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Where is the Blackmagic Cinema Camera? Another Shipping Update from the CEO

11.8.12 @ 1:21PM Tags : , ,

The camera was one of the biggest surprises at NAB this year – a RAW shooting video camera for under $5,000 that used standard SSD drives for storage. The company planned on rolling them out by late July/early August, but one delay pushed that back until later in August, and another until September. A new camera model was even introduced with a Micro 4/3 mount. We were updated on the issues each time there was a serious delay, but now we’re into November. It’s been a frustrating few months for the team at Blackmagic, but the CEO, Grant Petty, has taken the time to give us a full and complete answer about the current status.


The major issue the team originally faced was explained back in September, and basically the glass covering bonded to the sensor was contaminated from packing materials. That company’s testing software was not finding these issues and so the sensors were getting shipped to Blackmagic with the supplier thinking they were 100% free of defects, when in fact, the sensors were completely useless. Now it seems the issue was not resolved at that time, and is quite a bit more complicated than just an error in testing. Even after the supplier supposedly fixed the issue with their quality control, Blackmagic was still getting bad sensors, so they sent in their engineers to figure it out for themselves.

The full message from Grant Petty is available in the Blackmagic forum, but here is a slightly shorter version describing the current issue:

What we found when investigating their processes was quite surprising. Of course we had known the original problem with their quality control checks was their test software had not been modified for color sensors. In the past their sensors were used for scientific use and used in black and white. Also their glass was never used as other customers bonded the lens optics onto the sensor itself. In our case we use the sensor in a conventional way and the customers change lenses. We need the glass on the sensor like all other cameras do.

Also, they had never built a camera using the sensor they make for us. We are the only camera that’s used this sensor and glass combination. It’s like designing and building cars but no one at the company has every driven one.

So it turns out their quality process is really only good at testing the semiconductor die. It’s no good at testing the quality of the overall sensor product with the glass in front. This meant they could not even see the problems we were seeing, so that’s why we were getting bad parts. We sent them the information on how to build our test setup and yesterday they started testing using it. Now they are seeing the same quality problems we are seeing. This is good as it means we should not get any more bad sensors.

The problem left is that out of a test batch of 30 sensors, only 4 worked well enough so we can build cameras using them. This is bad. So while the good news is they can now see the same problems we see, the question is why is there still contamination on the glass.

The reason is the contaminated glass issue in many ways distracted them from the problems their manufacturer is having bonding the glass to the sensor itself. The sensor supplier now has two sources of glass, and both of them are showing the same problems. The parts without glass are ok, and the problems appear when the glass is bonded to the sensor. If the glass is clean then it’s really the company bonding on the glass that are introducing contamination.

This is the current plan for fixing the issue and letting users know when they might be getting a camera:

The sensor supplier is getting some new sensors made at the original supplier, which we should get test data back on late this week. Once we see this we will know if the original supplier can make the parts without contamination and so we can start building cameras again. I don’t know why they changed glass bonding companies.

So the current plan is to get some sensors from the original glass bonding company and based on their upgraded testing we should know more at the end of the week if we are going to get a good supply of sensors starting to ship using that new company.

I will let you all know later this week or early next when we get some of these sensors to build cameras with and will know if we can start production full speed again.

Lastly, please take it easy on our PR folks. They want more regular updates and it’s me personally that are stopping that, because I don’t want to do fluff updates that don’t say anything and I don’t want to lie to people.

So the issue is complicated and more involved than it first seems, and just like any company building a camera for the first time (like RED), there are going to be serious issues with manufacturing. While that may not be comforting to people who pre-ordered a camera in April, there isn’t much that can be done about the situation that the company isn’t already working on. The advantage that a company like Sony or Canon has is that not only have they been doing this a long time, but they are deeply involved in the fabricating of the senors, so they can fix these problems relatively quickly. Since Blackmagic is buying these sensors, there wasn’t a lot that they could do at the time when the original problems cropped up.

If you’ve pre-ordered a camera, the news is frustrating, and depending on the backorder number, it might be a while before you get a camera. Even though some users are getting cameras, it’s because they are actually able to build a few that pass their quality control, but the vast majority of the sensors have been useless. I won’t venture a guess about when you might be able to get a camera at the moment, but as Grant says, if the situation has been corrected, we should know relatively soon when these cameras can start shipping in volume.

Link: Camera Shipping Update: 11/7 — Blackmagic Forum

Related Posts

  1. Blackmagic Cinema Camera Delay Explained, DNxHD and Lens Stabilization Coming Soon
  2. In-Depth Q&A with Blackmagic About the Cinema Camera, and an Update on Shipping Status
  3. Blackmagic Adds Functions to Cinema Camera, Finally Shipping Within Two Weeks (For Real This Time)

COMMENT POLICY

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  • Donnie King on 11.8.12 @ 6:27PM

    Just took my cash and put it on a scarlet!!! I’m was losing money waiting on this camera.

  • Peter Kelly on 11.8.12 @ 6:33PM

    Is it ok to criticise Black Magic for these delays now? Last time I did I had my head bitten off.

    • It’s got to be frustrating if you’ve pre-ordered one, and yeah it might reason to look at other options if you need something right away, but that still doesn’t make it blackmagic’s fault. I’m sure they’re just as frustrated as any customer as this is going to do nothing for business. But blaming them for the delays is like blaming car companies for drunk drivers

      • I am blaming this all on BMD. They get a company to produced the first batch of glass/sensors, that went great.

        They change companies and don’t bother to do a background check on them? How did they choose these morons to make/assemble their sensors, when they didn’t have the experience or capabilities to perform the necessary bench tests?

        just add the glass to the sensor while hundreds of thousands of people wait for their camera.

