Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Complete Walkthrough: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
I’ve been waiting for this camera for about 4 years. That’s not an exaggeration either. I’m a big fan of Blackmagic and their cameras ever since the original Cinema Camera back in 2012 at NAB and caused quite a stir with its 2.5K resolution, 13 stops of Dynamic Range, ability to record to RAW, Apple ProRes, and had a ton of professional cinema camera ports, etc. for only $3000.
And that sort of set the tone for Blackmagic Cameras going forward, of which there are now over a dozen models of–crazy image quality and movie-level production capabilities for a fraction of the cost of competitors cameras (some of which their cameras have been compared to that cost upwards of $30,000). That’s not to say that Blackmagic Cameras are without faults and the original Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, was no exception. It only shot in 1080P at the time (which was quickly becoming outdated in the movie world by then), the battery life was insanely horrible, it could only display in LOG color so you’d have a hard time knowing what the shot actually looked like, etc. (despite this, they were used in films as recent as Avengers: Age of Ultron as b-cameras in inside the cars as they were being flipped about in a scene).
But, after I bought one and tried to use it for a bit a few years ago after needing something smaller than my URSA Mini 4.6K I was using at the time, I returned it and ended up going for a Sony A6500 and now an A73 (both of which are fantastic cameras). I had heard rumors of them finally updating this smaller camera for years and patiently I waited until finally at NAB last year they surprised everyone there with the announcement of the sequel simply named the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.
Needless to say, I preordered it from B&H while standing on the NAB show floor.
Well, it finally arrived and I’ve been using it for a bit and now I think I can finally do my complete walkthrough on it. If you aren’t familiar a complete walkthrough on my channel is where I go through every feature I can on a device (and in this case sample footage, comparisons, etc.) so you guys are fully prepared should you be in the market to buy one.
So with the brief history lesson out of the way, let’s get started with the design.
It’s made out of a carbon fiber polycarbonate which explains why it looks like metal but when you pick it up, it’s way lighter than it looks. In fact, it’s only 1.59 lbs.
On the top of the camera, we have a mounting point, our on/off toggle, buttons to bring up ISO, shutter speed, and white balance settings, a button to grab a still (this is capture in DNG RAW format), a large record button, and three customizable function buttons that can be set to either be a toggle switch for different settings, or a preset to jump to a specific value for a specific setting.
On the front, we have a control wheel that will adjust setting values whenever you are in that setting on the screen or will adjust aperture otherwise. We have four low-noise microphones that can capture stereo sound. And we also have another record button that I was told was meant for when you are vlogging so you can easily tap it without another hand (an unusual thing for Blackmagic to put on a camera, but there you go). Actually, because of that button, I filmed my most recent vlog entirely on this camera so if you want to see that I’ll leave a link below.
While on the front, we have a micro four-thirds mount and sensor. That sensor though, despite being the same size as the GH5S’ has a much more cinematic look (and higher dynamic range).
Personally, coming from a Sont A7III as my main run and gun camera and it being a full-frame camera, I wasn’t excited about going to a sensor that would have a 2x crop factor (as well as less bokeh at similar aperture levels). But, I grabbed a Panasonic Lumix G 12-35mm f2.8 (the equivalent of a 24-70mm on my Sony) and have to admit, I’m pretty okay with the results. I think that I’ll be getting a Metabones Canon EF to MFT speed booster so I can use my trusty Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 ART lens as that seems to be a good option for something with a shallower depth of field, but we’ll use that in a comparison video that’s coming soon.
We also have a tally light to let you know when it’s recording or not (which you can turn off in the settings).
On the left, we have our ports. We have a 3.5mm stereo audio-in port, as well as a 3.5mm audio out port, a full-sized HDMI port, a locking 12V port, USB-C port (that can be used to record directly to an external SSD if you want), a Mini-XLR port for higher quality microphone options that can also supply phantom power if needed.
On the right, we have our media ports. The BMPCC4K can accept CFast 2.0 cards, as well as SD UHS-II cards (one slot for each).
On the bottom, we have our standard mounting port as well as our battery door that accepts Canon LP-E6 batteries. They are about 2000mah or so but I managed to find replacements here on Amazon that was 2600mah and still worked, but regardless, battery life isn’t great. I highly recommend this battery pack instead of using the Canon batteries. Trust me.
On the back, we have an Iris button that’ll adjust the aperture automatically when pressed (if it’s set to auto),and a focus button that will autofocus the lens (you can also touch on the screen to focus on a specific area of the image and double tapping the focus button will reset it to the center).
Below that, we have a high frame rate shortcut that’ll just to the offset frame rate you’ve set in the settings (so in 4K you can set it up to 60fps and in 1080P you can set it up to 120fps). My complaint with this so far is that unlike the Sony dial that has this on top of the camera I cannot go from shooting in 4K normal speed to the 120fps 1080P, I have to manually switch to 1080P in the settings first and vice versa.
We have a zoom button that lets you zoom in should you want to check autofocus etc. or zoom in when playing back footage. Under that, we have a menu button to get to settings, and finally, we have a playback button that brings you to the footage on the selected media.
