Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Part 2

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The BMCC has a Canon EF mount with electronic iris control. It can also take Canon EF-S lenses, as confirmed by John Brawley here. Theoretically, you can mount any lens that can be adapted to the EF mount – like Nikon or Leica R glass. However, I’m not sure how well they’ll play with the internal electronics of the BMCC.
BMCC rop factor
For all intents and purposes I figure the crop factor (35mm equivalent) of the BMCC is 2.3x. As you can see, it’s a tiny sensor when compared to Super35, and you won’t get the same DOF characteristics with similar lenses.

A lot of people are complaining about BMD’s decision to go with the EF mount for such a small sensor. The widest non-distorted lens for the EF mount is the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM FLD AF, which at the wide end is about 19 mm in a 35mm equivalent FOV.

The thing is, even regular B4 bayonet lens or C-mount lens goes only as wide as about 8 mm on average, and the really wide ones (4 to 5 mm or so) are so expensive one is better off shooting with a Red Epic. Also don’t forget that the electronics on these lenses might not work as required, and a good lens mount adapter, like this one from MTF, isn’t cheap either.

The ‘problem’ is not the mount, but the sensor.

The lenses for the BMCC must resolve at least 50 lp/mm in practical terms – that’s a high quality lens indeed. Luckily, most good EF lenses resolve that much in the central portion, which is the area of the sensor. You don’t have to worry much about corner distortion or vignetting.

LENSES

Update 10th September 2012:

The BMCC has two cameras, one in the EF mount and another in the MTF mount. My lens suggestions for the MTF mount are at the end of this article.

Here are my lens recommendations for the BMCC on the EF mount:

Notes:
Where two prime lenses with the same focal lengths are mentioned, the more expensive one is better for follow focus gears.
When I say 35mm equivalent, I mean 35mm full frame equivalent, and not Super35 or APS-C equivalent – unless otherwise mentioned.

Wide Angle Lenses

Oh you see, there is an option for an ultra-wide lens:

Sunex SuperFisheye 5.6mm f/5.6

This lens is a 13 mm equivalent but after dewarping I’d say it might be more in the range of a 15mm. The Sunex lens come free with a Dewarper plug-in to correct the distortion.

The Sunex lens has an image circle of about 14.5mm, just short of the horizontal width of the sensor, so you can’t use the image without correcting it. Obviously there’s an image quality loss in the correction, but for those situations where it’s bright and sunny and you need a grand establishing shot, you have something you can work with.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX

For ‘regular’ wide angle work, I don’t think there’s a better option than the Tokina 11-16mm, which gives a 35mm equivalent range of 25-37mm at a very usable f/2.8.

If you really want an expensive prime, then this won’t disappoint:

Zeiss Distagon T* 15mm f/2.8 ZE (35mm equivalent)

Mid Range Lenses

For a lot of people the Tokina would be a regular lens, but this one is a great companion to it:

Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II LD SP Aspherical (IF) Zoom Lens

This gives you a 40-115mm equivalent. There are more expensive options like the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens or the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM but their advantages can only be seen with larger sensors. If you have the money go for it, but I think they’re wasted on the BMCC.

You’ll also find a good low-light prime lens handy in this range. Here are two ‘must-haves’:

Rokinon 24mm F/1.4
(55mm equivalent)

Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 Lens
(80mm equivalent)

To complete the range, if you find the focal lengths useful, you’ll want:

Menu

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

The Canon gives the equivalent of 55-161mm.

If you want to break the bank, these babies would be really cool:

Zeiss 25mm f/2.0 Distagon T* ZE

Zeiss 35mm f/2 Distagon T* ZE

Zeiss ZE Planar T* 50mm F/1.4
(115mm equivalent)

Don’t forget, the Zeiss lenses are all manual focus only, and will be best served with a good follow focus rig.

Telephoto Lenses

The crop factor of the BMCC makes this choice an easy one. Nothing beats the:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

This gives an equivalent range of 161-460mm. If you don’t want IS, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM is great too. I wouldn’t choose f/4 for daily professional use, but if you have total control over the lighting, then the f/4 versions are just fine.

