About That Blackmagic Cinema Camera…

NAB has come and gone, but there’s still so much to discuss. Without a doubt, the biggest surprise event was Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera. Obviously I haven’t been able to give this thing a test run, but I’ve had some time to digest all the information given about it, and the following is what I’ve concluded.

I think this camera is best described as being one step forward, two steps back. First of all, the specs that I’m sure everyone is aware of by now certainly do have an immediate appeal. But upon further un-hyping, the true cost of the camera starts to take the shine out of that buzz word, “raw.” Here’s an internet-friendly breakdown:

Why It’s Remarkable [The Good]

Raw! – Finally, the thing everyone has been waiting for! We can finally rid ourselves of those compression-based confines imposed by H.264 and AVCHD! Yes, it’s pretty cool to have 12-bit raw video finally, but at a cost (as I point out later)

DaVinci Resolve (full) – Great for noise reduction and finishing above 1080P…but other than that, DaVinci Resolve Lite will do the job for most of us out there. Why did they make their amazing color correction software free? And with unlimited nodes? I have no idea what their angle is, but I’ll buy (or download for free) into it! Bundling Resolve with this camera was a good marketing move (I’ve seen too many people say, “It’s basically $1000 off!”).

SSD Recorder – Well, I have no idea what else you’d record to with these specs…but I suppose it’s nice that they integrated this (I’m looking at you, FS700, and you’re “4K-Output-Someday” promises).

Metadata Entry – Being able to add comments to a clip while in the field is pretty great. I’m not sure how practical it is (depending on how good the touchscreen is, and if anyone would actually do this), but it’s still neat to have available.

The Price – This is the reason the camera is causing so much hype—3 grand for all those specs? Pretty fantastic.

Limitations [The Bad]

Built-in battery – This I just don’t understand. It takes 2 hours to charge, and runs for 90 minutes. That’s the weakest point for this camera…I can’t imagine this going over well in a professional setting. Of course in a professional setting you’ll need some sort of power supply adapter for bigger batteries. Unless you already have this, that $3K price tag becomes a little bigger.

No HDMI – It feels weird to write this as a complaint, because anyone that has used HDMI output knows how awful it is. But right now, HDMI is associated with the DSLR-price point ($1000-$3000), and is expected. Anyone with HDMI EVFs or Field Monitors/Recorders will have to pay up for a convertor. More gear to buy!

Super16 Sensor – Beautiful images can come from any sensor size, but a lot of shooters (myself included) have become very happy with the super35 format. Not only that, but Canon lenses (EF especially) will be constricted, even though Blackmagic has provided an EOS mount on the camera (and ZF). The crop from an APS-C sensor becomes considerable, and if you’re used to working with a full frame, this will be like using all telephoto, all the time.

Built Like a DSLR – DSLRs are okay to be built like DSLRs because they ARE DSLRs. This thing is just a camera (or a Cinema Camera). I get that they’re going for familiarity, but wow, ergonomics are a huge issue with DSLR video shooters. I’m sure it has to do with cost, but really, a better design could have been made (and their add-ons do not look like an improvement).

Touch Screen – I know this is probably being sold as a feature, but it’s nothing I’m looking forward to using. My FS100 has a touch screen…and I never use it in the field. When you’re in a  hurry, you want tactile feedback, not to mention weather restrictions. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine that a touchscreen would be much more difficult to use than actual buttons.

Your Computer – Both processing power and hard drive space will be set to their maximum when dealing with raw footage…and come on, that’s why people are excited about this camera in the first place! I suppose it can’t be “bad” if it’s inherent, but I think a lot of folks are going to overlook this for the shininess of “raw.”

And The Other [The Ugly]

The Handles – I’ve seen a lot of bad camera rigs that have come out in the past few years, but these handle bars are definitely some of the worst.


Similarity– This camera is an awful lot like the Digital Bolex. So much so that it makes me wonder if this is a The Prestige vs The Illusionist scenario (or A Bug’s Life vs Antz, if that analogy better suits you).

Mac-centric – This isn’t bad for me…and probably not for a lot of us out there. But there are some PC users, and they will be burned by the Thunderbolt port, or the HFS+ formatting.

 

To conclude: I really don’t have much to conclude…until I can see it in person. Above are my concerns and praise, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays in real life. In the meantime, here are some of the best write-ups I’ve seen so far speculating about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera:

Frank Glencairn describes “Why they got it right, but so wrong.”

NoFilmSchool.com describes the real world cost of this camera.