Let’s dive into the software, which is very similar to the software from my URSA Mini 4.6K so I’m pretty familiar with it, and the things I love and also, well, don’t.
First, though, here’s the viewfinder when recording. You have a full touchscreen and thanks to a huge update Blackmagic did to all of their camera UI’s not too long ago, it’s way more intuitive than it used to be. Tapping on any of the settings at the top will give you a slider for that setting (which you can also use the control wheel on the front of the camera to control, as well):
- Visual Assistants: If you tap the icon at the top left, you can turn on and off and control the opacity or strength of your visual assistants: zebra, focus assist, framing guidelines, grids, broadcast safe zones, and false color.
- LUTs: Under that, we have an indicator to show you whether you have a LUT being used or not, as well as if you are baking the LUT look into the clip or not. I’ll get more into this when we dive into the camera settings more in a sec.
- Frames Per Second: We have from 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, and 60 for 4K with an option to tap the off-speed option to have it shoot in one speed and playback in another (i.e. shoot in 60fps in 4K and playback in 24 to give a slow-motion effect). For 1080P, you have the same options but can go up to 120fps if you are shooting in RAW (for some reason ProRes doesn’t allow for this).
- Shutter: We can adjust the shutter angle from 0 to 360-degrees and you can even double tap it to type in a specific number. You can also set it to auto, but it’s doesn’t adjust quickly keep in mind.
- Iris: You can adjust the aperture of the lens. You can also set this to auto, but it, too, isn’t the fastest.
- Clock: You can change the clock from recording time to relative time.
- ISO: You can adjust the ISO from 100 up to 25600 and the camera itself has a dual native ISO at 400 and 3200 which just means it can shoot at those with the least noise instead of just one so you can get better lowlight shots (further explanation for another day). This is something I wish I could set to auto sometimes as I’m running around and filming, but as this isn’t meant for that and is meant for higher end shoots, it’s something people would want total control over and I get that, but wish it just had the option for auto ISO for those of us that might want to use it since we’re not setting up every single shot and are improving a lot too.
- White Balance: You can choose from the different presets for sunlight, incandescent, fluorescent, etc. but you can also set you own under the custom white balance setting (including tint). And you can tap Auto White Balance for it to bring up a white balance adjuster that you can put on a white object (or a white balance card preferably) and it’ll automatically set the white balance. The same issue for me here as the ISO, although less so. I would love to see an auto option for when I need it, but ISO is more something I’d let be auto than white balance as it changes less often while filming but still.
- Battery: Tapping the battery will show you the voltage and when it gets under a certain amount, it automatically will show a percentage of battery left.
- Histogram: At the bottom of the viewfinder, we have our histogram.
- Media: At the bottom center, we have our media showing how much recording we have left based on the resolution and format you are using. Tapping either will bring up the media menu that you can use to switch between media and also format the cards. You can format them to exFAT for Windows, or HFS+ for Mac. And you can change the reel number (the first number in each file name that automatically increments by one every time you format the card for organizational reasons.
- Audio Meters: And then we have our audio meters.
- Project Info: Speaking of organizational reasons, if you swipe across the screen, you can get to your clips and project settings. These allow you to create a slate for each clip like you would in a proper production to then be able to sort by this in post. It’ll even grab lens data automatically, and you can choose things like Interior/Exterior, Day/Night, and tap Good Take to star the clips you like. You can tap on Project and add the project name, director, which camera letter this is, and the camera operators name, too. All of this is hugely helpful if you’re on a big production and working with a lot of people, again, their target market, but not so necessary for those of us working as one-man shows.
OK, now, when you press the menu button, you get to the camera settings, which again are pretty intuitively organized into tabs.
- Record: Here you’ll find all the different options for the quality, recording formats, etc.
- Codec and Quality: You can choose from RAW or ProRes (one is super versatile for editing but huge file sizes and the other is super optimized for editing workflows). Then you can choose the quality of each: Lossless, 3:1 compressed, and 4:1 compressed for RAW, and HQ, 422, LT, and Proxy for ProRes.
- Resolution: Then we have an option for resolution. We have 4K DCI, Ultra HD and 1080P. Keep in mind that anything under 4K DCI windows the sensor so you will get a slightly higher crop factor going to UHD and even more on HD.
- Dynamic Range: In RAW, you can only be on Film as the nature of RAW. This is the highest quality but has no color data baked in (log footage). For ProRes you can choose from the same log Film for better quality in ProRes, or Video which bakes in the colors and less quality, and a new one I’ve not seen before which is Extended Video which Blackmagic says is a good mix of both with the quality/latitude of film but the convenience of video.
- Project Frame Rates: Here you can choose the frame rate for the project (aka what it’ll playback in) and then choose off-speed recording to record in another frame rate (so slow motion or timelapse as mentioned before).
- Preferred Card: Choose between the CFast and SD card or have it automatically record to whichever is the fullest.