Obviously purists might like primes, and I recommend two:

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZE
(196mm equivalent)

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM
(310mm equivalent)

Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 Set

For those wanting the ultimate quality that can be used with professional follow-focus systems, I recommend Zeiss CP.2 Lenses.

Zeiss Custom 7-Lens Compact Prime CP.2 Set (EF Mount)

The kit includes the 18mm f/3.6 T, 21mm/T2.9, 25mm/T2.9, 28mm/T2.1, 35mm/T2.1, 50mm/T2.1, and 85mm/T2.1. The image quality of these lenses are on par with the ‘normal’ Zeiss ZE lenses mentioned earlier, but they come in rugged bodies that are custom-made for heavy duty film and video work.

Once you’ve used them, there’s no going back.

You might want to know why I haven’t mentioned Nikon or Leica R glass. As far as I know, the performance differences of 35mm SLR lenses are only visible when used with sensors that demand that level of resolution, color or depth of field. Most of these differences vanish with sensors like the one BMCC has.

If you do have any of these lenses, there’s nothing wrong in getting adapters for the EF mount and using them instead.

Lens Mount Adapters

For Leica R:

Fotodiox Adapter, Leica R Lens to Canon EOS

For Nikon F-mount glass:

Fotodiox Adapter, Nikon Lens to Canon EOS

FILTERS

Filters are usually pieces of glass that manipulate the image before they hit the lens. Some cameras have ND filters after the lens, and most sensors have color filter arrays, etc. I use the term to signify a device that can be removed by the professional and used when necessary.

For our purposes, filters can be divided into two major groups – those that screw directly on to the lenses, and those that are used on matte boxes. The problem with screw-filters are that you’ll have to buy different filters for each lens filter thread. E.g., the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM has an 82mm filter size while the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM has a 77mm filter size. The most common size is 77mm, but before buying, check the filters to see if they are compatible with the lens or matte box you have chosen.

Filters can do many things, but for the purposes of this guide, I’ll stick to four major types:

  • UV Filter
  • Polarising Filter
  • Neutral Density (ND) Filter
  • Diffusion Filter

 
Considerations for professional use:

  • Metal construction
  • Uncompromising optical quality
  • Constant performance, no vignetting
  • Negligible difference between different samples of the same glass
  • Easily available
  • Scratch, water and dirt resistant if possible

 
Here are my suggestions for various filters. I list both screw mounted (mainly 77mm filter size) and 4″ x 4″ matte box mounted filters.

UV Filters

There’s no real harm in leaving a UV filter on your lens forever, as long as you remove it for cleaning once in while. If you don’t, the UV filter might get stuck onto the lens. The Tiffen 77mm UV Protection Filter is a great all-rounder. But the best is:

B+W 77mm UV Filter

Polarizing Filters

There are two kinds of polarizing filters – Linear and Circular. Both of them do these things:

  • Darken the sky
  • Remove reflections from surfaces like water, mirrors, etc
  • Take the gloss off shiny surfaces
  • Increase color saturation

 
I’ll keep it simple – stick to circular polarizers for the BMCC. They do everything linear polarizers do, and they are not hard on your camera’s meter.

Here are my choices:

B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer

Schneider Optics 4″x 4″ True-Pol Circular Polarizer

Neutral Density Filters

These work like sunglasses. They cut light. For outdoor video they are almost a necessity. There are three broad classes:

  • Fixed value ND filters
  • Variable ND filters
  • Split or Graduated ND filters

 
Fixed value ND filters offer the greatest precision, with the downside that you’ll need many filters to cover all scenarios.

Tiffen 77mm Neutral Density 0.9 Filter

For Matte boxes, try: Schneider Optics 4″x 4″ ND 0.3, Neutral Density Filter

Variable ND filters often cover a range, but a limited range. If you’re going for this kind of filter, get the best. You change the density by rotating the filter. Try: Singh-Ray Vari-ND Variable Neutral Density Filter

As you may have realized, 4″ x 4″ variable ND filters are not a good idea!

Split or Graduated filters are ND filters with the ND over a limited area only, like if you want to stop down only the sky, for example.

