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June 25, 2012

Blackmagic is Listening, Requested Feature Added to the Cinema Camera

While most companies listen to their consumers to a point, it’s not always clear which ones are actually hearing said consumers. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera has been featured on this site quite a bit — mostly because it's a product many have been looking for: a low-cost option that records to quality codecs without bulky recorders and resolves a full 1080. Blackmagic has done two better, and is offering RAW recording in-camera as well as their professional DaVinci Resolve color corrector all for $3,000 (same price as the Nikon D800 - though the sensor on the Blackmagic camera is not full frame 35mm, it's between MFT and Super 16mm).

We’ve now gotten word from John Brawley that the camera’s firmware is being finalized and it seems Blackmagic is actually listening to suggestions. The camera was originally only going to ship with three options for white balance in its ProRes and DNxHD modes, but now we’re going to get six: 3200K, 4500K, 5000K, 5600K, 6500K and 7500K. This picture appeared on John Brawley's blog showing one of the new white balance settings:

The other problem that many had noticed were the dead/hot pixels in the only test footage that has been released so far. According to Brawley, they have been working hard on the sensor calibration, and those dead/hot pixels are nowhere to be found. From a conversation I had with him on Twitter, it seems like hot pixels shouldn’t be a problem as they have been on DSLRs. Also of note, there is no phantom power -- at least not yet, but there is an on-board mic which should work well as reference audio for syncing sound if you are using dual-system.

The most interesting thing about this camera is that it seems both professionals and amateurs alike are excited by the possibilities. As you can see in these pictures from a French rental house, people are going to get professional lenses on this little guy in no time:

It looks to me like those lenses have been adapted to Canon mount, as most of the PL to Canon adapters I have seen are very large and tend to protrude from the sides -- but it's also possible that it's an adapter I've never seen before. Just like with the Canon DSLRs, a PL mod or lens adapter should work with some lenses. It may only be a matter of time until we see people modding the lens mount to accomplish this task. I've got ideas about modding the entire front with a Micro 4/3s mount, but I'll have to wait and get the camera before I can see if that's feasible. As with any mods, they will certainly render your warranty useless -- so everything should be done with that knowledge.

Too often we have to deal with a tremendous amount of compromises in independent film, and for once a manufacturer is delivering a relatively inexpensive option that resolves a true 1080 image, as well as all sorts of professional quality codecs in-camera without having to spend another penny. Of course, specs don't always tell the whole story, and it will be interesting to see some uncompressed video straight from the camera to really see how it performs.

Link: Blackmagic Cinema Camera Test Footage - Vimeo

[via John Brawley Blog & PhotoCineRent]

Your Comment

119 Comments

Nice information, once again. This also solidifies that Blackmagic may be just as committed to it's consumers as I am to getting one, or two, of these. Great job Joe, Keep 'em coming.

June 25, 2012

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Black Magic is setting themselves up for massive success if they can handle the quantity of feedback and support requests associated with selling these puppies out to both pros and amateurs alike. I'm really hopeful they can pull it off and this little nugget does a good job to say "we care and we listen", which like the price, is ground few other companies are willing to tread.

Anyhow, for a project coming in the next couple months I'm really torn between this camera and a D800. I already have a DSLR for sheer flexibility and lightweight recording, but if this produces amazing pictures with fast lenses then I'm sold. That dynamic range and full copy of Resolve are just too tempting.

Oh and I had to laugh at those pics. It looks like a Sony NEX5N with a 35mm 2.8 lens, only with both the body and the lenses on steroids.

June 25, 2012

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No any confirmations about Higher frame rates?

June 25, 2012

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I think the hardware, not the sensor, might be limited to 30fps - at least from what Brawley says. They haven't ruled out higher frame rates down the road in a firmware update, but 30fps was the priority for obvious reasons.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

That the only thing stopping my enthusiasm. Higher and lower frame rates.

June 29, 2012

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Haqi

I still don't get this camera for anything but low budget narrative work accompanied with a very discerning cinematographer. Doc's nope, the post back end is to huge. I am really keen to hear from filmmakers WHAT THEY INTEND TO BUY THIS CAM FOR?

