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Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Great Expectations?

At NAB on 16th April Blackmagic Design revealed their forthcoming sub-£2,000 Cinema Camera to the world and the world seemed to go a little bit crazy – Their stand was mobbed by an audience desperate to see and touch the prototypes of the new camera and our pre-orders for the camera are already at unprecedented levels.

So what’s the fuss about?  Surely it can’t be the camera’s looks, as it’s a peculiar beast – A cross between an iMac and a Polaroid Instamatic camera!

Let’s take a look at the camera’s key features:

  • 4/3″ CMOS Sensor
  • 2.5K Resolution
  • Canon EF lens mount
  • 13 Stops of dynamic range
  • Internal Recording to SSD
  • 12-bit DNG RAW, Avid DNxHD and Apple ProRes recording formats
  • £1,925+VAT

What stands out above all else is the price:  At just £1,925+VAT Blackmagic Design have combined a large sensor camera with high quality recording Codecs. WOW!

But before we get carried away in the NAB hype let’s also consider what’s missing:

  • No ND (Neutral Density) filters
  • No conventional iris control dial, EF lens’ iris is controlled in 13 steps through the GUI
  • Very limited physical control buttons – Almost all camera settings and controls are via the touchscreen panel
  • Non-replaceable internal battery provides only 90 minutes running time (recharge takes 2 hours) or you could use 12-30V external DC power
  • No eyepiece viewfinder
  • LCD panel’s angle cannot be adjusted
  • No XLR audio inputs (they’re 1/4″ Jack)
  • Limited 12 month warranty

In Summary:

For those on a micro budget who need video only and simply can’t afford a Sony F3, FS100, FS700, a Canon C300 or even a Panasonic AF101 then the BMD Cinema Camera is undoubtedly great value for money as it promises DSLR-beating video performance at a price point that’s in-between that of a Canon 5D Mark II and a 5D Mark III.

However, on balance it should be borne in mind that it’s less versatile than a DSLR and its ergonomics and feature set fall well short of that demanded by an experienced professional video user, so whilst the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera is ground-breaking in terms of performance at a given price point, it’s only a matter of time before those who adopt it will crave a more sophisticated camera.

Click here to view the CVPtv introductory video 

4 replies on “Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Great Expectations?”

I think your list is useful, but maybe missing the point. Consider the camera again from the another angle and the potential workflow pass-thru, and not from Sony’s ‘ENG standard’ when approaching camera design. Seems this camera is designed to address the problems inherently wrong with DSLR use for video that Sony, Panasonic and others have failed to do completely, or in the same price-range. Where others seem insistent on a matching the largest sensor to a an existing camera setup, Blackmagic have focused on the output and workflow first – which makes sense given their other products and kudos to them.

No ND? No problem. I use optical filters and grads to suit, they’re relatively cheap, add dust/scratch protection to the lens and are better than electronic NDs. The lack of NDs on Sony’s FS-100 hasn’t damaged it’s sales – and Blackmagic’s aluminum body is a better build in comparison to Sony’s plastic.
No Iris Control / GUI only – Partially accurate. I was shown on the NAB booth that iris control is via the buttons under the LCD.
Limited physical buttons – This is Blackmagic’s first ever camera and I’m sure they will learn and adapt. Some assignable buttons around the body would be useful though. A lot of other cameras around this price are touchscreen controlled and at least all the controls are in one place and not dotted randomly around the camera body.
No replaceable battery – Most likely due to the inclusion of the SSD slot and the internal space it demands. I’m happy adapting to external 12v where needed and benefiting from SSD RAW 12BIT 2.5K recording rather than compressed JPEG to CF or an expensive proprietary format. I’m sure the money saved can afford me some batteries! My MacBook Pro has a non-replaceable battery and I’m happy with that.
No EVF – I manage with the screen on a 5D. In fact the 5″ LCD is better than those any Canon or Sony offer – its also touchscreen and the metadata entry is awesome. I would like to see it with bright sunlight behind in the field though. Also, I’m sure the guys at Zacuto or others will find someway to add these.
No XLR – how is that a problem? The 1/4″ are balanced anyway so cheaply adapted to XLR if needed. Neater, cheaper and better than minijack out to a Beachtek box underneath!

All in all this camera is about getting the quality off the sensor to your edit/color suite in a post-ready, no-fuss codec without the degradation or lossy JPEG/H.264 compression seen everywhere else. Of course beware the hype, especially until it ships, but no way is it “less versatile than a DSLR” – at worst just heavier and awkward looking.

Seems camera manufacturers are feeling rightly embarrassed at this point and I’d hope BMD mature in the camera market overtime. Question is whether the key manufacturers can draw down their over-the-top prices and concentrate on output quality not headline features. Your last line is the most interesting – have no doubt that this is a sophisticated camera in its own way, I assume what you mean is “crave a more conventional camera” – and I’m sure time will tell that conventions change.

It doesn’t matter if the camera has shortcomings, if the image out of it is better than the competition it will dominate short form production !
Get fully manual lenses and your laughing, the none removable battery is pretty stupid but as I say its not the end of the world. Also who wants to shoot 90 mins of raw footage at once, that would end up being about 300TB’s of data lol

Another downside : due to the small sensor , the crop factor should be around x2 …
But … you know what ? I’m gonna probably buy one anyway !!!!

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