October 10, 2012

We Got Your Dynamic Range Right Here: Blackmagic Cinema Camera Put to the Test

After Blackmagic first announced the Cinema Camera, and started showing real samples, it soon became clear that it was going to have a lot more dynamic range than even cameras costing two or three times as much. Dynamic range numbers may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer (since their testing procedures can be completely different), but looking at sample images really allows you to see how far you can push this camera before it clips in the highlights or the shadows. Frank Glencairn, who has been testing the Blackmagic Cinema Camera extensively, wanted to see just how well it would perform in a difficult dynamic range situation.

The dynamic range stress test:

This is what Frank had to say about the test (which was filmed in RAW):

I shot some DR tests today. Nothing fancy or artsy, emphasis was on contrast handling (not on smooth camera moves – had that lightweight travel tripod with the crappy head again – but walking several miles with a 40lbs Vinten?) Point is, the material it looks not really spectacular, but just natural – more what your eyes see (not exactly but you get the idea)....So yeah, mission accomplished BMC – on all other cameras under 18000 bucks most of the lights would be completely blown out and the shadows just dark blotches. This is RED HDR and Alexa territory IMHO.  Quite impressive for a camera at that price point.

Many argue about the advantages of a higher resolution camera if your material is just going to go online in heavily compressed form. That is certainly a debatable point (though I definitely think there's definitely a difference if the video is viewed in 1080p), but the one point that can't be argued is that dynamic range will find its way through to the final compressed form. That's clearly evident by the video above, and also evident in the BMCC/Mark III test from OneRiver Media. One of the advantages of film -- and now high-end digital cinema cameras -- is that you can retain a ton of highlight detail. Many digital cameras have more of their dynamic range in the shadows (the Cinema Camera is no exception), but if you expose for the highlights, it means you can bring back those shadows later, and have an image with a nice gradient from lows to highs.

One of my personal pet peeves is seeing a nicely composed image, but completely blown out highlights in the background. Up until now the only option under $10,000 was to heavily underexpose (which can lead to ugly skin tones). Now we've got a camera that is capable of retaining detail in both the extreme highlights and extreme shadows, and for less money than any of the competitors. For those few people who say, but what if I want the windows or highlights blown out? Well, it's fairly easy to make that happen in a far more controlled way during grading. It's a lot more difficult to go the other way -- recover highlights that are either clipped or almost clipped.

The only thing left is for Blackmagic to work out their shipping issues, and we'll start seeing some actual films made with this "mini-Alexa".

Link: Blackmagic Cinema Camera Dynamic Range Stress Test -- Frank Glencairn

Your Comment

97 Comments

The only thing holding me back is no 60p. I wonder if they'll ever release a firmware upgrade with higher frame rates, or if it's even possible with the hardware they have. I'm sure one of you characters knows....

October 10, 2012

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Johnny

From what I've been reading about 60p on the BMCC (I'm no expert, just read alot about it) is that it might be a heating issue. The hardware is capable to do it though, again from what I've heard.

October 10, 2012

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Jason Dunphy

Oh, come on. What is with all of this complaining about 60P all of a sudden? Not long ago, you couldn't shoot 60P on any camera.

What's more: Twixtor does an excellent job with 30P in most cases. And worst comes to worst, there are plenty of other cheap options if 60P is an absolute must (heck, even a Sony RX100 could work).

Lack of 60P should not, under any circumstance, be the reason not to buy a BMCC.

October 10, 2012

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Hummer

Hey Hummer, chill out. Under all circumstances, you should chill out.

October 11, 2012

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Johnny

That was an exceptionally productive contribution to the discussion. Thanks for sharing.

On a serious note: Hummer was making a good point: 60P, at least at 1080P, it pretty rare as it is in this price range. I'd much, much, much rather have improved resolution and dynamic range than a novelty feature useful in perhaps 1% of situations.

October 11, 2012

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Swested

No it isn't. Almost every HD camera, even the cheap ones, have 720 60p. Before HD you could get slow-mo by shooting 60i and interpolating the fields to get 60p...loss of vertical detail, but worth it for the temporal detail.

Also what are you shooting that you never have to use slow-mo? And why do you assume everyone else is shooting the same things as you?

