The Blackmagic Pocket Camera Guide (Part Two): Lenses, Filters, Matteboxes and Follow Focus Systems

By Sareesh Sudhakaran

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In Part One we looked at ergonomics and specifications of the Blackmagic Pocket Camera (aka Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera or BMDPCC). In this part we’ll look at lens options, filters, matteboxes and follow focus systems for the camera.

About the Sensor and Super 16mm

I won’t be going into details about how I choose lenses, because I’ve already covered a lot of ground here:

  • What Lens to Get?
  • How I select lenses for long-form projects
  • Sensors, Image Circle, Crop Factor, Angle of View and the 35mm Equivalent
  • Lens Mount, Focal Flange Distance, and Lens Adapters
  •  
    The Blackmagic Pocket Camera has a Super 16mm-sized sensor. What does that mean? Here’s the actual size of Super 16mm film:

    Super 16mm Dimensions

    The Blackmagic Pocket Camera sensor is slightly smaller at 12.48mm x 7.02mm, but it’s nothing to bicker about. The good news is that the sensor is a true 1920 x 1080 (or 2 MP) sensor. This will reduce artifacts caused by line-skipping and incorrect interpolation (downsampling).

    The sensor demands a lens that can deliver a resolution of 154 lines per mm, or 77 line pairs per mm. This is very similar to the original BMCC 2.5K camera. In plain speak, you need a really good lens.

    The sensor has a horizontal crop factor of 2.88. Here’s a table comparing focal lengths to full-frame 35mm equivalents:

    Focal Length (mm) 35mm FF equivalent (mm)
    5 14
    8 23
    10 29
    11 32
    14 40
    17 49
    21 60
    24 69
    28 81
    30 86
    32 92
    35 101
    40 115
    50 144
    75 216
    100 288
    200 576
    300 864

    The Blackmagic Pocket Camera comes in an active MFT mount (Micro Four Thirds, also sometimes written as m43). The advantages of the MFT mount are:

  • The lenses don’t have to cover a large sensor, so they tend to be smaller and hence lighter than full frame or APS-C lenses.
  • They are primarily designed for highly demanding still-camera sensors, so they should be able to resolve 77 lp/mm.
  • They are cheaper.
  • They have a smaller flange focal distance, because of which various lenses can be adapted to its mount via an adapter.
  •  


    Here’s information on each mount, in increasing order of the focal flange distance:

    Mount Focal Flange Distance in mm
    C-Mount 17.526
    Sony E-mount 18
    Sony PMW-F3 mount 18
    Micro Four Thirds mount 19.25
    Leica M mount 27.8
    Four Thirds mount 38.67
    Canon Manual FD mount 42
    Canon EOS EF mount 44
    Canon EOS EF-S mount 44
    Minolta/Sony A-mount 44.5
    Pentax K-mount 45.46
    Nikon F-mount 46.5
    Leica R-mount 47
    Arri PL mount 52

    As you can see, adapting most lenses on an MFT/m43 mount is easy. But let’s clear up some confusion regarding C-mount (Super 16mm, CCTV) and E-mount (Sony NEX, etc.) lenses.

    The problem with C-mount Super 16mm lenses on the Blackmagic Pocket Camera

    As you can see from the table above, the flange focal distance of the C-mount is lower than Micro Four Thirds. It doesn’t matter if the Blackmagic Pocket Camera is Super 16mm size, if the lenses made for that format (which are in the C-mount), cannot be adapted without major compromises.

    I do not recommend old Super 16mm C-mount lenses for the following reasons:

  • They are old, and not all of them were good quality even when new.
  • Those that were of good quality, might not be good today.
  • The new C-mount lenses, made for CCTV cameras or for 1″ sensors, are expensive ($1,000+). Even if you were willing to pay the price, there aren’t any good wide angle options that cover the 1″ sensor.
  • Very few wide angle options, and they might have serious distortion and aberration problems. Most of them will vignette.
  • Because they are made for a smaller flange focal distance, focusing will not ‘work as advertised’. The worst problem is that you most likely will lose infinity focus. Please read this excellent article for more information.
  • The really good ones are still expensive today, because they are hard to find. What’s the point of recommending a lens that’s hard to find?
  • Some of the C-mount lenses will need to be physically modified to fit on a C-mount to MFT adapter.
  • These lenses will not work with IRIS and Focus control.
  • These lenses will not offer Image Stabilization, which you’ll need if you’re going to hand-hold the camera.
  • These lenses are heavy (especially the zooms), and are usually made of metal. Imagine the stress they’ll put on your Pocket Camera mount.
  • Finally, the most important thing – even if you manage to form a collection of these lenses, they most likely will not match when cut together. What happens if you drop or break one of them, or if they are stolen?
  •  
    Seriously, unless you have quick access to a Super 16mm lens that fits perfectly, and can afford it, and love the optical quality and ‘look’ of that lens, go for it. Otherwise, stay away and don’t waste your time.

