Camera

At Entendre we’re passionate about film and even more so about film and video production so when we heard that Blackmagic had brought out a new digital film camera, we absolutely had to check it out!

The new camera from Blackmagic Design, called the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (bazaar name, yeah?) looks set to change the high-resolution film game forever.

Video Production Sydney
Blackmagic Cinema Camera in all it’s sexiness.

Within a solid aluminum body is packed a plethora of features including 2.5k image sensor, built-in SSD recorder, and support for Canon EF and ZE mount lenses. Amazingly, this all fits into 16 x 11 x 12cm.

The camera features a wide dynamic range, built-in 5-inch touchscreen display, and will shoot in 12-bit RAW uncompressed (making it ideal for those post-production touch-ups).

At AU$3075 Blackmagic have a real opportunity to open the doors for budding indie film-makers, and at this price I’d expect to see it make headway in the wedding videographer and music video market too.

Australian Cinematographer John Brawley was lucky enough to get his hands on a pre-release version of the camera and recently posted some ungraded and graded test footage taken with the camera with impressive results. You can view test footage in the video below or, you can  wait until the release in July like the rest of us.

Other Features:

Dynamic Range

  • Captures a super wide dynamic range of 13 stops into 12-bit DNG files for a true “filmic” look.
  • Preserves detail in both shadows and highlights, and even handles indoor shots while keeping the details of any images captured through.
  • Allows for keeping all sensor data and enhancing the creative decisions during DaVinci Resolve color grading.

EF Compatible Lens Mount

  • Supports optics from leading lens crafters such as Canon, Zeiss and many more.
  • Compatible with EF and ZE mount lenses.
  • Allows full electronic control of the lens – simply point, set iris and focus on command.

Capacitive Touchscreen Display

  • Five inch touchscreen allows for setting up a shot, as well as playback from the SSD using the transport control buttons below the screen.
  • Enter shot data and update the camera’s settings using the capacitive touchscreen display.
  • Double tap to zoom the image for fast and accurate focus.
  • Data strip displays information including record status, shutter angle, ISO, battery level, record time and more.

Metadata Entry

  • Features built-in metadata entry so that files include information compatible with popular editing software.
  • Dramatically speeds up the whole post production process.
  • Entering metadata is easy – simply tap the capacitive LCD touchscreen to display the slate where information can be entered including shot number, search tags, scene number, Timecode, and more.
  • Set shot number and other data to increment automatically.
  • Metadata is compatible with leading editing software and is fully searchable, bypassing the time consuming task of searching for specific shots when editing a project.

SSD Recorder

  • Built-in SSD recorder uses low cost 2.5″ SSDs- Allows for 2.5K uncompressed CinemaDNG RAW 12-bit capture, as well as Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD compressed video formats.
  • Play back directly from the camera, mount the disk to any computer, or use Blackmagic Design’s HyperDeck Studio deck- With Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD video formats, record for more than five hours on a single 480 GB SSD.
  • All file formats conform to open standards used by most professional NLE software.
  • When finished shooting, simply connect the SSD to a computer and edit or color shots straight from the disc.

Connectors

  • Uses only standard connections, no custom cable required.
  • Dual balanced microphone/line audio inputs for recording high quality uncompressed audio.
  • 3 Gb/s SDI out for on set monitoring or for sending to live production switchers.
  • Includes 12 to 30 VDC input for power and battery charging- Stereo mini (3.5 mm) headphone output.
  • LANC remote control and high speed Thunderbolt port for computer capture.

Open File Formats

  • Camera uses standard file formats.
  • Recording native 2.5K resolution uses the open CinemaDNG format, delivering full 12-bit RAW recording quality.
  • Choose 1080HD recording into ProRes and DNxHD compressed video formats for even greater compatibility.

Included Software

  • Full DaVinci Resolve 9.0 software for Mac and Windows.
  • Shoot wide dynamic range images and then make color correction decisions in post production.
  • UltraScope provides technically accurate waveform monitoring.
  • Connect the camera to any computer using Thunderbolt to display six live scope views on a single monitor.
  • Use UltraScope on set or in any location for parade, waveform, vectorscope and histogram signal measurement.
  • Includes picture view, audio level, and phase monitoring.

