February 15, 2015 at 2:01AM

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Is upgrading from a DSLR truly worth it?

Hello,

This is my first post here!

My mind has recently been going back and forth because I can't decide if upgrading to a Blackmagic 2.5k or 4k from my Canon 5d is the right thing to do. I love the idea of using a higher spec camera to make films, I never really had an issue with the quality of my Canon but as the Blackmagic is so affordable it does leave a question about whether upgrading will be beneficial.

Has anyone here upgrading to a Blackmagic from a Canon and what do they think of the results?

33 Comments

What aren't you getting from your Canon 5D that you hope to get from a Blackmagic camera ?
- Dynamic range ?
- Film-like color ?
- Also, which 5D do you own ?

And lastly, what type of projects do you shoot ?

February 15, 2015 at 11:29AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33200

Again this depends on the projects that you have. Ah mean out of the box and having a lens the 5D is ready to go. Any Blackmagic camera is superior to the 5D in terms of the cinematic field. But to be honest, straight of the box, a Blackmagic camera wont just work, so you have to be ready to make some sacrifices to make that camera work as it should which means storage, lenses, filters, battery etc.

February 15, 2015 at 6:54PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2823

I have a BMCC. dSLRs have had their time. 2008-2012 RIP. As soon as the BMCC came out they were dead in the water. The difference between 8 and 10 bit is everything - very difficult to break 10 bit unless you really did something very wrong in capture. I don't even use RAW anymore. Not necessary unless you have extremes of light that you need the extra headroom for. You don't need to kit out your camera. You don't need an EVF. A little bit bright outside? Use something to shade it. You don't need a follow focus. Mark your lens with tape, pencil in your makes and get an assistant to turn the lens from mark to mark on your command. Don't be a MODERN USELESS PUSSY (MUP). Improvise. If you can't improvise you'll never be a filmmaker. Filmmaking is about being able to rise above problems. A Canon 10-18mm is as wide as you need and is one of the best lenses Canon makes. No distortion. Check out Ken Rockwell's review on his site. I use a battery fashioned from a well known power tool battery - cost $100 and lasts for 5 hrs. Totally reliable. Can even charge it in a car if I need to. Can throw it off the roof of a house and won't get damaged. If you can't improvise you'll never be a filmmaker. Useless bastards.

February 19, 2015 at 2:55PM

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...and another thing, you don't need to spend $8000 on glass like the above poster said. Still camera lens are fine. They are designed for images that are way over 4k. Like magazine printing - 300 dpi. I use either modern Canon or old Nikons. Will put my images up against anything. Stop being MUPs.

February 19, 2015 at 3:10PM

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Hello,

I have a 5d mk2 and I only use it for shooting short films and the occasional music video. The main reason I'm thinking of upgrading is because I've saved some money to buy some extra film equipment, and then I thought why not upgrade my camera. I've always been happy with the quality of image from my 5d but if I have an opportunity to improve the quality, that is something I'd like to think about. My main worries with the Blackmagic is, at the moment I normally bring in an editor and colour grader, but if while doing practice shoots especially I then have to start grading more myself to make something, I don't think that's for me.

I'm also wanting to shoot an independent feature film within the next year or so, so I'm also looking to buy something with that in mind too.

Any thoughts or feedback on this would be great.

