Who reads yesterdays paper? – An updated review of the BMPCC

When I bought the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) three months ago I mainly had to rely on two or three year old video reviews, which describes a product in a working progress, to base my decision on. I only saw perhaps one or two reviews that were less than two years old, but never less than one year. But the vast majority of reviews on YouTube and Vimeo that can be found are from 2013 and 2014. They do not apply any longer to the BMPCC with the latest firmware upgrade, the Blackmagic Camera 2.1 update from 19 March 2015, which has transformed the camera into the wonderpiece it was meant to be in the first place but wasn’t in the beginning. The sad thing is that not that many lay the interest on the BMPCC today that it deserves, not even amongst Blackmagic Design camera owners, although one may see a film clip now and then shot on it. It seems also that Blackmagic Design has lost its interest on this model, and its twin the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, turning all of its attention to the Blackmagic URSA Mini. We probably won’t see any more firmware updates in the future that involves the BMPCC; it has reached its full potential, and what a potential that is! Therefore it made me happy to see a vlog review on YouTube that was posted on April 30, 2016, less than a year old and sufficiently updated to the last Blackmagic Camera 2.1 firmware. And I want to share it here with you, as it also is one of the better that I have seen, although it is very simple and quite amateurishly produced. The reviewer also addresses the fact that most reviews are grossly outdated, prompting him to produce his own to remedy this fact. Cudos to him!

To summarize the vlog, the reviewer praises the image produced by the BMPCC which vastly outclasses DSLRs in the same price range and above, such as his own Canon EOS 60D, describing it as “looking like how you shot it”, i.e. how your eyes percieves the scene that was shot. He also praises the superior sharpness as compared to his DSLR (shooting with the same resolution), comparing it to the Sony NEX-FS100U which shoots with a Super 35mm Sensor. He also makes the correct assumption to regard DaVinci Resolve as the companion to the BMPCC, praising the latest 12.5 version as superior to Resolve 9 which was current in 2013 when the camera first came out. He enjoys the small form factor and that it shoots ProRes, which doesn’t require a powerful computer. Although seeing the MFT lens mount as cost prohibitive, if using native lenses, he sees the small Super16 sensor size as a positive thing as it gives access to a wide range of lenses using adapters, including C-mount lenses adapted for 16 mm cameras; finally a reviewer that disregards the irrelevant 35 mm crop factor! (Who ever mentions the crop factor when reviewing a 16 mm film camera?) One of the lenses that features in the vlog, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6, I recently had the chance to use during the shooting of my latest project, the XmasTree Hunt (which is in the final stages of postproduction).

The Olympus
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 MFT lens attached to my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

The reviewer also tries to play down on the battery issue, recommending turning off the camera when not shooting, reflecting my own observations. Interestingly enough, coming from the DSLR world he holds the native ISO 800 against the camera, which requires a ND filter; welcome to the world of digital cinema cameras (the Arri ALEXA also has a native ISO of 800)! He also notes the importance of exact focus pulling, using the focus peaking and 1:1 zoom features of the camera, as well as keeping exact colour temperature, which are interesting observations in their own right. Compared to H.264 DSLRs, the SDXC cards requiring 95 MB/s are way more expensive, he notes, than he has been used to. He obviously is still to mired in the DSLR world of low-fi video, ignoring CinemaDNG RAW and often downgrading his ProRes files to H.264! That can also be surmised from the actual footage he presents from the camera which looks like video; he doesn’t seem to take out the most from the BMPCC. His last observation is the most interesting though, that the resale value of the BMPCC is almost the same as that of a new camera. That is proof, in my opinion, that the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is a really good quality product which has become something of a new norm or reference amongst independent filmmakers; it has aquired the status of a modern classic.

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