October 11, 2012

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Gabe

You can always set your shutter speed to 1/200 and then slow it down in post.

October 10, 2012

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john jeffreys

The CEO, Grant Perry said that its possible to add higher framerates in a future firmware update..if not 60p..maybe 48p like the Scarlet at 3K.

October 10, 2012

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quobetah

BMCCs footage reacts pretty well to FCPX optical flow slow motion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GLkeXI9Lyo&feature=g-upl So that's an immediate solution.

October 10, 2012

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quobetah

Anyone know of rig/add-ons with removable battery & HD for this cam?
I love the images but need something more practical

October 10, 2012

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Same here. This Camera looks amazing for what it can do, but 60p is needed and what I find funny is that camera makers are not doing it when people need it. For one slow motion but what I really dont get is that Black-Magic call this a cinema camera ( which i believe it can be in the right hands) but no higher frame rates when current films are being filmed in 48p and 60p for the fact of being played back at that rate to make cinema with a new look.

October 10, 2012

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Russell

only a hand full if even that are shooting at these high frame rates for viewing, namely the hobbit and the new avatar. CInema is and has been up to now 24p, slow mo is not needed for a film.

October 10, 2012

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carlos

Slow mo is not needed for a film? Well sure it's not *needed*...I mean, you don't need shutter speeds other than 180 either...or multiple focal lengths...or shallow depth of field...or color...or sound...

Most film cameras for the past 50 years have had an overcranking capability, I think it's reasonable to ask about it....especially since almost every HD camera has at least 720 60p. I'd be perfectly happy with 720 48p crop...whatever it takes. Not having to rent another camera for slow mo shots would boost my desire for this camera like 200%.

October 10, 2012

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Gabe

so don´t buy it! ;) get an awesome Scarlet instead. :)

October 10, 2012

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Guto Novo

Hehe, was wondering why no one was saying it like it is, no gun to the head to buy this cam : )

October 10, 2012

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Bob

What a joke. The lame excuse of avoiding the BMCC because of a lack of 60P is downright ludicrous. If you can't make do with 24P, 30P and Twixtor, here's a tip: you're doing it wrong.

October 10, 2012

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Hummer

My "doing it wrong" won me a couple awards. So I think I'll keep "doing it wrong".

October 11, 2012

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Gabe

And by the way, if Twixtor is sufficient, then you're using slow-mo wrong.

Slow-mo is a temporal zoom lens. You use it to highlight motion detail that would be missed at normal speed. It's the detail that can make a slow-mo shot sing. And you don't get those details with Twixtor because the data was never recorded! Garbage in garbage out. Twixtor can't magically create it.

Twixtor works on boring shots and breaks down when something actually happens. It's a little bit useful to further slow 60p shots in some cases, but there are only a handful of cases where I find Twixtor useful. I think I've only used it on one shot. Ever.

October 11, 2012

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Gabe

Then don't buy it!
Make way for other people to use this awesome tool.
Hollywood has me hating slow motion, anyways. Thanks Matrix!

October 10, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

Well....I don't think it's fair to negate someone's preference for 60p if that is a feature that they use now and again to create their films, commercials, videos, etc... and its not a sin to ask about the feature or desire it for this cam. The same people who insinuate that it's wrong or greedy to ask about 60p in this cam could very well be some of the same people who asked for clean hdmi out from a 7D, or higher internal bit rate from a Sony F3. If we DON'T ask for things we want from manufacturers then they probably won't give them to us. Personally, I agree that higher frame rate options would definitely make this camera that much more appealing to some, but I'm not crying because it doesn't. It is what it is. No camera is perfect but it's ok to reach for it.

October 10, 2012

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Where did I say I didn't like the BMCC? I love what they're doing, it's amazing!

But it's hard to justify buying a camera if I have to end up renting a camera anyway. I might as well just shoot on a Scarlet. It might still be worth buying, but it'd be a slam dunk with even the most primitive inkling of slow-mo. I'm not asking for 120p 2.5k raw. Just something reasonable like 720 48p (48 because it's useful for 2x music speed ups in music videos for slow-mo at normal music speed).

