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Review: Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2

If you're looking for an inexpensive tool to get you into making cinematic videos or films, the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2 is a great way to get started. But if you want to add a low-cost shoot-and-scoot camera to your toolbox, you should be able to afford it as well.

The Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2 (PCC G2) is the third Blackmagic camera that I have had the opportunity to review. The first was the Production Camera 4K in 2014, and the URSA in 2016. So far, of the three BMD cameras, I like this one the best. The Production Camera 4K was oddly shaped and a little difficult to use ergonomically, but it offered good picture quality. The URSA is a gigantic camera that had some “rough edges,” like if you had the shoulder pad on, you couldn't put it on a tripod without removing it. It produces great picture quality, but it’s way too big for most single-operator shoots.

There are two other Pocket Cinema Cameras currently in the BMD line: the PCC 6K Pro ($2,535), and the PCC 4K ($1,295). The PCC 6K G2 that I’m reviewing here, at $1,995, may hit all of the major features a producer would want in a cinema camera, with a low price as a bonus.

Camera Body

The PCC 6K G2 (Figure 1, below) looks like a very large DSLR. It has a 5" touchscreen on the back and an EF lens mount on the front. Along the left side, under covers there are two mini-XLR audio inputs, HDMI out, headphone out jack, and a 3.5mm mini stereo mic input. Along the right side there is a door through which you can access the CFast 2.0 and SD UHS-II slots. The top has no hot or cold shoes for accessories. There is a 1/4"-20 Female threaded hole for screwing accessories on top. On the bottom there are 2x1/4"-20 Female tripod mounting threads and a battery compartment door for the Sony NP-F570 type batteries.


Figure 1. The Blackmagic Design PCC 6K with its 5" touchscreen and a mounted EF lens

I also looked at two optional accessories, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Pro EVF (viewfinder) and the Blackmagic Pocket Camera Battery Pro Grip (extra battery compartment). The viewfinder which is $495, is something you may need if you will be shooting in very bright sunlight. It attaches to the camera after removing a plastic cover on top of the view screen.

The more important accessory, especially when shooting 6K, is the Battery Pro Grip (Figure 2, below), which allows you to use two NP-F570s in addition to the single internal battery. In order to attach it, you need to remove a screwed-in plastic cover that allow the external battery compartment's contacts to interface with the camera. You can run the external batteries down and change them while running on the internal. If you do need to change the internal battery also, you need to remove the compartment to access the internal battery. This accessory is an additional $149.

Figure 2. The add-on Battery Pro Grip

There are a couple issues with the camera’s form factor. I found that the PCC 6K G2 will not allow you to use some tripod levers due to the fact that the camera's wide body blocks the control from turning. I could not tighten the camera plates for my Manfrotto tripod or monopod with the PCC 6K G2 mounted on that. You will need an accessory to lift the camera body above the control.

Also, as mentioned earlier, there are no hot shoes, as on many other cinema cameras, so you’ll need to get creative putting things to get together to mount lights, mics, and other accessories. To compensate for the lack of a topside hot or cold shoe, I “MacGyvered” on a few pieces, accessory shoes, and mounts together to attach a mic and light (Figure 3, below).

Figure 3. Mic and light attached

Hand-holding the PCC 6K G2 with all the accessories, just like with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, can be awkward. I understand why video-capable cameras designed for photography have this form factor. But why anyone would design a camera meant primarily for video/film production with this form factor leaves me with many questions.

Audio Connections

Another thing to be aware of is that the PCC 6K G2 uses mini-XLR connectors for pro audio. For use it with professional audio gear, you will need to get a pair of mini-XLR male-to-XLR female adapter cables.

I tested a number of different professional microphones with the system: Azden SGM-250 short shotgun, Audio–Technica System 10 digital wireless, Sennheiser G2 analog, and prosumer Azden Pro-XR, and the Movo WMX-2 Duo (Figure 4, below), all using the consumer 3.5mm stereo input jack.

Figure 4. The Movo WMX-2 Duo connected to the PCC 6K G2 via the consumer 3.5mm jack

Taking Still Images

One nice feature of the PCC 6K G2 is that even though it’s designed for video, you can take still photos with this camera. There is a small, dedicated still photo button where your hand expects to find it. It takes a while to get used to finding it reliably, because of its size and proximity to other buttons.

The still function produces raw Cinema DNG files that you can put into Adobe's Lightroom and go to town on. The way it cycles I don't think you'd want to use it primarily as a still camera. The still function is much slower than a camera designed for photography.

