Description image

A Mini Alexa for $3,000? New Blackmagic Cinema Camera Clip Proves Comparison Isn't That Far-Fetched

08.7.12 @ 5:49PM Tags : , , ,

Depending on your level of excitement for the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera, the picture on the left is very promising. There has been plenty of skepticism regarding the BMCC and the suggested retail price (and certainly the image quality), but every single piece of footage just continues to improve the prospects of this camera. The fact that you can get an image like the picture on the left, is just astounding, and it shows just how flexible this camera will be. John Brawley has thus far been the only DP allowed to release footage (since he’s helping develop the camera), and today he’s got a nice clip that may just blow you away. It certainly begs the question, is this as close to Arri Alexa image quality as low budget folks will get?

The footage below was shot with ProRes log, and John does say at some point he will be able to release full resolution files of both ProRes and CinemaDNG (there isn’t any audio in the clip below):

Here is what John had to say:

Lenses were again, the lovely Zeiss Compact Primes.  The widest I had in the CP’s was the 28mm, so the two extra wide shots were done with the 15-85 Canon EF-S…I also did a fair bit of handheld.  Most of the mid shots’ and close ups are hand held with the 35mm or the 50mm CP.  I was generally shooting around T4 @ iso 800 (using T1 ND’s to get the right stop). The one exception was the 2 steadicam shots which were shot at T16 @ 28mm.  I didn’t have any remote focus motors so I went with DOF…Using the Zebra’s I simply made sure I exposed by looking at what was clipping at 100% and making a judgement on what I wanted to keep in terms of exposure. Now for those looking for Moire and aliasing, pay attention to Ella’s cardigan.  You can often see the weave of the fabric there, and on many DSLR’s I would expect this kind of pattern / weave to cause aliasing issues.

While he is using some of the best lenses money can buy, they offer similar optical quality to the much cheaper Zeiss ZE or ZF still camera lenses. What you lose in smooth iris and less breathing you make up for in lower price.

There is definitely some good news regarding aliasing and moire. It’s going to appear at some point for everyone (since the camera does lack an optical low-pass filter), but it’s clear from the clip that it’s not going to be that bad. Since aliasing and moire in DSLRs show up for slightly different reasons, there’s a good chance it won’t be a real problem in normal shooting conditions. Owners will have to do their own testing, but this should come as a slight relief to those who were worried about rainbow patterns littering their frames.

John has joked about this camera being a baby Alexa, but judging from the newest footage, it might not be that far off. This camera won’t match an Arri Alexa in features and shallow depth of field, but could it come close with image quality? RAW pixels aren’t too far off — about 2.4 on the BMCC versus 2.8 on the Arri Alexa. Comparing them is completely unfair (and probably a bit foolish), but the only other time I’ve seen footage with this much dynamic range and skin tones this natural is from Arri Alexa clips. There is a quality to the colors that reminds me very much of Arri’s color science, and for the price, that is absolutely a steal.

We’ve talked about some of the shortcomings of the camera, but if the image quality will truly be as good as it looks in this Vimeo clip, it’s going to be worth it to spend a little more to customize it for your workflow. This will never be an Arri Alexa (nor any of the more fully featured cameras for that matter), but it’s going to give some crisp 1080p with a staggering amount of dynamic range. We can’t wait to get our hands on one, but it’s likely going to be a couple more weeks.

Either way, what do you guys think of the footage? How many shorts and features do you think will be shot on this camera over the next year?

Link: Some more Blackmagic Cinema Camera Footage – John Brawley’s Blog

Related Posts

  1. First Blackmagic Cinema Camera Footage Since NAB, Camera Won't Have Optical Low-Pass Filter
  2. John Brawley Shows off More Graded Material from the Blackmagic Cinema Camera
  3. Blackmagic is Listening, Requested Feature Added to the Cinema Camera


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 139 COMMENTS

  • All I can honestly say about this camera after seeing footage, and still clips, is that it is going to be a great camera. This is definitely a camera every Cinematographer should have in their arsenal from the price alone. Anyone filming on DSLR’s this is the next step up from that. This won’t completely eliminate DSLR films, but it will definitely make companies like Canon a little more competitive down the line with their features, and pricing.

