January 25, 2017 at 6:42PM, Edited January 25, 6:44PM

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Dealers won't recommend Black Magic because of service?

Twice I've gotten pretty excited to buy Black Magic Gear, first the Ursa Mini, and then later the Video Assist. Talking to pro video reps at Samy's and B & H. They both said basically customer service at Black Magic was so bad they couldn't recommend their products. If it worked perfect out of the box you were good to go. If you had a problem good luck finding help from Black Magic. I was pretty pumped then dumped. Is this because Black Magic has a bad profit margin for dealers (the cynical ex salesman view...) or is their service really that bad? Love to hear your experience with their service and product reliability, build quality?

34 Comments

The reason they can sell products that seem to be beat everything in their price range is because they cut corners everywhere they can (and yes, the profit margins are very low considering the wholesale cost on the sensor alone for the BMCC is almost $1,000). I won't go into detail on all the BM products I've used (again) but they all seem half-baked and unreliable. I know my boss has nothing good to say about them. I WILL specifically mention the Hyperdeck that spontaneously combust in the middle of a shoot just because I love that story! I've never directly dealt with BM's customer service, but I'm not surprised it's non-existent. Again, they have to get prices unbelievably low SOMEHOW and quality control, engineering, service etc. are expensive.

January 26, 2017 at 7:35AM, Edited January 26, 7:39AM

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Thank you for your comment! I know the hardware margins are low on all the cameras.

January 30, 2017 at 11:37AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

Hi Scott. You might consider spending some time browsing http://www.bmcuser.com

There are good stories and bad stories and you can draw your own conclusions.

January 26, 2017 at 11:53AM

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Thank you for your comment. That is a good suggestion. I will do that.

January 30, 2017 at 11:38AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

I've never had a great experience with a Black Magic camera, and I've shot on them a few times. I've also heard a lot of horror stories.

You're going to hate this, but at the same price level, I would recommend a Canon Cinema camera, whether it's a C100 or a used C300. On paper they look like sh*t, but in real life they are some of the best, most reliable cameras I've used in that price range (and I've used everything from a Sony A7s to an Arri Alexa).

January 28, 2017 at 2:44AM, Edited January 28, 2:44AM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1085

Thank you for commenting. We have a Sony A7Sii and a A6300. They are pretty awesome, but I think an actual camcorder form would be really nice sometimes. I am not particularly attached to any camera at the moment.

January 30, 2017 at 11:41AM, Edited January 30, 11:40AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

In terms of pure image quality you shouldn't gain much going from a A7SII to a Blackmagic Ursa camera. Do you have a specific reason that you are interested in the URSA? Have you rented one to try it out?

January 30, 2017 at 2:53PM

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Thanks for replying Joseph! Well, I basically got the A7Sii & 28 - 135 pz instead of the Ursa mini, after consulting with Samy's SF. Compared to most of you, I'm a beginner, and the Sony has been relatively easy for us to use. Easier certainly than the Canon 5dii we had previously. I really should rent one for a week, or weekend, and shoot on it. If nothing else, it would be a great learning experience, and fun, that might result in some striking footage. The thing I'm looking at is by the time you get viewfinder, media, shoulder mount and batteries it's the same price as a Sony FS5. So that's a tough choice.

January 30, 2017 at 4:16PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

Basically we're really happy with these cameras. Thought about recording 10 bit 422 using the BM video assist. I knew Samy's opinion already. It just surprised me when I called B & H that, they in addition to Samy's, were not supporting the Black Magic brand. That was when I decided to seek opinions.

January 30, 2017 at 10:51PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

The a7sII is a camera that can make some great images and video. It can also pass for a 'normal camera' in places you don't have a permit for.

What is your target deliverable? Is it for Youtube, BluRay, streaming or theatrical? For the most part you should be able to make great quality video.

One of the best things to look at for that is going to be the 'slog' functions. There are picture profiles for slog(1/2/3). They require more post color processing but give a more options for image look. That would be the first modification you can make to upgrade the quality of video.

The next would be to use an external recorder. I have really great things about the odyssey, but I have not felt the need to use it with mine.

As for trying other cameras, depending on where you live camera rental houses are usually very willing to show you their gear at their place. So you can try out a few different camera's and rigs if they aren't busy and you are nice about it. Bring a friend so you have a person to shoot footage of.

