Hands On With The Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Today, almost everyone is aware of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, so I don’t have to remind you about the bomb they dropped at NAB 2012, nor do I have to rehash the impressive specs of the camera, which retails for only $2,995. But even with this high level of public awareness, not everyone has had the opportunity to shoot with the camera because, at the time of this writing, the camera is selling on back order. I was grateful that Blackmagic Design was able to send us a spare BMCC EF for review.

The BMCC is one of the most interesting digital cameras to be released in years.

The BMCC is one of the most interesting cameras to be released in years, and not since the RED ONE back in 2007 has a camera captured the imagination of indie filmmakers. But before diving into the review, we must remember that no camera is a silver bullet—especially one costing a fraction of other cameras with similar specs.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

At first glance, the BMCC resembles a simple box with a lens mount—very sparse, yet modern. The body feels solid in your hands and has smooth lines and a bare minimum of physical buttons or dials to accidentally press. The rubber covers that protect the camera’s ports are well-made and easy to open. It’s been said that the BMCC is very "Apple-like" in its design, and with its touchscreen, setup and operation is very "tablet-like." (More on handheld shooting later.)

For capture, Blackmagic provided me with a 240 GB SSD drive, which will give you approximately 35 minutes of recording time for 2.5K RAW files, and for ProRes 422, you could record over two hours. Inserting the SSD drive was simple and quick, although by the end of the week, the SSD was no longer mounting to the camera. I’m hoping this was a faulty SSD because I do believe every camera manufacturer should use SSD as a standard internal recorder, especially with large 4K and RAW file capture on the rise.

Redrock Micro’s UltraCage and follow focus enabled the BMCC to be more like a professional motion-picture camera.

One of the coolest features on the BMCC is its built-in, five-inch touchscreen. The touchscreen was easy to use and more responsive than the screen on the RED SCARLET (although not quite like an iPad). Instead of toggling around with a joystick or dial, I was able to change settings and figure out the formats fairly easily. What’s really special about the BMCC’s touch screen is the ability to type in metadata directly into your files—sort of like a digital slate. You also can enter keywords that will be searchable if you have a large project shot in multiple locations. Although this is a great feature, it would be even cooler if you could use some kind of bluetooth keyboard.

I also liked the menu system on the BMCC. Display settings give you dynamic range looks, brightness and contrast, zebras, and SDI overlays. On the bottom of the LCD screen, there’s a status strip that will give you the needed information, like format, scene/shot/take number, frame rates, SSD Status, time code, ISO, shutter angle, white balance and battery life. It would have been nice to have a counter on how much space you have left on your SSD drive, as well as the ability to delete clips from the SSD within the menu system.

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