        Let me hire an axe murderer to baby sit children, no background check needed. Anyone who has been on preorder since July should receive a huge discount for putting up with this idiotic situation.

        • Daniel Mimura on 11.18.12 @ 6:47AM

          Well said. They blame the sensor manufacturer, but I blame them. This is their problem, no matter how much they want to blame an unnamed supplier.

  • I’ll stay skeptical. It always seemed a bit too amazing to believe.

  • Wow, You guys are seriously kind mean i guess is the word?
    I get the frustration – but these guys are doing something for the first time and instead of jerking people around by sending out crap they’re working to fix it and they’re disclosing the issue – lot more than some might do in the same circumstance…

  • I cancelled my BMCC pre-order today..

  • All while RED is selling out battle-tested RED Ones for $4,000

  • vinceGortho on 11.8.12 @ 8:41PM

    BM should just replace the sensors with larger APS-C sized sensors. Take it as an omen.

  • As to be expected, im not really surprised but im not angry or disappointed either. Im glad they were open about it, they may lose some customers but atleast some will admire their openness. Better out then in. Hope things go well these next few months.

  • I got some hands-on time with one of these cameras at the Philip Bloom workshop… Trust me, its worth the wait.

  • This would have been a good time to have deisgned a B&W version that wouldn’t get caught up in color sensor testing. Oh hindsight, you dog.

  • sico van der plas on 11.9.12 @ 1:30PM

    at the moment there is no other camera in this price range.
    red one battle tested will run out soon, and the 4k extra tools needed for the red one makes it for me a no no.

    altho of i will not receive the camera before februari (near NAB 2013) i will cancel my order

  • SOOOOOOOOO can anyone add there two cents, does it make better sense to buy a MXONE or red scarlett in terms of price. I mean I know the ONE is now $4000, but i keep hearing from everyone that you will spend atleast another 4k to make it shootable because of size weight etc, so will it end up being cheaper to get the new scarlett.

    • You’ll have to spend more money kitting out a Scarlet than a Red One, not even counting the base price difference. The Scarlet’s a lot more user friendly and less bulky though…and it has an upgrade path.

    • Donnie King on 11.9.12 @ 4:52PM

      Just bought a Battle Tested Scarlet X and I had to spend close to 3,500 in extras to get it going. I was considering the BT Red One but having the option to upgrade sensor in a couple months to 5 or 6k at 24p was the seller for me.

  • AT least they are being honest and most importantly communicating with the consumers. I cant realistically see the cameras being logical enough to buy until next summer, because even if they start to ship cameras they will not have backups for replacements etc.

    I think it may be a silver lining while they wait for sensor from QUALITY CONTRAOL staind point. I think what they should do is get in contact with ADOBE and Apple and focus on making a smoother workflow transition for when the cameras are truly ready to be shipped. Especially with all the talks coming from ADOBE these days, After effects may work for now but there should still be other viable options. Reds 4k can easily be edited now on CS6 OR FINAL CUT , i still believe in them, but anyone thinking that these things will be ready by FEB is holding their breath.

    IN THE WORLD OF CAMERAS 1 MONTH equates to every 5 months

  • David Dearlove on 11.10.12 @ 6:57AM

    Why do people moan about this?

    Then say you can pick up a battle-tested red for $4,000 – ARE YOU IDIOTS? No you CAN’T! It costs about $4,000 in extras to get the bloody thing working! So that argument is automatically invalid – If you think about using this as an argument buy the Red camera and head-butt it repeatedly.

    Think about what black magic are doing – For once you have a company that is LISTENING and RESPONDING personally to their audience – They’re being honest and frank and explaining every step of the way.

    This camera has the power to pave the way for some seriously innovative equipment.

    Yeah – these delays are probably getting on your nerves if you’ve pre-ordered the BMCC but please, just think about what Black-magic are going through as well – their first release and theres this many problems and they’re communicating honestly with their audience.
    Be thankful for that.

  • Daniel Mimura on 11.18.12 @ 7:34AM

    Thank you for screwing up so badly, Black-magic! My biggest misgivings about the camera were the small sensor and the fact that it eats hard drive space like a Hummer eats gas b/c the RAW is uncompressed.

    I’ve needed a camera with a lot of latitude, as well as really wanting RAW…the BMCC was the only thing in the price range that delivered. I also wasn’t looking forward to using a screen that is too dim to use outdoors—that uses a touch screen (I’m shooting wearing gloves a lot, and even without it, touch screens are too imprecise for critical camera work, IMO)…and that’s also ignoring the weird unergonomic shape and the fact that the ports are dumbly located on the smart side. And that the histograms require you to plug into a laptop… It’s a lot of things I had a problem with, but I was willing to put up with it for the sharpness, latitude and RAW… Well, b/c of BlackMagic failing and stalling…R1MX’s went down to that same ballpark cost…so now I don’t have to wait, and it’s something a little more proven. Yeah, it has a minute long start up time…etc…but since it’s at Build 30-something…it’s mature…we more or less know what to expect from it at least.

    Blackmagic failed and Red delivered.

    I can’t believe people are still apologizing for them, especially after the news that there is even longer to wait…all I see is blame and finger pointing (blaming sensor manufacturer and pointing that Red One took so long—this was a startup company, not an established one…)

  • This just echoes the problem with the entire (almost entire if you want to get sensitive over one company) tech industry model. Step one: Design and move on to Step two: directly selling to the masses. From cellphones on down, consumers end up being the beta testers for these products and they make a new model based off of compliants from customers. It’s stupid. Sell it for cheaper or give out the products to consumers to try in real world applications and see what bugs pop up.

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