June 25, 2012

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Dan

You wouldn't want to shoot a doc in ProRes or DNxHD? I know I sure would. Having Log also means more room for accidental overexposure when running and gunning.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Yeah I'd love to shoot a doc straight into ProRes. In fact a doc is what I'm hoping to buy this camera for. It would certainly save me all the transcoding time that my workflow normally involves shooting DSLR.

The alternative is to buy a $1000 Atomos Ninja, and a $3000 D800, to accomplish the same thing without hacking (hacks are great but I wouldn't hang my livelihood on a hacked camera, sorry), so right there the Blackmagic camera is ahead. Even after adding the cost of a couple 200+GB SSD's, I'm still looking at less money than a DSLR with all it's associated DSLR-ish shortcomings. That said the aesthetic of a full frame versus this 16mm-ish camera is quite different, but again, for a doc I'm not terribly concerned with shallow DoF BEYOND what I could get here with f1.4-2.8-ish glass.

I don't see any huge pitfalls using this for a doc or narrative work. RAW? Maybe if I used it but I kind of doubt I will for most things.

June 25, 2012

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I'm not entirely sure what people mean when they say S16 has a different aesthetic than S35. I don't know film stocks so maybe there's a difference in film grain size when blowing up from an actual negative? But adjusting for the crop factor and DOF with wider and faster lenses, wouldn't the aesthetic be more or less the same? If I'm missing something please inform me!

June 25, 2012

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Scott

Someone's gonna make a killer feature with this thing that'll win all sorts of awards and launch their career. We've gotten to where the camera's not the limiting factor in filmmaking, finally. It's us.

June 25, 2012

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Achieving the same35mm DOF and field of view characteristics on a substantially smaller sensor is difficult -- you can arrive at the 35mm equivalent on paper easily enough, but achieving that much in the field is another matter. Fast, wide lenses aren't that easy to come by in low budget productoins, and add production difficulties.

The other differences between S16 and 35mm -- grain and, to some extent, dynamic range -- may or may not be meaningful as analogies, with respect to this sensor. If it really delivers 13 stops and achieve full 1080p resolution, that part of the analogy wouldn't seem relevant.

On the other hand, DOF, like so many other technical preoccupations, has very little to do with whether anyone will care to watch your movie or not.

June 25, 2012

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geraldH

As others have pointed out, it's down to things like grain, shallow depth of field, and dynamic range. Honestly I think the camera has all of these enough under control to yield a brilliant image. Joe Marine pointed out in the last post that mentioned the Blackmagic camera that with lenses around 1.4-2.0 you could have roughly equivalent DoF as a full frame at f4. I think a lot of people are starting to move away from the ultra-shallow DoF as they realize that shots with 90% of the image out of focus, and 100% out of focus if the subject moves, is a bit overrated. My personal take is that I shoot at f4 so I have a chance of actually holding focus. If it's dark or for special circumstances I go more open, but I'm just now realizing that in the films I love, crazy-go-nuts shallow DoF isn't really the look.

June 25, 2012

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I appreciate the info guys, thanks.

June 25, 2012

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Scott

One factor I haven't heard people talk about much with s-16mm vs 35mm...sharpness...apparent sharpness...it's more about factors of perception than technical resolving power...

A smaller depth of field throws more of the frame out of focus...leaving the impression that the area of the frame that is in focus is sharper. Lighting things more contrasty that you typically would for 35mm helps drastically.

I shot a 16mm feature several years ago, and in a couple scenes, the director & producer were really stoked..."this looks like a *real* movie!"... And years later, looking back on it...one of the specific shots they really liked was a shot with a macro...with the subject inches from the from the lens, the depth of field was as small as it can get...and...thank god they didn't offer up any money for lights, so we just used a couple things I owned at the time...so that meant we were shooting wide open...

...but when we were shooting outdoors in daylight (without ND, of course, because all that stuff costs money---we just had my Pola that we'd use whenever we could)...particularly with wide angle lenses (you know...handheld or in a wheelchair cuz dollies cost too much and draw too much attention and take too long to set up when you don't have permits or time)...it looked awful. It takes a good DP with the right resources to make it look good, but it can be done. At least the BMC won't have the sharpness problems 16mm can have.

