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BlackMagic Design's Cinema Camera is a 2.5K RAW Shooter with Built-in Monitor and Recorder for $3K

04.16.12 @ 2:00PM Tags : , , , ,

Holy cow. What if I told you BlackMagic Design was introducing a 2.5K resolution, 13-stop dynamic range, RAW-shooting (with format-agnostic ProRes/CinemaDNG/DNxHD options), Thunderbolt-connected, built-in touchscreen LCD, SSD-recording camera that comes with the new version of Resolve 9 color correction software… all for $3,000? You’d say, “what’s the catch?” Looks like the only catch is a 15.6 mm x 8.8 mm (active) sensor size, which makes it a S16 camera, not a S35. Still, for that price and with those options — this is a seriously disruptive camera and one that targets the HDSLR space perfectly.


If you don’t think S16 is a large enough sensor, keep in mind that it’s been used to shoot a million features lately, including Darren Aronofsky’s most recent (The Wrestler and Black Swan), as well as this year’s Sundance-winning Beasts of the Southern Wild. Also, BlackMagic was wise to make this a Canon EF mount camera — PL glass is so expensive that a lot more of their target customers will already have Canon lenses lying around than will have PL lenses. Finally, the fact that it has a built-in recorder and monitor means it has the ease of use that most shooters want — spec sheets be damned. And it takes standard 2.5″ SSDs — you are not tied to one (overpriced) brand of media, as you are with RED or (quite often) Sony. The flipside is that many believe that standard SSD connectors were not designed for frequent insertion/removal; time will tell.

The fact that it’s a S16 RAW camera makes it a competitor to the Digital Bolex camera we mentioned previously, though I would note the fact that BlackMagic is an established company — and the fact that it comes with the full version of Resolve and Ultrascope — makes this one more appealing in theory.

There are video samples here by cinematographer John Brawley. For the most part the images look very good — the only area they seem to fall a bit short compared to the best cameras out there is in low-light, which is to be expected given the smaller sensor size. Also, in the Beach Dusk sample there are numerous stuck/dead pixels — presumably BlackMagic will work these out by the time a final camera is shipping (slated for July). Note of course that I’m judging compressed Vimeo samples, and I’m judging them against cameras that cost a lot more.

Images of the $3K shooter are below, as is the full press release and link to BlackMagic’s official product page. It looks like if you were thinking about getting one of the new $3k DSLRs, like the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III, now you’ve got something else to seriously consider. We will do our best to get our hands on one of these units ASAP!

Link: BlackMagic Design Cinema Camera

Press Release

LAS VEGAS, Apr 16, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Blackmagic Design today announced Blackmagic Cinema Camera, a revolutionary digital cinema camera design that includes powerful features such as super wide 13 stops of dynamic range, high resolution 2.5K sensor, built in high bandwidth SSD recorder, open file format support, color correction with full version of DaVinci Resolve and a built in LCD with metadata entry, all in an attractive compact design for only US$2,995.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera will be demonstrated on the Blackmagic Design NAB 2012 booth at #SL220.

Many current generation video cameras suffer from a “video look” due to a limited contrast range, a maximum HD resolution sensor, poor quality optics and lenses, the use of heavy video compression for file recording and poor integration with NLE software metadata management. With these limitations, they cannot be used for high end work or feature films.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera has been designed to eliminate these problems so customers get a true feature film look, and at an affordable cost can shoot high end television commercials, episodic television programming and feature films.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes a super wide 13 stops of dynamic range, large 2.5K sensor, a built in SSD recorder that has the bandwidth to capture open standard CinemaDNG RAW, ProRes and DNxHD files, a built in capacitive touch screen LCD for direct metadata entry, standard jack audio connections, built in high-speed Thunderbolt connection, 3 Gb/s SDI output, a refrigerated sensor for low noise, and is fully compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF mount lenses.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera also includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve for color correction and Blackmagic UltraScope software for waveform monitoring. UltraScope can be run on a laptop connected to the camera via a Thunderbolt connection.