- Stop Rec: You can also tell it to stop recording if it catches that a frame dropped.
- Timelapse: This let’s you automatically set it to shoot a frame at different frame, second, or minute intervals to have it automatically record a timelapse.
- Detail Sharpening: In ProRes, you can set this to automatically sharpen the footage to differing levels.
- Record LUT to Clip: This lets you record in the Film log footage for higher dynamic range but then bake the LUT (or Look Up Table) into the clip if that’s more convenient for your workflow. We’ll talk about LUTs in more detail shortly.
- Monitor: Here we have all our settings for our display–the internal screen and even any screen that is connected to the HDMI port.
- Which Monitor: You can select between the LCD on the camera, the HDMI connected monitor, or Both and adjust the settings below separately for each (so for example, on the LCD you might want the focus assist and grid, but if a director or client is seeing the feed from the HDMI you might want to send him a Clean Feed that has nothing on it but the image, etc.)
- Clean Feed: Turns off all the assistants and just shows the camera footage.
- 3D LUT: Lets you choose if you want to show the LUT on the monitor when recording in Film dynamic range (if you don’t have this you’ll see it in log which is greyed out and makes it difficult to adjust in my opinion).
- Zebra: Exposure zebra.
- Focus Assist: Put red color on all the things in focus.
- Frame Guide: Let’s you turn on and off the frame guide we looked at when checking out the viewfinder.
- Grid: Turns on the grid for that monitor or not.
- Safe Area Guide: Turns on the safe area guide for the monitor you select.
- False Color: Turns on the false color guide for the monitor you select.
- Status Text: Turns on the text overlay on the monitor (i.e. the ISO level, shutter speed, media record time left, histogram, etc.
- Display: You can choose between the audio meters or the codec and resolution being displayed in the bottom right corner.
- Screen Brightness: Adjust the screen brightness.
- Audio: All of your audio related settings are here.
- Channel 1 & Channel 2 Sources: You can choose here what the two stereo channels are getting their audio from. You can choose from the camera’s built-in left microphone or right one, a mono mix of both, the mini-XLR in line or mic, 3.5mm audio in left channel, right channel or a mono mix of both (in line or mic) or none.
- Channel Gain: Then you’ll see the audio meters and can adjust the gain for each channel.
- Headphones & Speaker Volume: You can choose how loud to output sound to either a plugged in headphones or the speaker on the camera.
- XLR Phantom Power: And whether you want to provide phantom power to the connected XLR device.
- Setup: This allows you to make fundamental changes to the camera’s settings.
- Date and Time: Pretty self-explanatory.
- Language: Also self-explanatory.
- Shutter Measurement: You can choose between the shutter angle or shutter speed for whichever you prefer.
- Flicker Free Shutter: You can adjust flicker reduction between the 50hz standard of Europe and most of Asia power and the 60hz standard of North America to have it try and minimize flicker when filming lights.
- Image Stabilization: If the lens supports this you can turn on image stablization or not.
- Timecode Drop Frame: This will skip some frames when recording in frame rates in fractions like 29.98 and 59.98 to make sure the timecode of your project is accurate despite each second not containing a whole number of frames.
- Set Function Buttons: You can set each of the three custom function buttons on the top of the camera to different parameters and then choose if it goes as a toggle (on and off) or a preset which is a specific value for a specific function. Then you can choose where that value is displayed (on the LCD of HDMI monitor).
- Tally Light: You can turn on and off the red tally light at the front of the camera that turns on when recording as well as choose the brightness of it.
- Software: You can factory reset the camera, calibrate the sensor, see the hardware ID, software version, and choose whether you want all clips to be able to be played back when you push the playback button or just one.
- Bluetooth: And you can setup Bluetooth for the camera and connected devices. Keep in mind that right now there is only an iOS app for Blackmagic and no Android app.
- Presets: Here you can save presets that will automatically load all of the settings you’ve set the camera too when selected (handy if you have similar places you film at as you can just set it to that location and have the white balance, shutter speed, etc. all setup and ready to film).
- LUTS: And finally we have LUTs which I’ve mentioned a few times already but haven’t properly explained for those that aren’t familiar. Essentially these are a set of color information that can be applied to Film dynamic range footage (Log footage). Since log footage has none of this info baked in to the clip it’s a constant flat base. You can then either use the preinstalled LUTs that came with the camera (mainly ones to get Film to look like their Video settings) or you can even go out and find other LUTs on the web that are specific to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s Film profile and adjust it to any number of other camera looks or even creative looks. These can be turned on and off on the clips and can be shown in the camera with or without being permanently baked into the footage. If you choose not to bake them in, you can then either use the same LUT in your editing software (like Premiere, for example) to automatically apply it in editing and adjust the color from there, or edit it as Film and adjust it on your own. To load these on the camera, here’s a tutorial I did for the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K but it works the same for the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.
And there you go! Everything I could get through on the camera. You can check it out here if you are interested in learning more about it and here is the battery pack I mentioned in the video (that I highly recommend if you plan to use the camera). Thanks for reading!