We Put the BMPCC6K Through Its Paces. Here's How We Think It Did
BMPCC6K's Super 35mm sensor provides greater dynamic range and cinematic look.
So I've had the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K for a few days to test out and I have to admit, it's been really fun to shoot with. Why? Because it's so damn easy to jump in with both feet. If you're a BMPCC4K user, you will definitely be able to hit the ground running. But beware, like it's 4K cousin, you're going to want to have more than one battery on a shoot, or it's going to be a very short day.
It's important to know that this camera shares about 75% of the same components with the 4K model. Factor out the BMPCC 6K's larger Super 35mm image sensor and the larger form factor (including a protruding nose housing for the full-frame EF mount), and it's essentially the same camera. So, since we've already reviewed the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K here, we recommend spending some time with that review for comparison and contrast.
And, before I get into my first impressions of Blackmagic's 6K Pocket Model, take a look at some BMPCC6K footage we shot out at Burning Man during a field test.
A Quick Tour
As I mentioned, about 75% of the BMPCC6K is nearly identical to the 4K model, but there are some different specs, namely the larger, Super 35mm Image Sensor, which enables shooters to capture 6K video at a resolution of 6144 x 3456 and 4K at 4096 x 2160. This camera is designed to take full advantage of RAW video capture to grab every available pixel from end-to-end of the image sensor.
- Compatible with MFT or EF lenses.
- 13 stops of dynamic range
- Up to 25600 ISO
- Records full resolution up to 60 fps or 120 fps windowed.
- Standard open file formats
- SD, UHS-II, and CFast card recorders. Will also record to external hard drives
- Blackmagic RAW recording.
- 5" touchscreen allows accurate focus when shooting 6K.
- Blackmagic OS as used in URSA Mini and URSA Broadcast cameras.
- Blackmagic Generation 4 Color Science.
- full-size HDMI for monitoring with status overlay.
- mini XLR input with 48-volt phantom power.
- 3D LUTs can be applied for both monitoring and recording.
- USB-C port allows recording directly to an external disk.
- Built-in timecode generator for syncing multi-camera shoots.
- Supports still frame capture up to 21.2 megapixels.
- Supports remote camera control via Bluetooth.
- Powers via 12V DC input and can recharge via USB-C.
- Includes full DaVinci Resolve Studio for post-production.
No Pull Out LCD
This is my first head-scratcher on the part of Blackmagic's design choices here, as the 5" touch screen is no a pull-out LCD. In fact, as mentioned before, this is the same LCD used in the 4K model. Pocket fans have been wanting a pull-out LCD for some time, including one fan in China who literally remounted his LCD with a pair of hinges to make it articulate. I mentioned the modification to a Blackmagic engineer last week, and he didn't even know about it. I thought that odd because it seems like everyone was talking about it when the news broke. Then again, when getting out a new product like this, it's not surprising you have tunnel vision until it launches.
Since Blackmagic was focusing on providing the same Pocket Cinema Camera design with a larger Super 35mm sensor and EF mount, I guess they wanted to minimize design time and keep the cost within the set target price. I guess I can't argue with that, but it sure would have been nice to have a pull-out LCD on this pocket camera. Shooting in bright ambient light isn't all that enjoyable, even with a brighter screen, and there isn't really any way to install a removable hood unless you superglue some magnets to the perimeter of the screen itself. OK enough with that. Lost opportunity, but no deal-breaker. Let's move on.
The EF Mount
Since Blackmagic was committing to a larger, Super 35mm 6K image sensor, it wouldn't have made much sense to keep the micro four-thirds lens mount, due to sensor coverage. So this meant that an EF mount was required. Blackmagic opted for an EF model because, again, it'll keep prices down, and they have EF mount options for the URSA Mini platform. So using similar parts means a more affordable camera, and existing EF mount lenses slip on like a dream. But the one thing Canon users have to get used to is that to lock focus, you can't press the shutter button down halfway. There is a separate focus button on the back of the camera to check and lock focus.
Frankly, I think the focus is a tad soft. Several times I found myself trying to fine-tune the focus manually, but I fully admit that this may be a limitation of my lower-end Canon full-frame lenses. Designed to be photo lenses, I've always felt they had an issue with sharpness. I'm sure that if you're going with a higher-end USM model, your results would be far superior to mine. But there is no focus hunting or any other autofocus issue like that. It's limited, but it works.
You'll also notice that surrounding the bulbous nose of the EF lens mount are vents, placed above and below. This camera puts out a LOT of heat, even when just sitting on stand-by, so there are one-way vents on top that bring in air, and vents on the bottom that kick air out. And what shocked me was there is actually a fan that creates airflow over the sensor. But you wouldn't know it because that fan is dead quiet. You can't even pick up the noise on the recording. So kudos to Blackmagic's engineers for working that out to keep the camera cool, without sacrificing audio recording quality.
