First Look: Blackmagic Cinema Camera

At NAB 2006, RED Digital Cinema announced the 4K RED ONE camera, which became the talk of the show for both ASC cinematographers as well as eager film students. Show attendees crowded RED’s booth to peer at a prototype behind glass and surrendered their credit cards to place $1,000 deposits at the chance to buy one. Within a year, RED created a new type of indie shooter who could own a professional camera system and compete with the studios in terms of image quality. As a result, industry-standard companies like Kodak and Panavision were the collateral damage.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera contains a five-inch LCD monitor that allows you to enter metadata on its touch screen

At NAB 2012, a similar game-changing event took place. Australian company, Blackmagic Design—mostly known for their video converters, routers, disk recorders, etc.—announced the arrival of a new digital cinema camera, which is simply titled the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The compact rectangular box-shaped camera can comfortably fit in the palm of your hand and includes impressive features such as 13 stops of latitude, a high-resolution 2.5K sensor, a built-in SSD recorder, and the ability to capture 12-bit RAW motion-picture files. Like the Scarlet-X, Blackmagic is smartly releasing the camera with an EF-mount that will be compatible with Canon EF, Zeiss CP.2 and ZE lenses. (With Canon having 70 million EF lenses out in the field, I think it’s safe to say indie filmmakers will be living in an EF-world from here on.)

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera contains a five-inch LCD monitor that allows you to enter metadata on its touch screen

I’m sure your interest is piqued, right?

For monitoring, the camera contains a large touch-screen LCD that you can type your metadata into as if you were using a smartphone or tablet. The five-inch monitor is fixed to the back of the camera and can display record status, shutter angle, ISO, battery level, record time and more. Unlike many of the new compact cameras that contain one HDMI output, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera contains a 3 Gbps SDI output, as well as a Thunderbolt connection to offload footage to a computer or hard drive.

With RAW capture becoming more common with cinematographers shooting for post, a professional finishing solution is needed. Included in the purchase of the camera is DaVinci Resolve, an advanced color-correction system, and UltraScope, which enables waveform monitoring. Previously a $20,000 system, Blackmagic Design purchased the company a few years ago from JDS Uniphase Corp. and is now offering the program to customers for $995. So now you’re basically getting a $1,000 app thrown into your camera package.

So far, so good, right? Wait, there’s one more thing.

This would be big news for a camera costing in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, but the most revelatory aspect of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera is its price point, which will be $2,995. Yes, you heard that correctly. It’s going to be $500 cheaper than Canon’s new EOS 5D Mark III and less than 1⁄5 of the price of the Canon Cinema EOS C300, RED Scarlet-X and Sony F3.

Has your jaw hit the floor yet?