This is only gonna be a first look review, not a full one because I only had the camera for a couple of days. So, I’m sharing my first impressions and what I think of the camera. I’ll start with the ergonomics of the camera. First of all, as you can see this is a lot bigger than the original Pocket camera. It fits nicely into my hands, but I know that a lot of people with smaller hands might have problems using this, like the older one. Obviously, it’s not something you can literally put in your pockets, you need some kind of bag to carry it with you. Second of all, there is a big 5 inch full HD display on this camera now. This is a beautiful display, it’s really pristine, it’s quite bright, it’s not bright in a way that you can use it outside on a sunny day without any shading, but it is bright enough for most circumstances.
Unfortunately, I think Blackmagic decided to leave out a viewfinder, which they also haven’t included in the older Pocket camera, which of course will be a problem for you if you’re farsighted and you can’t actually see the screen properly up close. But considering the price of this camera, it’s still an amazing value having a screen like this inside the camera. For this review, I use the 8Sinn cage, one of the first cages for this camera on the market. It’s very lightweight, comes with a lot of mounting points and it also comes with a detachable handle on top. Second of all, and this also comes down to the handling of this camera, the menu design of Blackmagic is just one of a kind. it’s so much better than any of the menus from all the Japanese camera manufacturers, I can’t even stress this enough. it’s very simple, it’s very straightforward to find your way around the menu, you don’t need to read any manuals, you will find everything within a minute, and this is something we’re not used to from other manufacturers. This is a camera that has a very similar form factor to other mirrorless cameras on the market, but it’s only made for video, this is not a photo camera.
And this is actually great. Because of course, everything is designed around shooting video with this camera. There are no functions that will get into your way which are not thought for the cinematographer, for the videographer. This is really made for video. I already mentioned the very nice screen, but one of the problems of that screen is that it’s not a tilt screen, it’s not flippable and it’s not even tiltable. this is one of the issues that I had using this camera for the last couple of days, you immediately wish that there was a way to actually tilt it up when you have the camera down below or tilt it down when you have the camera up here. I don’t necessarily need a flip screen, as the GH5 series has, but I at least would want to have a tilt screen, like the Sony a7 series has, because in everyday shooting conditions this is something you need all the time.
What really sets this camera apart is the shooting options, the codecs, the resolutions, that this camera can record internally in such a small and also inexpensive package. And it’s really alone in the market with this. You can record ProRes HQ, ProRes 422, ProRes LT and ProRes Proxy, as well as DNG RAW inside this camera. That means 12-bit video images inside such a small body. And this is something that nobody else offers on the market. As internal recording media, the Pocket Cinema 4k uses C fast cards as well as very fast SDXC cards. Alternatively, you can even connect an SSD via a USB C. Just be aware that this eats a lot of battery and it drains your battery much faster. The audio options in this camera are quite nice as well. With adapter cables, you can have mini XLR to full-size XLR with this camera and there are also two stereo microphones built into this camera on the left and right side of the lens. The only issue I have with this is that… your fingers are literally touching the microphone all the time, so the positioning could really be better.
It sounds quite nice for b-roll audio but you just have to be aware that your fingers will touch the microphone if you hand hold it like this. One huge advantage is now you have off-speed recording, you have high frame rates. With this camera you can shoot up to 60 frames in 4k and 120 frames in Full HD. when you switch to full HD you have to select the ‘Crop Sensor’ mode in order to be able to select the 120 frames per second. so you lose a lot of field of view that you have if you use the full sensor with up to 60 frames per second. Now, let’s talk about the downsides of this camera. If you compare the autofocus mode of this camera with the autofocus modes in modern mirrorless cameras, this falls a bit short.
There is no continuous autofocus with any lens, There’s only a tap autofocus, which means you can tap on the screen and it will focus to where you tap, but it is a one time single focus, which means it will search the focus, hopefully, stay in focus, it’s not very good in my opinion, it’s probably contrast based. And other companies like Canon and Sony have a better way of focusing with autofocus here. So, this is a little bit of a shortcoming. Another huge downside of this camera is power management. and that is a much bigger one than the autofocus issue that I just talked about. If you were a user of the original Pocket Cinema Camera you will also remember carrying around a backpack full of batteries to get through one shooting day. This camera literally ate batteries, and I think you needed a new one every 20 minutes or so. With this one, it’s a little bit better. It uses the Canon LP-E6 standard, which is the standard that was in the 5D Mark II, Mark III, and many other Canon cameras.
So the likelihood of you having a couple of those batteries still at home is very high. The downside is: the power management of this camera still isn’t very great. Which means I usually got through 35 to 45 minutes shooting with one of those batteries. And that’s not good at all. But an even bigger issue than the bad battery life is the fact that the camera will simply shut down without warning if it reaches below 20% of charge capacity on one of those batteries.
And I also found a very odd behavior with these batteries. You would think that the original Canon batteries would work best, but again, below 20%, sometimes 15%, sometimes 8%, the camera shuts down without warning and the worst is you will lose the clip that you just recorded. That clip is not safe, it’s just not there. And this is a huge issue that Blackmagic really has to improve in my opinion with a firmware update. The power consumption itself is something they probably cannot enhance at this point in time without changing the hardware, but they are still quite new as a camera company and I’m sure they will improve eventually. we were just all hoping that it would be better by this point in time already. In the beginning, I was also mentioning the amazing display in this camera, which is really great. As well as the interface itself. Everything around it is very nice and very intuitive, but because the interface design is so good, there is one flaw that really annoys me.