How is the power zoom? I haven't heard great things about it and went with the gmaster 24-70.

January 31, 2017 at 1:27PM

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We have 7 instructional DVDs for sale on Amazon through Createspace. I sell them mainly to my students and thru a group on Facebook. They don't bring in a lot of money each month, but they do sell every month. It is incredibly encouraging. We have been shooting in Slog and I am using Sony Prepare to process it. I love that part, it is really fun! Neither wife or I have film degrees, and we are learning as we go -the NoFilmSchool way - with lots of videos online and books, lynda.com, and some classes at the community college. I also worked as a host for Fightlife TV on a series about the life styles of different martial artists. But we weren't able to achieve distribution and it closed up. Mostly we are documenting famous training routines. Currently, I am close to finishing two new titles "Earth Dragon Staff" and "Rising Block Spear" in Premiere Pro. I find PP has a bit of a learning curve, at least for me. We also have a documentary I am doing with the Fightlife producer, an in depth on the full art of Tai Chi Chuan with a professional network editor, Steve Eagleton, shot on location at Wudang Mountain in China, Beijing and Taiwan, as well SF Bay Area. Again nearing completion. I have short called "Yin and Yang in Death Valley" shot during the 2016 super bloom. Haven't really started editing it yet. My dream this year is to produce a series of Tai Chi instructional programs, each 20 minutes long, "Learn Tai Chi in 100 Days" at level of quality suitable for broadcast and distribution. Since I pay the bills by teaching 5 - 7 hours a day, it is tough to move these things forward. But we are very determined and 2017 looks to be great!!!

February 1, 2017 at 2:45PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

I was looking at the Black Magic video assist or 4K assist to record 10bit 422 and called B & H. I was really surprised that both they, and Samy's, wouldn't recommend the brand. That is why I posted here. Get more perspective. I read this site every day. I've learned a lot here. I love it. Eyeopening. The 28 - 135 on the A7Sii is amazing. It blows my mind what the footage looks. "Really, we (a pair of basically, winging it amateurs) shot that?" That being said, it is a beast, it is really heavy. Handheld is not an option. We also got some vintage nikkor nikon lenses, they're fun, but no comparison. Zoom is very cool for B roll and intro shots. We shoot mostly outdoors, and use the scenery around SF for our backdrops. Next, is putting it on the a6300. And learning how to pull focus. My wife really, really wants the gmaster lenses. She has to wait though!! Thanks!

February 1, 2017 at 2:57PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

Well just to add balance to this conversation. I, on the other hand, have had nothing but good things to say about BM products.

For me they've been absolutely rock solid and extremely dependable. My day job is working in a small production unit for a large London based university. Not only do we have cameras that we own and rent (BMCC, Ursa Mini, BMSC4k) but we also have a bunch of production stuff (Atem Switcher, h264 recorders, hyperdecks, etc).

There have been small issues. One of our Studio cameras had audio issues specifically when using the XLR input whilst the video feed is being recorded to an external recorder. In all honesty, getting assistance was amazingly simple - i literally just gave them a call and spoke to an engineer who said they'd test it. A few days later i receive an email confirming that is a new issue they've discovered. About a month later, new camera updates hit and to my surprise there was a fix (this is the current firmware at the time of writing).

Sure, I dont agree with some of the things they do (announcing cameras with long wait times, not keeping us up to date) but at the same time, nobody is doing what they do and the Ursa Mini is one of the best cameras I've ever used. The image is incredible.

Anyway, I hope this was somewhat helpful. Ben is right, go to bmcuser :)

January 28, 2017 at 8:01AM, Edited January 28, 8:01AM

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Ash Tailor
Cinematographer
202

Thank you for commenting that is good to hear!

January 30, 2017 at 11:41AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

This is Heavily one-sided... I've gotten support and my friends have gotten support whenever we make a call and we live in Jamaica so this is not true...Cameras have been sent back from jamaica and we get back a repaired or replaced camera or any other piece
of equipment from Blackmagic. So this is not true. If you have your preference state your preference but don't go beating on Blackmagic like they are lacklustre. I've had worse luck with Sony so, let's see some balance.

January 30, 2017 at 11:17AM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2582

Dear Wentworth Kelly,
Thank you for replying! I am sincerely asking this question. It is not a hit piece on Black Magic. Their gear looks cool and I am looking for real feedback and discussion from filmmakers. It is good to know that you got taken care of in Jamaica. I would prefer the answer to come back that they are awesome actually. I was quite discouraged to hear this from the reps.