If you’re interested to have your next video project produced using this great new technology please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Please comment!

What do you think of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera?

13 Comments

TomJune 2nd, 2012

Interesting article.

How would you compare this to a Cannon EOS 5D Mark 11 for shooting music videos?

I’m guessing this has a built in zoom that would save on the cost of lenses or am I wrong about that? (…I know nothing about cameras other than I want to start shooting music videos for my songs)

For instance, if I want to shoot full body footage at a distance of no more than 4 – 6 metres (… a green screen set up I have in my living room), I’d need to fit the Cannon with a 16-35mm lens at a cost of around $2000.00 for the lens alone.

I have no camera yet but I may soon be in the market for something that best suits my needs and limited budget.

Hope to get some useful feedback. Thanks for the article.

Craig NewmanJune 2nd, 2012

G’day Tom,

The “zoom” in this camera is actually not really a zoom in the traditional sense but more like Sony’s “expanded focus”. It allows you to temperamentally zoom in for more accurate focus but does not actually increase the focal distance of the final image.

If you where ending up on an HD or SD print, and you shot at 2.5K then you can enlarge the image in post creating a “digital zoom of sorts. I shoot some research stuff with IAG and whilst it’s lazy cinematography, it’s a trick I use all the time as I only have one chance to get the shot.

It sounds like you need a wide-angle lens rather then a Telephoto lens which and unfortunately, this won’t help you much there.

You could go with the 16-35mm (which is a very nice piece of glass) or if you are on a shoe string, you may want to get a cheaper lens and spend your money on getting more light in there. I assume you wanted to go with the 16-35mm f/2.8 because of how fast it is…?

The other options you could look at would be either hiring a lens or getting a video producer to handle everything for you.

- Craig

Craig NewmanJune 2nd, 2012

Also, if you ever want some pointers setting up your green screen, drop me an email.

Allan CrocketJune 2nd, 2012

I agree on the wedding part and really Im excited about its form and its approach. For me personally I need features it really doesn’t have. Like overcrank, professional XLR inputs, ND filters. It is a ground breaking camera, but I would put it over say a Af100, and a step under the new Sony Fs700.

I believe that having the built in SSD capacity is huge and Blackmagic was the perfect company to introduce this.

Craig NewmanJune 2nd, 2012

I think the thing that excites me the most about this camera is it’s incredibly competitive price point. Hopefully it will drive down the price of the Sony Fs700, Canon C500 and maybe even put pressure on RED.
At least it should push down Camcorders. A Sony EX1r cost $8500 less then a year ago!

Greg AndersonJune 2nd, 2012

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera (bizarre perhaps, but I kind of like it) is not going to automatically enable filmmakers to tell better stories, and no film goer is going to sit home considering what film to go see on a given evening only to have their friend or significant other say, “let’s go see the one that was shot on the Blackmagic camera.”

Where it will have significant impact is that it is another nail in the coffin of film stock for all but the most special of projects (projects shot on film would seem to be becoming the equivalent of big, glossy and knowingly expensive “coffee table books”), and it has dramatically changed the playing field for high dynamic range digital image capture. Will some argue that it doesn’t measure up to the Alexa and others, of course. But an Alexa costs (at least) 20 times as much or thereabouts. Is even the staunchest defender of the Alexa (a camera I love as well, by the way) going to insist that the images that come out of the Arri box are 20 times superior to those from Blackmagic?

The new camera will be boy a joy to shoot and a frustration; simultaneously everything we’ve been clamoring for and sorely lacking. In the end, it is a tool, and just like weekend golfers who think the next expensive set of woods or irons or a putter is all that stands between them and rounds in the 70′s, many will find out that if you still know too little about story or direction or cinematography, the camera is not going to make you any smarter, talented or better trained.

So, kudos to Blackmagic and the camera. I will be shooting it in early August, grateful for the 13-ish stops, the bit depth and the RAW footage, as well as DaVinci. In the coming years, its success will no doubt help to inspire other manufacturers to produce quality equipment at price points that would have been inconceivable even five years ago. We are traversing a new technological frontier and we now have a new outpost, a new weigh station, and that is always a good thing. Yes, it will change the game and talented filmmakers who lack deep funds will be better able to get something of theirs shot and seen, and that is always a good thing.

