As written in The Battle for Cheap 4K, I am on the lookout for a 4K solution that is financially viable. Thankfully, recent announcements at NAB has rekindled that interest.

It is unusual for a manufacturer to announce a new system when the older one hasn’t finished shipping yet, but that’s what Blackmagic Design has done.

It’s almost as if Blackmagic Design has released three cameras at the same time. This is how I’m going to consider it. This article compares all three Blackmagic Design Cinema Cameras (henceforth BMCC). In case you didn’t know already, here are the three cameras:

  • The Original 2.5K BMCC Camera
  • BMCC Pocket Camera 1080p
  • BMCC 4K Camera

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free cheatsheet (with examples) of the most used focal lengths in film (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

The Basics

First, let’s see what each camera costs and what is offered with them:

Camera body
Pocket 2.5K 4K
Price of Camera body $995 $2995 $3995
Included Software DaVinci Resolve Lite DaVinci Resolve, Media Express software, Ultrascope DaVinci Resolve, Media Express software
Included Accessories Wrist strap, Turret Dust Cap, 12V AC Adapter, EN-EL20 Lithium Ion Removable /Rechargeable Battery Detachable sun shield, camera strap, turret dust cap and 12V AC adapter Detachable sun shield, camera strap, turret dust cap and 12V AC adapter
Warranty 12 months

Important: Please refer to manufacturer’s website for actual prices and specifications. Everything is subject to change. This information should not be assumed to be accurate or complete.

Both the higher-end versions include the full version of DaVinci Resolve, while the Pocket Camera only includes Lite. The 4K version does not include Ultrascope (at least as far as I know); which might be due to it supporting 6G-SDI, and not HD-SDI. However, it has a Thunderbolt port, so this situation might change.

Based on pricing and freebies provided, the 2.5K version holds the upper hand. Why? It has DaVinci Resolve ($995 value) and Ultrascope (free software, but can be used via Thunderbolt, so $695 value).

But of course, this doesn’t explain the whole picture.

Comparison of features

Here’s a quick comparison of features:

Feature Comparison
Pocket 2.5K 4K
Sensor 12.48mm x 7.02mm 15.81mm x 8.88mm 21.12mm x 11.88mm
Horizontal Crop Factor based on FF 35mm 2.88 2.28 1.70
Lens Mount Options Active MFT Active EF/ Passive MFT Active EF
Maximum Resolution 1920 x 1080 2432 x 1366 3840 x 2160
Frame rates at max. resolution 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p
Claimed Dynamic Range 13 stops 13 stops 12 Stops
Recording Format/Codec Lossless CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) at 1920 x 1080 Uncompressed CinemaDNG (2.5K) and Prores/ DNxHD (1080p) Lossless CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) at 3840×2160
SDI Connectors No HD-SDI 6G-SDI
HDMI Connectors Type D No
Thunderbolt Connectors No Yes
3.5mm TRS headphone jack 1
Microphone inputs 3.5mm analog stereo 2 x 1/4” balanced jacks
LANC inputs 2.5mm LANC for Rec Start/Stop, Iris Control and Focus
LCD Monitor 3.5″ and 800 x 480 5″ and 800 x 480
Audio Specs 2 channels 48 kHz and 24 bit 4 channels 48 KHz and 24 bit 2 channels 48 kHz and 24 bit
USB 2.0 Mini-B

Before we go further, let us first look at the Pocket camera vs the 2.5K camera. The latter has the following advantages:

  • A bigger sensor
  • Two lens mount options
  • Better resolution
  • Better codec (uncompressed DNG is as good as it gets)
  • HD-SDI link for monitoring
  • Thunderbolt
  • Better audio connectors and specification
  • Bigger LCD
  • More battery options

What’s the price difference when you consider the free software? Pocket is $995, while the 2.5K is $1,305 – a difference of $310. That’s it.

What are the ‘advantages’ of the Pocket Camera?

  • Lower price
  • Smaller size (I’m not sure this is an advantage)
  • Lighter weight (355g) vs 2.5K (1.7kg)
  • HDMI connector
  • Active MFT mount
  • Removable battery!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve made my decision regarding these two already:

  • Buy the Pocket if you don’t need 2.5K, and 1080p is fine.
  • Buy the 2.5K if you’re looking to use this camera for professional, broadcast-worthy applications.

It’s not for nothing that I have given the BMCC 2.5K camera the title of ‘best video camera for web video’.

The Pocket camera is alluring, if you just need a camera in your pocket as a backup. But as a serious tool for daily use in many varied professional situations? Definite No.

What about the 4K camera? This one is really sweet on paper. It offers all the features of the 2.5K version. The BMD site isn’t clear about the Ultrascope (which is HD-SDI and not 6G-SDI), but then again, we might see an implementation via Thunderbolt.