January 30, 2017 at 11:35AM, Edited January 30, 11:42AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

Going off what Wentworth said, Sony customer service is atrocious. I was recently screwed on a lens I sent to their authorized "repair" service Precision Camera. If you ever have to repair a Sony lens or camera, avoid this place at all costs. It was a nightmare to deal with them. The Sony camera products I've worked with are good, but I probably won't be buying any more of their products due to their shady repair service.

January 30, 2017 at 10:14PM, Edited January 30, 10:20PM

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Warren Bros.
Filmmaker | Cinephile
407

I also had a horrible experience with their repair service. I had to get very aggressive to get proper service of our 28-135pz. What a bunch of a-holes. And there is no alternative either. No one else can service their lenses. I really love our gear and the results sort of blow my mind. But boy I never want to deal with Precision Camera again either. This is also part of why I wondered about Black Magic and the dealers failure to recommend them....

January 31, 2017 at 10:42AM, Edited January 31, 10:43AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

There's a place in New York called Photo Tech that the Sony support page claims is only for NY repairs, but I've seen reviews from people all over the country. Their reviews are better than those for Precision Camera, but I haven't gone through them so I can't say for sure that they're more competent than Precision.

January 31, 2017 at 2:02PM

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Warren Bros.
Filmmaker | Cinephile
407

i think is only a matter of people, not a brand...
In the last 25 years i used canon, bmd, panasonic, sony cameras, and when i ever need service, i found fast and very responsive back end service from every single brand.
In the last year, i had a small problem on my Va7 blackmagic, i sent to bmd for checking, and after 9 days i had back a NEW unit, and i talk about a Christmas period, worst shipping / service period that you can found.
I put bmd cameras under 40 celsius and worked without a problem, where a couple of c300 give me errors on shooting without advise of problem, only when i reviewed it i found problems...
After service check, result a fault on cameras, but i not tell that all canon service are wrong, may happen.
i had an excellent report from bmd products and their service.
Usually you must understand that people that are happy about service write less than people that have problems with it...
why BMD have a bad name?
first : dealer have very small charge on it, they prefer to sell other brand where you must pay more (most of time, not for quality)
Second : many people buy it for their low price, but are not prepared to manage a pro cameras about lighting, using and more... you can just see how many thread born about problem of dropping frame using economical ssd/sd/cf NOT cerfied by bmd to use with their cameras. Like to use a gasoline car with diesel be cause diesel is less expansive...

January 30, 2017 at 12:44PM, Edited January 30, 12:47PM

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Carlo Macchiavello
Director
763

Thanks for your thoughts Carlo!

January 30, 2017 at 4:17PM, Edited January 30, 4:17PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

I think this very much demonstrates the flipside of all the flak traditionally given to Canon and citing Blackmagic as the way forward.

January 30, 2017 at 2:37PM

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Saied M.
1324

It does! People seem to love the Canon procamcorders.

January 30, 2017 at 4:18PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

One of the big differences you may be seeing is the level of acceptable support from pro-level equipment vs prosumer level support.

A 3 day turnaround would be excellent for a prosumer product, with basically anything under a week being good.

A 3 day turn around for camera support would be very unacceptable in a 'Pro' setting. If you are paying for locations, sets, crew and talent, each hour of a technical problem can eclipse the cost of a camera body. The pro-level cameras, from Canon; ARRI; RED; and Sony, you can pretty much get a direct connection to Pro-support. If you let them know your shooting schedule in advance, you can get same day service with direct response to your calls.

Depending on your expectations, the same exact service and the same exact response time will get a very different recommendation.

February 2, 2017 at 1:48PM, Edited February 2, 1:48PM

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that makes so much sense! Thank you

February 4, 2017 at 3:51AM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

In every big set where i worked with Arri, Red, etc never thought about a problem about a Arri camera, be cause there is a backup hardware ready to use...
Anyway canon problems take me 8 days without cameras, but we have backup.
WIth BMD cameras, more than other cams, are easier to have a backup cams due their low cost...