February 16, 2015 at 12:58AM

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Last year I upgraded from a T4i to a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. I had a clear reason for my switch. I spent years shooting on DSLRs and was always unhappy with how far I could push the image in post as far as color grading goes. If I did any extreme looks, the resolution suffered. The blacks were always too black. My client base is 80% African American and I found that the DSLRs were not very friendly to darker skin. I could never expose dark skin as well as the background properly the way I could with lighter skin. I would have to choose whether I wanted to properly expose the person or the background. The person always won, resulting in blown out highlights on sunny days. I noticed this problem early on in my career before I even really knew what I was doing but figured I didn't have any choice but to go with it. The Red One cameras had been out for about four years by the time I even heard of them. In researching the Red cameras I kept hearing the term "dynamic range". I had no idea what it was and thought it was just people being camera snobs and hyping up a feature that I absolutely did not need. Then I started reading a photography book and saw the term again, only this time it was explained. And right then I knew that lack of dynamic range was my problem with the DSLRs. I saw red footage and always envied the non crushed blacks and how everything could be properly exposed as long as the operator knew what he/she was doing. I needed a Red to solve my problem but could not afford one. So instead of selling a kidney, I compensated with proper lighting and actually learned how to light because of my hate for the DSLR lack of dynamic range. But still, when I colored the footage the resolution would suffer. I started shooting with cinestyle, which I hated because I would have to do heavy color correction which caused the resolution to suffer. I also felt that cinestyle provided a false sense of dynamic range. If the highlights are blown out there's nothing you can do to expose what is in those highlights with cinestyle. The data simply isn't there. Then came the Blackmagic cameras. I knew those cameras were what I needed. I only held out on getting one because camera work was slow and I couldn't justify the purchase if the purchase wasn't going to pay for itself like all of my other gear did. When I finally bought the pocket camera I was well aware of the poor battery life and the heavy data use. I knew I would need 90 dollar memory cards to shoot raw (which was a big reason for buying the camera). I knew I would need a crap load of hard drives (I have about ten now) to store the RAW files as well as the prores files. I knew I would have to buy new lenses or at least an adapter to use my canon lenses. Basically, I knew all of the drawbacks of owning and efficiently operating one of these cameras. With this knowledge in hand and my camera gigs picking up I pulled the trigger and have not done any serious work with my T4i ever since. I still use the T4i for low paying clients or for event shooting (blackmagic just isn't practical for event shooting as far as I'm concerned). Loooong story short, If you upgrade, know why you need to upgrade. I went from a T2i, to a T3i, to a T4i because I thought I was "upgrading". I could have been fine all these years with the T2i. Those "upgrades" did not solve my real issue which was dynamic range. The pocket camera was my only true upgrade. But that upgrade only happened because I was lacking in something and the blackmagic filled that void. That's my story. Hope it helps you in your decision.

February 16, 2015 at 5:29AM

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Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography
912

Don, That clarified so much for me and justified my friends purchase of a Black Magic Cinema Camera. It has produced quite the awesome image. Just wanted to say thanks.

February 16, 2015 at 12:09PM, Edited February 16, 12:09PM

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Robert F. Hockaday
Director/Producer/Actor
161

Thanks for the story, I can relate to much of what you said so that is good knowledge. Are you pleased you bought the pocket cinema camera over the production 2.5? I've been reading reviews and so many talk about the similarities, I for one love the idea of a smaller body as I feel it makes a camera more versatile. I often use footage from my gopro in my shorts as well.

Have you had much experience with tracking shots with blackmagic pocket camera?

February 16, 2015 at 1:18PM

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I'm more than pleased with my purchase. As far as being pleased with it over the 2.5K I don't really have an opinion. I didn't want more resolution to begin with, I just wanted the ability to color grade without diminishing the resolution I already had. I'd love to have the larger screen and extra weight of the 2.5 or the 4K but other than that I don't think I'm lacking anything. Shooting prores HQ and RAW I have not had any problems with tracking shots. The prores codecs below those two tend to have dropped frames for me whether it's a tracking shot or not. No idea what that's about. I only shoot below HQ on family outings anyway so I'm not sore about that either.

February 16, 2015 at 2:39PM

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Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography
912

If you don't want to have to grade your footage, then perhaps the Blackmagic camera isn't the right choice. ( all of the best footage I've seen shot with Blackmagic cameras was successful because of the color and grading in the final film )

I have a friend who is planning on shooting her first feature this summer, and because she is not a techie and does not want to become one ( i.e. she wants minimal grading of her shots ) I suggested that she take a look at the Canon C100 camera, which produces a very nice image, has 12 stops of dynamic range ( right up to ISO 80,000 ), and you can get away with little to no grading with the right camera settings.