    The same applies to lenses made for 2/3″ CCD sensors, E-mount lenses, Nikon CX lenses, etc.; which have an even smaller flange distance than Super 16mm. Lenses made specifically for such sensors, like ENG lenses, will not cover the entire image circle necessary for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. The ones that cover the 1″ area, are super expensive.

    All this aggravation for your $995 Blackmagic pocket camera? Why bother?
    SLR Magic Nokton

    Lenses for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera

    Here are my lens suggestions for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera (the numbers in brackets signify the 35mm full-frame equivalent):

    PRIMES

    Wide Sunex 5.6mm f/5.6 Fisheye with Adapter (16mm)
    Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 UMC Fisheye (22mm)
    Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 ED Fisheye Lens (23mm)
    All will need ‘fixing’ in post, and are compromises at best
    Medium SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6 (35mm)
    Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 (35mm)
    Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 G (40mm)
    Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/1.8 (49mm)
    Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 (50mm)
    Voigtlander 25mm Nokton f/0.95 (72mm)
    SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 25mm T0.95 (72mm)
    Telephoto Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN (86mm)
    Voigtlander 35mm (Ultron or M-mount with adapter) f/1.7 or f/1.4 (100mm)
    Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 (122mm)
    SLR Magic Noktor 50mm f/0.95 (144mm)
    Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 (216mm)
    Zeiss CP.2 Primes
    Super Telephoto Canon Super Telephoto L Series Primes with adapter

    ZOOMS

    Wide Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 (20mm to 40mm)
    Medium Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 (35mm to 100mm)
    Telephoto Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G (100mm to 288mm)
    Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM with adapter (200-576mm)

    Lens Adapters

    Because some of the lenses are not direct MFT mounts, you’ll need adapters. Here are two options:

  • EF to Micro Four Thirds: Fotodiox
  • C-mount to Micro Four Thirds: Fotodiox
  • Leica M-mount to Micro Four Thirds: Fotodiox
  •  

    What would I get?

    If you are confused by the lens options available, here is a list of lenses I would get to form the ultimate kit for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera:

  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 (This would cover the wide angle from 20mm to 40mm)
  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 (This would cover the mid range perfectly, from 35mm to 100mm)
  • Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G (100mm to 288mm)
  • SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6 (35mm) (Alternative: Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0)
  • Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 (50mm) (Alternative: Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/1.8)
  • Any 35mm f/1.4 for micro four thirds I can find, or a Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN (86mm), if I wanted a 100mm prime. The new Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 (122mm) will also work.
  •  
    What’s the common factor? None of these need adapters, and all of them are the lightest in their class. Of all these options, if I had to pick one/two lenses, these would be it:

  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 (35mm to 100mm)
  • Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 (If you prefer 50mm), or the
  • SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6 (If you prefer 35mm)
  •  
    Important:

    MFT lens or Manual lens – The Blackmagic Pocket Camera has an active MFT mount, and you might find it convenient to use autofocus and IRIS control. These options will only be available with the Panasonic or Olympus lenses in my list. Also, they will be far lighter than their semi-metallic manual lenses. Don’t forget that electronic lenses might also offer image stabilization. That’s three very important features, if you need them.

    SLR Magic vs Voigtlander – The biggest problem with the Voigtlander lenses is that their focus rings aren’t compatible with most follow focus systems. At f/0.95, you might find focusing an impossible task. On the other hand, SLR Magic are based in Hong Kong, and if you have defective product, shipping it back and forth might be more than you bargained for (depends on whether there are any direct dealers in your area). Get the ‘Cine’ version of the SLR Magic lens, and pay extra for the ‘Lens gear’ (about $100 difference) if you are planning to use it with a follow focus kit.

    What about the Metabones Speed Booster? – At the time of this writing, there are three options available for the Micro Four Thirds mount:

  • Nikon F – $429
  • Leica R – $399
  • Contax Yashica (T-mount)- $399
  •  
    Now, there is no doubt that the Metabones Speed Booster delivers on its promises, but is it financially and practically viable, in spite of it?

    E.g., if you want to use cheap Nikon F lenses to go wider (0.71x) and faster (about 1 stop), then what are the options? You can find a used 18mm f/3.5 manual lens for $500, or a 20mm f/3.5 for $200. This would translate to a 13mm lens (40mm FF equivalent) at f/2.8 or slightly better. Total cost? At least $629 or more. The Olympus 12mm f/2 costs $799.