February 5, 2017 at 1:49PM, Edited February 5, 1:49PM

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Carlo Macchiavello
Director
763

Lens rental seems like they are paid to say that BM products suck, they don't! I've used all kinds of blackmagic cameras, they are amazing and they are cutting out the big boys with their competitive pricing and specs. I had one XLR issue on my URSA mini and I sent it off and got a new camera less than a week after they received my unit. People are hating on the new guy in town, but from much experience they are great products, don't trust the people at lens rentals, they have some kind of agenda for their immediate disregard for blackmagic.

February 3, 2017 at 12:11PM

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Graham Uhelski
Director of Photography/Video Editor
487

There's a lot more to a camera than what one sees on paper. I don't have a problem with "the new guy", since I was a big proponent of Digital Bolex which was established after BM. The BMCC specs better on paper and is cheaper but the image is not natural at all, nor does it live up to the published specs.

Part of the problem is the companies get to make up the rules for how to take their measurements. For instance, almost all consumer-grade monitors have about 200:1 contrast ratio when calibrated and measured with a proper chip chart. Likewise, BM's claim of "13 stops" included stuff below the noise floor and balanced the light to the camera's sensor. Normal camera manufacturers put the digital outputs' clip points just above the RMS noise floor and about 1.5-2 stops below the sensors' clip points to leave room for white balancing.

Then there's the matter of stuff that's not included in the spec sheet, like alias distortion and color purity. A quality camera will have little/no perceivable aliasing. A quality camera can capture color almost as well as the human eye. Few reach as far into blue as the eye can; not to mention, many interpret deep orange as red and what's with so many video cameras getting darker when one adds a pure, deep blue light source on top of existing light? It's really freaky! Is there a name for that? Then there's IR pollution...

Long story short, I'd rather buy a camera based on its reliability, usability and image quality rather than unreliable marketing numbers.

Final thought, since the Super Bowl is around the corner, can you imagine a big sports event like that being shot on typical CMOS cameras? The audience would puke all over the nachos!

February 3, 2017 at 2:22PM, Edited February 3, 2:37PM

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All of the cameras that SkyCam manufacturers that are used to cover the Super Bowl and other sporting events all use CMOS sensors, but they shoot in global shutter mode : http://www.skycam.tv

February 3, 2017 at 10:54PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31415

The Digital Bolex is a really sexy camera. When I first saw it, I thought it was a bit ahead of our skill level. But the global shutter 12bit 4.4.4. wow. I would love to have a global shutter. Currently we are finishing our Staff and Spear videos. At times I am spinning the staff, or spear, around my body really fast, and with the A7Sii looks like a giant noodle flexing. I know we are basically creating a perfect storm for global shutter with this! A little flex would be OK because in reality, the spear, or staff, does flex a little because of the rattan, or waxwood, used is designed to flex rather than break, but it is way over the top. Really sad the Digital Bolex closed up shop. Such a cool little company and American made!

February 7, 2017 at 4:39PM

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Scott Jensen
Tai Chi and Kung Fu Instructor
347

Have you tried shooting a higher frame rate, or faster shutter speed? I am not sure if that would help, but it may.

February 7, 2017 at 6:43PM

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That's kinda Weird seeing that I have seen known filmmakers talk about the cameras and how they just work, they can't understand how the camera is so cheap but spits out a great image. it's almost impossible. And Sony is the king of IR pollution, don't think for a moment that anyone else on here has no idea of how cameras work. Producers who take the chances with a Blackmagic camera are now sticking to those packages because financially it just makes more sense. Some of the things you speak of have been fixed and you will experience these things in other cameras so you are being biased... well you have always been biased based on your comment of threads about Blackmagic, if you don't like it then you don't but the camera works. I don't see why experienced DP's would say it does when it doesn't. And again, other persons on here like myself have working knowledge, of how cameras work.

February 8, 2017 at 11:40PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2582

The big boys don't like this kid shaking things up.

February 20, 2017 at 10:35AM

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Kayode
1039

Hey man -

I've used an Ursa 4k a fair bit, which is owned by my friend;

We have had no issues in it's use, and every time we've contacted customer services for quieries about stuff, they've always got back to us fairly fast, however;

Like everyone has said there are both good and bad stories, as there are with everything, some people will swear by them and others against them.

I will say that the BM is not a low light camera and everything needs to be lit very well (as you do with ALL Cameras) but it doesn't cope hugely well with a lot of darkness, however that is the only negative I have to say, personally.

February 6, 2017 at 11:31AM

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