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Blackmagic Cinema Camera Shows the Canon 5D Mark III Who's Boss

It’s hard to really explain to some people the advantages of one camera system over another. There are many people who just glaze over when you start talking about 12-bit RAW and ProRes 4:2:2 HQ. If you are one of those people, then we’ve got a comparison for you, which gives you pretty pictures and hard evidence to compare two similarly priced cameras: the Blackmagic Cinema Cinema at $3,000 and the Canon 5D Mark III at around $3,500. The test was conducted by OneRiver Media, who also recently took the camera for a go in this short film. Click through for the test video.

It is HIGHLY recommended that you download the video as the original uploaded file is far better quality than the embedded video here:


Now, the conclusions from the video should be pretty obvious even to someone that isn’t experienced in filmmaking. While many will still say, no one can see sharpness from a compressed web video, after going through the generation loss, the higher the quality of your original source, the better the final product will look. With a DSLR you’re already starting with what should be an export codec only, H.264. If you could start with a much higher quality internal codec, could the final uploaded quality be improved? Yes, but you’re still limited by the image the camera can produce. That’s where the Blackmagic Cinema Camera’s quality comes in.

Let’s just take for a minute, all things being equal (even though they aren’t). If the 5D Mark III could also output 10-bit ProRes and 12-bit RAW, what kind of quality could we get? Would it be better? Absolutely, but it still wouldn’t address the two biggest reasons the BMCC has a superior image: resolution and dynamic range. The former is the one most people will use to say that the camera doesn’t matter much if videos are just going to the web. I disagree depending on the initial compression, but it’s more valid than claiming the latter doesn’t matter. Dynamic range is the first thing that even an inexperienced person will notice, and it’s one of the reasons people still love film over digital – as not all digital cameras have caught up with film in the dynamic range department. It often subconsciously affects the image. Humans are actually very aware of brighter points in an image — even when we’re not looking for them — and it’s often the first place someone’s eye will go when the overall image is darker.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera’s superior dynamic range will give a more cinematic image just for that reason alone. Sure, with the Mark III you can shoot with a flat profile and underexpose to keep some of those highlights from blowing, but there is only so far you can push a compressed 4:2:0 8-bit image. Yes there are plenty of negatives about actually using the camera, some of which have been addressed by the Micro 4/3 mount option for the camera, but which image is better should be obvious to even inexperienced shooters after watching the video. Many will still complain about the sensor size, and that they’d rather wait for the Super 35mm version of the camera, but I can tell you right now, it’s not coming anytime soon. Blackmagic chose the sensor precisely because of the low cost, dynamic range, and resolution, and there aren’t any publicly available sensors that check off all of those boxes at the Super 35mm level. Even with all of the new cameras that have been announced over the last week or so, this camera should still edge out all of them based on the factors above.

Here is another video showing off the superior quality of the Cinema Camera, this time Jon Carr took Vincent Laforet’s test camera for a spin:

Other cameras might be better in low-light and might be easier to work with thanks to bigger sensors and removable internal batteries, but if you’re willing to work around those issue, you’re going to get an image for $3,000 that rivals cameras costing at least 10 times as much. As always, use the right camera for the right job, and if the BMCC doesn’t fit your shooting style, it might actually make your life more difficult. If you’ve been using DSLRs, however, and you’re used to working with certain limitations, the BMCC might just be your next camera.

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Related Posts

  1. John Brawley Shows off More Graded Material from the Blackmagic Cinema Camera
  2. Wide Angle Lenses Compared on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera
  3. How Far Can You Push the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in Low-Light?

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