Last year at NAB, the world’s biggest video show, Blackmagic Design wowed all the attendees with their Cinema Camera, which I’ve reviewed and talked about already. Now at 2013’s NAB, Blackmagic have released two new cameras, plus other hardware and software. Now NAB’s not small, and Ben Balser will be writing about the whole show soon — so I’m just going to talk about the impact of the new cameras from Blackmagic. Unseen, and reading between the lines. Salt these opinions if desired.
Here’s the big announcement from the low end: a new pocket-sized camera with an active micro-Four-Thirds mount, 1080p resolution, recording onto SD cards, with a removable battery. For $995.
Let’s allow that to sink in for a moment.
The Pocket Cinema Camera opens up the amazing benefits of a less compressed image (ProRes/RAW) with greater dynamic range (13 stops, just like the BMCC) and superb color fidelity and gradability (10-bit color depth) to a much, much wider audience. I’m sure the devil will be in the details (Does it look as good? Can you focus with that small screen? Will people take the tiny camera seriously?) but time will tell.
The sensor is from the same family as the BMCC’s sensor, but isn’t identical. Because you’ll be using this sensor’s native resolution instead of the BMCC’s downscaled 2.5K, image quality could be slightly lower — we don’t know yet. Still, assuming it’s close, this is a huge, huge deal. Even with just the BMCC out there at $3K, I don’t recommend a DSLR for shooting serious video, and the cost of 13 stops of dynamic range in 10-bit just dropped by 66%. A big deal for a small camera.
Here’s the bigger announcement for those on the more serious end of the profession: the new Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, in the same body as the Cinema Camera, supports 4K (Ultra HD, 3840x2160) shooting to ProRes or Compressed RAW, with a global shutter to eliminate the “jello effect” of a rolling shutter. For $3995.
Anyone who wants 4K images now has a much cheaper option than the alternatives from RED or Arri, and shoots with quick panning moves no longer need to feature wobbly images. The body, ports and capabilities are very similar to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, so existing rigs and solutions will carry across nicely. It’s a great evolution for the form factor and ticks many boxes for those in the industry.
The global shutter eliminates jello, but also steals a stop of dynamic range (to “only” 12 stops). Because it’s from a different sensor family, the picture might simply look different. Reportedly, Blackmagic is still working on making it look as close to the BMCC as possible.
Development on both new cameras is still underway, so some details are yet to be finalized. Still, if you were considering purchasing one of Canon’s C-series cameras, a RED, or one of Sony’s big F-series, you’ve got something serious — and much cheaper — to consider.
If you were considering a Canon DSLR for 1080p capture, think twice and then three times before buying it. Yes, a Canon will shoot better stills. But Canon cameras don’t have 10-bit, they don’t have 13 stops of dynamic range, they don’t have ProRes, and they don’t shoot video nearly as good as the superb images we’ve seen from the BMCC. If the Pocket Cinema Camera delivers a similar image for under $1000, I think the market will rush quickly in its direction.
They’ve promised July, which sounds familiar. Time to see if Blackmagic can deliver, and if their competitors can lift their game to match.