September 6, 2012

Wide Angle Lenses Compared on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera

After image quality and design quirks, the most discussed topic regarding the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera is lenses. Specifically, the issue regarding wide lenses. Since the BMCC's sensor is slightly smaller than Micro Four-Thirds, but uses a Canon mount, one of the complaints has been that it won't be possible to get a sufficiently wide image with the available lenses in that mount. The team over at OneRiver Media set out to prove exactly what was possible with current wide lenses, and they've also created one of the first short projects shot completely on the Cinema Camera (besides everything that John Brawley has done so far, of course).

Here is the short PSA, called Texting is Dangerous:

The entire project was shot RAW with CinemaDNG and graded in After Effects. A little more information about the production:

...we opted to perform a fairly straight and neutral grade with high contrast, something close to what the camera produced, post debayer and de-log profile. We used the following lenses on this production: Canon 24mm f/1.4L, Canon 50mm f/1.2L, Canon 135mm f/2, Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom...Mounting the camera on the Porsche with its stiff suspension proved well, and obviously not a typical solution. I almost didn’t want to include that footage, but felt that the audience would want to see ALL shots in their extreme variants.

The widest footage in the video above was shot somewhere between f/4.5 and f/5.6 at the least because that's the minimum aperture for the Sigma lens. The one lens that has been talked about the most as a possible fast wide for the Cinema Camera is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, which is almost two stops faster at its minimum. For those worried about shooting in lower light, RAW is going to give you a lot of range to work with, and a lens like the Tokina is going to be plenty fast enough for a lot of situations.

OneRiver Media has also done a comparison with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 7D, and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. You can click on the image on the right to see the full-size comparison. There's no question you can get the widest with the Canon 5D Mark II, but the BMCC can get plenty wide with the Sigma lens, and for the work many people are doing, it's going to be more than enough. Of course, you're not really going to be able to get a fish-eye effect with this camera, and a fast wide lens -- like a 24mm f/1.4 mounted on the BMCC -- takes on an equivalent field of view of a 55mm lens on a 5D.

Here is what Marco Solorio said about the lenses tested:

Personally, I really like the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM lens so far. It doesn’t have any barrel distortion at all and the edges stay straight throughout. Sharpness isn’t bad either, even wide open. The Canon 8-15mm f/4L is clearly the widest, but has obvious barrel distortion. Zoom in to 15mm and the distortion goes away for the most part. It’s a sharp lens throughout. And the solid build-quality is typical of all Canon L lenses; very nice. The Rokinon 8mm T3.8 cinema prime lens is just a shy less wide than the Canon 8-15mm lens, and has its own share of barrel distortion, albeit less than the Canon. Fully wide open, this lens is soft. To get decent sharpness, you need to stop down to about T5.6.

If you want very wide lenses it does mean you'll probably have to make an investment in some new ones (assuming you don't own any of the lenses mentioned). This is a valid complaint, but let's also keep in mind that this is a first generation product and it's very possible Blackmagic will address the mount issue with a future camera model. Either way, at the moment, getting this kind of image quality out of a camera costing $3,000 is just astounding, and there's no question people will find workarounds for whatever problems this camera might have (even if it means modifying the camera).

Be sure to head on over to the OneRiver Media blog for the full analysis of these lenses.


Your Comment


Nice to see some more footage and thus thanks to my fellow countryman for the testing and uploading. But, MAN, is that film retarded!!!

September 6, 2012 at 5:31AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


We are all used to find workarounds from the equally priced DSLR, so fighting for does wide angle shots shouldn't be really a problem...

September 6, 2012 at 6:45AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Very excited about future developments of this camera... higher fps and full frame??....

September 6, 2012 at 6:54AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Not at this low price though!

September 6, 2012 at 6:56AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Just watched that short on vimeo and was a little disappointed with the quality.

Philip Blooms film wasn't that interesting but showed off the quality of the camera.

This one the overall feel was very videoy and it did feel very DSLR which was interesting because Philip's felt a million miles away from DSLR with the shaprness.

September 6, 2012 at 6:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Does anyone know of any test with the tokina 11-16mm? That's the widest I have in my arsenal at the moment and I would be interested to see how it fares.

September 6, 2012 at 6:56AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I would expect it to be very similar to the canon 8-15 on the long end.

September 6, 2012 at 8:57AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Wow that was a waste of three minutes thirty four seconds.

September 6, 2012 at 7:17AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Well it was a video-y grade but I thought it looked very sharp and smooth. Good highlight handling. I'm impressed. (not so much with the film).

