Disclaimer:

Since the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K isn’t out yet at the time of this writing most of this guide is conjecture – the result of relying on information provided by Blackmagic Design, educated guesses and my personal experience and analysis. It is only a starting point, from which you will hopefully continue to research and find what best suits your workflow. The information provided here might not be accurate or relevant. You are solely responsible for your decisions and actions.

In Part One we looked at ergonomics and specifications of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. In this part we’ll look at lens options, filters, matteboxes and follow focus systems for the camera.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free checklist that will help you find the right slider length for your work (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

About the Sensor and Super 35mm

I won’t be going into details about how I choose lenses, because I’ve already covered a lot of ground here:

The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K has a Super 35mm-sized sensor. What does that mean? Here’s the actual size of Super 35mm film:

Super35 4-perf and 3-perf

The traditional 3-perf Super 35mm size is 24.89 mm x 14 mm with an aspect ratio of 16:9. It has a crop factor of 1.45. How does the Blackmagic 4K Camera compare? Here’s a diagram comparing it (dark pink) to full frame 35mm (blue border) and Super35mm 3-perf (grey with orange border):

BMPC4K Crop Factor

The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K sensor measures 21.12 mm x 11.88 mm. Slightly smaller than traditional Super35mm, but it’s nothing to bicker about. The resolution is 3840 x 2160 (or 8 MP). This size to resolution ratio will reduce artifacts caused by line-skipping and incorrect interpolation (downsampling) that you find in DSLRs.

The sensor demands a lens that can deliver a resolution of 182 lines per mm, or 91 line pairs per mm. In plain speak, you need a really good lens. No, let me make that clearer – you need a top-of-the-line class lens to extract the full resolution this sensor is capable of.
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As you can see, the crop factor of the Blackmagic 4K camera in comparison to full frame 35mm is 1.7. Here’s a table showing you what focal lengths you’ll need to obtain the equivalents for full-frame 35mm:

Focal Length (mm) 35mm FF equivalent (mm)
8 14
12 21
14 24
19 32
21 35
24 40
29 50
35 60
41 70
50 85
53 90
59 100
71 120
79 135
118 200
176 300
353 600
706 1200

The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K comes in an active Canon EF mount (also accepts EF-S lenses for APS-C sensors). The advantages of the Canon EF mount and Canon lenses are:

  • The lenses are designed to cover a larger full frame area, so any aberrations like vignetting, resolution drop off, etc., at the corners will be cropped by the smaller sensor of the Blackmagic 4K Camera.
  • They are primarily designed for highly demanding still-camera sensors (FF demands 160 lines/mm, while APS-C demands 232 lines/mm), so they should be able to resolve 182 lines/mm.
  • They come in both cheap and expensive versions and are widely available, with apertures from f/1.2.
  • You can adapt Sony A, Nikon F, Leica R, Pentax K and Arri PL-mount lenses to the EF mount (see table below).

Here’s information on each mount, in increasing order of the focal flange distance:

Mount Focal Flange Distance in mm
C-Mount 17.526
Sony E-mount 18
Sony PMW-F3 mount 18
Micro Four Thirds mount 19.25
Leica M mount 27.8
Four Thirds mount 38.67
Canon Manual FD mount 42
Canon EOS EF mount 44
Canon EOS EF-S mount 44
Minolta/Sony A-mount 44.5
Pentax K-mount 45.46
Nikon F-mount 46.5
Leica R-mount 47
Arri PL mount 52

Unlike the other two Blackmagic cameras, this one is easier to lens in terms of focal length. However, in terms of f-number, it’s tough to focus at an aperture like f/2 and lower – especially with 4K. Any slight focusing errors are ‘magnified’ thereby more distracting. Therefore, unless you know precisely what you’re doing, it is better to stick to f/2.8 and higher. This does not mean you can’t get a T1.5 or T1.3 lens, it just means you might want to stop down for practicality’s sake.

Sigma 18-35mm f1.8Lenses for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

I have already explained (in the links provided above) why I think a professional lens should have an f-number of f/2.8 or lower. The lower the f-number the better. As a general rule of thumb, a lens reaches its maximum potential two stops down. E.g., if you buy an f/1.4 or T1.3 lens, its best performance is likely at f/2.8 – until f/5.6 (for Super 35mm sized frames). Beyond f/5.6, you will start to see the effects of diffraction (f/8 is just about okay, but f/11 will definitely appear soft).

