My comprehensive review of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (you’d better believe it).

What kinds of productions are the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K good for? Is it practical for music videos, corporate videos, short films, feature films, web series, documentaries, weddings, and so on? Let’s find out.

Links to a few cheap monitors (I’ll update this as we go along), all 1920×1080:

T7 7″ https://amzn.to/2QunQT1
F570 5.7″ https://amzn.to/2OAB4jR
FW703 7″ https://amzn.to/2NmfhYA

Better value for money:

SmallHD 701 Lite 7″ https://amzn.to/2OHmjMx
With recording – BMD Video Assist https://amzn.to/2QsghfK

The BMPCC 4K (Amazon, B&H) can pass on exposure and focus features via HDMI, so even if you’re monitor isn’t capable of these things, you should be fine. I would definitely pick a SmallHD 7″ monitor (https://amzn.to/2Owu6N3) for its versatile software options and size. But it’s not in everyone’s budget.

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 4K, there’s no way ISO 400 and 3200 matches in terms of color response and noise. 400 and 1250 are similar. Maybe BMD can market this as some other term instead of “dual native ISO”? It’s not dual native ISO in my book, and definitely not ISO 3200 as I’ve tested it.

I’m sure others will test this as well, and maybe BMD can fix it with a firmware update or color science update. Maybe Resolve 15.1 isn’t doing something right, who knows?

Also, thanks to Imiy F. for pointing out the clips from a similar format are only visible on playback. That’s even weirder. The BMPCC 4K isn’t restricted by electrical frequency or whatever, so why have this at all? I hope they fix this.

The Good

  • 13 stops of DR at lower ISOs and about 12 stops at higher ISOs. Better than any camera below $3,500. Period.
  • Best colors I’ve seen on any camera below $3,500. Period.
  • RAW, compressed RAW, future Blackmagic RAW
  • Prores for the rest of us
  • 10 custom LUTs
  • Save presets
  • Easy menu
  • Giant 5″ touchscreen
  • 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
  • Metadata support for 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.
  • Full 4K DCI 1.85:1 frame
  • Frame guides
  • False color tool
  • Focus peaking
  • 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.
  • You get DaVinci Resolve Studio 15 free!
  • Extended Video Gamma is great! Very cinematic images.

The Bad

  • High data rates for good image quality
  • 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 a gimbal
  • Additional mount/cage required for SSD support – separate purchase
  • CFast 2.0 is expensive – reader 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.
  • Not a true 4/3 sensor like the GH5. No anamorphic capabilities.
  • ISOs and shutter speeds cannot be manipulated in 1/3rd increments throughout.
  • No custom frame guides.
  • 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 15.1 to read dual native ISOs and Blackmagic RAW.
  • Heavy!
  • Not water or dust resistant due to vents.
  • Playback only plays clips from the current frame rate. Weird.
  • Camera switches off abruptly if battery/power fails. You might lose Prores recordings (happened to me)
  • The free battery provided died on the very first day.
  • No charger with camera.

The Ugly

  • Camera freezes often. Happened four times in 15 days while I had it.
  • Ugly sound when switched on. Happened thrice in 15 days while I had it.
  • Poor battery life. Probably the worst in its class.
  • 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.
  • As of this review, none of the marketed SSD/cards are capable of writing 4K 60p lossless CinemaDNG.

Hopefully some of the ugly problems will be addressed with firmware or software updates. After all, it was a test camera and the mass production cameras might be better.

Those who want to shoot documentaries, weddings, events, music videos, etc., should stick to the Panasonic GH5 (B&H, Amazon) instead. For extreme low light work, nothing beats the Sony a7S II (B&H, Amazon).

On the whole though, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (Amazon, B&H) is a great camera as far as image quality is concerned, and is a perfect fit for low budget short or feature films, web series, corporate videos, etc.