November 30, 2018

Our Hands-On Review of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Blackmagic continue to shake things up with some major revision for the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

Let's take a hands-on look at the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (which, if interested, you can purchase here). We've been excited about this camera for quite awhile now - and have been covering some of the early news and add-ons for external power solutions, camera cage build-outs and attachable SSD options. So, without further ado, here is our hands-on field test review of the BMPCC 4K.

Field Test: Blackmagic Pocket 4K

True innovators feel free to break all the rules. This can be amazing, when a company opens up a completely new space, like RED bringing raw digital cinema cameras to the marketplace. But it can also be very frustrating, like when the original RED camera used mini-SDI connectors for no good reason. By setting yourself free from legacy constraints, you push things forward but run the risk of having some annoying stuff along the way.

While Blackmagic is hugely dominant in post with their hardware and the Resolve software platform, in cameras, they get to play the "innovator" card.  They don't have 20-year long customer relationships that they have to keep happy by not obsoleting a technology too quickly, nor making sure their parts play well with last year's accessories. They kind of get to do whatever they want - and that leads to some amazing things, like the URSA Mini Pro, but also leads to some quirky choices.

Their newest camera, which we first got to see in an interview with Grant Petty the day before NAB, is the Blackmagic Pocket 4k. This camera, for a launch price of $1295, ticks off an insane number of boxes. It uses an internal standard Canon battery, but also accepts external power through a robust 12V connector that feels set ready. It shoots RAW internally to CFast cards, but can also connect to a hard drive via USB-C. You can even plug in a thumb drive and shoot straight to that. It has two run buttons, one to make it easier to use in self-shooting mode.

Recording 4K Raw Footage

4K Raw. $1300.  Pick up a Samsung T5 SSD and shoot straight to that. It's kind of insane just how well it all comes together. It's amazing. It's raw for less than $5000, by a huge factor, which isn't a combination that has really existed before, and won't until manufacturers start supporting ProRes Raw over HDMI, which Atomos is ready for but camera markers aren't doing yet. This might just push them over that edge.

The image quality holds up well, even against the URSA Mini Pro (here is a side-by-side comparison between the BMPCC 4K and the URSA Mini Pro), though of course the URSA Mini Pro already supports the new Blackmagic Raw codec, which is much smaller than the Cinema DNG of the Pocket 4k, though I think we all expect the Pocket to get the new .braw format soon. In fact, it kind of has to. The current Cinema DNG format files are just too big.  Even working in ProRes, the dynamic range and color reproduction where quite pleasing and felt very flexible in post.  As you grade the footage, it feels "fuller' than comparable H.264 DSLR footage, with more room to be pushed around, and that is a huge, huge plus.

We were initially worried about the smaller sized sensor, but actually it doesn't bother us.  While we always felt like 1/3" was too small, creating massive depth of field, the MFT size has always been kind of great for it's "deep but not too deep" depth of field that makes it easy to pull focus yourself or use in a run and gun situation, as opposed to the Sony or Canon 5D Full Frame sensors where the depth of field gets so small it's truly difficult to be out alone without a focus puller and an external monitor. MFT feels like the right sensor size for this camera, and we would've been shocked to see a full frame sensor in here regardless, though perhaps with the new L mount we might see that in a few years.

Blackmagic's Ergonomics

There are some little ergonomic frustrations, mostly with the power switch. The power switch doesn't matter much on a real shoot since you aren't switching it on and off very often, but on "run and gun" type shoots, it's placement is just far enough from the hand grip to field weird, especially since the internal Canon batteries don't last long. 

It's also shockingly not noisy in low light at 25600. Yes, of course, there is noise, but nothing that Resolve's built-in noise correction wouldn't handle. Especially since it's such a small sensor we were very impressed. Remarkably little noise for the sensor size, but noticeable. The biggest frustration, though, was the lack of image stabilization.