You can buy a used Canon C100 Mk1 for about $3,200 or a new one for $4,000. ( the Mark 2 costs $5,500 )

You can also rent one for a day pretty cheaply, just to see if this might be a good fit for you.

February 16, 2015 at 12:51PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33200

Just regarding colour grading - if you are spending the time to produce, shoot and edit your films, I believe that colour grading is a critical part of the final product; no matter what you are shooting on. Even a very basic level colour grade, taking very little time relative to the whole post production process, can give you dramatic improvements. Most decent NLEs have some form of grading functionality and the Magic Bullet plugins (download the free samples) are quite easy to use.

Great colour grading is of course an art form, but from an indie perspective, you can achieve decent result on your own.

February 17, 2015 at 3:39AM

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Jay Ng
Indie Filmmaker
1

The C100 is a surprising delight to use, but suffers from jello effects. If you intend to shoot just on sticks and deliver to the web, any camera you use will be find as long as the story is worth telling and the picture is exposed correctly in the first place. Frankly, I suggest trying out the digital bolex - no jello at all and a more filmic rendition of color out of the box. Be aware the new Bolex is much heavier than your current Canon. Me personally, I prefer using the Red Dragon (kicks much a$$).

Going back to what I said before, I've been to screenings, and unless they have a top end 4K projector, very few (if any) can tell the difference between a 5D and a Red MX. I remember seeing a short, projected in a theater, that had the intro and ending shot on an expensive Red camera, and the rest was all 5D and blackmagic - nobody noticed. I just heard, "wow that was shot on Red!"

Worry about your story more than your camera – BUT, and a huge but, make sure you expose and white balance correctly!!! And use some gels on your lights. Cinema is art and commentary on life, not a sterile operating room examination.

Hope this helps and the best of luck =)

February 16, 2015 at 9:05PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1308

>>>The C100 is a surprising delight to use, but suffers from jello effects.

Actually the C100 is one of the better CMOS cameras when it comes to "jello effects", so while it's not the best of the CMOS sensor cameras, it's fairly close to the top.

Rolling Shutter Measurements of More Than 20 Digital Video Cameras
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?303559-Measuring-rolling-shutte...

...The only way to get zero "jello effects" is to shoot with a global shutter camera which is still not a common animal in the digital camera world. ( most modern video cameras have some degree of "jello effects" in their image, and it has not stopped them from shooting the majority of Indie film projects.

The Digital Bolex is an interesting project, but it all depends on what you are looking for in a camera. I personally would choose a Blackmagic camera over a Digital Bolex, and if I had the budget I would choose one of the higher end Sony Cine cameras over the Blackmagic cameras. ( starting with the new Sony FS7 camera )

February 16, 2015 at 10:47PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33200

Although that list is interesting it starts with a big margin of error: panning by hand.
For proper testing you need a motorized wheel at a constant speed, so everything (shutterspeed, turning speed) is reproducable.

Panning 3 times to get an average is not good enough to get good readings.

February 17, 2015 at 5:35AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9780

Samuel's numbers have been compared to proper lab tests for a few of these cameras, and his numbers held up quite closely, so I would not doubt the accuracy of his results.

February 17, 2015 at 11:10AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33200

Upgrade to a BMPC4K if:

- you need global shutter
- you need 12bits raw files
- you can afford lot more storage than before
- you don't need Auto Focus

Upgrade to a BMCC m43 + metabonesEF>m43 if:

- you need a lot more dynamic range
- you need decent low light capabilities
- you need 12 bits raw files
- you can afford lot more storage than before
- you don't need Auto Focus

In both cases remember those cameras are VERY power hungry... very, you'll need external batteries. Also remember this camera worth only if you shoot raw and edit in Resolve.

If you need extra wide angles go for the BMCC + Dedicated metabones and buy a very wide lens.

One more thing, BM cameras are heavy, consider it. You also need a rig and a SDI monitor, onboard monitor sucks, unusable.

February 17, 2015 at 3:34AM

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Roberto Mettifogo
Behind Cameras.
385

SDI monitor with LUTs, since viewing a log video while filming is hard. you need a monitor with log to rec.709 conversion lut.