    Or, let’s say you strike a bargain on a 24mm f/2.8 lens for $100. This will become a FF equivalent of 50mm at f/2. Price? $529. An Olympus 17mm f/1.8 (same 50mm FF equivalent) is only $499. You do the math.


    Here’s a video by John Brawley using the 12mm T/1.6 and the 17.5mm f/0.95:

    Filters & Matteboxes

    I’ve covered filters in great detail in the Chapter on Filters and Matteboxes in the Comprehensive Guide so I won’t be going into them in detail. However, one kind of filter that will definitely come handy is the ND or variable ND filter. You must find an ND filter that fits the filter thread of your lens. For filters, I recommend Singh-Ray.

    Even though Blackmagic Design can post a photo like this doesn’t mean it’s worth the effort:

    BMDPCC Monster Rig

    Matteboxes will make your rig seriously front-heavy (not to mention ridiculous-looking, with the lenses I’ve recommended), and might not be a very wise decision. Follow the suggestions I’ve listed in the link above, if you must have a mattebox. Don’t forget to match them against the front diameter of your lens.

    Follow Focus Systems

    The Blackmagic Pocket Camera will most likely have autofocus, but that won’t work with manual lenses. This means you’ll appreciate a follow focus system for those expensive f/0.95 primes. On the other hand, rigging a follow focus system is going to be tricky if the lens is small.

    For cheap but reliable, try this:

    Opteka FF180 Reversible Follow Focus

    If you want something smaller but sturdier, try the Edelkrone Focusone Pro.

    In Part Three we’ll look at monitors, viewfinders, audio and power supplies.

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    July 17, 2013

    43 comments
    compass2k
    compass2k

    Any idea's Sareesh on a lens adaptor from Nikon f mount ( Nikkor afs ed 17-35 zoom) to MFT for the BM pocket?

    Fotodiox dont seem to have one and metabones are pricey (plus I dont use auto controls). 

    Am based in Aus but for such a light item international is fine (exempting those yanks which offer only $50 courier for $10 items outside the safe borders of the land of the free ..). It's ok I know the NSA already have
    every hostile keystroke Ive typed recorded in my record ;).

    CineCreations
    CineCreations

    I read through this particular page, and find it seems to be the work of an avid newcomer. Regarding C-Mount lenses, the information is in error. Yes, there are terrible C-Mount lenses, essentially the kind which sullied the C-Mount name itself, which is to say "security camera lenses." 

    If you seek true 16mm film production lenses of the past, keep in mind the rule of the "circle of confusion." In lens design, the circle of confusion refers to the circular cross section of the cone of light as it is focused by a lens. When that circular cross section gets small enough to make the observer say "Tack sharp focus!" (or the technical limit of the lens,) you have the required circle of confusion. This gets SMALLER as formats decrease in size. 

    Thus, good lenses from the dead days of 16mm film will often be of excellent quality on a Pocket Cinema Camera. I even use a dual converter setup: Nikon to C-Mount then C-Mount to M43 to put some lenses on my Pocket Cinema Camera, and even with all that conversion, no problem focusing to infinity to near focus limit. Same goes for all of my Super 16mm covering 16mm lenses from Angenieux and others. Great lenses have no issue.

    Even a regular 16mm lens will sport a sufficient image circle to cover Super 16mm once the focal length gets to about 25mm. Too bad the 10mm Switar does not cover, as it is superior, likely, to any lens Canon or Nikon makes in acuity and image quality. That lens was a thing of wonder. Scenes shot with it on fine grain 16mm film easily matched the acuity of standard 35mm film production, which was much to the amazement of the colorist with whom I worked in Miami all those years ago.

    On the Blackmagic Design Cinematography Forum, I have viewed results from M43 Third Party lenses (brand new purchase) on the Pocket Cinema Camera. In some cases, they simply cannot focus to sharpness. Awful. Soft. Useless. Contrast that with my 25mm f/0.95 C-Mount Angenieux, maybe 45 years old... tack sharpness, wonderful imaging, and great bokeh ready for Davinci. It displays only its former strength on the Pocket Cinema Camera.

    Now, to my dismay, everyone wants to have auto iris, auto focus, auto everything with the Blackmagic cameras. These are not filmmakers, but lay people or hobbyists likely without an exposure meter.

    As to the Angenieux 17-68, I have it  in the standard 16mm version. It vignettes wide and settles into usefulness at around 25mm. So, semi useful. It also cost more, when new, than most every 35mm SLR lens. It has exceptional optical quality.