Stabilizing the BMPCC 4K

We've just entered a world where so many cameras like this (GH5, XH1, etc.) have great image stabilization built in and personally we've all gotten very used to it. It is very noticeably absent here. Would we take RAW over stabilization? It really depends on the job and the shooter. If we knew we had a dedicated Ronin-S operator with us every day, then the Pocket 4k becomes an amazing option. If it's a one mule team shoot, all day all hand held, we don't know that it necessarily is the right choice. 

Without image stabilization it doesn't feel like a "do anything" platform, but that's OK, there isn't actually a "do anything" camera. And the image quality is so good for it's price that it really is worth using on jobs where image stabilization isn't a priority. For many shoots where it will be on a tripod or stabilizer all day, this camera is a no brainer.

The familiar wedge shape.

One of our small frustrations is the inconsistency of the naming conventions with Blackmagic. We already noted that, while we love the panels, the Micro and the Mini feel oddly named for us, and this camera being called the "Pocket" just doesn't feel right. With a pancake lens, the old pocket could fit comfortably in a pocket. Even with a pancake this camera won't fit in the vast majority of human pockets. 

This camera should definitely be the "URSA Micro Pro."  Or, really, the URSA Mini should just be the URSA (it's by far the most common size, we rarely if ever run across the full sized URSA outside of trade show floors), the full URSA should be like the URSA maxi, and the pocket should be the mini. It also really shows a serious legacy from the original blackmagic cinema camera, with a similar wedge feeling, and it feels more like a revision of that camera than of the pocket. Of course, these aren't criticisms of the camera: what it's called doesn't affect how it works. It's just an observation.

Is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Right For You?

Overall, there is literally nothing out there that will give you RAW, and this image quality, at $1295. This is a huge, huge, huge thing. If you have an URSA Mini this is a great B-camera, and if you are working on jobs where the raw will be put to use (the way the original pocket was used on Spiderman Homecoming, for instance), this will be great.

But image stabilization is something that many of us are getting very addicted to. It's absence here is more noticeable in a way than in a larger camera, since most of your URSA Mini Pro Jobs will have a stabilizer, a dolly, a team. Or at least it's heavy and stable and sits on your shoulder. Most Pocket jobs are hand held, and hopefully IS of some sort will roll out in the next major revision for the camera, or you can pair it up with a Ronin-S. Actually, this and a Ronin-S still costs you less money than the next step up in the raw 4K universe.

Overall, for those who want to create really amazing narrative cinematic imagery, especially those working with a stabilizer or gimbal, this camera feels like a lot of threads coming together for blackmagic. Especially once it gets Blackmagic RAW.

Available now.

Tech Specs

  • Full size 4/3 sized sensor
  • Native 4096 x 2160 resolution 
  • 13 stops of dynamic range 
  • Up to 25600 ISO 
  • Carbon fiber polycarbonate composite body
  • Built in SD, UHS-II and CFast card recorders
  • USB-C expansion port for external SSD or flash disk
  • Features full size HDMI output
  • Professional mini XLR
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Built in 5” LCD touchscreen a
  • 3D LUTs 
  • 4th generation Blackmagic color science
  • Supports remote camera control via Bluetooth

Your Comment

25 Comments

This is the shittiest test footage I've seen in a long time. I've seen children film better. Anyway, the inbody stabilisation is really not mendatory, and in this case it wouldnt have been powerfull enough to save the shakiness of those hand. It's been only a few years that sensor are stabilized on camera that are used for video and we did film handheld before, just try to hold still and use a stabilized lense and it will be fine.

November 30, 2018 at 1:05PM, Edited November 30, 1:31PM

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AvdS
1144

Guessing it was removed? I'm not seeing a video besides the old Blackmagic one.

November 30, 2018 at 7:54PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1669

NFS. What is happening to you all? Like, that footage, it's, it's horrible. Also why are the camera test so random. You've done like two in the past 5 months with this being one of them.

November 30, 2018 at 2:03PM

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Alex Alva
886

Wouldn't it be easier to just post a link to some YT review?