    The Arri Alexa is my go to camera on every feature I’ve worked on, and short film I’ve shot. The cool thing about this BMCC is the fact that you could probably be using an Alexa on Cam-A and a BMCC on Cam-B and the results will turn out well after grading. Same way Hollywood uses the 5D with Panavision film a lot. And the even cooler thing is going to be for the people who don’t want to buy one just yet… Rental Prices for these things are going to be pretty well priced, that it won’t be too far fetched to get ahold of one. I have a short Action/Drama project right now that we have waiting, because I want to try my best to use the Black Magic Cinema Camera for it. Maybe John Brawley will see this, and put a good word in for me. : )

    All jokes aside, this is going to be a great new camera for almost any DP to have in their arsenal because it’s going to save a ton of money, and give you a lot of quality all for only $3000.

  • Hardware wise this camera won’t be better than the Scarlet, but image wise I like this image way better at least visually, not considering possible flaws like moire and rolling shutter.

  • His actors were turning in and out of harsh sunlight and the camera really handled that beautifully. Those that question the DOF, pay particular attention at how much range is possible at S16-ish. The hair and fabric have crisp detail. In a full production environment, harsh light would be removed and desired light added back in but he didn’t do that for this demo and the camera still looked great. I can’t wait for a full set crew put it through its paces.

  • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 08.9.12 @ 4:43PM

    Hi Koo. There is a subject you mentioned above that I disagree…You say we can´t compare the BMDC with the Alexa due to the depth of field? What do you mean by that? Shallow depth of field? Depth of field is exactly the same no matter which sensor size you have as long you keep the right distance, For example a full frame has a certain DOF with a 25mm lens at 1meter. If I take the same lens and use it for example on a GH2 with a 2x crop factor I will have exactly the same DOF if I place the camera at 2 meters ( doubling the distance) compared to a full frame cam at 1 meter. This is why I don´t care about the sensor size so much…If you talk about low light sensitivity I might have to agree with you but DOF I can´t see the relevance of it…it is always possible to solve.

    Thank you

    • The problem I see with this camera is the odd sensor size and resulting from that a lack of wide angle lenses.
      Film lenses and photo lenses are all made for bigger sensors so there are hardly any feasible wide angle lenses except the Canon 8mm L.

      If it was super-16mm or a little smaller, that would be cool again because then you could be using 16mm film lenses. But the sensor is just a little bigger than super 16, so I guess most if not all 16mm film lenses will show an ugly black vignette on the BMDC.

      You can shoot beautiful images with 16mm or 2/3″. Actually I think these sensor/film sizes are really good for most documentary work because they use smaller focal lengths and therefore give the operator a chance to pull focus while shooting handheld.
      So, I am not saying the BMDC should necessarily have a larger sensor. I am saying it should have a sensor that would make it compatible with a large set of available lenses – like 16mm film lenses.

      • Wouldn’t a Canon EF-S 10-22mm, which is mean’t for a 1.6 crop anyway, work well? I have one and they have excellent clarity and low distortion.

    • btw. I think Koo knows that the same focal length always has the same depth of field on all sensors. But you cannot use the same focal length on a smaller sensor to get the same angle of view – so you have to use a smaller focal length on a smaller sensor, and then you have a larger depth of field on that smaller focal length (that results in the same angle of view on the smaller sensor)

    • Joe Marine on 08.9.12 @ 6:23PM

      Ryan didn’t write this post, I did – you can always find the writer of the post by looking at the top of the page. As for your statement, yes I’m referring to shallow depth of field and yes what you’re saying is basically correct. Changing distance to subject, however, means that you’re changing your frame. So while you can match depth of field with any sensor size, it doesn’t mean your final image will have the same feel due to the change in distance or F-stop to match depth of field.

