NB: Published for the first time in the beginning of 2019.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC4K) recently. The camera is supposed to be good at shooting in the dark – but how good is it in real life?
I got my copy in October 2018, and made a little night video of my neighborhood: Ørestad at Night. See the video below, and read my first impressions of shooting a night video with it.
I’ve been shooting with Panasonic cameras for a series of years (GH4, GH5). Compared to these, the BMPCC4K is somewhat of a brick, weighing in at almost one kg.
The ergonomics are good, however. The handle is good, the buttons are well located etc. For night videography, it would have been great with light in the buttons: I randomly hit the “ISO, S and WB” buttons, when I want to change either of the settings.
I’ve typically shot with Panasonic/Micro Four Thirds lenses so far, and balance hasn’t been an issue.
The User Interface
One of the things I’ve been enjoying most about the BMPCC4K is that it is only a video camera. Compared to a GH5, the buttons and menus are pure simplicity.
I was a bit surprised that there was no continuous auto white balance function. It didn’t bother me though, and setting the white balance is easy with the dedicated WB button.
The giant touch screen is also great, and combined with focus peaking, I haven’t been missing a viewfinder. But I’ve just been shooting in the dark, so problems might arise in bright sunshine…?
(Lack of) stabilization
My initial thought was to use the BMPCC4K with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and a Speedbooster. I couldn’t mount that combo on my Zhiyun Crane V2, both due to the total weight and the large grip on the BMPCC4K.
So I chose to use various Micro Four Thirds lenses instead, preferably stabilized lenses such as the Panasonic 12-60mm f/2.8-4 and the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. Sometimes also a non-stabilized lenses.
My type of videography is pretty much “run and gun.” I want an easy set-up, and I want all of my equipment for a day of shooting to fit into a small backpack. Because of this, I have really come to love the Panasonic GH5 and the 5-axis stabilization.
The BMPCC4K, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any built-in stabilization, and secondly, it doesn’t seem to harness the power of the stabilized lenses very well. My impression is that the GH4 with a stabilized lens was a lot more stable than the Blackmagic with the same stabilized lens. It might be my memory – I will have to compare the two another time…
Anyways, I chose to film handheld, and stabilize in post. Next time, I’ll bring a monopod…
The large screen is great, but it also drains batteries fast! I have a series of non-original spare batteries, and I could literally see the battery counter tick down like a clock, when shooting in the cold. And then suddenly, the camera would turn off.
I don’t mind, though: I typically shoot relatively few seconds at a time, and only a couple of hours per day. So bringing a couple of spare batteries, and changing battery once in a while is no issue for me.
I only have a single 300MB/s memory card, and fast cards are needed in order to shoot 4K ProRes HQ. Recording would typically stop after 15-20 seconds with 95MB/s SD card. Not a huge problem, as I typically shoot 15 second clips. In case I needed longer clips, I recorded in ProRes 422. For future recordings, I have bought the Samsung T5 SSD. I haven’t found a good way of mounting it on the camera, though, so I am not sure if I’m going to use it for “run and gun” shooting.
Shooting with the BMPCC4K was a great experience, so I was curious to see how the video quality would be. I had high expectations due to the dual ISO system. Perhaps too high.
The footage was in general great, but I found it to be a bit too grainy at high ISO values (I shot most of the video at ISO 1600 to 3200, as far as I remember). In order to reduce the grain, I used noise reduction in Final Cut Pro X. I am currently shooting a night video with the GH5 for comparison.
Secondly, I had a couple of issues with flickering. This surprised me, as I carefully switched the camera to 50Mhz settings, which should be the right thing to do here in Europe… Anyways, I’ll have double check my settings before I blame the camera;-)
The Brief Version
I love shooting with the BMPCC4K due to the large screen and the easy user interface. No stabilization is an issue for me, as I like the “run and gun” stile, but I’m looking forward to shooting another video with it.