And you know what, I'm 80% sure they'll end up adding it. It seems like the hardware should be capable of it, but the firmware is still pretty rough. So I bet once they really get the firmware up to snuff, we'll some more framerates.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable here.

But you know what I do think is unreasonable? People telling me what tool I should or shouldn't use. I'm not asking you to add slow-mo to the BMCC, so why do you feel so compelled to tell people how to shoot their movies, and what to shoot them with?

October 11, 2012

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Gabe

I do! I'm shooting Avatar 3 next month in my back yard! AVH Avatar vs Hobbit. The whole thing is slow motion! And 3D! How the heck am I gonna make it now if this dumb camera doesn't have 60p?!
Black Magic doesn't care about serious indy film makers anymore! Looks like I'm still shooting on my Sony DCR DVD850! Thanks for nothing Black Magic!

October 10, 2012

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Ched Stevens

Hehehe, had a good laugh with that one!

I think you have to think about what do you need 90% of the time. And for the price, I don't think anything else can compare. I 'd rather have this image quality and control in post than a heavily compressed, line-skipped 60p S35mm image.

In some cases, a GoPro (or similar) can be more useful than an Alexa or Epic. In some others, a Phantom Flex would be needed (Twixtor is great interpolating simple movements, but there's no way you can have a detailed shot of a flashing bulb like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on9D8HDSPHw)

If 60p is a must (I'm hating slow-mo lately too, as happens with ultra shallow DOF), you can have a GH-3, NEX-6 or a Sony FS-700 if the budget allows for it.

I doubt anyone will be shooting at 60p all the time. And if he/she does, don't count with me for watching the results...

October 10, 2012

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hahahahahahahaha thank you

October 11, 2012

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Robert

Haha, awesome.

October 11, 2012

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Buffaluffasaurus

:D :D :D :D :D KALLISTI!

October 11, 2012

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guto novo

The comments here are so funny. It's just a reminder of how spoiled we are. I don't mean that harshly, as I completely relate to the desire for a better power solution, 60p, etc.... but that's not the point of this $3,000 camera. This level of dynamic range at this price point is incredible.

From a practical standpoint, I see this camera being a purchase for specific work and shots, namely (in my unqualified opinion) a controlled narrative environment. That's not the work I do for money, so I can't come close to justifying a purchase, but what I love about this camera is that you can easily buy this and a camera that can work more flexibly. Heck, this camera cost about as much as some rigs or tripods out there, so it's not the worst idea to see it as an accessory to your primary shooting setup. Like, if you need the best possible dynamic range from a shot, it would be the tool for the job - but if you are in an unpredictable, run-and-gun, shoot-all-day scenario, an ENG with a good zoom lens might still be among the best options out there. I know that giving credit to small-sensor cameras is taboo here, but they still have their place ;-)

This idea just hit me, by the way: this camera cost as much as a Canon GL2 used to. Whoa. Talk about a difference in the industry.

October 10, 2012

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David

The comments above are a good indicator as to why canon abandoned this market.

October 10, 2012

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Ryan

Is it unreasonable for people to be asking Canon for features that are in their competitor's cameras?

October 10, 2012

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Robert

Each camera has a target market and purpose, asking for a camera to address every market is unreasonable, the BMC is not a slo mo camera

October 10, 2012

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Ryan

They never really got into this market, we just sorta used their still camera for video, then expected them to make their still camera suit our needs, when in reality it's a still camera.

Heh.

October 10, 2012

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Tyler

This camera is amazing. Bottom line. I'm confused as to why people have the idea, however, that BM are ABLE to make this thing shoot 60p, and are simply choosing not to (I've heard a lot of talk from them about heating issues). We are not camera designers. I feel like sometimes we are acting like the producers who don't understand how editing works...

Can't you just blow the image up to fit? Can't we just take out that car horn?

Can't we just have 60p?

October 10, 2012

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I think no matter what, people will always have a problem with it. If it had 60fp, they'd want 120fps. Everybody always wants more. It's a fantastic camera judging from the specs and the samples I've seen. For the price, i mean it's cheaper than a 5D MKIII.