With 35mm, there were almost never the same problems Flying Radish Alec talks about b/c 1) film stocks were limited to 500ASA (Kodak makes an 800 now, but I'm talking about before the past couple years since digital took over)...so just to get an image, people would light it...and almost anyone shooting in 35mm was a professional that knows how to light or else they wouldn't have the opportunity to shoot in that format! And les not forget that 35mm movie lenses rarely even opened up to more than f2.8 (or more) except zeiss superspeeds

June 30, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

...and similarly priced lenses...which were only in the hands of pros and not amateurs. The shallow depth thing where people shift their weight or tilt their heads and are out of focus didn't really happen very often. DP's would light to a usable stop.

You combine fast ISO w/ people who spent all their money on cameras instead of lights...and combine them with non-professional AC's (or no AC's) and shoot handheld (where the focus distance is likely to move or not be as precise) and it's gonna look soft half of the time. ...like all this amateur stuff you see all the time.

June 30, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

The codec isn't the reason not to shoot a doc on this. But unless you're shooting something super controlled, you'd be insane to shoot with something that only has an internal battery...and no external buttons for on-the-fly settings tweaking.

(Sure, you can connect some external battery pack, but that's just more crap to carry...for me, the lack of switchable batteries is a total dealbreaker...and if having an internal battery becomes the norm for other companies in future cameras, I'm going to kill myself.)

June 25, 2012

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some people are never happy. Maybe if they added a big battery compartment and then charged $7000 for it. Would you be happy then?

June 28, 2012

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I'm stoked that modern cameras almost all can run off of A/B or V-mount...with film cameras, you have to have the god awful battery belts (picture a diver's weight belt) if you're shooting handheld, (or an AC is running after you hand carrying it). If it was on sticks, the battery was the size of an ammo box or larger (sometimes it was *in* an ammo box) and you would either have to disconnect it (and lose power), or synchronize your camera move with multiple operators/AC's so someone could pick up the battery b/c it's too heavy/bulky to be attached to the camera or tripod.

I'm picturing Mr. Pink playing the world's smallest violin...just for the consumer camera operators who can't deal with a 1.72lb IDX battery (the IDXE-10) that will probably have enough juice to run that camera ALL DAY.

Heh heh...

June 30, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

I can live with it, as you said you can attach external batteries, and because of the internal battery you can hot-swap you external ones. If you're gonna need a counterweight on your rig, it might as well be a battery.

July 1, 2012

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Ralph

I will be doing a docu on this camera. But I will also be making features and shorts.

June 25, 2012

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ZIM

the deal killer for me is the media ..... it's another $3K for a bag of ssd's. and the powering issues sound a bit onerous.

June 25, 2012

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timeoutofmind

SSDs are about a dollar a gigabyte now, what in the world would you need 3 Terabytes of SSD drives for? That's 7 hours of RAW footage (a lot more with ProRes and DNxHD) - wouldn't you be offloading cards each day?

As for the power - I don't know how it's that big of an issue - people are buying all sorts of Apple products with internal, non-removable batteries. At least here, you've got almost unlimited options for connecting external batteries or plugging the camera in, and not only powering the camera, but charging the internal battery. The above example with the Anton Bauer battery pack on the back is a good setup most filmmakers could emulate for film-style shooting.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Yeah I haven't really understood all the "battery life is the downfall of this camera" Maybe a bit of a DSLR mindset hangover I guess? V mounts are easy to buy and not that expensive.

June 25, 2012

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Lliam Worthington

I can easily shoot 2 hours of footage a day. That would cost me $1500, using recommended SSDs. It is quite expensive, but the camera seems worthy of that investment.

June 25, 2012

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FabDex

$1500? You can get the Crucial M4 512GB, which is on the list for $349 on Amazon. Thats one hour, add another, you got 2 hours for $698 +Free Shipping http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-2-5-Inch-Solid-State-CT512M4SSD2/dp/B004W2...

June 25, 2012

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ZIM

Oh, yea, and thats only if you shooting raw, thats 10 hours in ProRes.

