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
First, let’s see what each camera costs and what is offered with them:
|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|
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:
|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|
|HDMI Connectors||Type D||No|
|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|
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
- 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 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.