September 6, 2012 at 8:19AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Stu Mannion

Three first impressions:

1) German police sure travel with a lot of firepower. Did you see the rifle behind his seat?

2) When he said, "Papers, please," I thought we were going to see a Gestapo scene.

3) When he told her to get out of the car, I thought it was going to turn into a porno.

Three thoughts on the image quality:

1) Considering the shots were taken at night with a slow lens, the noise and dynamic range look great.

2 ) This camera renders skintones WAY better than any similarly priced camera. That, to me, is the biggest selling point.

3) The car vibration seemed to show up as rolling shutter. I'd be interested in seeing how much rolling shutter jello shows up during challenging moves (whip pans, etc.).

September 6, 2012 at 8:21AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Re: #3, I thought the same thing.

September 6, 2012 at 12:08PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Koo

Just watched Phillip Bloom's 40min review (nothing we didn't really know before) and he didn't even go into the rolling shutter!

September 6, 2012 at 3:03PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Yes he does... perhaps he's updated the blog since you saw it, but it's in his list of pros and cons underneath the video.

September 6, 2012 at 6:34PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I realise it has rolling shutter but he doesn't even mention it in the video apart from a little subtitle!

September 6, 2012 at 6:44PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I specifically recall him mentioning rolling shutter when he talks about the BMCC not powering IS for Canon lenses.

September 13, 2012 at 11:28AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


it was a lot to cover. realised after it was shot missed out a couple of things. Sorry you learnt nothing from it, loads of people seemed to! I will try harder next time! Look forward to your review of the camera done in your free time so I can learn some stuff soon! Thanks! ;)


September 13, 2012 at 11:44AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


and yes i did mention the lack of IS causes issues with the rolling shutter issues of the camera.

September 13, 2012 at 11:46AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I concur with Alex. Yeah the story wasn't that great. But I applaud the filmmakers for putting stuff out there for us to critique. It's easy to criticize, but hard to create.

I think there are a few things in this video worth noting.

First the Dynamic Range is way better than a DSLR. The sequence between :54-1:03 was shot directly at the car headlight and as the camera moves up, it goes to a darker area and then again the police car floodlights hit the camera again. This shot would be totally blown out with a DSLR or we wouldn't see any details in the darks.

Second the colors really pop. Skin tone is great.

For the price it's very good. Targeted at the indie filmmaker market, it performs well.

Besides the 2x crop factor, the only issues I have was the lack of histogram/waveform/audio levels on the built in monitor.

I would like to see an API for the thunderbolt connection so people can develop and control the camera or for file exporting.

September 6, 2012 at 3:15PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


A história do filme é muito imagens são muito boas...mas o filme é de lascar!!!

September 6, 2012 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Is it me, or does it seem like a ton of noise reduction, like Neat Video or something, was added. The people seemed plastic looking.

September 6, 2012 at 8:36AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


yes you are right. especially in the opening scene there are artifacts of heavy noise reduction in the sky.

September 6, 2012 at 9:47AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


First thing I noticed too!

September 6, 2012 at 1:20PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Agreed, some of those blacks are way too clean and black.

September 13, 2012 at 11:29AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I'm not really digging this offering - might be the acting or the smoothing noise reduction. It comes off as super dated and video looking. I feel like it was probably the direction the footage was taken in by the people involved, and that this camera can do much better.

September 6, 2012 at 8:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Yeah, the DP on this project was not great. They made a nice cinema camera look like bad video. It just proves, it is not the camera but the operator. I'm still very interested in this camera.

September 6, 2012 at 9:03AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


BMD have to make a version of this camera with the Canon Mirrorless mount so we can use high quality and fast ( and cheaper and wider ) lenses for C, PL-mount, Leica M, Contax G, Canon FD etc.
And you can always use the Canon EOS adaptor if you really need the Canon EOS lenses.

September 6, 2012 at 9:18AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Reports on other sites indicate that the debayering on the BMCC is still primitive, with significant false color issues (as seen on EOSHD) and green clipping (as reported by Philip Bloom). The nice thing is when they get the RAW conversion worked out you will be able to apply it to your RAW footage later. The problem is the camera doesn't appear to be production ready just yet for things that need delivery now.

September 6, 2012 at 10:20AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Anyone interested in lenses with IS like the Sigma 17-50mm? The camera's form factor certainly lends itself to handheld shooting, but without third-party EVF's or shoulder rigs I can't see how I wouldn't have to do major stabilization in post. Even with steady hands, many DSLR shoots I've done with non-stabilized primes would be borderline unusable if it not for Warp Stabilizer or SmoothCam. Thoughts?