June 25, 2012

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ZIM

...because carrying a bunch of extra batteries and cords around is a pain in the ass? If you're shooting a narrative, sure, it's whatever, just throw some extra batteries in the trunk. But not everyone shoots narrative! And I'd much rather carry around a few extra batteries than carry around a few extra batteries PLUS whatever unit they need to be inserted into PLUS the cord to connect that to the Blackmagic, and then on top of that have to figure out some way of carrying that while shooting, not getting anything caught in the wires, etc.

Is it an insurmountable problem? No. But it's baffling, because it could have been totally avoided by just letting the thing use replacable batteries. And guess what, if you wanted, you could STILL connect an external battery pack and charge the camera while charging that battery, too! Why NOT give people that option?

Sure, people are buying Apple products with non-removable batteries...and then they're bitching about it when those batteries die and Apple charges them $200 and a couple trips to the Apple Store to replace them. Just because "people are buying" something does not make it desirable, good, correct, or justified. There is NOTHING good about an internal, non-removable battery for anyone except the company selling the product. It provides zero advantage whatsoever to the consumer, and considerable DISADVANTAGES whenever it breaks or runs out of battery somewhere where you can't charge it (or don't have time to).

Also I don't understand why everyone is so excited about how an external battery powers the camera "while charging the internal battery." That also drains the external battery; it's not like that somehow magically adds extra time to the amount of time you can shoot before having to plug the thing in...

June 25, 2012

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Apple say on their site that making the battery non-removable saves space that would be used for catches, screws, extra casing and more that would be needed with a removable battery. It also makes the case stronger because it's all one part. Since Blackmagic have built this camera in a similar way (one piece of metal for the body) it likely makes the same strength difference for them.

June 25, 2012

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Yes, and Blackmagic has said this on numerous occasions, that building it out of a solid piece of aluminum didn't leave them much choice about the battery. It allowed the camera to be cheaper and smaller - so that was the trade-off. Making a removable battery would have increased the cost dramatically because they would have had to be completely redesigned the camera body.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

To me, that sounds like a design error on their part in the first place, though. There are literally hundreds of cameras cheaper than theirs that have removable batteries, so if their design didn't allow for one, whose fault is that? Using one piece of metal is a nice gimmick, but why should consumers care? Is it THAT much stronger than other cameras? Is extreme camera durability a more important issue than battery life?

I shoot only docs, and for the past year I've been shooting a doc in rural China. Since I'm not rich, this involves dragging my camera onto trains and buses and into situations where it gets banged up and pushed around with some frequency. I'm shooting mostly with the 60D (cheaper than the blackmagic, and has replaceable batteries) and despite the fact that it ISN'T made out of one solid piece of metal, it's totally fine. To me, the choice between a camera with an uber-hard body or a camera with replaceable batteries is REALLY easy -- and I feel like I'm the sort of guy who camera durability is more important to than the average shooter.

I really don't think whatever extra strength it adds provides much value to consumers, especially since half the device is an easily-broken touchscreen that the single-piece aluminum body can't really protect. Plus, I haven't seen a single comment thread on this site where people were talking about how they wished cameras were stronger, or had internal batteries. Not saying the Blackmagic is a bad camera, but the internal battery is a bad idea and I wish people would stop pretending otherwise. For consumers. It's great for Blackmagic though, because when your battery dies -- and it will die, they always do -- you've got to come to them to replace it. And since that's a pain in the ass to do, they get to charge you a service charge on top of whatever inflated price they're charging for first-party batteries.

As far as what Apple says about internal batteries, believe it if you like. As an Apple user for more than ten years, it is abundantly clear to me that Apple hardware was much more solidly built ten years ago than it is now, unibody and internal battery or no. And when I recently switched from an iPhone to Android, I was a bit surprised to discover that it's totally possible to have a phone that functions just as well as an iPhone and is just as compact, but still has an easily replaceable battery, SIM card, AND microSD card. Imagine that! If Apple's designers are really so incredible, I'm pretty sure they could come up with an elegant way to give consumers the option of a replaceable battery. Why don't they? Because they make buckets of money off battery replacement and repairs. Heck, across my Apple devices over the past three years, they've probably gotten around $700 off me they never would have if their batteries were easily replaceable (counting the cost of AppleCare, because the primary reason I buy that these days is my knowledge that Apple batteries are crap and often die within a year or two).