One of the most important features of the camera is its super wide dynamic range of 13 stops, allowing feature film quality images. Commonly people focus on more pixels, however often this just creates a higher resolution, but still “video” looking images that suffer from highlight and black clipping that limits details. Blackmagic Cinema Camera’s wide dynamic range eliminates this problem and provides film quality with dramatically more detail retained in black and whites in the image. Once the shoot is complete, the included DaVinci Resolve color correction software can be used to adjust images and take advantage of this extra range in the images. The high quality EF and ZF lens compatibility also helps create sharp and cinematic images that look incredible.

To eliminate the damage that low bit depth and high compression video storage creates, Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes a fast SSD recorder. The built in SSD recorder can record on fast solid state disks the full sensor detail in 12 bit Log RAW files in the open standard CinemaDNG format. These files can be read by all high end video software. The full 2.5K sensor data is stored in the files completely uncompressed because the SSD has the speed to store video data at the required rate. Then this high quality file can be color corrected on DaVinci Resolve for the same high quality result currently only possible on cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera has been designed as the perfect companion to Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer NLE software. Unlike other cameras, which require the use of custom video file formats that are not compatible with popular NLE software, often making the post production process a nightmare, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes absolutely no custom video file formats, and every file type included is open standard. It records into Cinema DNG format for RAW files, ProRes and DNxHD for HD resolution files compatible with Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer.

The built in large LCD display makes focus easy, and allows playback of captured files. Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes a built in microphone, as well as external jack based mic/line level balanced audio connections. When playing back recorded clips, a speaker is built in, and there is an included headphone socket, as well as embedded audio on the SDI output and Thunderbolt connection. The SDI output includes all camera data such as timecode, transport control, shutter angle, color temperature setting and ASA information overlaid in attractive antialiased fonts.

For easy metadata entry, the built in LCD features fast and responsive capacitive touch screen technology. When the user taps the display with a finger, a data entry window called the “slate” appears. This lets the user enter shot information just like typing on a smart phone. This data is then stored in the files so can be accessed by NLE software when editing content later. Metadata is compatible with popular software such as Final Cut Pro X and DaVinci Resolve. All camera settings can be changed on this touch LCD, such as frame rate, shutter angle, color temperature, dynamic range, focus assist settings and more.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes an innovative industrial design built from solid machined aluminum metal which results in an attractive but rugged design. All of the camera, recorder and display have been shrunk down into a lightweight design that’s very portable.

“This is one of the most exciting products we have ever created and its been a work in progress for a very long time,” said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design. “Ever since I was a telecine engineer back in the 1990′s I have wished that video cameras would include features that allowed them to perform creatively similar to film. However current digital cameras are too heavy, way too expensive and need costly accessories to work. We felt there was a need for a camera that delivered these features in a design that’s optimized for professional video shoots, as well as being a compact, elegant design that’s easily affordable. We think we have achieved that!”

Blackmagic Cinema Camera Key Features

  • High resolution 2.5K sensor allows improved anti aliasing and reframing shots.
  • Super wide 13 stops of dynamic range allows capture of increased details for feature film look.
  • Built in SSD allows high bandwidth recording of RAW video and long duration compressed video.
  • Open file formats compatible with popular NLE software such as CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. No custom file formats.
  • Includes no custom connections. Standard jack mic/line audio in, BNC 3 Gb/s SDI out, headphone, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, LANC remote control and standard DC 12-30V power connection.
  • Capacitive touch screen LCD for camera settings and “slate” metadata entry.
  • Compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses.
  • Supports 2.5K and 1080HD resolution capture in 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.
  • Thunderbolt connection allows direct camera capture via included Media Express software and supports live waveform monitoring via the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
  • Includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve 9.0 color grading software.

Availability and Price

Blackmagic Cinema Camera will be available July 2012 for US$2,995 from Blackmagic Design resellers worldwide.