September 6, 2012 at 10:51AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I have that 2.8, and it's good in the center so I would probably want to use it on this body. But Vincent Laforet reported he couldn't get the IS to work on his 100L, even though BMD has claimed if I recall correctly that they will support IS power. I don't know the status of this.

If you shoot RAW you get 2.5K which will help give you room to run some stabilization in post without losing much resolution. The other issue with this camera is the weight, with the Sig it's going to be about 4 pounds on your arm, plus any counterbalance/battery etc., which helps with inertia but hurts your endurance. You will want to shoot with a 90 degree shutter for stabilization in post as well, and narrow aperture to maintain focus, meaning you will probably prefer to be shooting EXT DAY that way as this camera doesn't have very high ISO.

September 6, 2012 at 11:04AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Thanks for the info Peter.

I'd never thought of shooting at 90 degree shutter, presumably to reduce motion blur (it does look a strange in an otherwise stabilized shot.) My only concern would be getting that Saving Private Ryan look when that's not the tone I'm after. Of course a properly planned shoot will negate most of this, but there will always be times where I need handheld in an un-lit, uncontrolled environement where fast non-IS primes are used, and it's good to know every workaround possible, during production and in post.

September 6, 2012 at 11:30AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The 90 degree shutter is something I recommend for HH shots on grabby optical stabilizers like that on the Sig. Sure the texture becomes a bit more strobey, but that's better than a sequence of frames where one is suddenly blurry but it doesn't move and there's no apparent reason it blurred. That's outright nauseating, and there is no satisfactory fix.

Not all optical stabilizers are so grabby; the Canon 24-105L is quite smooth and you might be fine at 180 shutter with it. But it might be too tele for use on this body. And you are best off shooting wide HH because that decreases the shake factor. Which is harder on this 2.3 FOVCF body.

September 6, 2012 at 4:52PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I'm still excited about using anamorphic glass on this camera to get wider field of view instead of just getting wider lenses.

September 6, 2012 at 11:04AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


You guys are missing the point... Why didnt the cop give her a ticket?!?!

September 6, 2012 at 12:41PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Blahh, what bad camera work - anyway, footage looked to me like having used way too much denoiser.

September 6, 2012 at 1:19PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The big concern for me is chromatic aberration, it looks like the crop factor really magnifies the CA in lenses designed for larger sensors. Guess the same might also be true for other lens artifacts. In this photo from Vincent Laforet's blog you can see the effect with the zeiss 18mm 3.5 ZE.

September 6, 2012 at 2:06PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Having shot with a 5DII...on a porsche...I can tell you it's no better for rolling shutter caused by excessive vibration. An IS lens will help, but it's just a result of the distance the sensor is moving in relation to the picture it's capturing. Besides that it's not a very pretty shot to begin with (as the OP noted)

As for the quality, some shots were definitely of a "video" feel, but that comes back to the user more than the camera. How it was setup, shutter angle, frame rates, the final grading. You could get Alexa footage to look like that too, so it's not any sort of indication of the camera's ability to render cinematic feeling footage. For that, we would need more RAW DNGs to play with ;)

Thanks to Marco Solorio for creating and posting this however. It's always nice to see more footage!! I love the photo comparisons as well. I do find the BMCC with Canon 16-35 @ 16 is resolving more detail than the 5D with Canon 16-35 @ 16 is....and no, I'm not being confused by the crop factor...look closer ;) It's a very sharp and detail rich still.

September 6, 2012 at 2:22PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


It really looked like a porno, from the way it was lit, to the way it was acted. Not very impressed with the final output. Looks like they forgot the camera at home and shot it on a DSLR instead.

September 6, 2012 at 2:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Well, after I go to their blog, I now like the results much better. Obviously they were not shooting to make a superb looking CUT, they were shooting to show different lenses, angles and image quality.

The interesting thing I take is how framing/comp and editing can make a short feel cinematic or video-y. I think it looks 5dmkII-ish on first glance because of the wide angles and shallow DOF, but then when you go to the blog, you can see the quality, DR and sharpness.

This little camera shines!

