Best 4K 60 fps Cinema Camera under $2,500? A Fun Comparison between the Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K, Panasonic GH5 and GH5s, and the Z CAM E2

This article is a comparison of the specifications of the following low budget 4K cameras under $2,500 that shoots 60 fps or more:

Exclusive Bonus: Download 4 cinematic LUTs for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and 4K, for free.

The basics

Let’s start with the camera bodies:

CameraPrice of bodyWhat you getNotes
GH5$1,498Battery, charger, cable holderCould have added V-Log
GH5s$1,998Battery, charger, cable holder, BNC cableN/A
BMPCC 4K$1,295DaVinci Resolve Studio ($299), AC Power supplyCould have added a battery
Z CAM E2$1,999LEMO Power Cable with D-Tap Plug, AC Power AdapterHuge price jump from the E1

The Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H) is definitely looking good here. Not only is it the cheapest, but you also get the full version of DaVinci Resolve.

But we’re just getting started.

Comparison of sensors

Here’s how the camera sensors compare:

CameraSensor SizeMax ResolutionISO RangeNotes
GH517.3 x 13 mm4992 x 3744200-256005K mode
GH5s17.3 x 13 mm4096 x 2160160-51200 (Dual Native)Best low light
BMPCC 4K18.96 x 10 mm4096 x 2160Up to 25600 (Dual Native)UHD is cropped to 17.7 mm
Z CAM E219 x 13 mm4096 x 2160160-25600 (Dual Native) N/A

The Pocket Camera 4K is slightly wider, which is good. On the other hand, the other cameras have a native 4:3 sensor so it gives you extra options.

With the Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H), you can almost shoot in 5K in 4:3 mode, which is a great advantage for panning/scanning or cropping. The codec is H.265 in 5K mode.

The GH5S (Amazon, B&H) has great low light ability, which is its USP. The Pocket Camera 4K has dual native ISO, though it isn’t the same sensor as the GH5 or GH5S. The noise comparison tests I’ve done show the difference is negligible:

The Z CAM E2 has similar performance, with one special advantage. It has 120 fps at 4K, which is extremely interesting:

CameraMax fps at 4KMax fps at 1080pClaimed Dynamic RangeShutter
GH560 fps180 fps12 stopsRolling
GH5s60 fps240 fps12 stopsRolling
BMPCC 4K60 fps120 fps13 stopsRolling
Z CAM E2120 fps240 fps13 stopsRolling (Global*)

*The Global shutter variant is a different camera Z CAM E2G, and only goes up to 4K 30 fps.

All cameras attain the maximum dynamic range in log profiles.

The Z CAM E2 attains 120 fps and 240 fps in H.265 only. The maximum frame rate in Prores is 60p.

Comparison of video features

What kind of 4K do you get anyway? First, let’s look at the frame rates, dynamic range, color and so on:

CameraBest Internal CodecMax. Internal Data Rate*Color
GH5All-I H.26450 MB/s10:bit 4:2:2
GH5sAll-I H.26450 MB/s10:bit 4:2:2
BMPCC 4KBlackmagic RAW135 MB/sRAW
Z CAM E2ZRAW^, Prores HQ110 MB/sRAW

*At 30 fps

^ZRAW comes with firmware update 0.88, and is currently limited to 4K 30 fps. It will be available to up to 60 fps in a future firmware update.

ZRAW requires ZRAW VideoSuite to open and process, so there’s no point recording it at the moment because you cannot directly work with it in any editing application. Blackmagic RAW is only usable in DaVinci Resolve.

The Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H) definitely as the most versatile codecs – both RAW and Prores. However, the 10-bit 4:2:2 from the GH5 and GH5S is great as well.

The Z CAM E2 is fine as well, and I hope ZRAW gains traction in the market. If it isn’t adopted by some of the major NLEs like Premiere Pro, FCP-X or Resolve, it’s dead in the water.

