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Blackmagic Brings Apple-Inspired Design to High-End Camera

Blackmagic makes NAB 2012 headlines announcing the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which captures resolutions of 2.5K in a revolutionary design that will cost an astonishing $2,995.

By cunningly waiting to release its news at the show rather than pre-releasing ahead of time, Blackmagic Design caused quite a stir when it announced the Blackmagic Cinema Camera which captures resolutions of 2.5K in a revolutionary design that will cost an astonishing $2,995.

It would have caused a stir anyway since the product comes a bit out of left field from a company which has built its business on video capture cards.

CEO Grant Petty says the camera "was born from the problems we encountered with cameras. With a lot of cameras the screens are hidden. RAW recording isn't available; it seems like every new camera that comes out is a custom format. Most video cameras clip the range—it's frustrating for us," he says. "The lenses are built in, and we feel that interchangeable lenses are important.

Petty emphasizes three key features of the camera is the company's primary goals in its development: "higher-than-HD resolution, wide dynamic range, and color correction. That's what we wanted to see."

The model, which becomes available this summer, has taken a year to put together and appears inspired by the stylish must-have ergonomics of Apple products.

It features 13 stops of dynamic range, high-resolution 2.5K 4/3" sensor (which is made by an unnamed developer), and an LCD backpanel for metadata entry—"just like a smartphone," says Petty. "Metadata entry is important. You can go straight to an NLE with no searching through files, your material is all there and searchable immediately—that's huge.

"People relate to cameras in different ways," he continues. "Some are very creative; some like a solid studio look; and some want a rugged news style. There are three personalities in the way people relate to cameras and we feel we've covered these three different ways. We think it has a creative modern design and is very comfortable to use."

Blackmagic director EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Stuart Ashton says, "We've spent years plugging cameras in with our Decklink capture card series; we understand the outputs. Since acquiring DaVinci, we also feel we know what are good images and what are poor ones. People love the shallow depth of field, the 24p look, and the optics of DSLRs—but they dislike the heavy compression and that the video is clipped. Those cameras are designed for stills, not for grading or matching in postproduction."

The camera is bundled with a full version of the DaVinci Resolve color correction software which can be used to maximize value from the claimed 13 f-stops, and also includes the waveform monitoring package UltraScope.

Perhaps most startling is the recording media. This is a built-in SSD recorder that can capture open standard CinemaDNG RAW, ProRes, and DNxHD files to solid state cards. The files can be stored uncompressed because the SSD has the bandwidth to store video data at the necessary high rates.

Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera

The cards hold 512GB which translates to about an hour of 2.5K material or 5 hours at ProRes HD or DNxHD, which can be taken straight off via Thunderbolt straight to a laptop.

"There are no cameras with SSD and none with Thunderbolt connectivity," says Ashton. "The touchscreen interface and the design element are about revolutionizing the process."

Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera

The camera is compatible with the range of Canon EF and Zeiss ZF mount lenses, but not PL mount for primes; nor is there an autofocus function.

"There are so many focus issues over the duration of a shot that there is not a one-size-fits-all option," says Blackmagic's Soren Phillips. "We are looking at it and, technically, we can make it work but it's a matter of finding the smartest solution for all kinds of focusing situations. We looked at PL mount but wanted to make the camera as accessible to as wide an audience as we can—to make it as egalitarian as possible. We had to make the camera as aspirational to as many people as possible in order to sell a lot of them."

Sample footage taken with the camera by John Bawley can be seen here.

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There's been a lot written about the forthcoming Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera--mostly by those in forums who haven't handled it. As of May, there were just three models in the U.S. I got my hands on one to see how it works.