Related Posts

  1. NAB Roundup: Monitor/Field Recorders from Atomos, Sound Devices, Convergent Design, and Blackmagic
  2. Convergent Design Announces Gemini 4:4:4 Uncompressed Field Recorder/Monitor for $6k
  3. DaVinci Resolve Lite is the Free Version of a $29,995 Color Grading Suite

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  • I was literally anxiously excited about this camera until I heard one complete deal breaker.

    It has an “internal” battery with a 2 hour re-charge time and a 90 minute (probably 60 minute real world running capacity)

    That completely blows! An internal battery are you kidding me? Forget using this thing for Documentary work, Event work and Abroard.

    Bummed.

    • You just need an adapter and you can connect almost any battery to it. I don’t think this is a big issue, just because Canon batteries don’t slide into it doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

      • I’m with you on this. I just think of it as batter holder is not inside the camera. It will just be an add-on sitting underneath it on a tripod. And the reason for that is just the small size. But, if you did need to do something quick, then you’d have an hour or so of batter life. I don’t see that as a big deal really. I think if they had included a batter slot, then there probably wouldn’t have been enough room to fit SSD cards. And to me, if you said “you can have either SSD cards and and add-on battery; or SDHC cards and a battery slot,” I’d pick the first option. I’m not a camera designer, so I don’t know if there was another way to do it, but in the end, there is only so much real estate on a body this size.

        • sorry, for some reason my “y” key wasn’t clicking in when I was typing “battery” lol.

    • battery pack BOOM

  • Damen Stephens on 04.19.12 @ 3:50PM

    It’s not a “ZF” mount camera – That is Zeiss’s Nikon mount. Whilst Nikon lenses can be used on a Canon EF camera an adaptor is required and auto-iris etc. is not supported. This camera uses Zeiss ZE lenses !!

  • does this camera shoot at 60fps on a lower resolution or is 30 fps the highest it goes i shoot alot of sport videograpghy and as such shoot alot of my videos at 60fps so i can later slo it down in post

  • The Thunderbolt out will not be very useful for PC users – such as me, at least for a while. No PC’s have Thunderbolt available and, according to Intel, it cannot be added using a card – it has to be integrated onto the motherboard. It will be interesting to see how BMD handles the certified motherboards for use with Resolve when none of them currently have Thunderbolt. Ultrascope currently uses an external device to connect to PCs. I’d love a Mac, but the conversion cost would be more than the camera.

    • Don’t believe everything they say, with the lightpeak demo they used PCI cards. ;)
      You can find it on youtube.

  • I like the possibility of this camera, but I was concerned about the crop factor. What lenses would be best for this kind of sensor?

    Or what would the math be to figure out what lenses would really be after the crop factor? Just don’t want to waste money on lenses, or not get what I’m paying for. I’m thinking about getting this camera, got my preorder form already, yeah!!

    Now I’m trying to figure out lenses.

  • I like the possibility of this camera, but I was concerned about the crop factor. What lenses would be best for this kind of sensor?

    Or what would the math be to figure out what lenses would really be after the crop factor? Just don’t want to waste money on lenses, or not get what I’m paying for. I’m thinking about getting this camera, got my preorder form ready to go, yeah!!

  • Does anybody have an idea why they desided to go with such a non standard sensor size with that mount combination?

    I don’t wanna complain, just understand. I don’t have a problem with a 16mm-ish sized seonsor, as long as I got the right lenses for it. All the good 16mm lenses are PL mounts (as far as I know) that start from even 6mm (which is around 12mm on a 5D, correct me if I’m wrong), so you can go really wide if you want. But those will not fit the mount of this camera. Why not just make the sonsor a little larger, so all the canon lenses would be very usefull also in wide angles? Would it have raised the cost of the camera that much?

    I just hope, that soon there will be fast wide lenses for that camera.

    What do you think?