Next let’s talk about media:

CameraDual Card Slots?Media for 4KPrice per GBPrice per hour of 4K
GH5YesSDXC$1.56$275
GH5sYesSDXC$1.56$275
BMPCC 4KNoCFAST 2.0, SSD via USB-C$2.65 ($0.19 for SSD)$90
Z CAM E2NoCFAST 2.0, SSD via USB-C$2.65 ($0.19 for SSD)$75*

*With the BMPCC 4K, I’m assuming you are shooting in 3:1 RAW on SSDs. On the ZCAM E2, we are recording Prores HQ.

CFast 2.0 is not a lot more expensive than SDXC UHS-II. But, with larger data rates you have to spend a whole lot more for the same hours of footage. It’s better to use the USB-C option to a Samsung T5 SSD (Amazon, B&H).

Comparison of audio features

Here’s a look at the audio features:

Camera3.5mm TRS headphone jackMicrophone inputs
GH5YesTRS
GH5sYesTRS
BMPCC 4KYesMin XLR, TRS
Z CAM E2YesTRS

The Pocket Camera 4K definitely looks good here, with its Mini XLR input with Phantom Power. You do need an adapter (B&H) to convert to XLR but it’s a small expense.

The little things

The little things make all the difference:

  • Ergonomics, toughness and usability
  • Video ports
  • Viewfinder and Monitor
  • Size and Weight
  • Focus and Exposure tools

Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:

CameraVolume cubic inchesWeight (body only)Mounting Points
GH572.93600gHot Shoe
GH5s72.93550gHot Shoe
BMPCC 4K89.2723gOne 1/4-20
Z CAM E243.5757gSeveral 1/4-20

The BMPCC 4K is larger in volume and the Z CAM E2 is heavier. The size is more high-end DSLR territory.

With the Z CAM E2, you also need a monitor to control the unit, like a PORTKEYS BM5 5″. That adds to the cost and weight of the rig.

That’s not all:

CameraHDMIViewfinderMonitorExposure and focus aids
GH5Type AYes3.2″Peaking, Histogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras
GH5sType AYes3.2″Peaking, Histogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras
BMPCC 4KType ANo5″Peaking, Histogram, 3D LUTs, False Color, Zebras
Z CAM E2Type ANoNoMeter

The Z CAM E2 has no monitor or viewfinder. The Pocket Camera has a large LCD screen, but no viewfinder. The GH5 and GH5S have both, and they can be flipped.

I’ve found the swivel screen to be very useful in the field. Sometimes you need to get low or high, and you don’t want to worry about tethering a monitor just to see your shot.

Also, the GH5 and GH5S has a better app:

CameraControl via AppLANCSync
GH5YesNoNo
GH5sYesNoNo
BMPCC 4KiPad onlyNoNo
Z CAM E2iOS only2.5mm10-pin LEMO

Most cameras have apps. The advantage for the GH5 and GH5S is the apps are for both iOS and Android. The Pocket Camera 4K needs an iPad, which goes against it in the “pocket” department. It’s not very practical.

The Panasonic app is really useful, especially if you have an iPhone. I’ve used the app to see my footage when the LCD isn’t readable, like on the beach on a sunny day.

The Z CAM E2 is more designed for a broadcast-type environment. With Genlock, Ethernet and LANC it is designed to be operated remotely over networks – almost like a security camera or reality TV camera. It is probably the best camera in this lot for live streaming, with an optional SDI adapter.

Battery life and Power

All the features in the world are useless if you have to hire a donkey to carry your batteries:

CameraBattery TypeBattery life^Cost of one batteryCost per 4 hours of battery lifeExternal connector
GH5Panasonic120 minutes$60$120No
GH5sPanasonic120 minutes$60$120No
BMPCC 4KCanon LP-E630 minutes$45$27012V LEMO
Z CAM E2SONY NP-F120 minutes$126$25212V LEMO

Things are mostly even here, except for the low battery life of the Pocket Camera 4K. You’ll be carrying more batteries (again anti-“pocket”!). There is a 12V adapter but that’s more for a fully rigged setup.

You can use larger battery bricks with the BMPCC 4K and the Z CAM E2, but they are more expensive overall.

Which is cheaper to own?

