Pocket Perfect

Blackmagic’s line-up of Pocket Cinema Cameras offers incredible value, with three options to suit different levels of filmmaker. CVP’s Jake Ratcliffe tells us about their incredible pro potential.

The Blackmagic line-up of Pocket Cinema Cameras has something of a cult following amongst filmmakers, offering a highly cost-effective entry point into the world of high-end video production. With their distinctive family look, their huge built-in 5in touch screen and excellent range of connectivity options, they come packed with potential, and with the price point for the entry-level 4K version at just £1189 body-only from CVP they represent an outstanding opportunity to get involved in professional motion delivery for a very reasonable outlay.

As a company Blackmagic has long had a reputation for left-field thinking and innovative and well-featured products at highly competitive price points, and its PCC range, which consists of the 4K, 6K G2 and 6K PRO models, fits very neatly into this way of thinking. If you’ve never encountered this particular family of cameras before then be prepared for something that will look and feel very different from a conventional mirrorless model, which has its background firmly grounded in still technology. 

For a start these cameras were designed from the ground up to produce cinema footage, and this means that, while they won’t suit the pro user who is looking for a hybrid model, they benefit from having been designed for one specific job only. They are also quite big and bulky compared to a svelte model from, say, the Sony Alpha line-up or something from Fujifilm’s X range. They don’t feature a built-in viewfinder, with the LCD being the way you compose your scene, although the 6K models can be paired with an optional OLED viewfinder or linked to an external monitor if required. While that way of working will be familiar to those who are well versed in shooting motion, it will involve a degree of fresh thinking from someone steeped in traditional photography.

The PCC models also sit perfectly within the Blackmagic ecosystem, which is excellent news if you’re prepared to embrace what this has to offer and is actually one of this model’s big advantages. However, it is going to be slightly alien to those who might have cut their teeth on traditional photographic brands. 

This means there will be a learning curve, but it’s by no means one that should be terribly difficult to negotiate, and the BM system has a lot to offer. If you’re happy to be looking at operating a business that delivers both stills and motion, and you’ve no problem about employing two different camera systems to cover this off, then the PCC route could be your perfect solution. “The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras are fantastic standalone video cameras,” confirms CVP’s Technical Marketing Manager Jake Ratcliffe. “As they are decently affordable, they have become extremely popular with new filmmakers as well as experienced creatives for their wide range of features and the outstanding image quality they can provide. They are also an excellent camera for those looking to move into filmmaking for the first time, which is why we’ve sold so many of them to universities over the years for use by their students.”

Because they are so geared up towards the production of motion there are fewer compromises than might be encountered in a camera that is trying to carry out both stills and video functions, and there is a host of professional features on board which are designed to create a look that’s akin to a Hollywood feature film, with precise skin tones and a focus on organic colours There’s also plenty of flexibility built in, with the 4K model featuring a MFT mount, while the 6K and 6K Pro cameras have an EF mount, reflecting the larger Super 35 sensor that’s on board, both options giving access to an outstanding array of very affordable third-party optics. 

Plus Points

While sheer affordability is one of the key reasons to be looking closely at what the PCC range can offer the professional, there are also lots of very solid technical reasons why this trio of models could be worth a closer look if you’re a hybrid professional. “Blackmagic has always been trying to cram as many cine and video features into their cameras as they possibly can,” observes Jake, “and this is still a big reason as to why they are so popular. For a start, the menu system, which their cameras all run on, is incredibly simple to use, which for new filmmakers has to be a massive plus. 

“The PCC line-up of cameras also has loads of tools on board to help you expose and monitor your image better, such as false colour, focus peaking and a great punch in, which enables you to go to a tighter composition quickly if required. You also get access to Blackmagic’s fantastic RAW system (BRAW), which, if you’re a photographer used to editing RAW images, will be a nice format to shoot in.”

This compatibility with the Blackmagic ecosystem, although perhaps intimidating to those who might not have encountered or worked with it before, is actually one of the big reasons why those who are serious about their filmmaking should be taking a closer look at what the PCC line-up has to offer. In any case, the filmmaker is by no means restricted just to BM solutions should they prefer alternative ways of working.  

“With all of the Pocket cameras you can shoot BRAW or ProRes,” says Jake, “both of which are fantastic once you hit post-production, but for slightly different reasons. ProRes has been a standard for post-production workflows for such a long time now that playback and compatibility is top notch. So, if you want a fast seamless turnaround without heavy amounts of processing then this is a great option. 

