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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169 Comments

I'd like to see it vs FS100

September 25, 2012 at 8:14AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Antonio Pantoja

There is a comparisson shot between BMCC and FS100 on bmcuser.com... I would take BMCC by far.

September 25, 2012 at 11:49AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Alex Mand

BMCC is far superior in every way but one : availability ! After placing my order few days ago at marcotec in germany, i've been told shipping will occur in the beginning of 2013 !
Of course I cancelled my order the day after, with many regrets. 3000 $ is nothing for such a great camera. Nothing !
Well, I have many projects to shoot until january or february so there are many cameras available but none is so exciting like this one ! Congrats BM team. And thanks a lot to Joe Marine for his wonderfull work.

September 27, 2012 at 9:05AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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An individual in my area is reporting that he has a BMCC, and is having serious problems. Rather than try to recount it all, I'll post a copy of his post:

"I used my Black Magic twice and its built-in battery was fried... and when it was working, the battery would only last for about two or three minutes after taking a full day to charge. The only lenses that worked on the camera were my L-Series lenses. None of my non-L Canons worked nor did any of my Tokina lenses. They would fit on the camera, but were super blurry. The camera only shoots at a set ISO of 400 and at a set 24 fps. So therefore this camera is made for doing only one thing: Making well lit movies. Also, all the footage had a green blur and a red dot that looked like light glares, but were in the same places in every shot and were still there if the cap was on the lens. A friend of mine had one too and he had to send it back because of the bad battery as well. I don't do green-screen work, but he does and he said there was no way you could with this camera. With an L-Series lens on the camera, the footage does look AMAZING! That is if you're going for a 'Silence of the Lambs' looking with everything you shoot."

When I asked if he sent it back, he said replied:

"I sent my camera back and they sent me a note saying they don't do repairs, but if I put my credit card down or mail them a check for $40 they will send it back to me the way it is. I just watched this video, and two of my complains can be seen. Do you see how when the camera hits light it shoots out in rays? Like with the sun and the headlight? This looking really cool at first... for my 48 Hour Film Project I used the camera with flashlights and it created a cool effect. The problem is the camera has the effect when you don't want it to show up and it's hard to avoid. The other problem I had can be seen in this footage too. Do you see the little color dots going across the screen? You can see them well in the early outdoor footage. These will be all over your image and you can't see them on the viewfinder. I could only see it when I put the footage on the computer. These dots with drive you crazy. The outdoor footage at night looks good, but I could never shoot at night since the camera is set to a 400 ISO. I also couldn't shoot outside in bright daylight because the 400 ISO would blowout the image. I want to like this camera and when they do hit the market, I do hope they can repair the one I have and I really hope they take out the kinks. "

I'm curious -- since the cams aren't shipping, has anyone heard of BMD selling pre-production models like RED did with the Epic?

September 27, 2012 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Zan Shin

Oh yeah there's always that issue called "reliability" when dealing with a first-time camera manufacturer... (uhoh gotta go!)

September 27, 2012 at 4:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Peter

A few have shipped out, but they aren't selling pre-production cameras.

First off, there is a warranty, so if this person was experiencing these issues, it would be covered under that. Secondly, even if your camera is out of warranty (which it can't be at this stage), Blackmagic has stated they will replace batteries for $80.

John Brawley and Philip Bloom have both used non-Canon and non-L Series lenses on the camera and have not experienced anything like has been stated above.

I've played with the camera, and adjusted the ISOs, and it is not limited to ISO 400, and the frame rates are not limited to 24. This was at NAB on very early pre-production firmware. So this person is either not being truthful, or completely unaware of how to work with the camera, or maybe there is a third option I haven't considered.

September 27, 2012 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department
5789

First, the "Full Disclosure":
I am a longtime Nikon bigot with some, but admittedly limited, experience with DSLR video. I am a retired engineer who has a passion for owning and using nice equipment. I started shooting DSLR video after getting a Nikon D4 and became quite hooked after buying a D800. I have added to my video equipment cupboard by adding an Atomos Ninja 2 which is able to give me what I believe to be superb ProRes HQ source material when used with the D800, whose sensor has, undeniably, the best DR of any current DSLR.

BTW, I was a proud owner/user of a Canon XL1S a few years ago - and obtained footage of which I was very proud. For example, from a week in the Galapagos Islands, but that was SD, which looks antique nowadays...

Will "somebody" please publish comparisons that include a D800, ideally with both internal recording AND externally recorded, PreRes HQ encoded "footage" alongside Canon's best? I, and many other Nikon users, would dearly like to see the D800 compared with the BMCC with such a well conceived set of tests.