First Tests in the Field

I brought the camera on my recent trip to Israel, to take photos and videos, but it didn't work well for either. As Israel has so many iconic sights, I always try to shoot some stock footage of the sites that I tend to find use for over the year. I equipped the camera with a Tamron 28–300mm EF lens. Since I was severely limited in the size of my carry-on luggage, it was the only lens I could bring with me. (And no lenses were supplied by Blackmagic Design with the camera for this review.)

While the Tamron is a great lens for medium-to-long shots, I really needed a wider 10-to-22mm lens for close shots in smaller rooms. This hampered my flexibility of my shots. For much of my trip, I switched to my Canon XC10 for smaller rooms and spaces, as well as its still function. Although the XC10 doesn't shoot RAW, it acts just like a fast still camera in photo mode.

When I returned to the U.S., I shot a couple of videos with the camera. On the first—an episode of my Vintage Tech Talk series on my YouTube channel—I simply set it up, hit Record, and got in front of it. For that one, I set the camera up to record 4K in Blackmagic RAW, 8:1 compression. I was discussing a very large and heavy Technics 5606 4-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. I usually do these in front of one of my video transfer equipment racks, with what I'm discussing on a small table in front of me. In this case, the 5606 was way too heavy, so I had to move to the dining room table.

I loaded the camera's slots with a 128GB Wise CFast card and a 256GB Kingston SDXC card. (The Kingston card is not on Blackmagic's list of approved cards, but I have had great luck with Kingston media for high-bitrate recording). I set it to record to the CFast. When I brought the card into the edit bay, I saw a couple takes on the CFast, but the majority of what I thought I recorded wasn't there. Did I forget to hit record? On a lark, I checked the SDXC. Sure enough, it was there. Somehow, the PCC 6K G2 seems to have switched cards without me telling it to. When I alerted Blackmagic Design support, they suggested that I load only the slot I am going to use, not both.

Before you can edit the Blackmagic RAW files, you must install the codec on your computer. This allowed me to import the footage into Premiere Pro for editing and color grading. At some point I will explore Blackmagic's DaVinci Resolve, but I’m not there yet. I shoot 4K to output 1080p. I do this so I can reframe my shots as needed, which when self-shooting is a constant requirement.

I wasn't crazy about the footage. After discussing my issues with Blackmagic Design, I was advised that despite the camera’s support for many choices for codec, compression, and resolution, some would give you better results than others. For best results, they told me, I should choose combinations that use the full sensor. This included two options: 6K Blackmagic Design RAW and 4K Pro Res.

Second Round of Testing

I finally had a chance to shoot a real job with the PCC 6K G2 a month later, armed with my new info. It was a simple interview with a client who was memorializing her father who had recently passed away. Shooting on a tripod under controlled circumstances, I was able to change things up a bit.

For recording media I chose a 500GB LaCie Rugged SSD. Though also not on Blackmagic's certified media list, the drive worked flawlessly. I formatted it as exFAT and tethered it to the camera with a USB-C cable. For this project I felt 6K BMD RAW would have been overkill. 4K Pro Res was more than adequate, and would take up less storage space. The hour and 15 minutes of footage that I recorded took up 318GB of the drive’s 500GB capacity. If you are looking for the best media for the money, a compatible portable SSD or hard drive is the way to go.

A real game changer for me using this camera was getting a Canon 10–18mm EFS lens. Prior to that, my widest lens was 24mm and could barely be in the same room for any wide shot. This 10-18mm might not be the best lens Canon has, but it is a good utility lens for close-quarters use with this camera.

For audio on this shoot, I used the newly released Movo WMX-2 Duo. This dual-transmitter, single-receiver digital wireless mic system is tiny. The transmitter and receiver units are smaller than the size of key fob for a car. The receiver was very easy to mount on the camera. It is supplied with a short stereo 3.5mm cable for connecting to cameras.

Since the PCC 6K G2 has the 3.5mm audio input in addition to the mini-XLR, I made use of both. I had the Movo system on one channel of the 3.5mm input, and the Azden SMG-250 on one of the mini-XLRs. I really like that you can use both inputs. I have seen some cameras with both inputs, but you had to use both XLRs or both 3.5mm and couldn’t mix and match. Having the flexibility to use both is a major asset. The sound quality was great. (Look for a review of the Movo WMX-2 soon!)