Let’s just add up the basics: Initial price, media cost per hour of footage and battery cost per 8 hours:

CameraPriceMedia per hourBattery for 8 hrsPortkeys LCD + Battery**Side Grip**Total (Rounded)
GH5$1,498$275$240$0$0$2,013
GH5s$1,998$275$240$0$0$2,513
BMPCC 4K$1,295$90$540$0$0$1,925
Z CAM E2$1,999$75$504$560$50$3,188

**I added the monitor and side grip so it would even things out.

When you consider the costs for media and a monitor, etc., the Z CAM E2 surges ahead in terms of price, well over the $2,500 price barrier we have for this article.

The Pocket Camera 4K still beats out the rest in terms of cost, but only if you shoot with SSDs and use multiple cheap batteries. If you’re going to use CFast 2.0 cards, things will get expensive real fast. You also need a reader for CFast 2.0. And, if you are charging multiple batteries overnight everyday, it gets tiring and impractical very fast.

Conclusion

First, here’s a recap:

FeatureWinner
Sensor and ISOPanasonic GH5 and GH5S
Video featuresBlackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K
Codecs and ColorBlackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K
LensesPanasonic GH5 with IBIS
MediaBlackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K
AudioBlackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K
ErgonomicsPanasonic GH5 and GH5S
Ports and MonitoringZ CAM E2
Broadcast FeaturesZ CAM E2
PowerPanasonic GH5 and GH5S
Most value for moneyBlackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K

Before we take our final decision, we’ll let the cameras tell us what they offer that the others don’t:

CameraUSPsCons
GH5Anamorphic mode, 5K video, flip LCD, IBIS, accurate colorsNot as good highlight performance
GH5sLow Light, flip LCD, accurate colorsNo IBIS, not as good highlight performance
BMPCC 4KRAW and Prores, XLR input, Filmic imagesFixed LCD, Extremely poor battery life
Z CAM E24K at 120 fps, Modular, broadcast featuresExpensive, you need a monitor

I’m going to discount the Z CAM E2. If I wanted 120 fps in 4K, I’ll choose a Red camera, which is what I do. I also get a larger sensor and an established workflow.

The GH5S was never attractive to me. For just low light performance I miss out on all the other goodies the Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H) has. And the price is too high. I really don’t see the value. I can get the job done with the GH5, and if you want to learn more about my guide for the GH5 check this out.

Which brings us to the Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H). With RAW you definitely get better image quality. Here’s my review if you want to learn more:

Exclusive Bonus: Download 4 cinematic LUTs for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and 4K, for free.

On the other hand, if cameras are race horses, they might look good on paper, but the horse still needs to race. You still need to go through the grind of shooting over many days with the camera, and usability matters a lot. The Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H) clearly has the better tools and is more equipped for actual production work:

  • Flip screen
  • Viewfinder and LCD
  • 4:3 mode, 5K anamorphic shooting if you want
  • All the important exposure tools
  • IBIS!
  • Autofocus in video
  • 400 Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 codec which can be graded
  • Great stills camera

Here are some great reasons to pick the GH5 over the BMPCC 4K:

The only way the Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H) beats the GH5 is in terms of sheer image quality. Here’s a comprehensive real-world comparison of cameras for image quality. You’ll be surprised by the results:

Camera Shootout: BMPCC 4K vs Panasonic S1 vs Panasonic GH5 vs Sony a7 III vs Sony a7S II vs Nikon Z6

Bottom line, if you asked me to pick one camera for actual shoots that I can totally rely on, I’ll pick the Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H) any day.

[gh1]

Join the Conversation

29 Comments

Leave a Reply to Johan Asplund Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. hey i see that Zcam E2c is buzzing as budget camera, I am planning to buy one camera for my youtube channel and i am considering Zcam E2c. your suggestions on this please. Also can you make a review of Zcam E2c. I am from hyderabad .

  2. Why would you count it not being a “pocket camera” as a con *against* the others? None of them are pocket sized either. It is a pocket camera in name only, which is an absurd criticism, seeing as they obviously picked the name for marketing purposes.

