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Hands-on with the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera

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.

Accessorizing

Unlike high-end point-and-shoot cameras that offer built-in or high-resolution electronic viewfinders as accessories that can directly connect to the camera, there is no place on the Pocket Cinema Camera to directly mount a small viewfinder. There is an HDMI output (Figure 4, below), so you could certainly connect an external viewfinder or large external monitor to this camera, with the appropriate outside rigging and support.

Figure 4. Ports on the side of the Pocket Cinema Camera include HDMI out and 3.5mm mic/line audio input, and LANC.

This is just the start of accessorizing this diminutive camera. The ports on the side allow not only for an HDMI output, but you can also input microphone or line level audio through a single 3.5 millimeter jack on the side of the camera. This generally means you're going to need some sort of external interface to handle XLR or multiple 3.5mm plugs/sources.

There's also a LANC port. This means that if you wanted to set up your camera on some sort of a shoulder-mount rails system, then you can move the start/stop button out to one of the handles that you're using the hold up the camera. This will make starting and stopping the camera a lot more convenient.

You can even extended it much further if the camera is on a jib, a crane, or even a hexacopter (wireless). Couple this with additional hardware for focus pulling and you might never have to touch the camera except change basic settings and change media.

The internal battery, I'm told, will last for about an hour. It's a very small battery, but quite easy to change if your setup keeps the door clear. If not, there's a DC input jack on the side of the camera that will take 12v.

Media and Battery

The camera itself features of only one door on the bottom (Figure 5, below)--again, much like a little point-and-shoot still camera. That door provides access to both a very small battery, as well as a single SD card. With the camera itself mounted on a tripod-mount you may have some difficulty getting to the door to change batteries or change media cards.

Figure 5. Battery/card slot door on the bottom

However, almost any cinema lens you attach will be larger than the camera. So you will likely end up mounting the lens to whatever rig or tripod you use, and then the camera itself will be floating in free space behind the lens. Thus, access to both the battery and media will be unfettered.

I came to think of this little camera as "a rear lens cap that records."

If you're using a small micro four-thirds lens (like the kit lens shown in Figure 6, below), and working handheld, image stabilization of some sort will be essential. The stabilization can be is in-lens, or some sort of external setup. The tiny camera doesn't have the size or mass to produce very smooth images with basic handholding of a non-stabilized lens.

Figure 6. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with Micro Four-Thirds Kit Lens.

Related Articles
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The Pocket Cinema Camera ($995) comes with a Super 16mm sensor, 13 stops of dynamic range, an MFT mount and records in ProRes and 12 bit RAW
The new Blackmagic Camera 1.5 software update adds CinemaDNG RAW file recording so customers can now capture super wide dynamic range in a single file
Camera 1.8.2 enables Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Pocket Cinema Camera, and Production Camera 4K shooters to record to ProRes 422, ProRes 422 LT, and ProRes 422 Proxy
Summer special on Pocket Cinema Camera available through August 31, 2014; then price reverts to $995
The Micro Studio Camera 4K is a Micro Cinema Camera from Blackmagic Design designed specifically for use in a studio environment or in a broadcast setting, preferably paired with an ATEM 4K switcher. It features all of the stuff you'd want to have in a broadcast camera in a remarkably compact configuration.
If you're currently dealing with a two-piece system with an external recorder, or looking at a DSLR solution but find long-GoP MPEG recording to be too heavy-handed with the compression, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K deserves your attention.