B+W 77mm Grad ND Filter

For Matte boxes, try:

Schneider Optics 4″x 4″ Neutral Density ND 0.9, Soft Edge Graduated Filter

Diffusion Filters

These filters soften the image, which can be a good thing when dealing with skin, etc. Like ND filters, diffusers have different ‘powers’, depending on the intensity of the effect you are after. E.g., The Tiffen 77mm Glimmer Glass Filter has numbers 1, 2, 3, etc – where 1 is the subtlest effect and it goes up from there. Test thoroughly before you use.

Tiffen 77mm Glimmer Glass 3 Filter

For Matte boxes, try:

Tiffen 4×4 Gold Diffusion Special Effects (FX) Filter #1

Filters obviously form an integral part of any videographer’s or cinematographer’s arsenal of tools. It’s so much easier and cheaper to get certain effects on camera rather than in a color grading suite – and not to mention more artistically satisfying!

MISCELLANEOUS ACCESSORIES

Lens Hoods

Lens hoods cut out flare. When not using matte boxes, when shooting with lights indoors or when shooting facing the sun outdoors, it is always a good idea to use lens hoods. A lot of the time, lens flare is hard to detect on a small LCD screen or viewfinder, and flare means a low contrast image.

Canon Lens Hood

Different focal lengths and camera lenses have different kinds of hoods. Stick to the one the manufacturer recommends.

Lens and Body Caps

There are two types: Front and Rear caps. You might be surprised how many people forget this while packing gear. Those who don’t forget usually lose them! Make a habit of always storing lenses with their caps on either end and you should be okay.

Lens Caps


The BMCC comes with a turret mount cap – but what if you lose it? I don’t see BMD selling mount caps as a standalone item. Hopefully, these should fit:

Body Caps

Lens suggestions for the MTF Mount

 
Unfortunately, no electronic information is passed via the MTF lens to the camera, at least at the time of this update. This means manual focus and manual iris control only – not that that’s a bad thing for video!

Important:

The BMCC sensor is too big for C-mount, Super 16mm, 16mm, 2/3″ CCD, 1/2″ CCD and 1/3″ CCD lenses – most of these lenses will vignette (have black borders). You might find a ‘freak’ lens that has a large enough image circle but I’d say that’s a long shot. 

Having said that, the BMCC is a 2.5K camera, and by using Super 16 lenses, you could crop the image to a 2K or 1080p format. I will not be covering this ‘workaround’ but the possibility exists nonetheless, and there are videos out there like this one that shows you how.

MFT manual lenses have two advantages: 

  • These lenses tend to go a stop higher than EF lenses at the wider end.
  • These lenses also tend to be much smaller and lighter.

 
To some, these advantages might be worth the investment. 

Wide Angle

This is where it gets frustrating. We actually have a rectilinear lens that goes all the way down to 7mm (16mm equivalent on a 35mm FF camera). Unfortunately – it doesn’t have a manual iris ring, and WILL NOT WORK with a ‘dumb’ MTF mount. If at all the BMCC has a future firmware or mount update that allows lens control, this lens might be on the top of everyone’s wide angle list:

Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0

Otherwise, it looks like we’re stuck with a fisheye lens here as well:

Rokinon 7.5mm F3.5 UMC Fisheye Lens

Since this lens is made for the MFT mount, the distortion might be worse and harder to correct than the Sunex 5.6mm lens I’d recommended for the EF mount. I’m sure we’ll have a few tests out soon.

Here are two wide angle gems:

Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0

A cheaper but equally good alternative:

SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6

Mid Range

Mid range and long range lenses are where MFT really shines – small and light, and even wider apertures! Here are my top picks:

For 40mm equivalent:

Voigtlander Nokton 17.5 mm f/0.95

For 58mm equivalent:

Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 Nokton

For 80mm equivalent:

Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7

Of course, Zeiss CP.2 lenses come in the MFT mount as well, if that is the direction you’re heading towards.

There is also an excellent but expensive zoom option:

Zeiss LWZ.2 15.5-45/T2.6


Most most users, this mid-range zoom should be okay:

Panasonic 14-150mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS

Note: It might need an adapter to work on the MFT format.

One last suggestion (this one is going to flip your mind):

Leica Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4


Obviously you’ll need an M-mount adapter like this one to go with it.