  3. I agree with those that say IBIS and autofocus are useless on cinema cameras. For stabilization you’ll use some kind of inexpensive gimbal. Cinema cameras don’t need autofocus because you need to be pulling your own focus for rack and other artistic focus effects.

    If what they are targeting is the entry-level indie film market, where you don’t need a full blown rig with a big matte box loaded with filtration, the only thing that I think this could really use are some built-in neutral density filters. Oh that an anamorphic capability would be cool. Can you subsample a 4:3 region? If not you’ll have to use a 1.5x lens to take 1.78 to 2.6. Can the monitor do 1.3x – 2x desqueeze?

    Other than that it looks like they’ll be giving the GH5 a run for it’s money — or maybe it’s complementary. The GH5 is a good prosumer photography camera that kicks video butt. The P4k looks like its going to be a great, affordable pro camera that can do occasional prosumer duty.

  4. Just wanted to add a few things about the Pocket 4K.

    1. It comes with a battery. The product page for it now reflects that. So you should only be adding $448 for batteries not $512. Even that can be looked at as inaccurate though. The battery that comes with the camera will be a Blackmagic LP-E6 battery which you can buy from B&H for $35 so if you used that as a basis, it would only be $245 extra for 8 hours and $105 for 4 hours.

    2. The Pocket 4K CAN shoot 4K RAW onto SD cards and the cost of media really depends on what codecs and frame rates you’re intending to shoot with. Sandisk Extreme Pros would be fast enough for anything up to 24fps 4:1 RAW 4K DCI and those are about 50 cents per gigabyte for a 256 GB card which will get you about 55 minutes of recording time.

    3. Why exactly is it important that it’s not a pocket camera in this comparison? I know it’s called the Pocket 4K but it’s just a name. It makes no sense to do and is completely irrelevant in this comparison unless there was a category for which of these cameras are pocketable…which would be none of them. Imagine how dumb it would be if I harped on the GH5s not actually being two GH5s…

    4. The fact that you can charge the battery via USB battery bank when it’s not in use and while its in use with the 2-pin LEMO connector kind of requires that the price of 8 hours of battery life have a range. For example, it’s possible that one LP-E6 battery and an Anker Powercore II 20000 could power the camera for 8 hours which would only be an additional investment of $50. The same would apply to the GH5s.

    5. All flavors of RAW on every Blackmagic camera are compressed (you wrote compressed and uncompressed). The difference is that 3:1 and 4:1 are lossy. The other is lossless which also means its bitrate varies a lot depending on what’s in the frame. The 270 MB/s number that Blackmagic provides is because you get files about 70% of the size of an uncompressed frame on average. Based on my experience with the original Pocket, 60% is also very common especially in frames with a lot bokeh, so that can go down to 230 MB/s or it can go higher than 270 MB/s.

    6. It also has zebras as well as false color. All monitoring settings can also be applied to the main screen and the HDMI out independently.

    7. The Pocket 4K is 2 channel just like the others.

    8. Blackmagic has only made a control app for the iPad but they also made their Bluetooth API publicly available so anyone can make an app for it.

  5. I’m not saying I’m the first to say these, you have mentioned many of them, but I just wanted to emphasize those you have mentioned and add a couple of my own: (in no particular order)

    1. The GH5/GH5S have access to (two) full size XLR ports that can record internally at 24 bit/96Khz with the DMW-XLR1 adapter. I don’t think that the PC4K can record audio at that high a rate (I think theirs is 24-bit/48Khz audio). This should be allowed in the configuration information because you are allowing external SSD recording of video.

    2. It bears repeating that the PC4K INCLUDES DaVinci Resolve 15 Studio with the camera. Though I do wonder what happens to the license if you sell the camera at a later date…

    3. The E2 might have such a high listed data rate because it shoots at 4K, 120fps…

    4. The GH5/GH5S allow for either mirrored or sequential card recording. So you can record with an internal backup or record unlimited by copying a filled card to a backup drive(s), formatting it, and then reinstalling it into the camera. Something it is unclear whether or not either of the other cameras can do.