For lower resolution video, like 1080p, these considerations are hard to see. However, on 4K, they are quite visible. There’s nothing worse than having a blurred image when you absolutely don’t want it. Therefore, I suggest you follow this strategy:

  • Get a lens that covers full frame 35mm if possible.
  • Get a lens that will allow you to use a follow focus system easily (more later).
  • Get a lens that has an f-number of f/2 or lower.
  • Use your lens at f/2.8 to f/5.6 as much as possible. If your lens starts at f/2.8, test it against f/4 to see if the image quality is good enough or not. Don’t forget to test at 1:1 crop on a good monitor, at 4K.
  • Get an EF mount lens. Adapters not machined correctly will increase the chances of blur. Therefore, it is a wise strategy to avoid adapters if you can.

The following table lists my lens suggestions for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. Some notes:

  • I’m not including top-of-the-line cinema lenses, which for me, are the Arri Ultra and Master Primes, Cooke S4/i and S5/i primes, the Leica Summilux-C primes, and the Angenieux zooms – all in the PL mount.
  • The numbers in brackets signify the approximate 35mm full-frame equivalents.
  • Unless stated, all lenses are in the EF mount.
  • Cinema lenses are usually manual focus. Between Zeiss and Canon cine lenses, I prefer Zeiss.

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Primes
Ultra-wide <24mm*
Cheap and Good Vivitar 7mm f/3.5 Series 1 Fisheye Manual Focus (K-mount, F-mount) (12mm)
Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle f/3.5 Fisheye Manual Focus
Sigma 10mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Fisheye (17mm)
Weather-sealed Not available
Cinema-lens Rokinon 8mm T/3.8 Fisheye Cine (14mm)
Wide 24-35mm
Cheap and Good Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC (24mm) Manual Focus
Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS (28mm) Manual Focus
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM (34mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM (24mm)
Zeiss Distagon T* 15mm f/2.8 ZE Manual Focus (25mm)
Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 ZE Manual Focus (35mm)
Cinema-lens Canon CN-E 14mm T3.1 L F (24mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 15mm/T2.9 (25mm)
Rokinon 16mm T2.2 Cine Manual Focus (28mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 18mm/T3.6 T Manual Focus (31mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 21mm/T2.9 Cine Manual Focus (35mm)
Medium 40-85mm
Cheap and Good Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC (41mm)
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM (48mm)
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM (51mm)
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (60mm)
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (85mm)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM (85mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM (41mm)
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM (60mm)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM (85mm)
Cinema-lens Canon CN-E 24mm T1.5 L F Cine (41mm)
Zeiss CP.2 25mm T2.1 Compact Prime (43mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 28mm/T2.1 Cine Manual Focus (48mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 35mm/T1.5 (60mm)
Canon CN-E 50mm T1.3 L F Cine (85mm)
Short Telephoto 90-150mm
Cheap and Good Pentax 55mm f/1.4 DA* SDM K-mount (94mm)
Tamron SP AF 60mm f/2.0 Di II LD 1:1 Macro (102mm)
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM (102mm)
Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro (119mm)
Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical (145mm)
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZE Planar T* Manual Focus (145mm) – not exactly cheap!
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD (153mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
Cinema-lens Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T* – not cinema or weather proof, but does deliver quality! (94mm)
Schneider CINE-XENAR III 75mm T2 – not cheap (128mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 85mm/T1.5 (145mm)
Long Telephoto 150-300mm
Cheap (not really) and Good Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM (170mm)
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss T* (A-mount) – not cheap! (230mm)
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro (255mm)
Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM (306mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (170mm)
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM (230mm)
Cinema-lens Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 100mm/T2.1 (170mm)
Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 135mm/T2.1 (230mm)
Super Telephoto >300mm
Cheap and Good Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM (340mm)
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM (510mm)
Weather-sealed Canon L series primes
Cinema-lens Not available
Zooms
Wide Range 16-35mm
Cheap and Good Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (14-28mm)
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (17-38mm)
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 Pro DX (19-28mm)
Tokina AT-X 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX (28-48mm)
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (29-68mm)
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM (31-60mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM (28-60mm)
Cinema-lens Zeiss Compact Zoom CZ.2 15-30/T2.9 (26-51mm)
Canon CN-E 14.5-60mm T2.6 L S (25-102mm)
Both are way too expensive!
Medium Range 40-135mm
Cheap and Good Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) (48-128mm)
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM (41-179mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM (41-119mm)
Cinema-lens Zeiss 28-80mm T2.9 Compact Zoom CZ.2 (48-136mm)
Canon CN-E 30-105mm T2.8 L S (51-179mm)
Both are way too expensive!
Telephoto Range >150mm
Cheap and Good Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM (or the one without IS) (119-340mm)
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM (119-510mm)
Weather-sealed Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM (119-510mm)
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM (170-680mm)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (119-340mm)
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM (340-680mm)
Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG APO IF (340-850mm)
The last two are super expensive!
Cinema-lens Zeiss 70-200mm T2.9 Compact Zoom CZ.2 – way too expensive! (119-340mm)

*I don’t recommend the use of fisheye lenses. Correction is an additional post processing step, and you also lose some of the ‘wide-ness’. E.g., an 8mm fisheye after correction will almost become a 12mm or thereabouts, so why not use a 14mm instead and save yourself the trouble of correction? Also, correction reduces resolution. All in all a bad idea.