For me, the advantages of the 4K are:

  • More resolution
  • Bigger ‘Super 35mm’  type sensor (It’s slightly smaller, by about 10%, not enough to worry about)

The disadvantages (all subject to change) are:

  • Lower dynamic range (though this is subject to future reviews and real-world samples)
  • 6G-SDI (BMD supports this but it isn’t standardized by the SMPTE yet, and we don’t know yet if third-party devices will run on it)
  • Compressed DNG (which might be a non-issue once we see the real-world implementation)
  • No MFT mount (yet)

Since the 4K hasn’t been tested yet, we owe it some leeway. All things considered, the advantages are worth the $1,000 price difference with the 2.5K.

 

The cost of power

The Pocket Camera accepts external power at 12-20V, while the other two are rated at 12-30V. Not a big difference. All camera batteries can be charged in camera. The Pocket camera is just like a compact camera – except this one shoots video.

Recording times and charging times (according to BMD) are as follows:

  • Pocket – 1 hr rec / 1.25 hrs charging
  • 2.5K – 1.5 hrs rec / 2 hrs charging
  • 4 k – 1.5 hrs rec / 2 hrs charging

What is ‘special’ to see is the 4K version needs the same juice as the 2.5K version, even though its sensor and resolution is far greater. Consider why the Canon 1DC needs to cost $6,000 or so more for ‘cooling’ (or whatever it is they claim it’s for), this is a remarkable feat.

Regarding external battery solutions for all cameras, please refer to the BMCC Rigging Guide. I’m sure when (if?) the new cameras hit the streets more options will be available.

The costs of media

The major difference between the cameras are in their media requirements:

Media
Pocket 2.5K 4K
Media Type SDXC, SDHC 2.5” SSD 2.5” SSD
Data rate for max resolution N/A 150 MB/s N/A
Data rate for 1080p 27.5 MB/s 27.5 MB/s 110 MB/s*
Cost of Media/GB $2 $1.3 $1.3

*This data rate is for 4K, 1080p is 27.5 MB/s

The Pocket camera takes SDHC cards, and you can be assured that the compressed DNG data rate will fall within the limits of the SDXC specification.

On the other hand, the 4K camera will, by definition, have 4 times the data requirements when compared to its smaller cousin. This is clearly manifest in the 1080p vs 4K Prores data rate.

If DNG is compressed at 3:1 (like Redcode, in visually lossless mode), the 4K data rate will be in the 200-250 MB/s ballpark. This is still greater that the Red Epic data rates. Dealing with this data rate is not going to be easy on the budget.

Therefore, to those who are confused by the 2.5K vs 4K BMCC argument, the choice is clear:

  • If the $1,000 difference is acceptable, then can you afford the media requirements for 4K?
  • Can you manage the workflow requirements in production and post production for 4K?

If you answered yes to both of the above, then the BMCC 4K is your camera.

Where things stand

Sometimes it is important to lay things out like this, as it eases the decision-making process. I’m very impressed with the specifications of the 4K BMCC, and will be waiting impatiently for its release.

Two things have stopped me from pre-ordering it:

  • BMD’s track record in delivering cameras on time.
  • The 12-stop DR and compressed DNG implementation.

Here’s my verdict in plain speak:

  • If you need a 4K broadcast camera, then pick the 4K version.
  • If you need a professional broadcast camera, but don’t want 4K (or can’t justify it), then pick the 2.5K version.
  • If you just need a backup camera for quick run-and-gun use, which does not meet broadcast guidelines, then the pocket camera is brilliant.
Exclusive Bonus: Download my free cheatsheet (with examples) of the most used focal lengths in film (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

7 replies on “A Comparison of the Three Blackmagic Design Cinema Cameras”

  1. Maybe the price difference was just $300US when you wrote this article, but it’s not anymore. The official pricing for the 2.5K model is twice as much as the Pocket.
    Also, what exactly do you have against lossless compression? It’s a huge bandwidth and storage saver. I don’t see any drawbacks. Take into account this is a mathematically lossless compression, no one of those “visually lossless” ones.

  2. Global Shutter is also a big thing for me regarding the 4k version.  A lightning storm came through last night and so I shot some footage of it, you know the rest of the story.  Although I think non video pros only notice it in extreme cases I still annoys me to no end.

      1. Sareesh Sudhakaran DouglasDeYoung Correct, global shutter could make a big difference for action scenes.
        I had the BMCC 2.5K for a weekend.. one thing I definitely didn’t like about it was the sensor / lens mount configuration.  Even with a Tokina 11-16mm, I was only able to get the wide angle of a 28mm lens on full-frame.  Plus, my particular camera wouldn’t focus to infinity with that Tokina lens.
        The sensor / lens mount arrangement on the BMCC 4K and Pocket cameras makes a lot more sense in terms of the number and quality of lenses available in the market.
        Glass is a major consideration for many people.. of course, the BMCC 2.5K is a good choice if you need really tight, zoomed-in shots, with that 2.3X effective crop.

        1. FilmTimelapse  With the recent price reduction, the camera is definitely still a viable option. 
          It’s curious that the Pocket camera started shipping a week ago but still there’s no RAW footage from it!

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