ALEX RIBEIRO

Do you really want a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k?

I just bought Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k.

Am I happy? – Not really.

Do I regret the purchase? – Not yet.

From what I found so far, it’s a weird mix of features who is good for not so many scenarios. Let’s think first about its name:

Is it a pocket camera?

  • No. It doesn’t fit on a pocket! 

GoPro is a pocket camera: 

  1. Its battery lasts for a few hours on normal usage
  2. Doesn’t need focusing 
  3. Has IBIS (in body image stabilisation) 
  4. Can be used as-is
  5. Fits in a pocket!

BMPCC 6k is NOT a pocket camera:

  1.  BMPCC 6k battery overheats and crashes after, let’s say, 10 min of continuous shooting, so you require a bag full of them, or a third party solution. 
  2. It’ lacks an auto sleep function, meaning: either you leave it on and drain one battery in half an hour (even if you’re not shooting) or you turn it off and then have to wait in between turning on and being ready for recording, which can take something like 15-30 seconds. Then you miss the action!
  3. It has no IBIS so either it requires a gimbal or a tripod, for shooting (otherwise everything will be quite shaky, specially at 6k).
  4. Autofocus (assuming you’re using native Canon Lenses) is a very basic hit-and-miss experience.
  5. With a Super 35 sensor it requires APS-C or Full Frame lenses (I’m using Nikon FF ones with a cheap Chinese adaptor), which makes it rather bulky. 
  6. Weighting around 3 kg  total (camera, batteries, lenses, tripod / gimbal), at the least, it will hardly fit anyone’s pocket. 
  7. It’s not weather sealed. In fact it has vents for cooling. Not saying that a pocket camera needs to be sealed to be considered as such, but most real pocket cameras are.

Is it a cinema camera?

  • It is not modular, as most cinema cameras are, meaning:
  1. Battery: Unless you buy a proper 3rd party cage, there is no battery plate, so you’re stuck with either improvising or buying their own battery pack (assuming the 4k version will work on the 6k). That sits under the camera like a normal DSLr extension grip. However, it takes Sony L-series batteries, so now you ditch the bag full of Canon LP-E6 batteries you originally bought along with the camera, to get you going. Of course, you’ll need an extra charger, as well. 
  2. Viewfinder: There is no SDI / Power out, so you cannot plug even Black Magic’s own viewfinder.
  3. Screen: it is not bright enough, not contrasty enough, doesn’t flip (you can install a kit for the purpose, but that will void the warranty and cost you more) and has no shade (again, you can buy a 3rd party), making you wish for a proper external monitor, while wondering why that one is there, in the first place. For plugging the hypothetical external monitor, you’re stuck with only one HDMI port.
  4. Lenses: There are no optional or interchangeable mounts, so you must use the old-fashioned Canon EF-S Mount. No PL lenses, Fuji X-Mount, Sony, Nikon, not even the Canon new RF, which would be simple to adapt to EF-S. Of course there are many 3rd party cheap adaptors, but that changes flange distance and you’ll lose Iris control in camera, so the front dial will be good for nothing as you cannot assign any other function to it (without pressing any button first, I mean).

To make it work as a cinema camera you’ll need quite a few accessories; some you’ll need for every cinema camera, some you will specifically need for this one to become a sort of cinema camera. …Some you simply cannot get or you won’t take the full benefit.

So my question is: If you’re willing to pay that sort of money to make a cinema camera out of BMPCC 6k , why don’t you just buy one? Yes, BMPCC 6k is cheap, but there are reasons why it’s cheap:

Why BMPCC 6k is so cheap?

  • 6k is limited up to 50 FPS and BRaw: meaning, not only you have to learn how to deal with DaVinci Resolve (the only video editing program you can use for decoding those files), but also you must change to ProRes if you need to make a slow motion:

In raw, all modes lower than 6k are sensor crops. In ProRes you can get HD and Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 with full sensor area. 4K (4096 X 2160) is, understandably, a crop. The problem is when you want more than 50 fps: Then you need to go as low as 2.7K which is a crop from the 6k sensor, meaning, 1/6th ! If you want to shoot the same scenario and frame it similarly, both at normal speed and slow motion, you’d have to change lenses, probably move from place and include a lower quality footage into your timeline, assuming you shooting Braw 6k. You’d probably, get a fair amount lot of noise as a bonus, if lightening conditions aren’t controllable or perfect. You’d also have to run through the setup menu and find two screens where you can do it, step by step. There is no shortcut to jump from, let’s say, the standard 30 or 25 Fps to the 120