Here’s to looking forward to see the Blackmagic logo on the tail of credit crawls in the very near future.

Craig NewmanJune 3rd, 2012

Thank you Greg! Great response!

BernardJune 12th, 2012

I can’t see this camera yet as my main camera for filming weddings, the fast pace style is just a burden for a camera that has internal battery and memory (from my last reading), that it ergonomically, I’d need to hook it to a battery and external pack.

But as a cinema camera, this will definitely be a game changer and I can’t wait to be able to test one out!

markJune 12th, 2012

What about sound for the doc filmmaker (one of the shortcomings of the 5D which agreed wasn’t even meant as a moving picture camera when created)?. I noticed this: “Dual balanced microphone/line audio inputs for recording high quality uncompressed audio.” but not much else. Any practical experience recording sound?

A Game Changer: Blackmagic Design Super-35 4K Camera | Entendre ProductionsApril 12th, 2013

[...] Blackmagic Design Super-35 4K CameraHere at Entendre we were so excited in June 2012 about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera that we wrote a post about it. The new Blackmagic Design Super-35 4K Camera however makes the [...]

A Game Changer? Blackmagic Cinema Camera « Video Production Sydney and the Central CoastJune 21st, 2013

[...] Read more at Entendre Productions. [...]

http://gamato.ning.comAugust 2nd, 2013

I like what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
Keep up the great works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll.

Greg AndersonAugust 11th, 2013

Okay, so here I am, a year or so later (from my original post on this thread). We are in the middle of production on a short film and yes, we’re shooting the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. We’re shooting RAW and cropping for 2.4:1, but the camera continues to be a gem for low-end budgets. My D.P. (Dan Hertzog) is getting the quirky looking box to sing all the right notes, and after what is now repeated projects with it in the field, I can confirm my favorite feature of the camera (and I think Dan’s favorite, too): it would have to be the latitude.

We got a shot in a large, nighttime bar where the characters were blocked to exit through a rear door that led to a service / storage area, and at the far end of that small room was a door that opened to an alley behind the bar. So, we were going to shoot as the characters exited and end up seeing them in the ally, looking from the bar through the service area into the alley, both doors remaining open after the characters pass through them. The bar was lit like bars are lit. The service area — probably a 20′ x 6′ room — was lit harshly by nine, strong fluorescents, and the alley was lit only by a few safety lights several feet away. Oh, and we were shooting around 04.30 in the morning.

Dan raised the ambient light level in the bar slightly by bouncing a couple of 600w-equivalent LED’s off the ceiling toward the door and that was it. We roll and the actors nail it in about three takes and we move on. When I’m watching dailies, I stop playback and just look. In the shot, there is plenty of detail in the bar, lots of detail in the sterile fluorescent lighting, and more than enough detail to see what’s going on in the alley (the scene is supposed to play gritty and “independent looking”).

Every time I shoot the camera, something else blows me away or makes me remember that all of this technology and image was available for $2,995US (and now it’s down from that to $1,995). Is it the greatest camera ever? No such thing. Is it a godsend to filmmakers looking to show what they can do as storytellers ahead of what they need to learn to do as fundraisers? Well, it’s got to be one of the godsends in that direction.

When I teach, I tell my students that the only way they will ever shoot anything “pretty” is to go out and shoot a lot of things “ugly.” Seeing the world through a camera’s eye is a blend of talent and skill and technique, and practice is required to get your own eye honed. This is a camera that lets you do that. HDSLR cameras changed what was possible, without a doubt. At their very best though, they were always photography cameras that were enabled to shoot high quality moving images and provide us the miracle of photographic lenses for our images and depths of field. The Blackmagic is a “cinema camera,” intended for what we do (while still allowing us the relatively cheaper beauty of photographic lenses).

Get the best camera you can afford and shoot as much as you can. A year into this little experiment out of Australia, the best camera that can be afforded is able of delivering some pretty exceptional images.

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