“However BRAW is also a really great way to work. It’s equally as great when it comes to playback, which is partly due to the way that Blackmagic is half-debayering the footage in-camera – the process by which you create viewable footage from RAW files – instead of just in post. And BRAW is currently supported in Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Edius and, of course, Davinci Resolve. 

“Once you bring your BRAW clips into your editor of choice, you’ll easily be able to manipulate the RAW parameters of your footage, such as colour space and gamma, white balance, ISO and so on. DaVinci Resolve Studio also comes with these cameras, which makes processing and getting the most out of your BRAW footage really easy. Resolve is incredibly powerful and it’s awesome that it’s included in the package, considering that these cameras are already pretty affordable.”  

Which to choose

Of the three models, the eldest is the PCC 4K, still in production after being launched as far back as September 2018 – making it almost prehistoric in digital camera terms, but it’s lasted the course well, can still do a great job and, as mentioned, it’s available for a truly killer price point. It’s also been around so long that there are lots of used options available out there, bringing the price of investing in a genuinely capable all-round cinema camera down to well under £1000. Meanwhile the price of the Super 35 6K GP version of the camera is £1818 at CVP, while the top-of-the-range 6K PRO with a refined series of pro-spec features will set you back £2274, still a great price for such a capable camera. 

“All three of the Pocket cameras have different reasons why you should grab them,” says Jake. “The Pocket 4K is still one of the best bang-for-buck cameras available on the market. It can produce excellent image quality and has loads of the same features as the other two cameras. The 6K comes with a larger Super 35 sensor, but shares a lot of the 4K’s features, while the 6K Pro is a serious step up on the other two, as it has internal ND filters, a brighter screen and the ability to use an optional EVF.”

So far we’ve talked about the positives of the PCC family, and there are undoubtedly many, but there are also some points to consider that need to be taken on board before the pro decides to make the jump towards investing in this system. For a start, as mentioned, the design means that all three cameras are quite large in the hands, which might not suit some users, while that oversize screen, gorgeous as it is, is there as a replacement for a viewfinder, while the battery life, particularly on the 4K and 6K GP models, isn’t overly exciting. 

“Someone who is a professional photographer moving into filmmaking will need to take on board that all three of the PCC models are video-focused cameras that don’t really offer any stills features,” Jake points out. “Although you can take RAW snapshots, you don’t have any features past that.  

“They also don’t have great battery life, as the 4K and 6K use Canon’s LP-E6, which is rather small for such a power-hungry camera. The 6K Pro uses a larger battery, but you still might want to look for an external power solution. They are also quite large, but can be rigged out well for filmmaking work which is, of course, exactly what they’re designed for. They also have no autofocus or IBIS, which could be a deal breaker for some, but despite all of this they are still an excellent proposition for the professional filmmaker.”

The solution, as always, is to set up a visit to CVP and to meet with the technical team who can walk you through the gear you’re interested in without the pressure for you to purchase a system that’s not right for your business. Take a closer look at the different PCC models and make a decision based on experience. You might be surprised at how much you get for your money!

The Value of BRAW

Blackmagic’s BRAW file format was introduced in 2018, at which time it was described as ‘the next generation codec.’ It’s worth noting that BRAW files aren’t actually RAW files at all, but they’re better in a number of ways, offering the same high quality, bit depth and dynamic range, while delivering an improved performance along with the benefit of smaller file size. 

Unlike Apple’s ProRes RAW files, BRAW files give complete control over metadata in post-production, meaning you can change aspects such as ISO, tint, and colour temperature when you edit videos. They also create a single file for a single video, and these can take full advantage of your CPU and GPU, making playback quicker and more efficient. On the downside, a demosaic algorithm is applied directly inside Blackmagic cameras, meaning that once you’ve shot your video you can never control certain aspects, such as noise, detail and sensor handling, while the algorithm also applies edge reconstruction. 

CAPTIONS: The three Blackmagic PCC models all feature similar styling, and are strictly video-focused.

Both of the PCC 6K models feature a Super35 sensor at their heart, ensuring high quality footage.

Blackmagic’s PCC camera range is designed to be compatible with a huge range of affordable third party lenses .

The Blackmagic Camera Control app lets you operate your PCC camera remotely fron an iPad.

The viewing screen on the back of PCC 6K models are huge and a great interface, and there’s an EVF option available as well. 

Scan here to watch CVP’s video explaining why the PCC 4K is such a great deal.

Scan here to watch CVP’s video review of the PCC 6K camera.

Scan here to watch CVP’s video review of the Blackmagic PCC 6K PRO  top-of-the-range model.

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