Telephoto

An excellent prime lens that’ll give you about 115mm equivalent is:

SLR Magic Noktor 50mm f/0.95

And now that we’re into M-mount territory, it doesn’t get better than these two:

Leica 90mm / f2.5

Leica 135mm f/3.4

The beauty of the MFT is it can take many kinds of lenses with adapters. There are excellent choices available, including the ones on the EF mount listed earlier, that can be adapted. You’ll find many old world manual lenses, each with its own charms and quirks.

For an excellent old-world zoom lens, I highly recommend:

Vivitar series 1 70-210mm f/3.5

You’ll need an adapter like this one.

We’ve covered a lot! In Part 3 I’ll cover matte boxes and follow focus systems.

Next: Part 3: Matteboxes and Follow Focus
Part 1: Ergonomics, Dimensions and Connectors


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21 replies on “Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Part 2”

  1. You just didn’t talk about the best cost x benefit lens for the BMCC, which is no doubts Sigma Art 18-35mm.

    There’s no other lens which can offer what this lens offers for the price.

  2. Hi, I bought a blackmagic pocket cinema and I buy a lens. I do not have much moneyso one option is to buy the Fotodiox adapter to use with my 24-105 f 4 canon but itmakes me a 70 mm because I multiply by 3 .. if I do well the conversion…  I wanted a wide angle lens and I’ve seen some lenses within all economic and I want to asked a recommendation for any option. Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS, 
    Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph MEGA OIS 
    Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Asph MEGA OIS 
    Panasonic Lumix GX Vario-PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS 
    Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R 
    Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ.Thanks very much.

  3. Sareesh Sudhakaran DonMostacho  Thanks, I eventually decided by a canon 70-200 f4. The quality is excellent, I would have liked but the f2.8 is more expensive, yet the f4 gives very good results. 

    Greetings and thanks for the reply.

    1. desiclad It depends – if you can’t afford a 70-200 f/4 then by all means. Two things to worry about:
      What if you don’t get a good version of that lens?
      What if the price of the lens + adapter is close to a used 70-200 f/4? Which is better? Go with the Canon. You will be able to take advantage of the electronic control on the EF mount as well.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Sareesh Sudhakaran Thanks for quick reply Sir Ji….. Your stuff always keeps me Enlightened :)…..
         Affordability is surely an issue, I wish to spend as little as possible….. I have seen Vivitar on ebay for damn low price……. Also I saw this video of one gentleman Franck Glencairn     https://vimeo.com/55975955
        Same lens is said to be used over there…. Images are just superb…… That is what alluring me….. Price difference too is steep, also Fotodiox adapters are available for15-20 bucks…
        If I manage to get one with reasonable quality, due you think that would be good deal? 
        You said in above article that only central part of lens is used due to crop factor…. So does that mean all low priced lens like Rokinon, Old Vivitar & Leica R are going to hold as good as pricy Zeiss on big screen.

        1. desiclad If you have achieved enlightenment, please share it with me. I’m still in the dark!
          Regarding your question, yes, it is a good lens, and if you get a good copy, go for it.
          Leica R lenses are great, but there are many generations. I am not well versed with them.

  4. Good info, Thanks! Do you know if anyone makes an adaptor for ARRI Standard Mount lenses for the MFT mount? I have a set from an ARRI IIC kit. I think tht they would cover the sensor since they work with standard 35mm 4 perf/4×3 frame. Thanks in advance.

    1. Absolutely. But very useful for run and gun work. Maybe Blackmagic missed a trick by not releasing one zoom with the camera.

  5. IMHO the zeiss 21mm is better than the 25mm, Is a well known lenses and I assume you put the 25mm because is close to a s35 35mm but the 21 is also close.

    1. I agree, Fabian – in fact, it’s tough not to recommend any Zeiss glass in general – I used a 25mm as an alternative to the Rokinon 24mm.

      The Zeiss 21mm will give close to a 50mm equivalent in 35mm.

      1. Be more accurate to say 135 or Full frame or S35 rather than 35mm which means different things to different people

  6. I think you might have forgotten about the Sigma 8-16 EF mount when you spoke about the “widest” non fisheye lenses ?

    jb

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