November 30, 2018 at 2:18PM

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Here's a little camera test I shot last week with the BMCCP4K that does a better job at showing how great the visuals are on the camera. I shot it in ProRes HQ 4K, enjoy!

https://vimeo.com/303220651

November 30, 2018 at 2:29PM, Edited November 30, 2:29PM

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Great shots, Daniel !

November 30, 2018 at 3:07PM

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Umm...overcast shots are not a great way of testing anything, just saying.

November 30, 2018 at 4:14PM

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erloshA
14

Being annoying isn't a great way to criticize someone having some fun while shooting.

November 30, 2018 at 5:28PM

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Alex Alva
886

I got my Pocket this week and didn't feel like I had to just go out without any preparation or plan, shoot whatever's in front of me, and post it on the web to be the laughing stock of pros and amateurs alike.

Other users have done stellar tests and the world doesn't need more crappy shots posted as "so-called" test footage.

But hey: this is NoFilmSchool. The once great site that has gone to shit, thanks to VRenee and all the other idiot re-bloggers trying to pass as "journalists".

(Guys, bare with me: writing "journalists" made me spit my Canada Dry out of my nose).

That being said...

Battery life is horrible. If you do any shooting at all, you'll need a ton of LP-E6. Worst thing is: it's hard to find batteries that will work at all !

Out of the 5 batteries I already had (used a few times on a Video Assist), two just turn the camera on for a few seconds, then die. The battery included with the cam has unreliable "meter" info: it can be fully charged and show 60%, then it falls rapidly to, let's say, 30%, last for 20 minutes or so, then shuts down after showing 25%.

There really is now way of knowing if the "no-name" LP-E6 will work at all. A shot in the dark.

Image quality is stellar. But... UHD at 24p in Prores fills a 64GB SD card in about 10 minutes.

So: if you want that camera, you'll get an incredible deal. But be prepared to invest in some king of external power solution and buy tons of storage.

November 30, 2018 at 2:35PM

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Yeah I shot and filled up a 128 CF that was provided from my rental, and I ended up attaching my 500GB Samsung SSD which dig the trick quite well.

November 30, 2018 at 2:49PM

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I bought a LaCie DJI Copilot 2TB drive for backups.

I just plug my T5 into it (USB-C !) and, using the Android app on my phone, can backup the whole thing without using a laptop. It also has a built-in SD card reader. I just love it !

The copilot has a built in battery to charge phones but I haven't tried charging the Pocket's battery with it (yet).

November 30, 2018 at 3:10PM

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Something's gotta give for a $1300 camera that shoot 4K DCI RAW at 60fps. I've got on order but I took advantage of holiday sales to get storage cheap. I have a 256GB SD and 1TB T5 already, bought a second on sale. Bought at 256GB CF on huge sale at B&H ($266 vs normal $650) and then a 2TB Samsung 860EVO that was $297 for fast field backups, put in external rugged enclosure. For power, I think Canon brand is way to go. Ordered 2 with dual charger and probably get 3 more but have a V-mount and Goal Zero Yeti for long shoots. That way I can do lean with batteries and CFAST for gimbal or big - AC and SSDs for tripod but still be portable.

November 30, 2018 at 6:19PM, Edited November 30, 6:20PM

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Stephen A van Vuuren
Filmmaker
299

Ppl are reporting that the T5 will not do DCI 4k RAW @60fps without dropped frames and then the recording will soon fail. Something to be mindful of if that is important acquisition for you.

Happily, I'm here to report that the new G-tech SSDs will in fact do the above with no issues. I got the 1TB version for about $230, and at this resolution and frame rate I get roughly 71 minutes of record time, and roughly 171 minutes in DCI 4k RAW at 24fps. Not bad eh?

Another thing I like about the G-tech is it's crush proof rated at 1,000 lbs and IP6-rated for water and dust. It's also small and light, but the build is extremely sturdy, no plastic. It's very portable, as much as the T5 or Wise options.