September 6, 2012 at 8:02PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


One of the pitfalls of embedding our video from Vimeo is that it doesn't include the context to which the video was made. Unfortunately, some of the people on this thread aren't getting the full scoop as to why we shot this video, why we shot it this way, and why it looks this way. We could have very easily done the mainstream scenario where we shot a daylight beauty video at golden hour, but instead, we wanted to take a risk, jump outside the status quo, and really push the camera in severely extreme situations, in many different aspects. Many people got this on the get go, others, not so much, which is understandable. At first glance, I'd probably think the same thing as well. To shed some light on the matter, I created two blog posts that will hopefully clear up any confusion as to why we shot it this way and why it looks this way:

Part 1:
Part 2:

Using frame grabs, the latter blog post clearly shows visual examples of what's really going on. Our intention wasn't to win an Oscar with a beauty video, but to step outside the box, take the camera to extremes, see how far it could go, and learn from it; something a beauty video wont provide us. What's life without risks? By taking chances, you learn and improve your skill set for future undertakings when the surprises pop up. As a professional, I want all the knowledge and experience I can get, before I shoot the glossy glamour productions. Otherwise, I'm just another guy with a camera, following trends and ubiquity... something my clients don't pay me to do.

September 6, 2012 at 8:09PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


This sounds like a cover for bad DP work. There are some statements in your blog that show how much you guys don't know what you are talking about or what you are doing. Sure this example shows how well the camera handles some odd situations but nobody shoots this way, not even for tests. Just look at the camera shoot out series on zacuto's site. They use real production examples. Why would you have to "go out of the box" to do a better test. Truth is, you don't. You guys were just lucky to get a camera first. Very unfortunate for BMD though. This does not flatter their work.

September 9, 2012 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Marco at OneRiver Media has been writing for Creative Cow and a number of blogs, print magazines and industry web sites for years, not to mention the company has created industry software, leading compression tests and winning numerous industry awards for international clients. With more than 20+ years of experience, it is no luck, as you ignorantly describe it, that Marco was selected to test the camera. Black Magic has asked him to present his test results in San Francisco, LA, Boston among others.

September 10, 2012 at 6:00PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Still doesn't explain the shoddy cinematography. The technical motivation does not motivate poor lighting. You guys need to lighten up and learn to take some criticism. Maybe these guys should prepare for harsh comments when they profess to be 20 years in and put out content like this. They can scream camera test all day, but it is amateur.

September 11, 2012 at 6:33AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


BMD mailme yesterday:

"We have also been working on a Passive Micro Four Thirds model of the camera. People have been asking for this as there are a lot of nice high end manually operated MFT lenses on the market, and the MFT mount can also be easily adapted to PL and other lens mounts using third party adapters.

The new Blackmagic Cinema Camera MFT is expected to ship in December, and will be the same price as the original model. It’s identical in features as they are both the same camera, just with different lens mounts. The price will also be the same at $2,995. We will be working with our dealers to help people change their orders if they want."

Just Great!!!!!

September 7, 2012 at 9:40AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


She hasn't been drinking but I reckon he has.

September 12, 2012 at 8:27AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Geoff Longford

What's going to happen when they finally solve every problem:

A camera with 35 stops of DR, 4K resolution, 900FPS, 18Bit color space, 4 inch sensor, ISO 9,200,000, and miraculously stores @ 1GB per minute, no compression, no banding...

Well, we're going to have a bunch of filmmakers that have spent way too much time obsessing over tech specs instead of working on the most important thing of all: STORY.

Go take a look at the pixels in Leaving Las Vegas, and then compare them to the majestic image of Water World.

STOP OBSESSING OVER EVERY LITTLE CAMERA DETAIL AND START WORKING ON STORY, the only thing that matters. Audiences will forgive anything if the story is compelling. But they will never forgive a boring story shot on an unlimited budget.

February 12, 2013 at 10:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

Mike Nichols

I'm a 5D Mark 2 user and these days I'm planning to switch to either Mark 3 or BMCC.
I have great respect for both the cameras but BMCC looks more promising when it comes to dynamic range and that RAW stuff. Here are a few things which are confusing me. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

1. I use Canon L series lenses. If I get a BMCC, I need to have a wide angle lens like Sigma 8-16mm. Does anyone know if there'd be a major difference between the quality!!! I mean the L glass and Sigma 8-16. If yes, then how much?

2. If I get a BMCC, I have to buy the external battery back up pack like switronix... can anyone help me understand whether that whole package (camera and external battery combined) can be used with a glidecam HD 4000?

March 30, 2013 at 4:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your effoets and I will be waiting
for your further write ups thanks once again.

May 7, 2014 at 4:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM


Nice footage. i'm having BMC Pocket camera. i want to know suitable wide lens for that. Plz guide me...

April 6, 2015 at 9:37AM