As stated before, this camera shares much of the same features as the 4K model, including the same Camera OS as every other Blackmagic camera before it. And I like that. The touch screen interface is so intuitive, that I merely have to touch the ISO indicator to change the ISO, the shutter indicator to change the shutter angle, press the WB balance indicator to change the white balance, etc. There's no wasting time drilling down through menu screens to make any needed adjustments. You can literally do it on the fly from the main screen. I like that.
Battery Life: Right away, I wanted to establish a baseline on how much power the BMPCC6K sucks up with minimum use. So as soon as I got it out of the box, I inserted the battery with a full charge. Turned it on, and left the camera to drain it on standby. It took one hour and 3 minutes for the BMPCC6K to drain the Canon LP-E6 battery by doing nothing but being on.
In shooting, I really didn't have an issue with actually running out of battery power, although it's rated at around 45 minutes, but in reality around 30 minutes before you have to swap the batteries. I tend to shoot a scene and then turn the camera off to preserve battery life. That's just how I've done it since I was a cub. But for those who don't do that, you're going to be changing batteries and doing it often.
I asked Dan May about the battery life and he admitted the chief reason they introduced the battery grip for the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K at NAB last Spring, is because they were deep into development on the 6K model. So, the Grip is essentially designed for the BMPCC6K, even though it also works in the 4K model. But in "head-scratcher #2," because of the amount of power drain that the grip has to manage, it is designed to run on 2 Sony L-Series Type Batteries.
That means you're going to have to invest in a different set of batteries if you opt for the grip, rather than use any Canon batteries you may already have. Not an ideal option, but the goal here is to expand your battery life, and the L Series battery gives you that best option.
So why not design the larger BMPCC6k to use the L series out of the box? Well, again, it goes back to the design choice of keeping as much of the BMPCC6K design as close to the 4K design as possible. This means you can keep the price down, and Blackmagic has always been about disruptive pricing. The main takeaway here is, that if you're going to be using this on a shoot, you're still going to want to bring plenty of batteries, or it's going to be a really short day.
Shooting in Blackmagic Raw, users can take advantage of shooting in 12-bit 4:2:2 color at up to 50 frames per second. You have two options here: (6,144 x 3,456) or wider-screen 6K 2.4:1 (6,144 x 2,560). If you step down to 2.8 K, you can get a maximum of 120fps. And here's where there's another difference between the 6K model and the 4K model. Unlike the BMPCC4K, the 6K model doesn't give you the option of uncompressed video.
It relies on a 3:1 compression at 323 MB/s of bandwidth. The reason being is simple physics. Shooting in uncompressed 6K video would require nearly a gigabyte per second storage space and writing speeds, and the CFast 2 and SD card storage simply isn't fast enough.
It's also important to know that the BMPCC6K is set out of the box to capture natively in Blackmagic Raw. There is no ProRes video support for 6K, but you do have that option in 4K. Good thing too, because you can't shoot Raw in 4K. It's literally one or the other - 6K Raw, or 4K ProRes. Also, you can shoot 4K using the entire image sensor, but it crops down.
OK, now that we've gotten the cook's tour out of the way, let's talk about image quality. Shooting in RAW, you know going in that you're going to be color grading all your footage. I'm not a colorist, so I knew I'd have to rely on Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve to shoulder the lion's share of the work. Fortunately, there is an auto color grading option, where you can just hit that and it analyzes your footage and applies a decent grade. There is also an option in the Pocket Cinema Camera itself to apply a preloaded LUT.
In bright, ambient light, the BMPCC6K could pick up a lot of great detail in both sunlight and shadow. I really liked how it manages it's 13 stops of dynamic range. But due to my inexperience in color grading, I was unable to draw out any decent blue sky and clouds. I attribute that more to myself than the camera, and am planning to revisit this test with a little more grading practice.
- 6K image sensor
- Great image quality
- Similar Design to 4K model
- EF-Mount lens
- An intuitive menu system that can be changed on the fly
- A wide variety of storage options
- HDR Mode
- 3D Luts
- Color Grading best in DaVinci Resolve
- Blackmagic Raw in 6K
- Affordable price
- Poor battery life
- No 4K Raw
- No 6K ProRes
- Limited, but usable autofocus options
So what are my conclusions? Well, filmmaker Peter Hamblin described the Panasonic S1H as the ideal camera for the entry-level filmmaker. I don't think so. It's way too expensive and too complicated for someone getting their feet wet. I prefer the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K because of its lower cost, intuitive menu system, and the ability to use your own EF-mount lenses. All of these advantages translate to being able to concentrate on getting the shot and telling your story and doing it at an affordable price.
Isn't that's really what it's all about?
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera sells for $2495. But remember, you'll also want to pick up the Battery Grip for $245 when it ships. And Adorama has a deal going on right now that can save you $500 when you make your own bundle.