There is zero value with C-fast right now in terms of price per GB unless you already own some. The c-fast prices need to be driven down and hopefully as more camera manufactures adopt USB 3.1 C as an output source that will force C-fast to compete better. Because as far as form factor, C-fast cards are the more portable preferred choice with a camera like this.

When BRAW comes to this camera, things on the costs of storage are going to get even sweeter.

December 1, 2018 at 5:14AM, Edited December 1, 5:16AM

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It's certified by BM but forums reports some issues that BM is checking into. 95% what I shoot is 24fps DCI 4K so I'm not worried, 60fps is only for occasional slow mo, likely on gimbal to CFAST card.

December 2, 2018 at 12:41AM

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Stephen A van Vuuren
Filmmaker
299

There are these new things called tripods that you can mount your camera on. In addition to not having to hold your camera, they also help you shoot clear footage, which your audience will appreciate. Check it out - they sell them at BH.

November 30, 2018 at 2:55PM, Edited November 30, 2:55PM

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Lol, right? I work in news and the sign of laziness is people shooting everything hand held. If the story calls for it sure, but for the most part -I use a tripod. If you want mobility, use a monopod. Hearing so many turn this camera down for a lack of a flip screen and IBS is laughable.

November 30, 2018 at 7:49PM, Edited November 30, 7:49PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1669

People mistake "energy" in shots as translating to handheld these days, when energy actually is derived from your subject matter. Yes, there are times where handheld supports the narrative, but it's not the narrative itself.

People lack patience these days. It's imperical and a global phenomenon. It's too much time and trouble to break out or even carry a tripod. Which I find so extremely odd as a filmmaker, where nothing comes easily and by accident. There's been a trend in cinematography these days where it's about camera and editing tricks more than good, solid cinema and storytelling. But there's a difference between, "neat" and art. Neat has a shelf life of maybe 1-2 years. Art is timeless.

December 1, 2018 at 5:24AM

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They did mention tripod use.

December 3, 2018 at 11:12AM

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This is a Professional Cinema Camera! Its not a Vlogging Camera...its not a DSLR! it wont just cost you the price of the camera. It will require other things to make it work. I hate seeing people asking about internal image stabilization! If you have ever Shot on The Red or Arri, URSA Mini or Canon C series with professional Film Lens then you would know that Image stabilization is not a thing. This camera is just like those Camera... It is for people who are serious about their craft. Stop talking about Image Stabilization! As someone said.. USE A TRIPOD!

November 30, 2018 at 11:31PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2604

Although I totally agree with 90% of what you wrote, I have to disagree that having IBIS would automatically deem any camera as not being professional cinema, just because the other cinema cameras don't yet have it. Noticed I said yet.

It is inevitable that in the coming years you will see IBIS in more and more systems, because overall it's a good technology. Sometimes we have to be careful to not always refer to legacy for legacy sake. Yes Arriflex and RED are the pinnacle when it comes to Hollywood-style cinema, but these systems are not without weaknesses too. Pushing boundaries is about experimentation, suspending a certain amount of disbelief, trying something new and seeing what you get. It's not always about regurgitating the same old, same old just because that's the way it's been done up until now. If the Pocket 4K came with IBIS, it wouldn't make it less of a cinema camera, in fact it may even make it a better cinema camera.

December 1, 2018 at 5:36AM

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I hate when I see this quote because it simply isn't true.

"new Blackmagic Raw codec, which is much smaller than the Cinema DNG of the Pocket 4k, though I think we all expect the Pocket to get the new .braw format soon. In fact, it kind of has to. The current Cinema DNG format files are just too big"

Blackmagic RAW (braw) is a great codec when you don't want to use CDNG, BUT it is not much smaller. It is barely smaller and often the same! The difference is that braw has higher compression rates 5:1, 8:1, 12:1. That's it, and that is why it's smaller, but now you have higher compression and potentially less grading room. But I do admit that visually, I can't tell the difference.