Wow. With all these options, it is somewhat hard to pick the right lenses. Nobody can test all of them! I’ll give you my personal picks, but before that, let’s quickly look at adapters.
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Lens Adapters

I don’t recommend using adapters for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, unless they are top-class and guarantee perfect shimming.

Still, if you find the need, here are some options:

What would I get?

If you are confused by the lens options available, here is a list of lenses I would get to form the ultimate kit for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K (Note: If I had the choice, I’d always pick cinema lenses, but let’s assume that option is not available for whatever reason):

Five lens kit – three primes and two zooms

This would be like a full kit, ready to tackle most situations. However, we’re not breaking the bank here.

Primes:

Zooms:

Four lenses – two options

Four Primes:

If I were a purist for primes that are cheap but don’t compromise on quality, I’d look at these:

Four Zooms:

Three lenses – two options

Two primes and a zoom:

Three Zooms:

If you wanted three primes: From the 4-primes kit, I’d drop the 14mm f/2.8L.

Two lenses – three options

One prime and one zoom:

Two Primes:

Two Zooms:

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One lens – 

If I had the choice of one and only one lens, I’d pick the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM (31-60mm). At f/2.8 there are few lenses better than this one. However, if you want image stabilization and weather protection, the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L might be better.

Important: Regarding IRIS control, we don’t know which lenses will work and which won’t, so if that’s a factor, wait till the official reviews are out.

Filters & Matteboxes

I’ve covered filters in great detail in the Guide to Lens Filters so I won’t be going into them in detail. However, one kind of filter that will definitely come handy is the ND or variable ND filter. You must find an ND filter that fits the filter thread of your lens. For filters, I recommend Singh-Ray and Heliopan.

A matte box does provide some ‘oomph’ to any camera setup:

 BMPC4K Matte boxTo learn about matte boxes, and whether you need one, read the Guide to Matte Boxes.

Matteboxes will make your rig seriously front-heavy so you must pay attention to your rig. Don’t forget to match them against the front diameter of your lens.

Follow Focus Systems

This is one camera that would greatly benefit from a follow focus system. It does have a 1:1 crop zoom mode for focusing, as well as focus peaking – but neither is very useful outdoors because the screen is bad (assuming it’s the same screen from the BMCC), even with the hood. Also, neither the zoom mode nor the focus peaking is available via SDI. A good focus pulling system, along with a good focus puller, will save you blushes in post.

For cheap but reliable, try the Genus G-SFOC Superior Follow Focus System.

An ever better option is the Letus Follow Focus system.

 

The ultimate follow focus system for this camera is the Arri MFF-2 Follow focus system.

In Part Three we’ll look at monitors, viewfinders, audio and power supplies.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free checklist that will help you find the right slider length for your work (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

 

16 replies on “The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K Guide (Part Two): Lenses, Filters, Matteboxes and Follow Focus Systems”

  1. Your post says the Canon 16-35 L lens has stabilization. Are you thinking of the previous model? The slower lens with Is? Because the lens you mention is fast but does not include image stabilization.

  2. Thanks this is very informative! Do you have an adapter you would recommend if I’m looking to use Pentax k glass on the production cam? Thanks!

  3. This is the best article I’ve found on this topic. Great information. I had a question for you – I’m planning on shooting solely short movies with the black magic production camera. If i was only to buy one lens would you still recommend the http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=Sigma%2018-35mm%20f%2F1.8%20DC%20HSM&linkCode=ur2&tag=sareesh-20&url=search-alias%3Daps(31-60mm)? Or would it be something else? I would really like one of the zeiss lenses but i don’t think i could afford it. Thanks again for the great info

  4. Love, love this!   Thank you Sareesh!  Do you have a breakdown for “affordable” PL mount lenses?… what set you would go with to cover the focal range? Zooms vs primes, etc? (I’m going to grab a Ursa mini) Many thanks!

  5. decoy studios The focal length is not related to the crop factor. It will be 18mm on any sensor. The crop factor will apply on that based on the size of the sensor. I have an article on crop factor on the site you might want to check out.

  6. Hi Sareesh, I got a little confused about the 18-35mm sigma lens. Since the Sigma is an APS-C lens there is no crop factor on the BM 4K camera is it?
    Thx

  7. Hi, for documentaries, interviews, usually with bad light conditions.. what would you recomand for a lens ?

    Thx

  8. I prefer the LanParte follow focus. First and foremost it has “Zero” play. I also like the feel of the knob better. It has equally good build quality and is cheaper.

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