      This is why people talk about the “magic” of the full frame sensor – there is something different about getting a particular angle of view, with a specific sensor, and at a specific depth of field that is just impossible to achieve any other way. This is because to emulate the same field of view and depth of field of big sensor to a smaller one, you need wider lenses. If you like what a 50mm 1.4 looks like wide open on a Mark II or Mark III or D800, but don’t want to change the distance to subject or the frame, you’ll have to get wider and faster for a camera like the GH2, and there becomes a point where that just isn’t possible.

      • One thing that I never hear people saying is that even if you use a 24mm to achieve 50mm, it’s always going to have some distortion, a wide open lens will always have more distortion than a normal lens, this is part of that magic of the FF that you talked about. When you use a 50mm in a FF it’s really a 50mm and not a 24mm that looks like a 50mm. A 24mm will always be a 24mm. This matters a lot if you like shooting in a more geometric way, with straight lines etc.

        • It really depends on the lens. Often on wider lenses more of the distortion is near the edges, so you’re using the sharper, straighter, center portion of the lens. This isn’t always going to be the case, but I wouldn’t be too worried about it unless you start getting into really fisheye lenses, like an 8mm or something.

    • This is completely wrong by the way. You haven’t considered the fact that the depth of field gets shallower the closer you go to the subject.

  • All great points, but the original point was (without getting technical) that DOF is achievable in different film formats and this camera like 16mm film is easily capable as demonstrated in the video. I think a more important aspect for young film makers is to discuss WHY introduce shallow or deep DOF; to isolate your character, create a mood, establish a shot, etc. The DOF tool is there with this camera and many others…how do you want to use it?

  • To change the subject, the rendering of color out of this camera based on the demo’s keep leaving me on the fence as to wether I like the output. At times I like the output and other times it feels washed out to me. I don’t feel like they’ve tried to demonstrated the full color rendering capabilities. I would suggest that they do a demo that really shows off some really vibrant and saturated colors. I know it will be done mostly in post, but that’s ok. Wow us!

  • This camera footage looking organic, crisp but not extra sharp,clean colors. Mainly in comparison of DSLR footage I think this footage is not woolly, has loot more details and dynamic range.Practically color and DOF can be manipulated as required, its subjective. But details and DR are objective,if its not coming from camera , its not their.

  • Sorry spelling mistake, I mean, But details and DR are objective,if its not coming from camera , its not there.

  • Can someone please tell me the logic of how this is a scarlet killer? I’m just curious why that camera and not any other. Dragon is on its way and Red is claiming that the dragon sensor is cleaner at 2000 ISO the the MX sensor was at 800 and that the dynamic range is better than expected. When they are have their cross hairs on Arri why would they be concerned about BMC. Its going to be a great camera, but no one will choose it over Scarlet Dragon to shoot a feature, if what Red says is even remotely true. I was very surprised not a single comment like, BMC $1500, c300 $16,000 thats bull, or F3 can’t shoot 422 on board and a $1500 camera can.

    I just feel like there are a handful of other cameras that are going to feel the heat before the scarlet, who is just getting started. Nonetheless looking through the comments, I see scarlet scarlet scarlet death.

    • I think the reason people started picking on Scarlet is because the original value RED advertised for Scarlet was 3K (resolution) for 3K ($3000 bucks). So when BMCC announced a tool pretty close to those specs and price it sounds like a nice option for those found a the 15K Scarlet out of reach.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 11.20.12 @ 7:50PM

      You are right… :-) because every camera from now on will be designed to be a Sacarlet killer or a BMCC killer or a DSLR killer…otherwise what would be the point of building a camera which wouldn´t try to be competitive and knock the others down?Is it worth being just another camera on the market? I don´t think so….

