Holy cow. What if I told you BlackMagic Design was introducing a 2.5K resolution, 13-stop dynamic range, RAW-shooting (with format-agnostic ProRes/CinemaDNG/DNxHD options), Thunderbolt-connected, built-in touchscreen LCD, SSD-recording camera that comes with the new version of Resolve 9 color correction software... all for $3,000? You'd say, "what's the catch?" Looks like the only catch is a 15.6 mm x 8.8 mm (active) sensor size, which makes it a S16 camera, not a S35. Still, for that price and with those options -- this is a seriously disruptive camera and one that targets the HDSLR space perfectly.
If you don't think S16 is a large enough sensor, keep in mind that it's been used to shoot a million features lately, including Darren Aronofsky's most recent (The Wrestler and Black Swan), as well as this year's Sundance-winning Beasts of the Southern Wild. Also, BlackMagic was wise to make this a Canon EF mount camera -- PL glass is so expensive that a lot more of their target customers will already have Canon lenses lying around than will have PL lenses. Finally, the fact that it has a built-in recorder and monitor means it has the ease of use that most shooters want -- spec sheets be damned. And it takes standard 2.5" SSDs -- you are not tied to one (overpriced) brand of media, as you are with RED or (quite often) Sony. The flipside is that many believe that standard SSD connectors were not designed for frequent insertion/removal; time will tell.
The fact that it's a S16 RAW camera makes it a competitor to the Digital Bolex camera we mentioned previously, though I would note the fact that BlackMagic is an established company -- and the fact that it comes with the full version of Resolve and Ultrascope -- makes this one more appealing in theory.
There are video samples here by cinematographer John Brawley. For the most part the images look very good -- the only area they seem to fall a bit short compared to the best cameras out there is in low-light, which is to be expected given the smaller sensor size. Also, in the Beach Dusk sample there are numerous stuck/dead pixels -- presumably BlackMagic will work these out by the time a final camera is shipping (slated for July). Note of course that I'm judging compressed Vimeo samples, and I'm judging them against cameras that cost a lot more.
Images of the $3K shooter are below, as is the full press release and link to BlackMagic's official product page. It looks like if you were thinking about getting one of the new $3k DSLRs, like the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III, now you've got something else to seriously consider. We will do our best to get our hands on one of these units ASAP!
LAS VEGAS, Apr 16, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Blackmagic Design today announced Blackmagic Cinema Camera, a revolutionary digital cinema camera design that includes powerful features such as super wide 13 stops of dynamic range, high resolution 2.5K sensor, built in high bandwidth SSD recorder, open file format support, color correction with full version of DaVinci Resolve and a built in LCD with metadata entry, all in an attractive compact design for only US$2,995.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera will be demonstrated on the Blackmagic Design NAB 2012 booth at #SL220.
Many current generation video cameras suffer from a "video look" due to a limited contrast range, a maximum HD resolution sensor, poor quality optics and lenses, the use of heavy video compression for file recording and poor integration with NLE software metadata management. With these limitations, they cannot be used for high end work or feature films.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera has been designed to eliminate these problems so customers get a true feature film look, and at an affordable cost can shoot high end television commercials, episodic television programming and feature films.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes a super wide 13 stops of dynamic range, large 2.5K sensor, a built in SSD recorder that has the bandwidth to capture open standard CinemaDNG RAW, ProRes and DNxHD files, a built in capacitive touch screen LCD for direct metadata entry, standard jack audio connections, built in high-speed Thunderbolt connection, 3 Gb/s SDI output, a refrigerated sensor for low noise, and is fully compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF mount lenses.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera also includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve for color correction and Blackmagic UltraScope software for waveform monitoring. UltraScope can be run on a laptop connected to the camera via a Thunderbolt connection.
One of the most important features of the camera is its super wide dynamic range of 13 stops, allowing feature film quality images. Commonly people focus on more pixels, however often this just creates a higher resolution, but still "video" looking images that suffer from highlight and black clipping that limits details. Blackmagic Cinema Camera's wide dynamic range eliminates this problem and provides film quality with dramatically more detail retained in black and whites in the image. Once the shoot is complete, the included DaVinci Resolve color correction software can be used to adjust images and take advantage of this extra range in the images. The high quality EF and ZF lens compatibility also helps create sharp and cinematic images that look incredible.
To eliminate the damage that low bit depth and high compression video storage creates, Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes a fast SSD recorder. The built in SSD recorder can record on fast solid state disks the full sensor detail in 12 bit Log RAW files in the open standard CinemaDNG format. These files can be read by all high end video software. The full 2.5K sensor data is stored in the files completely uncompressed because the SSD has the speed to store video data at the required rate. Then this high quality file can be color corrected on DaVinci Resolve for the same high quality result currently only possible on cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera has been designed as the perfect companion to Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer NLE software. Unlike other cameras, which require the use of custom video file formats that are not compatible with popular NLE software, often making the post production process a nightmare, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes absolutely no custom video file formats, and every file type included is open standard. It records into Cinema DNG format for RAW files, ProRes and DNxHD for HD resolution files compatible with Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer.
The built in large LCD display makes focus easy, and allows playback of captured files. Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes a built in microphone, as well as external jack based mic/line level balanced audio connections. When playing back recorded clips, a speaker is built in, and there is an included headphone socket, as well as embedded audio on the SDI output and Thunderbolt connection. The SDI output includes all camera data such as timecode, transport control, shutter angle, color temperature setting and ASA information overlaid in attractive antialiased fonts.
For easy metadata entry, the built in LCD features fast and responsive capacitive touch screen technology. When the user taps the display with a finger, a data entry window called the "slate" appears. This lets the user enter shot information just like typing on a smart phone. This data is then stored in the files so can be accessed by NLE software when editing content later. Metadata is compatible with popular software such as Final Cut Pro X and DaVinci Resolve. All camera settings can be changed on this touch LCD, such as frame rate, shutter angle, color temperature, dynamic range, focus assist settings and more.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes an innovative industrial design built from solid machined aluminum metal which results in an attractive but rugged design. All of the camera, recorder and display have been shrunk down into a lightweight design that's very portable.
"This is one of the most exciting products we have ever created and its been a work in progress for a very long time," said Grant Petty, CEO, Blackmagic Design. "Ever since I was a telecine engineer back in the 1990's I have wished that video cameras would include features that allowed them to perform creatively similar to film. However current digital cameras are too heavy, way too expensive and need costly accessories to work. We felt there was a need for a camera that delivered these features in a design that's optimized for professional video shoots, as well as being a compact, elegant design that's easily affordable. We think we have achieved that!"
Blackmagic Cinema Camera Key Features
- High resolution 2.5K sensor allows improved anti aliasing and reframing shots.
- Super wide 13 stops of dynamic range allows capture of increased details for feature film look.
- Built in SSD allows high bandwidth recording of RAW video and long duration compressed video.
- Open file formats compatible with popular NLE software such as CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. No custom file formats.
- Includes no custom connections. Standard jack mic/line audio in, BNC 3 Gb/s SDI out, headphone, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, LANC remote control and standard DC 12-30V power connection.
- Capacitive touch screen LCD for camera settings and "slate" metadata entry.
- Compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses.
- Supports 2.5K and 1080HD resolution capture in 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.
- Thunderbolt connection allows direct camera capture via included Media Express software and supports live waveform monitoring via the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
- Includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve 9.0 color grading software.
Availability and Price
Blackmagic Cinema Camera will be available July 2012 for US$2,995 from Blackmagic Design resellers worldwide.