February 17, 2015 at 3:36AM

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Roberto Mettifogo
Behind Cameras.
385

So whats to big difference between the BM 2.5K and 4K cameras? (besides resolution ofcourse)

February 17, 2015 at 4:07AM

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I feel that I could have some input here seeing as I went from owning a 550d-5dm2-black magic 2.5k-black magic pocket and now to the canon c100, When I owned one I felt like it was a massive leap of faith, I shot one music video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhSBocg1RsM For a start the ergonomics are horrible on the 2.5k, the screen is a big mirror and the crop is horrible...however if you are willing to deal with that (and have the money to) then it does produce a fantastic image hope this helps

February 17, 2015 at 3:41AM

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Luke Jennings
Director of photography
156

I went from the Canon T3i to a hacked Gh2 to a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. In that time I also used Canon 5Ds and the C300, among other cameras. Once I had the dynamic range on the BMPCC, I knew what I had been missing in all the others. I DP-ed an indie feature, called Abductee, in October of last year. When it came time to choose which cameras to use, I went with the 4k Blackmagic and a 2.4k as well. The 2.4k was for lower light with a Metabones Speedbooster, and the 4k was, well, for 4k :) We used Rokinon cineprimes: 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Also used three Pocket Cinema Cams, a GoPro 3 (the 4 wasn't out yet, but would have been much preferred), and a 4k Sony AX-100 for some "found footage" elements.

We are editing the film for a 2.39:1 master at 2k, and the extra space that 4k offers for re-framing has been an absolute life-saver during the edit. I wish I could say I was the perfect DP and every shot was framed flawlessly. However, mistakes are inevitably made when you are shooting 12 pages a day with a tiny crew and a very low budget. The creative re-framing that 4k allows on a 2k master has allowed our film to be much more aesthetically pleasing than it would have otherwise been.

And yes, we needed lots of batteries, as well as a 1TB SSD for the 4k and a 500GB one for the BMCC, and all kinds of other accessories. But for our budget, in retrospect, I wouldn't have shot it on anything else. All the footage for the whole movie comes in just under 16TB too, so it hardly takes up any space ;)

February 17, 2015 at 4:00AM

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Jeremiah Rounds
Writer | Director | Producer | Cinematographer | Editor
74

How about frame rates other than 24/25/30? I love my Canon 5d Mkiii because of the ease of use straight out of the box, changing to shoot in 60fps (despite the 720p) and quick import into editing without fiddling.

February 17, 2015 at 4:05AM

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Elahn Zetlin
Video Producer
93

I shoot a lot of sports documentaries and also came from DSLR, 4 years film making on a Canon 7D with CineStyle profile and ML. It was a great camera for sports films: 60fps slow motion, weather sealing, has many lenses, run & gun setup, cheap battery, and storage. The colour is great too! The only problem I have is that the footages are ugly in low light, and I needed more dynamic range; plus I feel that my 7D is about to give up on me!

I badly needed an upgrade. My choices were BMPCC, BMCC4K, A7s and FS7. After weeks of research and rentals, I find the Blackmagic cameras were too stressful to use. On the other hand, the Sony FS7 they was the perfect all around camera (and with the help of Philip Blooms review), but I cannot afford one yet. SO... I ended up with the Sony A7s! It was the best decision ever! Perfect for my sports films. Lightweight, easy to use, 4k capable, 120fps at 720, Slog2, cheap batteries, wide dynamic range and crazy low light performance!

My next agenda is Odyssey 7Q+, a few lenses and an audio system upgrade. I hope you consider the A7s! :)

February 17, 2015 at 4:23AM

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I've shoot this documentary on 5DIII with magic lantern MLV format which makes long takes available (max. 15 min. on 64 GB CF). Some takes are at ISO 4000 - 6000, BM camera gives You 800. Get some more extra cash & upgrade for real, don't downgrade.
BM camera is ok but only when You have maximum control over the light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0335LXzzhY

February 17, 2015 at 4:30AM

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Paweł Kryza - Vortex
director/executive producer
2

It really depends on what you want to do. Work on sets and shoot stuff where cinematic look is priority > Blackmagic all the way! Run and gun, guerilla > Stick to DSLR.