  • VINCEGORTHO on 08.10.12 @ 10:54AM

    Scarlet killer in terms of price to performance ratio.
    Dragon is gonna be expensive as hell, if I remember correctly, 16 stops dynamic range, 6K. Most enthusiast will never use one. Pretty soon, with te amount of competition hitting the market, scarlet’s price wont be justifiable at $15k. This might consider it killed… in terms of hype at most.
    especially when you have more options of cinematographers to choose from to shoot your film, like skilled canon 5DII owners, the interest in scarlet goes down. Instead of paying $425 a day to rent, or pay an operator, you can get away with maybe $150 for skilled Joe Smo with a lighting kit in his Scion to do it.

    • I don’t understand price to performance ratio, we are talking about a camera with more dynamic range then an alexa and f65, unheard of resolution, and extremely clean image (alledgedly) for 1/3 of the price even with the upgrade. If Red gets the color science down with the Dragon, it will be a beast. For high end acquisition it will be the most affordable digital cinema camera available.

      I don’t doubt competition hitting the market, but why is the scarlet in trouble. The 1dc isn’t even available and its 15k for compressed sensor cropped 4k, please but the 4k RAW scarlet is on the chopping block first, come on man. Especially when the scarlet is the only camera in its price range that has gone up in price not down.

      And there is no such thing as a skilled Joe Smo that costs $150. Black Magic may reduce camera rental costs for some, but such a cheap operator will produce cheap results with any camera. And Shoot on a F3, c300, or Scarlet and try to go back to 5d, its real hard.

      • VinceGortho on 08.10.12 @ 12:30PM

        No killed in terms of, abandomnent. Or obsolete. In terms of hype.
        We now have options to distract us from the dominate market that is Red.
        Price to performance ratio… think of how much a let down Canon is being lately. Me personally, would not buy their products because for the same price I can get more from red. For a cheaper price I can get a lot from BM, hopefully.
        It’s like the BMW owner who has to brag on how much a deal he got on his expensive car out loud. We all want to sound smart about our purchas.

  • All these cameras are fantastic tools and with every new release, prices WILL move. If prices are forced down on certain models, and if COSTS can be paid and still make a profit, the camera will stick around, otherwise it will disappear. Let’s not debate that, market dynamics will decide their fate. What we’re all seeing though is that higher performance gear is coming down in price due to competition and at the high end, performance is getting better also.

  • No camera is killer itself, its whole eco system which counts.All are capable for decent imagery. But in production there are so many factors to decide about the camera to be used, of course money is one of them.
    Independent cinema needs value for money. Some big production ask for best, which they means expensive equipment, they have budget.I know an incident in our film industry same cameraman doing two different movies, one with expensive equipment, other on budget equipment , expensive one failed, low budget appreciated by critics and viewers for imagery also. So which is good, is not as clear as it seems. For Production cameras apart from quality, ruggedness, tolerance ease of use are also important. So no one is killer, every one has its own space.

  • If the price is what most people are saying it will be $2999 then what you get for it is amazing. Most of us have a handful of EF lenses in our bags. So out of the box its a camera we can play with it. For that price point and video format and res were looking at a VERY good camera that will rock the prices of these leading companies. That footage alone is beautiful. If you had shown me this and claimed it was from the scarlet i would have believed you. Lets not forget most indie film makers are using youtube or making web series. So after going through all that conversion we lose a lot of detail. Which is why dslr is still going strong. I hope this camera doesn’t change their price like the scarlet did. This is a fun toy to have for beginners and pros. There’s a ton of talented people that will hopefully make use of this and maybe just maybe we can start seeing some films worth watching. I’m getting tired of the same movie being made played by different actors. This camera would allow many people who are gifted and not know it yet to explore an amazing hobby.

  • Any ideas if we’ll ever see a Blackmagic Cinema Camera with a larger sensor size? Maybe one closer to a full frame sensor? I wouldn’t mind putting out a few extra hundred bucks for that one instead.

  • Trevor Roach on 08.13.12 @ 10:56PM

    According to BH and other online stores, the date is not being pushed back to August 30th:

  • CPs being the best lenses money can buy? eh….? thats a pretty naive comment, even though I like the CP.2s

Comments pages: 1 [2]