My take on the Black Magic Design's Digital Cinema Camera

My take on the Black Magic Design's Digital Cinema Camera

Screengrab of the Black Magic Digital Cinema Camera to be shipped in July
Taken of from their website itself:

Lately, there has been news about the whereabouts of the new Black Magic Design Camera. The whole world is abuzz about this new camera that is conjured by a company that has been dominant in the field of post-production, not production. Everyone's excited. Why? Because this new camera has the capability of beating the dslr in it's own game. Imagine a camera with 2.5k resolution image at 12 bit RAW uncompressed. With a price tag that is sub-3000 dollars. If that's not a bargain, get a load of  this, buyers will be getting the camera body along with the hood, BMD's full ultrascope software and it's Davinci Resolve. gee. Convinced now?

Before we go on, Have a look at the videos done up by John Brawley( The Perfect Host,2010)

John Brawley's 'Dusk' (low light test)

John Brawley's 'Leah' (dynamic range test)

John Brawley's 'Bondi' video montage

John Brawley's 'Beach Dusk' video montage

Oh and here's the spec sheet:
Screengrab of the BMD Cinema Camera Specsheet:

Screengrab of the BMD Cinema Camera Specsheet:
Here's the introduction video:

Here's an introduction video to the camera in case any of you is lost on what this camera looks like:
The video is taken off off youtube:

I've decided to give my take on the camera through three perspectives:
1. The Consumer
2. Pro-shooters from the DSLR background
3. Elite filmmaking community

The Consumer

For consumers, this camera opens a whole new world of opportunities. All you need to do is have the money and eagerness to make it big. The whole BMD package gives them a headstart to video-making.  Besides, pre-production budget and planning, the basic production and post-production workflow is pretty much covered with the 2,XXX dollars that you paid for. Consumers can just hit the ground running with the full Ultrascope and Resolve software accompanying the camera. What is that? Audio you say? Neh. Surely, a montage with underlying music is all that's needed to make the perfect holiday video. But, the consumers will have to consider this:.

1. There will be an awkwardness when it comes to the format. Consumers will have to do abit of research if they are to harness the cameras' 2.5k resolution/ 12bit RAW. Alternatively, they can also work with Pro Res/CinemaDNG or DNxHD. I doubt this will deter consumers. Y'all can always find time to figure things out. Google will always be a friend.

2. "What XLR? we'll use the 1/4" jacks for audio!.". This just makes it a whole lot easier don't it? One can always attach their regular home karaoke microphones if say, there's a need to do an interview for a home video, wedding, holiday, documentary(Indie DSLR shooters can also rejoice!). Oh and, the connections are standard connections, if you so happen to lack a cable or two mid-shoot, you can always run to the nearest electronic store. There's one thing to note though, this means cables can be easily yanked out of the camera mid-shoot.

Screengrab of an interesting section off the BMD website itself:

3.  Ease of use. Check out the touchscreen menu. I mean how wrong can one go with a dedicated REC, fast rewind, stop, play, fast forward, menu and power button? Nuff' said.

Here's a video of the interface: Credits to Adorama Rental Co.
Video gotten off youtube:

4. EF and ZF lenses. "I'm sure I have some canon lenses lying around here somewhere". Even if there's none, you can borrow from a friend or rent it. I mean, EF lenses are available everywhere. If so it happens that you wanna ditch your day job and become a serious enthusiast, there's always the more sexier Zeiss lenses, don't let me get started on those.

5. Above all else, it looks like a horizontal mini iPad. Don't it? It doesn't look intimidating at all. It is sleek and compact. I can keep it in a bag. "Rig? Nah don't need it". The BMD cinema camera handles come in at a price of US$195 and that alone is enough rig for this camera for basic but decent work.

Screengrab of the BMD cinema camera handles,solid aluminum:

Although, it is not widely commercial to the masses(consumers), it is only a matter of time before they get to know. This camera is much hyped. I've seen and heard stories of bankers, teachers, doctors owning a 5D mark III with simple rigs adding up to an amount that will make any pro-dslr shooter envious. Yet, the cameras and equipment isn't harnessed to it's full capability. On a lighter note, at least,  a hobbyist can now become a serious enthusiast in an instant with this camera right? All it takes is more research and eagerness. The dream of a better home video is at hand.

Pro-shooters from the Dslr background.

Now you've gotta do some serious re-thinking if you're stuck with considering to get a 5d Mark III or the D800. I've got a lot to write on this section of my article.