    • Because they didn’t design the sensor, they took one that someone else is already fabricating. They probably balanced cost, sensor size, and resolution and that’s the best option.

      The mounts on the camera make sense because the widest range of lenses that are cheap and most people are using are Nikon and Canon mount.

      The sensor is too big for super 16mm, and people buying a $3000 camera probably can’t afford PL lenses.

      The only other option is that they could have made a mount that was very close to the sensor and just allowed any lens to be used with an adapter. But they were trying to keep it simple and easy. The only thing you need to buy with this camera is an SSD drive and you’re shooting immediately (since so many people have Nikon and Canon lenses).

  • An APS-C sensor can’t be that expensive. I got this Sony NEX-C3 recently whic has a really good APS-C sensor. The camera is super small and costs like 250 bucks – so what’s the problem with APS-C?

    They could have at least gave it a four-thirds sensor and mount. With the weird non-standard sensor size you will always struggle to find good wide-angle lenses? You’ll need something around 12mm on this camera to get a 28mm equivalent wide angle. I never heard of a good 12mm prime lens, you’ll have to get one of the full frame fisheye lenses or super wide-angle zooms. And I don’t even know how a FF fisheye performs on a 2.x crop sensor – can that be any good?

  • Does anyone have an idea how the footage from this camera would cut with that of a MDII or T3i? Would this create a good A/B camera combo?

  • So Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses mount to this camera? Isn’t ZF a Nikon mount? Would Nikon lenses then work with this camera?

    • I believe it was a typo, because it is now referred to as ZE – which is the Canon mount Zeiss lens. So Nikon lenses will work with an adapter – but it will not be native.

  • Well, no, it doesn’t target the HDSLR market perfectly, unless this does good still photography as well? The selling point of HDSLRs is that they can do both HD video and stills, I see no information to suggest this does anything but video — albeit with better quality video than most HDSLRs at a still reasonable price.

  • stuck pixels in the test video done on the beach… three of them.

  • This Camera is really catching my eyes, I was planning to buy the Canon 5D Mark III for mostly video use. I am currently studying interactive media and I’m building my skills towards video making. I am an amateur, so I am confused on some specs on the BM video camera. The sensor of this camera has a crop factor 2.3 which doesn’t bother me at all, the only thing that I’m conceded is the DOF that I will get out of the sensor. This question mind sound silly for some of you but I’m new into understanding sensors! Will iI get more or less DOP compared to the 5D Mark3?

    Also do you guys think they will release a firmware which will allow the shoot of at least 60fps? Maybe Magic Lantern?

    Cheers!

  • I like most things about this camera.

    A little bummed about the 30fps cap, no audio level meters, no real timecode and the exclusion of HDMI for a low cost monitoring solution (although SDI is needed for most pro situations it is much more expensive to accommodate on a budget… so the $3000 budget friendly camera gets more expensive). Only big complaint: For a camera that is touting non-proprietary everything… It sure seems geared for a Mac! “Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD (No custom file formats? FCP and Avid seem custom to me)… Thunderbolt… Mac formatted ssd.” It seems to penalize PC owners. We have to buy special software and hardware to use the camera…. And the budget friendly camera gets more expensive…

    With that said… I can’t wait to get one of these. I love the possibilities that it offers. I love that BMD stepped up to the plate and handed the RAW 12 bit, high dynamic range, film like option to us at a decent price point. Stepping outside of the box and going where no one else would go was gutsy and appreciated. So nice to have the options ;)….

  • Why does 60fps matter so much to people? What films are made in 60fps?

    • 60fps at 1080p for slow motion – 60fps played back in a 24fps timeline gets you better slow motion than 30fps.

  • Without a Thunderbolt connection, how do I get the video from this camera to my Windows pc? Do they make SSD readers that plug into a pc like a compact flash reader, etc? Thanx everyone.

    • you can get a usb sata HDD enclosure to copy the files, it will act just like an external HDD

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