When you are in the Playback Mode of this camera and you have the display overlays switched on, you will see display overlays that are not actually relating to the clip that you’re watching. The timecode that you’re watching is the timecode that you’re watching of the clip that you see right now, but the ISO and the shutter values and all the other values are not relating to what you’re watching. So, it’s very very confusing. This is something that Blackmagic just has to change and I don’t know why this slipped under their radar. Because it’s so obvious to me. I already talked about ergonomics and handling. One thing that I forgot to mention is the fact that the buttons and how they arranged are really really nice.
They really did their homework there. You have three function buttons up here on top which can be assigned to whatever function you need very often. You have a full-size HDMI which is something you only have on the GH5 other than this camera, which is very nice. I also quickly tested all the ISO values to compare the levels of noise. as you can see there are quite a few ISO values to choose from. As expected, the image is very clean at the two native ISOs of 400 and 3200. That also means that ISO 2500 is not as clean as ISO 3200. In my opinion, the noise is acceptable until around ISO 6400 at least, but I would go even higher for documentary shooting purposes. As opposed to some other Blackmagic cameras in the past, I couldn’t see any apparent sensor patterns, and the evenness of noise means that this footage can be de-noised easily using DaVinci Resolve. That’s in theory because we didn’t try this yet. Now, to wrap up this first look review of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k let’s go back to our studio and talk to our technical expert Gunther, who did a dynamic range measurement of the sensor of this camera and compared it to other cameras in the market.
Let’s go have a look. So, now we’re here with our technical expert Gunther Machu, Hi Gunther. -Hi Nino. You already tested the dynamic range of the new Pocket Cinema Camera 4k. This is something that a lot of people have asked about. So, first of all, please explain our technical methodology of how to measure the dynamic range, because at cinema5D we’ve been doing this for many years now and I think people need to understand how it’s actually done. -Absolutely, yeah. I was very curious actually to test the dynamic range of the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k. I’m an avid user of the old Pocket Cinema Camera, I use it every day almost. So, I was very curious about that and let me first briefly explain the philosophy that we have. We test with the Xyla 21 step chart. It has 21 patches, that’s the Industry standard and I think it’s the most objective testing device that is out there.
And the philosophy we have is we test the camera, we film this chart and then we let the Imatest software analyze the patches. The software will analyze each patch, will calculate the root mean square value of the noise and then it gives you different results. And then it’s up to you to decide which result from the noise you still find acceptable. -Where the noise gets too much where we think it’s not acceptable anymore. Which is always different from what the manufacturers say, of course. The manufacturers have of course a high interest to give you the highest possible dynamic range value. But we at cinema5D in the last years already have used rather stringent criteria. what we say is we look at the signal-to-noise ratio of 2, which means the signal value still has to stick out of the noise floor of the camera. There’s also a DIN standard out there for still photography, and the DIN standard defines a signal-to-noise ratio of 1, which means the signal is spread inside the noise floor.
We feel that that’s not appropriate for motion cameras, and this is why we use a signal-to-noise ratio of 2. And this gives then a very good usable result in the field. And for everybody who is interested in more details about this whole procedure, there is a very nice article that you wrote which we recently published on cinema5D, we will link it in the description below.
So, please click this link for a further explanation on how the actual dynamic range tests are done in detail. So, let’s move on to the Pocket Cinema 4k in terms of dynamic range. What are your findings? -Well, initially I tested the old Pocket camera with this philosophy, and in ProRes and RAW as well I got stops of dynamic range, which is a very good result, actually. So, I was very curious to see how the new Pocket camera would fare. And what I found was it has stops in ProRes. -So, half a stop better. -Which is a very good result. So, the 13 stops that Blackmagic claims are quite accurate, but cinema5D is more stringent, we take this signal-to-noise ratio of 2, so, it stops for our criteria. But is a very good result if we compare it, for instance, to the Sony a7s II it has stopped. Okay, so actually the Pocket Cinema 4K has one-stop more compared to the a7s II, which is arguably the most popular mirrorless camera on the market. -Exactly, and also if we compare it for instance to the GH5s camera, where many people claim it’s supposed to have the same sensor, actually I doubt that, seeing the results.
-Okay, you think it’s a different sensor to the GH5? -At least how the signal is processed by Blackmagic is completely different, I don’t know if it’s the same sensor or not. But what we see from the dynamic range results is that at ISO 400, which is the native ISO, the first native ISO and then there’s the second, 3200, that 400 ISO this Blackmagic has and the GH5s has 10.7. So, almost a stop more at ISO 400 than the GH5s. -Interesting. And at ISO 3200, that’s the second native ISO of this camera, the results with the GH5s become very similar, around 10.4. So, you lose about a stop at ISO 3200. -Okay, thank You, Gunther. And thanks to everybody for watching, please do subscribe to cinema5D’s YouTube channel. There is more content coming regarding the Blackmagic Cinema Camera Pocket 4K, I never know where the Pocket goes.
And many other cameras, please stay tuned and see you soon.
As found on Youtube