One of the most anticipated camera releases since the Canon 5D Mark III, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, has seen a number of delays, first with a slight delay that pushed the camera's release form late July until mid/late August. Just recently the public was informed that a major parts issue was holding up shipments, and that the company was working on the issue. Now we have official word from Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, about the exact reason for the delay and the steps they're taking to resolve the issue.
This is a slightly shortened version of a message posted by Grant on the official Blackmagic forum early this morning:
Over a month ago now, we completed the testing of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and started production. Very quickly we started to see cameras failing our production testing as they suffered from blemishes on the sensor. These are high end cameras so need to be built to a very high specification. We started testing to discover the cause of the problem and discovered that the problems were from our second shipment of sensors. The first shipment of sensors were fine. All the cameras you currently see people using had been built from this first batch of sensors and that is why we did not see any issues until we started to build cameras in volume.
While investigating the problem our engineers found the blemishes were in the glass that covers the sensor, and not the sensor itself. This is good because the glass might just be dirty so we saw this as a quick fix, but wondered how a supplier could deliver us sensors that had blemishes, as they are supposed to pre test them. It is worth noting here what this glass does. Each sensor has a glass cover to keep contamination off the surface of the sensor itself, which is essentially a large semiconductor. If the surface ever got dirty, it would be impossible to clean, however the glass is easy to clean. All sensors have this glass cover. It is a high quality glass with optical coatings, similar to lens glass.
Anyway getting back to the issue, when talking with the supplier, it turned out they had a bug in their test software that tested sensors after the glass had been applied. That's why they shipped us bad sensors and did not notice. They fixed that problem and could then see the problems we saw and stopped production as about 95% of sensors were suffering this problem with the glass. The next step for the supplier was for them to work out the cause of the blemishes on the glass. They developed tests for the glass before being bonded to the sensor, and discovered it contained the blemishes on the glass before being used in the suppliers factory. After more testing over the last few weeks, the supplier has discovered the blemishes are caused by a contamination from the packing materials used by the glass supplier to ship the glass to the sensor supplier.
So that's where we are at now. The supplier is due to get more glass later this week and then hopes to start up production again using new clean glass that will result in good quality sensors that we can use to start building cameras again. We build our cameras in our own factory on a production line built for the camera so we can start shipping cameras again the day we receive good sensors.
I deeply apologize for the delay in shipping and it has been very frustrating for us as well to be sitting on a completed and tested product for a month that we cannot sell. Especially when people need them urgently. As you can also see from the breakdown of the problem above, there has been multiple stages of testing to discover the cause of the problem so it has been hard to lock down dates or what was going on until now, so its been hard to update everyone on the exact details. I hope this update helps people understand the delay. We should know more details about shipping times once the new glass arrives at our supplier.
We also have a new software update v1.1 for the camera due in a few days. The original v1 software did not have DNxHD support so thats now been added, as well as support for lens stabilizers and a bunch of other small features.
So even though the exact shipping dates are not confirmed yet, assuming the new glass is free of blemishes, I would expect to start seeing cameras sometime next month. While Blackmagic is off to a rocky start regarding shipping dates, at least the software seems to be progressing nicely from version 1, which was missing a few key features that were promised when the camera was announced, including DNxHD and lens stabilization. We should know within the next few days what features will be in the next software update, version 1.1, but it will be interesting if the updates go above and beyond the features that were expected to ship with the camera in the first place.