    5. I thought that the GH5S was able to run off a standard external battery through the USB-C port. If so, this would make it even more useful as, essentially, it would be able to run for an unlimited time. It can also run off wall power with one of the GH3/4/5/5S external dummy batteries.

    6. While you did mention them, I did want to reiterate that the GH5 has IBIS. AND a working (if not stellar) video autofocus.

    7. In relation to #6 above, the GH5/GH5S have peaking, waveforms, false color, zebras, etc. Tools that do not require an external monitor/recorder.

    8. While the E2 looks like it would be quite durable, the GH5/GH5S are known for both durability and reliability. You did mention this in your summary, but I wanted to emphasize this as it is quite important. Blackmagic has not been known for having a high level of durability/reliability (at least for sometime after release). The E2 is an unknown.

    9. Those who have tested the GH5S battery life say it is more in line with the GH4 than the GH5, which appears to lose some time (10-20%) due to the load that IBIS puts on the battery.

    10. While you don’t appear to find the low light of the GH5S necessary (probably because you can light what you shoot), it is a huge deal for me. Yes, the PC4K also has “dual native ISO”. However, it is unclear how well Blackmagic will be able to take advantage of that for some very good low light recording. Judging from the high speed 4K 120fps, I would not think it will do well in low light (as its low max ISO would tend to confirm).

    Anyway, thanks for the comparison! I enjoy your articles and vids!

    1. Just wanted to add that the Pocket 4K DOES come with a battery. They updated the product page to say that.

    2. Hey GlueFactory! Looks like we’re fans of different cameras lol Anyway, just to respond to some things you said.

      1. You’re correct that the Pocket 4K can’t record 96Khz. Not even the Ursa Mini Pro records anything other than 48Khz.

      4. You’re right that the Pocket 4K definitely can’t write to both cards at the same time.

      5. I actually mentioned that in my own comment. That applies to the Blackmagic and GH5s.

      8. The Pocket 4K is made of carbon fiber so it should be pretty rugged. Of course, we can’t say the same for the large LCD screen. As for reliability, to my knowledge that hasn’t been a huge concern for BMD’s cameras for at least the last 2 years.

      10. There’s no reason the Pocket 4K should be worse than the GH5s in low-light. It’s using the same sensor. It WILL have more noise at higher ISOs but you have to look at that differently. The GH5s is doing noise reduction in-camera which masks that while the Pocket 4K does not. Especially when shooting RAW, that can be looked at as an advantage depending on the scenario. For films, clean and artifact-free noise of the Pocket 4K can be better cleaned up with something like Neatvideo without sacrificing finer details as I’ve heard is the case with the GH5s’s in-camera noise reduction.

      I’m actually curious how the Pocket 4K will work with ISOs since it doesn’t bake in changes in digital gain like other cameras do. So really it’s only shooting either 400 or 3200 ISO with an changes in digital gain being stored as metadata. This alone has some advantages since it will allow you to increase ISO without necessarily blowing out highlights.

      And just to add to your point about the importance of low-light sensitivity, there are times where, even in large production, you can’t light the area in question. High ISOs give things a long-exposure look that you just can’t get any other way other than trying to change every light in a city or bounce more light off the moon lol

  6. I also disagree with Smarty and Sareesh. The only think that makes me thing to not buy BMPC is the sensor, if it was super 35 it would be great Cinema camera,for me.First of all, Cinema camera does not have AF, Alexa’s RED’s does not, their not made for capture still’s even if you can extract frame’s.I’m not a fun of BMD and i know for their delays and not keeping their promises ex.global shutter at mini Ursa , 320fps at HD ,updates etc. but we have credit them for their prices comparing with high end cameras with almost the same Dynamic Range and color science. ProRes and Raw is a standard industry codecs that use all high end cameras so the image quality is critical for cinema cameras and BMPC does it at the half price of their competitors .However my opinion is if your story is good you can shoot it with a mini dv 1080p no one gone notice and if they are… who cares the only thing that remains is the good story. Conclusion is that if you want a hybrid camera for video and photography go with the GH5, if you want cinematic image quality go BMPC the Chinese made a broadcast camera that sound’s promising the only think that remains is to see how are working in real conditions;-)

  7. great run down of things to consider. Surprised by the outcome, but it makes good sense. An important factor to remember, is everybody has different shooting constraints. So for example. I shoot run and gun, in cold environments, which could rule out BM, because of the cooling design, and no IBIS and AF.
    I totally agree they should have updated the pocket version as well. I say as well because the new 4K is an entirely new camera. Yes with the monitor considered it’s quite compact, but let’s not pretend it fill the gap the original BMPC filled.

