Blackmagic Pocket Camera 6K Filmmakers Review

My comprehensive review of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (AmazonB&H) for filmmakers who want to make short films, web series or feature films.

Watch the review:

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

The “Dual Native” ISO argument

Dual Native ISO as introduced by Panasonic means if you shoot specifically in those ISOs, the footage must be similar enough to match later in post. E.g., you shoot at the lower ISO at daylight or in studio and the higher ISO in low light/night. They should have similar color and noise response.

The Panasonic Varicam does this quite well. No camera is truly dual native, but that’s the meaning of the term.

With the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, there’s no way ISO 400 and 3200 matches in terms of color response and noise. Maybe BMD can market this as some other term instead of “dual native ISO”? It’s not dual native ISO in my book.

The Good

  • Nice cinematic images with great skin tones.
  • 13 stops of DR at lower ISOs and about 12 stops at higher ISOs.
  • Blackmagic RAW works great in Resolve, and has a flavor for all budgets. Both 6K and 4K run super smooth.
  • 10 custom LUTs – put mine in four of them!
  • You can save presets.
  • Easy menu system – probably the best in any camera.
  • Giant 5″ touchscreen is responsive and good enough for most situations, except the bad parts (see below).
  • Numerous storage options.
  • Numerous power options.
  • Battery charges while alternative power is connected to the 2-pin LEMO port.
  • All the major controls available on-camera for easy access.
  • Fan noise not an issue.
  • Snappy menu and playback.
  • Good touch AF, but it takes about 3 to 15 seconds.
  • Metadata support for EF lenses.
  • Slate feature and metadata.
  • Both XLR (Phantom powered) and 3.5mm inputs. 3.5mm headphone jack as well.
  • Two mounting points – top and bottom.
  • Choice of shutter speed or shutter angle.
  • Camera suggests shutter speeds based on selected electrical frequency.
  • Option to stop recording if media card drops frames.
  • You can toggle on or off lens image stabilization (if supported) in-camera.
  • 6K full frame as well as anamorphic options.
  • Frame guides.
  • False color tool.
  • Focus peaking.
  • Acceptable rolling shutter.
  • Punch in to a closer view for manual focus.
  • All exposure and peaking tools can be output via HDMI as well.
  • Baked-in LUT can be recorded.
  • Well-written manual.
  • Good audio preamps.
  • You get DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 free! You need version 16 or above to read BRAW files from the Pocket 6K.
  • Extended Video Gamma is great! Very cinematic images.

The Bad

  • High data rates for good image quality. The storage sizes needed are huge.
  • Only 1080p HDMI output.
  • Touchscreen is fixed, so you’ll most likely need an external monitor.
  • No IBIS.
  • No AF tracking or face recognition.
  • No support for gimbals, no control and no LANC.
  • Mini XLR to XLR adapter required for XLR microphones – separate purchase.
  • D-Tap to LEMO/Dummy Battery adapter required for bigger batteries – separate purchase.
  • Large horizontal width means you’ll need an offset plate for some gimbals.
  • Additional mount/cage required for SSD support – separate purchase. I recommend the universal cage I’m using the video.
  • CFast 2.0 is expensive – CFast reader is a separate purchase.
  • Your computer will need a USB-C port (USB 3.1 Gen 2) to take full advantage of data transfer speeds.
  • Vent at the bottom can be blocked by a large tripod plate.
  • Can only record to one media card at a given time.
  • 120 fps in 1080p is cropped further (windowed mode). A 4x crop factor on full frame.
  • 4K DCI and UHD only in Prores, no BRAW.
  • Zebras only start at 75%.
  • False color is not customizable.
  • Histogram is tough to read. Hard to know when something is clipped.
  • Frame markers are not customizable.
  • You need to upgrade to Resolve Studio 16 to read dual native ISOs and Blackmagic RAW.
  • Blackmagic RAW is only usable on Resolve, for both editing and grading.
  • If you shoot at ISO 1000 or lower, you only get the option to change ISOs up to 1000. If you shoot ISO 1250 or higher, you only get the option to change ISOs 1250 and higher. Weird!
  • Highlight recovery tool in Resolve works sometimes and not in others. This might be a temporary glitch and I’m sure it will be fixed.
  • Not a pocket camera!
  • Not water or dust resistant due to vents.
  • Playback only plays clips from the current frame rate. Weird.
  • You need lots of batteries, or expensive batteries.
  • This is not a dual native ISO camera, at least in the definition as it is popularly understood. ISO 1250 is better than 3200, and matches better with ISO 400, for example.
  • No charger with camera.

The Ugly

  • Camera switches off abruptly if battery/power fails. You might lose Prores recordings (happened to me). E.g., the camera will show a 10% warning and might switch off immediately.
  • Poor battery life. Probably the worst in its class.
  • As of this review, none of the marketed SSD/cards are capable of writing 6K 50 fps in 3:1 BRAW.
  • Fixed pattern noise in the shadows.

The first two of these ugly problems cannot change. These are problems with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H) as well and have not been addressed so far.

The third has been done before. BMD originally announced the 4K as being able to write CinemaDNG at 60 fps but it couldn’t. Here’s a media test I did with my review unit:

I find it sad they have done it again with the BMPCC 6K. It is the only camera in any price range I know of that advertises a feature that is not pragmatic for its market. You might be able to make 6K 50 fps work via a RAID array over USB-C. Is that practical? You decide.

I would rather shoot on a Red camera.

As far as fixed pattern noise is concerned, the BMPCC 6K is more prone to it, and I haven’t seen it in the BMPCC 4K in the two cameras I’ve shot. Here’s a still from the 6K test:

Since there’s no way to black shade in the camera directly, maybe Blackmagic Design can come up with an update to fix it.

Can you use it as an A-cam?

Of course. Soderbergh used an iPhone as an A-cam. But I wouldn’t, and since you are reading my review, I’m assuming you care about my conclusions based on almost two decades of experience.

On medium to high budget productions, a cinema camera needs important functionality that the Pocket 6K lacks:

  1. Camera control for gimbals, etc.
  2. SDI output for wireless functionality. HDMI isn’t really that practical.
  3. No 4K output for focus pullers, DITs, directors, etc.
  4. No support for cinema lenses except via a dumb adapter. No metadata support for cinema glass.
  5. BRAW is only supported in Resolve. At the time of this writing neither Premiere Pro nor Avid nor FCPX supports BRAW.
  6. No direct battery plate interface, like you have in most cinema cameras.

Now, there are always exceptions and the BMPCC 6K can be used as an A-cam if that’s the right tool for the job.

But…

Just because it’s called a cinema camera doesn’t make it so; just like it being called a pocket camera doesn’t make it so.

Bottom line

On the whole though, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (AmazonB&H) is a great camera for filmmaking, and I would recommend it in this way:

  • Zero budget filmmakers: Buy the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (AmazonB&H) instead.
  • Budgets above $50,000: Use the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (AmazonB&H) as a B-cam.
Exclusive Bonus: Download 4 cinematic LUTs for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and 4K, for free.

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