1. It looks very promising if you are showing it to audiences with no-prior knowledge to filmmaking, Besides, it hasn't debuted on the big screen has it? it has problems in low-light and a few dead pixels, so what? You are comparing a sub 3k camera against digital cinema camera heavyweights. I know I don't sound neutral here, but ultimately, if you're from the DSLR/ indie filmmaker background, there's not much difference to a DSLR being shown on the big screen. The main point is that the story is the focus.  This camera fills in the three essential benefits: It's good, cheap and fast. Off course, provided, you pit it against other cameras in it's range.

2. It blurs the lines of production and post-production. One can connect the camera with a portable computer through the thunderbolt port(sorry pc users). No more slow transfers and sub-par quality. That's just one aspect. There's also the formats in which the camera produces; 12 bit RAW(2432 x 1366), Apple ProRes(1920x 1080) and Avid DNxHD(1920 x 1080). Not only do you have a choice for compressed or uncompressed formats, all these formats are edit-friendly and open file formats, no more transcoding, no more time-wasting. Like in the words of BMD:

"Blackmagic Cinema Camera uses standard file formats, so you don’t need to wait years for your video software to support the media!"

If that's not enough, metadata entry can be keyed in in production so you don't need to waste time searching high and low for the shot that you have but just can't seem to find amidst the other files. Organizing is optimized...if you take the extra time to do it in production that is.

3. Versatility. The camera can function with Canon's EF lens range as well as Zeiss ZF range. Oh and it records on SSDs' so you can have a lot of options with the storage device of your choice.

4. Maintenance.

5. Cons. The camera doesn't have slow-mo functions. Only 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p and 30p (twixtor anyone?). Ergonomics is also a thing to consider. I mean, how do you grip comfortably with this thing? It looks more like a toy camera and there are no physical buttons for controls like ISO, shutter etc. Which makes me wonder whether it will be a problem to adjust controls mid-shooting. To add to that, the camera would require a rig to function to the standard that we all want. The 1/4" audio jacks would make it easily vulnerable to being yanked out accidentally. It doesn't have that added functionality of taking photos like how we are used to with the DSLR. There's no hdmi output. And mostly, the crop factor will definitely be an issue with this thing. 2.4x crop factor.

Filmmaking elites will have to consider this

1. The camera is too simple. Off course, when something new comes out, the community always shouts out " Where's this function?" or " could've been better with this function" I'd foresee the pro community asking questions like " The camera doesn't have a grip, I'll need to buy a rig for it.It's not ergonomic.." or "The camera doesn't have slow-mo capability.." or "HDMI output would've been better rather than the HD-SDI output" or " It would've been better if there are dedicated controls like iso, shutter etc..." or "The camera is like the bolex...equivalent to a S16, not 35mm..." or "No in-built ND filters".

2. There's always a comparison. And until some digital camera can match the 35mm film standard without any side effects, that's when the elite community will finally stop complaining. How will it perform on the silver screen? When it is blown-up on the big screen, how will the camera fare?

3. Off course, there are other cameras that can beat this camera in it's own game. My take? Well, this camera does off course fits itself in the sub 3k dollar range, unlike the other cameras, which will go on average of 10-15k at least. If only I have that much money to spend. Hmmm. Sony FS700 would be a great acquisition...oh and the RED scarlet too!:)

Screengrab off from Sony's website, gorgeous ain't she? ;):

4. Elites wouldn't consider this a big leap forward in the industry. It is though, a revolution in the semi-pro community. It means that the gap between the elites...and everyone else gets narrower. It empowers just about anyone, with enough determination and creativity to get recognized. Anyways, I don't think BMD was aiming for this market, although, like the HDSLRs', producers can now have a cheaper and better option.

5. Crop factor. Ahhhhhh...This links to point 2. 2 is the keyword here. It is reported that the camera has a crop factor of 2.4 relative to the 5D(full frame) and 1.5 relative to the 7D(APS-C). That is massive.

My take is this, BMD wouldn't be crazy enough to pit it's new camera-making skills with the heavyweights right? So what's their plan? Make a camera that has the potential to be THE CAMERA, sort of like how the iPhone has been a success, iPhone isn' the only camera, nor is it the best. Both items share the simplicity, ease of use and is aimed at consumers not to a specific specialized target audience. All the other DSLRs have failed to completely capitalize on the dslr revolution have they? no surely. The revolution, as we all know is an accident and the heavyweights have no intent on making a camera that bridges the divide between pro and consumer. In their minds, it's either pro OR consumer. This camera will blur further the lines between Hollywood elites and the rest of the filmmaking community, not forgetting budding amateurs. BMD has made a smart move. It exploits the niche created accidentally by HDSLRs. This will be the camera for the masses. And the masses will then depend on a BMD ecosystem, just like what Apple did. You're looking at a camera that will fit into their system. No sooner it will be the only system we all know. How sweet.

© 2012 Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski


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