    Finally, if you want some wide angle, great C-Mount current manufacture manual lenses, look to Kowa and Schneider. Their 1" (One Inch) series of machine vision lenses exceed the imaging ability of the Pocket Cinema Camera and even the Kowa 6mm f/1.8 has very well controlled distortion. And yes, it focuses fully.

    AndreyValentsov
    AndreyValentsov

    Well, I think a Metabones can be a considerable option, because having a set of Nikon lenses will be useful in case in future you will need to use any other camera (BMCC 4K, for example).

    Also, while the price for 1 lens + 1 adapter is quite high, the price of 6-7 lenses and 1 adapter is very reasonable. 

    Metabones is not the only adapter available, Fotodiox is going to release 2 new MFT-Nikon F Focal Reducers (with 0.5 and 0.7 magnification), which are gonna cost around 200 USD.

    I personally plan to get some simple MFT lens (like Pana 14-42) for occasional shooting with small rig and metabones Nikon-MFT for some serious work.

    hkiyany
    hkiyany

    What adaptor can attach my fujifilm xf lenses to bm pocket?

    Kneetoe
    Kneetoe

    i have several leica m lenses, but if i'm reading correctly leica isn't on your recommended list.  why is that?  i have an adapter i've attached to my fuji xpro1 and the m images, although often out of focus, are beautiful.   i am not a pro shooter although i've directed 4 theatrical features, so consider this a question from an amateur.  thank you--

    swamy
    swamy

    Hi Suresh.

    Here these information above about BM pocket camera are realy easy to understand, but i am really confused on lenses with adapter. ma confusion on "i have all canon L series Lenses" i mean all canon lenses, is tat would be possible to use adapter to attach these canon lenses with BLack magic pocket Camera.. if yes!! Name a adapter. If NO!! i'l drop ma idea to buy one.

    ajpat
    ajpat

    Hi Sareesh,

    Thanks for all the information you provide. Just wondering if a follow focus kit of some sort with hard stops, would be required when using the Panasonic zoom lenses?  I have not got my camera & lenses yet but as Im used to focus by looking at the distance scale on my current EX1R, I'm a little apprehensive of what to expect with these 'fly by wire' type of lenses.

    Thanks--Ajit

    Hdmax
    Hdmax

    Hi Sareesh

    I have a gh3/ 12-35 mm Panny 2.8 with a4/3 adapter for 2 eng 2/3 fujinon and canon lenses. They work great with the adapter and power packs designed for use with the Gh3.

    These 1.7f 10-100mm lenses also have 2x capability to cover the Gh3 sensor. Should not this setup not cover the super 16 sensor of the BMD Pocket Camera?

    I know it will work with the Panny lens but would think or hope my eng lenses would work with the BMD pocket as well.

    These eng lenses are clean and cinematic sweet. I have been using sony's v1u ' s in our company to date.

    But the results in low light with the Gh3 and stated lenses is the reason for my switching.

    Your thoughts? Thx

    Brian

    HDmax Productions

    Canada

    mhinchey
    mhinchey

    Nice post, thanks for the info.  You recommend the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 but this one can't take a filter so forget using any ND.  On my GH2 I can't shoot anything outdoors during the day without ND even fully stopped down and at the lowest ISO of 160 due to overexposure.  Any solutions on this lens or should I consider the Olympus M ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 as an alternative.  Any reason you didn't include this one?  thanks


    Marino215
    Marino215

    Excellent post, I almost got sucked into the whole S16 lens guess. Question, does the apiture change along with the FOV. Does a f2.8 stay at f2.8 or does it increase also? Thanks

    Best,

    Anthony Marino

    CineCreations
    CineCreations

    In speaking to a colleague last evening, there is a possibility I am in error regarding the 10mm Switar, which is to say, I noticed one of my Switar 10mm f/1.8 lenses only vignettes on the right side of the frame. It turns out, a trip to a lens specialist for "optical re-centering" may cure the vignetting. Upon the introduction of Super 16mm, many lenses used on the Bolex Super 16mm camera, like the 10mm Switar, simply needed optical re-centering to properly cover the format. It simply wasn't necessary when only the 1.33:1 (4x3) 16mm format was the standard.

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @QuiqueCatalan My thoughts on cheap Matte boxes are available in the Comprehensive Guide. There are positives and negatives to everything.

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @KneetoeGreat question. Why just Leica M, why not Leica R, Nikon F, Canon EF, etc.?

    The idea is to find a lens that is 'compatible' with the Pocket Camera in both size and price - otherwise even PL and PV zooms (not unlike those shown in the marketing campaigns) are fair game. Nothing wrong with using any of these lenses, though recommending them to the average Pocket camera user as the lens to have is going too far. 