  8. It ought to be called the Pocketbook Cinema Camera 4K; but seriously folks…

    Honestly, I think JVC is onto something with the LS300. That would have been the most appropriate form factor for the BMPCC 4K, rather that this weird Franken-MILC with lousy batter life and no viewfinder. The bottom fan vent looks like it could easily get covered by a quick release plate and that could be a problem, although personally I have a flash bracket with cold shoes I used to use for shotgun mic’s that would make a good spacer to alleviate that problem. Also, the lack of 2K DCI is rather sad, but oh well…

  9. I’m looking for ease of use basic highest quality cinema production camera. IBIS would be nice because of the form factor of the BlackMagic but most of the time I’d put it on a gimbal, SteadyCam or tripod. I like the big rear screen but haven’t heard how reflection resistant or bright it is yet. I think it is a cargo pocket camera.

  10. If sheer image quality would be the sole ruler and what we live and die with, there would be ALEXA 65 in every household…

  11. Thanks for this. I’ve been debating a GH5/GH5s purchase, and I keep vacillating. And then the Black Magic is announced. This helped clarify a lot of thinking.

  12. Hello Sareesh, I don´t know exactly where you go with your conclusions. “The only way the Blackmagic Design Pocket Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H) can beat the GH5 is in terms of sheer image quality – dynamic range and color science”. Isn’t that what we are looking for in a camera? I mean, IBIS and all those bells and whistles sound fine on paper but in the end of the day what makes or breaks an image is dynamic range and color science. The larger cinema cameras lack IBIS, and when there was no IBIS on the smaller ones we made do however we could, apart from being less than ideal on some gimbal and some mounts like car mounts. If we are talking about blogging or something like that I get your conclusion but I’ve always come to Wolfcrow for it’s cinema point of view, and for cinema, we live and die by “sheer image quality”. Cheers.

    1. Not even for cinema, the sheer image quality is the the only parameter, as long it above certain minimums.

    2. I disagree with smarty and Sareesh. If we are talking about cinema cameras, I agree that color science and DR are the ONLY criteria that makes or breaks it for professional cinematographers. All the others, IBIS, AF, Stills, etc. does not matter. The GH5 with its many features and the V-Log profile is a nice camera but it will never come close to a camera with 13 stops or more DR and the color science of the BlackMagic Design, RED, or ARRI cameras.

    3. I disagree with smarty and Sareesh. If we are talking about cinema cameras, I agree that color science and DR are the ONLY criteria that makes or breaks it for professional cinematographers. All the others, IBIS, AF, Stills, etc. does not matter. The GH5 with its many features and the V-Log profile is a nice camera but it will never come close to a camera with 13 stops or more DR and the color science of the BlackMagic Design, RED, or ARRI cameras.

    4. I agree with everybody that isn’t Smarty and Sareesh in this discussion lol When you watch something that was shot, you can’t tell if it was stabilized with IBIS or a gimbal and if the right things are in focus then it doesn’t matter if it was achieved with auto or manual focus. Dynamic range and color science WILL change the final product though.

      Also when you consider price, the Pocket 4K is so much cheaper than the GH5s that you can buy a Pocket 4K and Ronin M and still have spent $300 less than the GH5s. And the Ronin-M, while clearly being a large add-on would do a significantly better job of a stabilizing a shot than IBIS.

      IBIS and autofocus are useful extras but for narrative film-making, they’re completely inessential and I don’t even consider that an opinion. The lack of IBIS is also entirely the reason why the Pocket 4K and GH5s can use more of the imaging circle than the GH5.