  • A 1 TB SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD drops frames while attempting to record at 6k 3.1 Constant Quality  (the most demanding option in BMPCC 6k). So what kind of media is it needed to take full advantage of the camera? Black Magic Customer Service, from Singapore is yet to come with an answer. So far, reports say Samsung T5 is the most reliable option. Sandisk Extreme Pro won’t work at all. If we’re talking about internal memory cards, they’re limited in memory size… (A 512 GB CFast card is costing around 700 USD / 900 for 1 Tb) Now remember: 1 TB is 51 minutes in 6K Braw 3.1 compression! Again, would you invest on expensive memory cards for a cheap camera?
  • Dual ISO is certainly a plus: except if the dual native values are 100 and 1250! Namely, because 800 and 1000 exhibit a fair amount of noise, so DON’t accidentally switch from 1250 to 1000 ISO or you may ruin your shooting day! The two native ISO values are too close to each other and the noise progression is just too much for what can be expected from a Super 35 “cinema” sensor! (Which, in the majority of the circumstances doesn’t work as a full Super 35, as you may have already noticed.) BMPCC6k simply wasn’t made for low light!
  • Apart from its features, the body is all plastic and feels plastic. I don’t know how will it behave in normal usage but I’m not overly confident on its sturdiness. There are just 2 mounting threads (on the top and on the back). 
  • Buttons are placed in weird positions. Assuming you’re looking at the monitor (i.e., behind it) and you have the camera on a tripod or gimbal, does it make sense to have two distinct record buttons in the front? Assignable buttons are in the top, they’re only 3 and have very limited options. Besides, they “feel” the same, so you cannot distinguish them without looking. There must be a reason why all the buttons are on the right and none on the left. I’m still wondering why…
  • The screen doesn’t show the histogram when you’re selecting ISO (which is one of the main reasons why you need the histogram, anyway)!
  • It behaves poorly on a Gimbal (to say the least). I’m using mine on DJI Ronin-S and while it’s certainly “usable” the protrudent (and useless) right hand grip makes it unbalanced and hard to calibrate. (Again, there are 3rd party solutions to make it work). 
  • There are some more small issues (like the charging plug being made for children’s hands), which are not so important but can be nerve wrecking, at times.
  • Colour rendition is terrible for greens (look yellowish) and browns (look orange) but that, as far as I know, is common to the more expensive Ursa Mini Pro.

Overall, it’s not hard to conclude than BMPCC 6K is NOT a cinema camera.

A Nikon Z6 shoots UHD @ 30 Fps with nearly full sensor read-out, decent autofocus, vibration reduction in lens and in camera, normal memory cards, batteries last far longer, it’s balanced, sturdy and perfectly matches a normal gimbal. It’s not a video camera… Neither it pretends to be, as it also shoots wonderful pictures. But, for video, it gets the job done.  Some may say

  • It requires an external monitor – so does BMPCC 6k, if you take it seriously.  It needs the same HDMI connection.
  • It requires an external recorder to take full advantage of ProRes Raw and 12 bits – BMPCC 6k requires external disks, as well, and only shoots 10 bits.
  • It doesn’t record 6k, nor even true 4k – but it also doesn’t crop the sensor on higher frame rates, on Full HD.
  • It doesn’t have dual-iso – a proper signal-to-noise ration comparison test would need to be done, to see if it’s really needed.

Nikon Z6 is roughly 600 USD cheaper than BMPCC 6k

I’m not recommending Nikon Z6 as a video camera, at all. There may be better options for mirrorless cameras shooting video (Sony, Panasonic, Sigma, even Canon now). I’m just using something I know as a term of comparison.  

6k video requires focus accuracy, stabilisation and low noise to get 6k details. If you can only getting it by shooting in broad day light on top of a sturdy tripod, your options are severely reduced. Will you get 6k colours and details, shooting with this camera in your real-life scenarios? If you’re like me, you’d use 6k with the intention of cropping to 4k and being able to stabilise, correct horizons and panning in frame.

So, if this is neither a pocket, nor a true cinema camera, what is it, after all? An indie’s film-maker lure? An entry lever video camera? I’m still wondering… As far as I understood, right now, it’s just a cheap camera with a lot of hype. 

Disclaimer: I bought it mainly for underwater usage. As bad as it may be, comparing to a Sony or Nikon mirrorless camera, it saves me the nearly 4000 USD cost of a housing for an external monitor.

Here is some footage I shot during a Balinese Hindu Ceremony. I did it on 6K Braw 3.1 and exported at 4k. It was over 1.5 TB of original footage, took me over 10 hours to render on a state of the art Macbook Pro with an external thunderbolt 3 Raid and SSD drives. Workflow must definitely be improved, though I was happy with the overall results, giving my very limited experience on DaVinci Resolve 16 (one week, to be clear).

Stay tuned for more footage, and impressions.

Update: I’ve been shooting with it for some months, now, and though I still, overall, dislike it (the greens rendered as yellows and the orange tones of browns are specially inconvenient), I’ve found it useful in some circumstances. I’m definitely not going crazy on buying accessories to show it off as a cinema camera. The idea is to keep it small and light, as much as possible, and use it in circumstances where a bigger one would be impossible to bring. That was the case of the popular, (though illegal) cockfight in Bali, I’m showing below:

This was mostly shot at 120 FPS, 2.7K, Braw 5:5 and graded on DaVinci Resolve 16. The colours are washed on purpose and, since I needed to use 1250 ISO, the highlights are blown and couldn’t be recovered.
Music from https://filmmusic.io
“Graveyard Shift” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
“Interloper” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

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