I'm sure somebody already wrote a novel about why. I'm just gonna say. BM: Alexa-like image but the biggest ballache in usability, batterie-life and cards of all time. You gotta know what you're doing to get the potential out of it, especially lighting!! DSLR: Ugly digital and ungradeable image but you can't get any more flexible. You'll be 10 times quicker and more mobile but, again, it's easy to fuck up the image. (And don't let that lo-fi 4K promo crap on GH4 and A7s fool you, it's bollocks and looks whack.)

If you want a camera that does everything for you, sell your mum and get a RED.

February 17, 2015 at 4:51AM

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Simon Reichel
Director & Editor
132

If you want to experience the difference: rent the camera you are considering for a few days and shoot shoot shoot. The proof is in the eating of the pudding ;-)

February 17, 2015 at 5:37AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9780

This is always a great option, and I think most people tend to forget that there are rental stores pretty much anywhere now that internet rentals are a thing too :D

Besides why put $2-$10k down on something you have not tried? When its only $100-$200 to rent?

February 24, 2015 at 1:43PM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
1409

The original post mirrors my own situation about a year ago. I had shot on DSLRs for a few years and had started to pick up work that required more capable equipment. Dropping a couple grand on anything is nerve wracking, but I finally pulled the trigger and picked up a Blackmagic 4k. That being said, here's what I've observed after going through the exact same thing:

Blackmagic cameras are NOT as cheap as they appear.
- Media is expensive. The ratio per gig for a decent 64gb SD card and a 256gb SSD may be similar, but the SSD fills up considerably quicker when shooting higher quality footage or 4k on the Blackmagic. You'll want at least two SSDs, allowing you to shoot on one while dumping the other. $500 for the two.
- Batteries. Batteries, batteries, batteries. I went with two gold mount batteries and a power supply pinch. Batteries cost about $300 A PIECE not to mention the charger itself costs $300 as well. All in all, a decent battery solution for a Blackmagic is $1000.
- With better footage comes bigger files. It's crazy how much external storage I've had to buy. Generally 1-2gb per project.

In the end, look to add anywhere from $1000-$2000 to get your Blackmagic fully setup.

Blackmagic cameras are an upgrade in image, NOT in ergonomics. One of the bigger reasons I wanted to upgrade was the desire to not have so many work arounds when shooting with a DSLR. Unfortunately, the Blackmagics don't really address this need.
- No XLR. 1/4 inputs only. To get most mics to work will require an adapter. Adapter = $
- Camera shape is essentially a bloated DSLR, big and boxy.
- Although not much heavier by itself, a better tripod and rig would probably be needed after being fully rigged with external battery, cage, mic adapter, etc.

All that being said, it may sound like I'm whining and hate my purchase. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case. I like to tinker and build and solve problems, so setting up my Blackmagic became less of finding a workaround like I had to with my DSLR, and more of building my own version of a cinema camera. The square shape almost made it easier to build around and setup. The image is beautiful. If you're not wanting to color, and just want an overall decent image, I suggest shooting flat and the buying some LUTs to drop over the footage. Just make sure you're exposed correctly and that your color temperature is on spot.

If I was in your situation TODAY with all of the newer options in the mix, the Blackmagic would still be my go-to for a sub $3000 (wink wink) camera. BUT, with the FS7 now in the mix, I personally would hold out, saving the extra cash needed. Hard choice, but I wish you the best of luck! Feel free to email me if you have any extra questions. This was written quickly, so I'm sure some things may sound a little wonky. joliver.film@gmail.com

February 17, 2015 at 8:20AM

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Jordan Oliver
Director
74

Where's your bottleneck?

I shot on a 7D for the first 2 years of my career. It said 1080, but it wasn't 1080. It wasn't really even 720. Then I got and hacked a gh2. My footage was so much sharper. But the dynamic range still wasn't there, and clients still had a hard time respecting a tiny DSLR. So I got the C300 at 0% financing. It totally paid for itself. My footage was even sharper, a true 1080, and with a good 12 stops of dynamic range. Worth it in every way for me.