    Secondly, Leica M lenses come in 'sparse' focal length options. How will they work with a 2.88 crop factor? E.g., the widest available prime is 18mm, which will give you an FF equivalent of 50mm, no wider, but with f/3.8. Now you have the problem of 'matching' the lens draw or look with a wider option. If there are acceptable options, then people wouldn't be so fanatical about M lenses in the first place!

    I'd hate to use Leica glass for just its 'center sharpness' and lose out on most of its area, angle of view and drawing characteristics on a full frame sensor. But if you already have several lenses, why not try them out? Any Leica lens with good MTF performance in the center should serve well.

    I have a Comprehensive Guide that does include Leica lenses of all kinds. Horses for courses, and all that.

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @Hdmax  If it covers m43 (the GH3 sensor) completely (or even with slight vignetting), it will be perfect for the Pocket camera. In fact, it will be better because you will only be using the sweetest spot of the lens - the center.

    ENG lenses are top notch, especially the 2/3" ones - which is why they are super expensive. 

    On the flip side, I say wait and watch for actual results from the Pocket camera, because the GH3 is brilliant and an all round better camera for video.

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @Marino215 Anthony, thanks for writing in! Actually, I don't understand your question completely. The FOV at a given focal length is fixed, and the aperture changes will not affect that (it shouldn't).

    Aperture rings that can lock on to a value, say f/2.8, will stay that way, however the FOV might change due to focus breathing.

    compass2k
    compass2k

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran @compass2k I saw that but unfortunately they don't distinguish between f and g type mounts - f has an aperture ring (as mine does). I've noticed when the vendor doesn't distinguish its usually the wrong one.

    Which means problems. Not just with aperture - the adaptor just doesnt work.  a few people in the forums have got caught. Might have to ask directly at some shop that lists this product.

    But thanks for the research.


    JoaquinEscriva
    JoaquinEscriva

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran @JoaquinEscriva   yeah, its C-mount. That means too much vigneting? Hey, a simple question, but I would really love to have your opinion. Between the panasonic Gh2 and the sony nex5n, which one would you choose?

    AndreyValentsov
    AndreyValentsov

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran @AndreyValentsov Well, they still will need some testing, as their current model is not really good. But their official representative promise to make everithing good in a new version.


    Also there is Mitakon Lens Turbo. From what I see it has a descent image quality, but this company doesn't have Nikon to MFT version yet (mainly NEX versions for now).



    Hdmax
    Hdmax

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran @Hdmax 

    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree waiting for more results with the Pocket camera. The GH3 is brilliant. it beats my V1U Sony completely when it comes to almost any shooting situation other just bright daylight.  Thanks again. 

    compass2k
    compass2k

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran @compass2k On further investigation I found mine works ok but doesnt lock on at all. I'm not going to gaff it on or hold a big chunk of glass like the 17-35 so its useless to me unless I happen across as AI classic lens. It seems pretty robustly machined and finished so I guess it works for a narrower range of lens than described.

    Ordered the fotodiax (through your link ;) ) it has good reviews with AF-S lens on amazon so fingers 'n toes x'd. 

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @compass2k I use a few chinese Nikon to EOS adapters myself. Bought them from dx.com and they work fine. But it's really hit and miss. A tiny variation in the machining will ruin it. Mine has really fragile locks - you can't keep removing them or they break.

    compass2k
    compass2k

    @Sareesh SudhakaranGot a cheap chinese one - nicely machined but despite being advertised as Nikkor AI lens - my AF-S lens (a flavour or AI mechanically according to Ken Rockwell) it didnt fit at all - not a misfit but clearly machiined for something else. It was cheap so its the three weeks waiting for the turtle to swim from Honk Kong to Sydney that hurt. Guess he didnt know about that high speed stream Nemo used .. ;)

    compass2k
    compass2k

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran @compass2k I am 10X glad I have the older (aperture ring AFS ) model as that seems to be the price differential.

    I will get the fotodiox one and shout how it goes.

    Thanks for the feedback. 

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @compass2k If it's the older version(s) you have to set the aperture manually and use a dumb adapter, like the first one I listed. If it's a G type (no aperture ring), use the second, which allows you aperture control.

    Both are F-mounts.

    compass2k
    compass2k

    @Sareesh Sudhakaran I should have said AFS instead of g mounts (g having no aperture ring).  The physical connections are different. 
    It's a bit infuriating as people at the forums have been caught and yet the vendors flogging adapters dont discriminate which type they are.