Pete

September 27, 2012 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Pete Beckett

Joe Marine, I just want to thank you for the great work you are doing. I am subscribed to many blogs but only you and Vincent Laforet's get my full and continues attention. The wide range of knowledge and information you bring to the table helps me in so many way. This space is young and quite knowledgeable. So great thanks for this! This is a top blog.
When it comes to BMC, we all can obviously tell the difference, or simply stay ignorant, based on the fact that not all of us can afford all the perks that come with BMC (external SSD, new glass, battery issues, steadicam/rigs, etc...)
I definitely love the quality, but it does not call for a single shooter to manage. Today everyone thinks they are a filmmaker even if they have bought a used t3i. And that is crashing the media industry, and as well as the cameras become cheaper, we are paid less and less for more and more work we are supposed to produce super fast...
On the other hand there are people, that spend great time and effort to make sure what they release is only of the highest quality. Those kinds of people that work on Quality and not on quantity.
A lot of commercial paid shots demands of me to work cheaply and quickly, therefore at this stage I would not consider BMC. Unless I realise the more artistic projects I plan in December, for which I would hire RED, way sooner then BMC. As there is not enough reasons to buy BMC (but would buy D600 any day now, for traveling documentaries), in reality working more as a producer, means I do not need BMC personally, for as much fun as I have with cinematography. Even thou I simply love the images of it, I will simply stay hunted at nights on your forum, talking about beautiful images instead of making them, unless I get hired as a producer to bring cheap beauty to the table:)

September 27, 2012 at 7:52PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Thanks for the support, it is very much appreciated (no really, this is why we do it). We work hard to keep providing quality content and knowledge.

September 27, 2012 at 8:20PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department
5789

I have no experience with video RAW but I am familiar with still camera RAW. Forgive me if everyone else here is as well. I'm not even sure if you can compare still RAW with video RAW. But the latitude for adjustment with still RAW is amazing. You can take an image that is literally 'dark' to the point of total non-use (e.g. cannot even recognise a persons face) and increase the exposure in post (Photoshop) so that it is completely normally exposed and without artifacts. The first time you do it is one of those life changing experiences - magic. I can only extrapolate that these benefits will be similar for video but I do not know if this is true.

September 28, 2012 at 1:03AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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steve

I've shot raw on a feature and several commercial spots. The latitude is truly remarkable. Perhaps not as extreme when you add motion versus a still because you do have noise to contend with but far, far more range than even uncompressed hd 4:4:4 codecs.

But raw obviously doesn't change bad lighting or poor production design by itself. It just makes those things easier to see ;-). Given the size and cost of raw cameras I have chosen to avoid them on certain jobs, indepenent projects and even some commercials if I thought the money could be better spent on a location, or design or lighting - or time needed to get a variety of coverage.

That's why the bmcc is so promising. It's rental cost will be minimal and purchase could be amortized on a single job. Plus it's small and simple enough to use with the smallest crew. A game changer.

September 28, 2012 at 4:38AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Stuart

Why compare a DSLR, a system designed for still photography with an add-on video capability on the side, to a dedicated video camera? The whole point of the Canon camera is to be able to shoot stills up to 22.10 Megapixels (5760 x 3840.) The Canon video system maxes out at 1920 x 1080 while the Blackmagic system shoots video at much higher resolutions. Why compare theses two? This entire discussion makes no sense to me at all.

By the way, I note on the Canon website that the 5D is a "consumer home & office" product - not part of the professional line. Again, why compare these two? It makes no sense! You might as well be comparing a Lincoln Town Car to a Ford F-150 pickup!

October 21, 2012 at 11:54AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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Rugeirn Drienborough

I'm curious to know if anyone actually has access to BMCC? Comparing the prices isn't exactly fair, simply because the BM only does one thing. I would still venture to say that Canon sees the 5D line as a hybrid camera, but still majoring on stills. Not to say that the video quality sucks though. Hopefully in the future, it will do the 4k raw with 12-bit blah blah.

It would be fun to use both cameras, but seeing how one of these cameras doesn't exist to the public, I'd go with the camera I can actually use.

October 23, 2012 at 1:07PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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can mft model host ef lenses or do i get ef model and then an adaptor to host other lenses

January 9, 2013 at 7:28AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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yadwinder

can the bmcc give me 5k stills at 7fps speed shooting? doubling as a run and gun shooter on events and weddings and a "best in class" stills camera.

bmcc is a cinema camera, canon is a stills camera that shoots stunning video.

March 2, 2013 at 8:04AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

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Amarjeet

Just because you CAN edit natively in H.264 doesn't mean it's a good idea. Aside from the demands on hardware and limitations to the number of tracks and filters etc. that can run on anH.264 clip, the codec was never meant for editing. . . or acquisition, for that matter. It's a compression codec for delivering final media over bandwidth constrained distribution channels.

As such, it requires constant re-compression during editing, one of the things that places high demand on the system. There's additional generational loss involved with heavily edited H.264.

It also doesn't hold up well to grading or other post processing. While transcoding doesn't add color information that wasn't there to begin with, it does inhibit further breakdown of the image that can occur when it remains in the H.264 compressed color space.

Also, unless your sequence is 422 or better, titling or other additional effects in the H.264 space are awful. If you do work in a mixed timeline, the demands on your hardware are even greater.

Yes, it can be done and it's getting easier all the time but that doesn't make it a good idea for highest quality results.

April 12, 2013 at 11:55AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

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Eric

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April 17, 2013 at 11:21AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

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I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for posting this. I will definitely come to this site to find out more and tell my coworkers about you.

April 19, 2013 at 6:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

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hcg

Cough.
after ML rolled out RAW video version of its magic software, this article needs to be rewritten.

June 8, 2013 at 12:02PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

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Anton

Excellent review. One of the most detailed I've seen for the BMCC. Thanks.

February 22, 2014 at 8:05PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

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For reels... Yeah it's so nice converting all of my shitty h264 files to prores to be able edit them, instead of just shooting in an editable format.......

... Not.

Can't wait for my bmpcc to be in (ordered from bh on July 20 - hopefully it will get here eventually).

August 27, 2014 at 6:02PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

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Mark C

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