After the technical wasteland that was our unboxing video, our head of media and entertainment promptly took the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera off the marketing team and took it off to shoot some actual test footage. Along with his native and graded stills, here are a few of his field notes…
The battery life
One of the most common complaints among our team and everyone else we’ve seen get their hands on a camera so far is that the battery life is incredibly short – you can burn through it in about 45 minutes, even if you’re not shooting continuously. Part of this is because the camera runs hot – it’s literally warm to the touch, and the supplied AC adaptor charges the battery on-camera, so it gets pretty hot when plugged in – and you’re definitely going to need two spare batteries and an external charger to get the most out of this camera. The supplied battery is 800Mah, so aim for one that’s 1200Mah to up your shooting time.
Another power-related quirk: there’s no charging light on the camera or the charger, so the only way to tell that you’re powering up is to turn the camera on and check there’s a charging message on the screen. Be aware that if you’re plugged in and the battery accidentally comes loose, it’ll display as being 100% charged, so do make sure you double check everything is secure.
As Philip Bloom reported, the Pocket Cinema Camera doesn’t format your cards in-camera or delete any clips. However, we didn’t have any of the compatibility issues he mentioned, despite using PNY 90Mbps SDHC cards rather than the recommended SanDisk Extreme ones recommended in the manual. (Obviously we always recommend using the qualified cards where possible, though.) You’ll need to format your card as HFS+ or exFAT to use it with the camera, and you’ll want to keep a few on hand as the files are pretty big – the test footage was shot in ProRes 422 HQ and 1080p with two channels of audio, and that worked out at roughly 1.25GB per minute.
Supported formats and frame rates
The demo unit only ships with ProRes support – no DNxHD or RAW. The frame rates available are 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30fps, with timelapse supported in one to 50 second intervals, one to ten minutes or one to ten frames.
During the shoot
The test footage was shot outside on a very bright day, which meant that the screen was difficult to see (invest in a loupe or EVF while you’re waiting for your camera to ship) and the camera was incredibly sensitive, even when shooting with the lens closed right down and the shutter at 45 degrees (the auto iris is great, though). As with the original Cinema Camera, stabilisation is a must. The crop factor means that any movements you make are magnified 3 times, and unlike the original model, the Pocket doesn’t have a 2.5K frame that you can crop to HD to cut out some of that movement.
Panasonic lenses are a good bet with the Pocket Cinema Camera, purely because they have stabilisation functionality built in while other prime lenses don’t. We’d recommend investing in a 14mm or 20mm pancake lens, as not only will they have less effect on the camera’s balance, they’ve got the perfect focal length for the crop size and help keep the camera pocket-sized. (As our incredibly non-technical unboxing shows, without lenses it lives up to its name.)
Having zebras on the viewfinder was great and made it easier to make adjustments to the aperture and shutter angle to compensate for conditions – even with a Voigtlander lens shut down to F16 and with the shutter at 45 degrees, it was sometimes difficult to get a decent image. Happily, it was easy to recover the footage without much loss of detail, even though it was ProRes, and we’re excited to see what’ll happen when we get models that can shoot RAW.
One major weakness was the autofocus, which is not smooth and clearly very immature – future software updates will hopefully help with this. When shooting with an Olympus lens it was jerky and tended to hyper-extend the lens, though Panasonic glass fared better, even if performance was slow. If you hold down the focus button a focus view box will appear in the centre of your camera’s screen, and if you hold this down forever it will eventually focus. Double tapping the button turns on focus peaking, which was useful for manual focusing, and took some of the load off the very slow autofocus. The infinity focus also needs work, as it’s currently very soft.
And that screen? Perhaps controversially, we’d actually prefer it to be a touchscreen. There are no manual buttons to assign, so you can spend a lot of time cycling through menus to changes things like shutter angle, ISO and colour temperature. For future models a DSLR- type dial for ISO and shutter angle adjustment would be a great addition.
Shown below are stills from the original test shoot, and the same stills after a very quick primary grade. For such a small camera in such an improvised shoot, the level of detail is fantastic, and any problems were easily fixed in post.
Want to know more about the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. Alternatively, take a look at our lovely new Blackmagic Design store. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.