June 25, 2012

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An external battery drastically helps make small camera balance like big cameras (small cameras as shaky...look at camera phones and GoPros that aren't hard mounted to things). You build out rails to have some weight in the back...this makes it infinitely more ergonomic and comfortable when your handheld all day...to picture what I'm talking about, picture holding a 2x4 on your shoulder and you're walking somewhere with it. Where are you gonna hold it? For an 8' 2x4, you'd balance it in the middle of your shoulder (4' in either direction)...you're not gonna hold it with 2' out one direction and 6' out the other...

That's what operating a little baby camera all day is like...your arm is gonna get sore...and the extra weight just helps stabilize the camera...Newton's 1st law...a body at rest tends to stay at rest... The heavier it is, the more inertia required to make it shake. (of course for this to work, the camera needs to be balanced well)

As far as the time it takes building it up...that's easy as pie...I keep my V-mount mounted to my rails (along with an arm for the monitor) and other things sometimes...it still fits in a much smaller pelican case that a professional video camera. If we're shooting with D-SLR's, the camera can go in the case as well, already built.

Looking at it another way...with all the pro camera features built into this camera, there is no way they intend it's targeted users to use this camera mostly with the internal battery (except to catch something quickly...etc...)...it's probably there for the purpose of being able to hot swap batteries without powering down.

June 30, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Simple, if your short on money, buy a 512GB Cruicial for $349! on Amazon and then record in ProRes, which gives you about 5 hours of footage, then offload it to cheaper 3TB hard drives at home.

http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-2-5-Inch-Solid-State-CT512M4SSD2/dp/B004W2...

June 25, 2012

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ZIM

I think that battery setup is a bit misleading. It's powering the other devices on the rig not the BMD CC itself. I don't think there has been a connector made to use it with any battery setup as of yet. I could be incorrect.

July 5, 2012

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Jo

Those setups can also be used to power the camera even if they aren't in that configuration. The connector on the Blackmagic camera is a simple 12v-30v DC port - there are plenty of options that exist for connecting batteries to that port.

Here is one of John Brawley's power setups with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera:

http://twitter.com/brawlster/status/219654802685173761/photo/1

July 5, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

How onerous is a $100 battery plate and a few hundred bucks in v-lock batteries? If you're running an EVF and even a couple of powered accessories it's actually cheaper than buying (like I have done) 6-8 camera brand batteries to power everything, and chargers to keep it all powered on a shoot.

I don't get the bag of SSDs thing either. If you shoot ProRes you only need a couple drives. Hell even if you shoot RAW you probably only need maybe 3 256GB SSDs so you can shoot with one, pull it out, use an eSATA connection to a notebook to dump the footage, and then keep filming while that's going on for a few minutes. Cycle. Rinse. Repeat. That said you should probably show up to said job with a 4-8TB RAID array also attached to the ingest notebook, or at least a couple 3TB external HD's.

June 25, 2012

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I'm with you, Alec - and honestly, how many of us would really need to shoot RAW most of the time anyway? I'd wager for a lot of projects the ProRes would be more than sufficient. And if we were shooting a feature for the screen, I'd hope the budget would have room in it for a couple hundred bucks' worth of SSDs.

June 25, 2012

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RAW is a whole massive file size thing I don't care to go down just yet. I can understand why it gets expensive quickly, especially as you deal with big-ass drive arrays and keeping things in duplicate if not triplicate.

But hey, first I'd have to be good enough for RAW to matter long after camera moves, writing, lighting, acting, sound, and everything else is as good as it can be. Frankly if something like 28 Days Later can be filmed on a XL1 and to this day still be a stupidly well made movie that I enjoy watching, I can get by with ProRes and a flat picture profile.

June 25, 2012

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AGREED!!