Blackmagic shows the data rates for Uncompressed RAW to make braw seem "MUCH" smaller. UNCOMPRESSED RAW ISN'T EVEN AN OPTION ON THE MINI PRO OR THE POCKET CINEMA, only LOSSLESS!! Uncompressed and Lossless are not the same thing, and braw isn't available in uncompressed or lossless so you aren't comparing apples to apples. They aren't even comparing anything that is in a product they sell. Great marketing or should I say lying, but there is a reason the chart on their website only shows Uncompressed CDNG vs braw 3:1 and lower. If you compare apples to apples, CDNG 3:1 is 183MB/s and braw 3:1 is 183 MB/s and braw Q0 is 110-274 MB/s according to Blackmagic's literature and at 4.6k! And that's the reality. Everyone should know that before thinking you will save tons of space when shooting with braw.

From the URSA Mini Pro manual:

"For example, 12:1 compression produces a file size roughly 12 times smaller than uncompressed RAW". CDNG at 12:1 would do the same thing folks. Do the math. It's just not offered at 12:1.

CDNG is offered for the URSA mini pro and pocket cinema in 3:1 and 4:1, but in the URSA Mini Pro Manual; it only shows 4:1 when comparing CDNG to braw. Again, Blackmagic is attempting to avoid showing that the date rates are the same for 3:1.

On Blackmagic's website for tech specs of pocket cinema at 4k DCI:

CinemaDNG RAW - 272 MB/s
CinemaDNG RAW 3:1 - 129 MB/s
CinemaDNG RAW 4:1 - 97 MB/s

On Blackmagic's website for tech specs of URSA mini pro at 4.6k:

Blackmagic RAW 3:1 - 183 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 5:1 - 110 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 8:1 - 68 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 12:1 - 46 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW Q0 - 110 to 274 MB/s *
Blackmagic RAW Q5 - 27 to 78 MB/s **
CinemaDNG RAW - 391 MB/s (NOT 548 MB/s)
CinemaDNG RAW 3:1 - 183 MB/s
CinemaDNG RAW 4:1 - 137 MB/s

Yes, you read this correctly.
CinemaDNG RAW 3:1 - 183 MB/s
Blackmagic RAW 3:1 - 183 MB/s

All the marketing or lying or misleading is not giving people accurate information.

The main way braw is amazing is that you can edit it on a laptop without a problem. That is how they should market the codec because that is a great feature. That is the benefit and that is why you should choose it if this is important to you. It is easy on your computer. CDNG is not easy on your computer. I've also noticed that braw is less noisy at 1600, but it seems CDNG is better at 3200 than braw. Doesn't make sense, but it is what I see.

I know it's easy to write an article without doing real research, but the easy way is rarely an educated way.

December 1, 2018 at 5:02PM, Edited December 1, 5:11PM

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Great Review Charles! I picked on up 4 weeks ago. Love the codecs. So easy to use.

December 1, 2018 at 11:12PM

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My Super16mm camera shoots 13 stops of dynamic range but doesn’t have any image stabilization- yet the wild thing is: the images don’t need it- there’s no moire at all.
My first short is sitting 25 feet away from me, that I shot 15 years ago. I’ve never paid a cent to the electric company for a HD to spin aimlessly for the decade since.
On top of all of that, I’ve never purchased a plug-in to chase the goal of looking more film-like.
All in all, I use a camera that, despite being 40 years old, seems to have solved all the problems of today’s cameras.
But I shoot docs too, so I’m not crazy, I’ve ordered BMPCC 4K as well. :-)

December 2, 2018 at 11:12AM

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Doug
215

Didn't talk about the audio capture (Mini-XLR), which is a huge plus...

December 3, 2018 at 11:11AM

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Thumb Drive? Can anyone shed light on this?

December 5, 2018 at 2:59PM

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Ron Johnson
Shooter/Director/Editor
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