October 10, 2012

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Moore

I love the image. To me, Dynamic Range and 24P have always been the two most important specs in a Camera to get a film look. I was thinking of getting an F3 to shoot a low budget feature but with the BMCC I am saving more than 10K and I don't have to buy an external recorder. I'll be able to rig up this camera very well and still have lots of money left. Slow motion is nice but far from essential to tell a good story. For Narrative work or music videos this camera rocks!!!!
Rig wise I'm planning to get: Shape WLB shoulder support and cage, Cineroid Retina viewfinder, Shoot35 CINEbox (matte box), RedRock Blue Follow Focus, Ikan Battery solution, SLR Magic 12mm lens for wide angle, Rokinon 24 and 35 cine lenses, a 50mm nikon ai lens and possible a 85mm too. I'll also get 1 or 2 12TB GTech Raids to handle the huge amount of data that the RAW workflow will generate. All of that and there will still be money left compared to the F3 option (without rig and lenses) which is the next cheapest option for great DR.

October 10, 2012

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Do yourself a favor and invest in Tamron 11-16 f2.8 instead of the SLR Magic. They are very hit and miss. My friend got a good one and I got a bad one. Twice.

October 10, 2012

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Hampus

That's good to know. I was sold to the SLR Magic by this video that looks very filmic to me http://vimeo.com/30097165 I also like the shallow DOF it provides compared to a 2.8 lens. Did you end up having a good lens? What was the problem with the first 2?

October 10, 2012

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First one couldn't focus to infinity, the second one was just plain bad construction. "550 bucks for this?" Got the money back and bought the 11-16. So now I a fairly fast lens that's wide enough for m43 and APC-S sensors. And superwide of I ever would use a full frame (I would never, never liked the look). Went for the Nikon one since it's a mechanical aperture like all my vintage Nikon glass. Very adaptive glass. Had them on canon, gh2, BMC and RED so far, works great.

October 10, 2012

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Hampus

Thanks for the info! Very helpful!

October 10, 2012

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The Nikon version of the Tokina 11-16 has a manual aperture? Are their two different models out there, cuz looking @ B&H, I didn't see a separate aperture ring. I have the Canon version (but Nikon for all my other lenses) and this is the specific issue with the moving to a MFT BMCC.

October 17, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

There, not their. I can't let that tyypo slide.

October 17, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

I'd love to see the dynamic range pushed the other way, like into the highlights. Point the camera into the sun or something similar. Then show raw and corrected footage.

October 10, 2012

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this_guy

Given all the discussion about lens choices for this camera, I was wondering if anybody had given thought to machining a B4 mount. Yes, I know the image circle for B4 is smaller; but perhaps using the lens's doubler would then compensate for it by enlarging the image circle. You would take a hit in the sensitivity department (T4 minimum usually, but f1.8 or so for most eng kit), doublers steal light, but It could extend the usability for run and gun daylight work and give you a 'free' ND6. Just musing here. Of course a custom extender (1.5?) could be made to just fill the sensor and steal less light.

October 10, 2012

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JD Holloway

With the Micro 4/3 version of the camera, you can adapt B4 mount lenses pretty easily, but as you said, you'll need the extender to make it cover. Theoretically if you can power that lens externally in some way, you could have an automatic zoom lens on the camera.

October 10, 2012

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

Power is a simple Lemo to DTap off a battery. I've done it B4 (moan).

October 10, 2012

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jd holloway

I wish monitors had a pass through power option--that would be one of the easiest ways to power the camera. Monitors used to be powered off of the camera, now it would be so much easier to power the camera off of the monitor. B/c I have to power multiple things, I can't just clip a v-mount to the back of the monitor---I have to use a separate plate that has both 4pin XLR and p-tap.

October 17, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

This video looks terrific. VERY impressive detail and dynamic range.

October 10, 2012

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hello

I love the footage here, but what does encoding for Youtube or Vimeo throw away in terms of quality, etc?

October 10, 2012

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Mostly resolution and detail...dynamic range comes across as what you can see that isn't blowing out in the highlights, or getting crushed in the shadows. So dynamic range is really important for a nice image even if you're compressing it for the web. And the BMCC blows away all of the DSLRs as far as dynamic range.

October 10, 2012

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Gabe

The original files are breath taking, it took a huge hit after h264 encoding and an other one after YT and Vimeo did they "magic".

Frank

October 10, 2012

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Frank Glencairn

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