June 26, 2012

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Daniel

when i'm in the field, or in a canvernous convention hall, or on a construction site, i have to be portable. i can't book time to run back to my car every 90 minutes and download files off an ssd, OR a card.

and as it is .... shooting on a 5d mkii, i'm schlepping batteries for an LED light or two, batteries for a juicedlink pre-amp, batteries for the 5d, and cables to loop it all together. it's an process and a half i don't need.

June 25, 2012

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timeoutofmind

Year that´s probably true but that same problem you have with Red Cameras and they are MUCH more expensive. :)

That´s just a problem with RAW because u can´t just record on a SD-Card.

But im still suspicious with the camera as well, i mean do you remember how everyone was soo excited because of the new final cut.... :)

June 25, 2012

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TGX

ooops. Joe was faster!

June 25, 2012

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TGX

I want one... as soon as they stick a super 35 sensor in there.

June 25, 2012

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dixter

I know how you feel, but I think actually a more legitimate reason to want to stay away would be the lack of Micro 4/3s mount. We've talked about this before, but you can get plenty shallow with a Micro 4/3s sensor, and shooting wide open will look more like how many television and movies shoot their films: f/2.8 or higher.

Personally for me, there is a still a place for larger sensor cameras, simply for their look, but also there's a slickness to shallower depth of field that you don't get when a lot more of the frame is in focus. I think this will work great if you pick the right projects to shoot with it. For example, I'm not sure if this would be the best camera to shoot a slick, higher end science fiction film. From the images I have seen it feels like more of a smaller narrative and doc camera. But from the depth of field calculations I've shown you before, if you really want that shallowness you can shoot wide open.

When it comes down to it - what's the real advantage of a larger sensor? I mean lens choices, for one, but if everything else is equal, this image will far surpass any of the DSLRs that have much larger sensors.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I'm really excited to see footage from the camera once it starts shipping. And as a GH2 shooter, I agree completely with you Joe. I'd bet a kit with a Tokina 11-16mm and some old Nikon glass (28mm and 50mm primes) would be plenty to work with.

June 25, 2012

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And I thought those Tokinas were popular now!

June 29, 2012

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Jules

as a gh2 shooter, you may graduate to ag af100 with great success. World camera too, not stuck with regions, planty of features as standard

August 7, 2012

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alan b'stard M P

I hear you but, for me it's a matter of lens choices. I don't want to have to shoot wide open to get a shallow DOF. If BMD put a big chip in the thing and slapped a 6-8K price on it... goodbye Canon, Nikon, Sony and the rest of them (in their current structure, at least). BMD would clean up.
I still do not understand why, if a company like BM can do this, they, or someone else, (Nikon?) can't give us the camera we all really want.
But, it's great that somebody is, finally, poking the giants with sharp sticks.

June 25, 2012

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dixter

The big advantage that Blackmagic has is that they have already built all of this hardware - they've done it, they just needed the imaging part of the pipeline. If Blackmagic could have done a large sensor camera for that money I believe they would have. I think at the moment the profit just isn't there yet, the sensors are too expensive as well as the additional internal hardware in the imaging pipeline.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

OK but, Sony's got the FS100 and 700 in the ballpark of the $ I referred to previously... $6-8K. Is it because Sony can buy (or make) big sensors cheaper than BM can buy them? I think even if BM raised the price to 9K (for a S35), with all the other stuff going for it, they probably couldn't make them fast enough. $3K for the little one and $8 or 9K for the big one.

June 25, 2012

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dixter

Yes Sony makes their own sensors and they are a big company - they can spread the wealth around. Even though they just lost $6 billion dollars in the last year, they are still doing fine, which just shows you how much of a Goliath they are. They are now investing almost $1 billion in CMOS sensor technology (mostly of the cell phone camera variety), so they have a lot of money to play with. They can afford to sell something at a loss if they really want, but Blackmagic cannot. I don't know the details of what the exact same camera with a bigger sensor would cost, but it's not clear at the moment that they could find an off-the-shelf sensor that would have the same specs as this little one, and if the specs go down, that would make Sony's offerings a lot more enticing. I think they will do it, but they are taking the right approach. Make a good camera that works for not a lot of money and use that demand to create a following for a larger sensor camera down the road.

June 25, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

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