Now, I had the benefit of working for 2 years with the 7D. I did everything I could to get it to look as good as it could. After those 2 years, the camera was the bottleneck. When I started out, I was the bottleneck. A better camera would've been wasted on me. I needed to learn to light.

That said, there's no reason to get a 5D when you can get a C100 for the same price. The C100 is so much better for cinema it's not even funny. Now, I have a Red Dragon and a C300, and if clients didn't still ask for the C300 specifically, I'd swap it out for a C100.

February 17, 2015 at 11:14AM

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I have G.A.S. like everyone else, but think that most of the comments about using Canon DSLR and then buying more expensive cameras and finding them so much better has more to do with the not knowing how to use the DSLR and work with it. Just my opinion here. I think the points about having to spend thousands of dollars in additional cost and not just for storage, but also for computers can easily equal the cost of a blackmagic camera. I want one, I do, but then I really doubt that people who would view my work on youtube for example could see any difference at all. The look of a camera body and lens is just one aspect of the look of a film. Getting a much more expensive camera body does not result in a better looking image. I do think that make up, art design, skilled camera operation makes big improvements. I stick with my Canon DSLR because they are working very well for me. I keep being romanced by these new and more expensive cameras, but having great light, a great set, great acting, directing and editing are real improvements in images and for me, I can coax a great picture out of them, I think others failures to do so maybe speaks to their ability more than buying a more expensive camera. Here again, just my opinion, like your opinion.

February 17, 2015 at 7:18PM

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Have shot several short films with Full Frame Canon 6D and Canon L series Lenses, get beautiful images from camera, then color grade in FCPX. DSLR fits the budget for most for hire projects I do, I think all the cameras mentioned here including BMPC are great creative tools, they all have their merits based on budget and post workflow. As the saying goes "its not the equipment, its what you do with it", In my humble opinion.

February 17, 2015 at 10:48PM

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David Derck
Director / DP / Editor
81

If your not generating income on a daily basis.......I would recommend renting rather than buying.

February 19, 2015 at 3:20AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
1511

it is only worth upgrading if your current camera is crippling your workflow.
ive seen tons of guys who shot great stuff on a dslr and move up to a red and their work totally looks like crap.

with a new camera, comes a new workflow.
if you like having very little equipment and running and gunning, maybe staying with a dslr is best. there are better options now like gh4, sony a7s that have better color space than any canon.

remember with a camera body like alexa or epic, it is a much for coordinated and slower workflow. cameras take 20+ seconds to boot, media is expensive, recording times are a lot less.
when we work on events time to time, we tend to rent canon c300's. it's just the right camera for the job.

February 20, 2015 at 7:33AM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1667

I have read all the comments and so far only one other person has said that the Black Magic has a bad crop factor.

Which for that in itself in my mind would be a huge downgrade from your current full frame camera.

5Dmk II is full frame so all optics are 1.0x. 30mm is 30mm.

Black Magic Pocket Camera 2.88x. 30mm is 86.4mm.
Black Magic 2.5K is 2.4x. 30mm is 72mm.
Black Magic 4K is 1.7x. 30mm is 51mm.

The problem is that you would have to use a fish eye lens to get a normal 24mm wide shot, and keep all the distortion that comes with it. So while you have a quality and dynamic range increase it really comes at a higher price in optics in the long run as you will have less of a variety to choose from.

Which where I come from, more options are better.

I would recomend waiting a little bit longer as it seems that there is a new wave of cameras that have just as many dynamic stops as the Black Magic Cameras and might apeal to your shooting style.

There is also form factor, which the Black Magic was desgined to be on a tripod and not held while shooting. As the square sleek desgin is not the most ergonomic desgin for holding for prolonged periods of time. Obviously, you would not be doing that in a pro shoot but I feel like slippage is always a factor that should be considered.

February 24, 2015 at 2:23PM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
1409

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