Adding a LUT

If you’re shooting RAW, you may want to add a LUT to your display. I tried to explain to my client the whole RAW workflow and adding the color info later in post. She wasn't happy with that. She wanted it to look good now. I added the LUT to the display and she was happy. Once I had the footage on my computer I played with a few different LUTs in Premiere Pro to get the look I wanted.

For whatever reason, the LUT for (ARRI) Alexa_Default_LogCRec709, not only looked the best, but got rid of all of the noise that I had seen in the dark brown flooring. The client and I were very happy with the way it came out.

Setting Timecode

As I was recording, I noticed one thing that remains the same from the original URSA that I reviewed years ago. You can't set your timecode. It only goes off the clock. However, each time you hit record, it starts from zero on the built-in monitor. This makes taking notes as you are recording near useless.

Blackmagic support reports that you can toggle the timecode from time-of-day to record duration by touching the TC on the screen. Like most shooters, I prefer continuous timecode that you can set to start a desired start time.

Audio Level Controls

One thing I really like about the display is the audio level controls. I will admit I found this by accident. I hit the VU meters, and the input level controls for both inputs popped on the screen. That’s a lot better than having to go through the menu to access them.

“Close Quarters” Shooting

One setup that I wasn't able to test effectively until the end of the review period was “close quarters” shooting.” I have a few EF mount lenses, but the widest is 28mm, so I need to be pretty far away from most subjects to get a good shot. Shooting an interview was nearly impossible until I got a Canon 10-18mm EF-S lens. While it isn't a great low-light lens, with proper lighting it does quite well. If you don't have a lot of money to spend on a set of wide angle prime lenses, then this lens will be very useful to you.

When I used the BMD PCC 6K G2 at the Streaming Media West trade show to interview exhibitors, the lens worked out great. When I checked the footage of the first couple of interviews, the audio was out of sync with the video. I put footage on my newer HP ZBook mobile workstation and opened it in Premiere Pro, and I could see something clearly wasn't right. I didn't have time to mess around with it, so I re-shot the interviews and the remaining other interviews with a Canon XA40 that was my backup.

Once I was back home, I looked at the wacky footage again. After I spoke with Blackmagic support, theydetermined that “off-speed recording” had been activated in the camera. It was capturing video at a high frame rate, and audio at normal speed. I must have hit that by accident. Always double-check your settings before shooting, and check your footage as you are shooting it. It’s very easy to change something accidentally. In the end I was able to rescue the “off-speed footage” in Premiere Pro by unlinking the audio and video, speeding the video up by 166.6%, and relinking them. After that I was able to use the footage for the project.

A Great Starter Cinema Camera

I was asked by one of my clients to lecture about equipment to her university beginners film school class. I brought in the PCC 6K G2 as an example of what a good starter filmmaking camera would be. Not only does it give you a wide range of codecs and resolutions, choices of media, and audio inputs to use; the camera is also relatively inexpensive at its MSRP of $1995.

Before you start shooting, you will easily spend another $1,000 for lenses, additional batteries, XLR-to-mini XLR cables, and microphones. But one of the nice things about having the EF mount is that there are a lot of new and used EF and EF-S lenses out there for this camera. You can find many good, used lenses online, in photo and pawn shops, and even at garage sales.

While the Blackmagic Design PCC 6K G2 has its quirks, as described here, the benefits definitely outweigh them. If you plan on doing scripted setups and have time to set up and use the camera deliberately, th PCC 6K G2 is a great camera. If you plan on having a camera that you can quickly take out of a camera bag and start shooting with little setup, like the Canon CX10 or XA40 camcorders, this is not the camera for you.

I believe that cameras are tools, and not all tools do the same thing. You can use a hammer to bang a screw into the wall, but it’s not as efficient as using a screwdriver. I have shoots where I need a servo zoom lens, and a robust H.264 universal codec, and I have other shoots that require a more cinematic, shallow depth of field. The BMD PCC 6K G2 is really good at the cinematic. I think the BMD PCC 6K G2 would not only be a great “starter cinema camera,” but allow a talented user who knows post-production to compete with the big shooters in Hollywood.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive tool to get you into making cinematic videos or films, the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2 is a great way to get started. But if you want to add a low-cost shoot-and-scoot camera to your tool box, you should be able to afford it as well. I definitely wouldn't mind adding this camera to the fleet of cameras I use to produce videos for clients and Streaming Media reviews.

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