The Blackmagic Pocket Camera Guide (Part Two): Lenses, Filters, Matteboxes and Follow Focus Systems

In Part One we looked at ergonomics and specifications of the Blackmagic Pocket Camera (aka Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera or BMDPCC). In this part we’ll look at lens options, filters, matteboxes and follow focus systems for the camera.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free swipe file on how to shoot night scenes well (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

About the Sensor and Super 16mm

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

The Blackmagic Pocket Camera has a Super 16mm-sized sensor. What does that mean? Here’s the actual size of Super 16mm film:

Super 16mm Dimensions

The Blackmagic Pocket Camera sensor is slightly smaller at 12.48mm x 7.02mm, but it’s nothing to bicker about. The good news is that the sensor is a true 1920 x 1080 (or 2 MP) sensor. This will reduce artifacts caused by line-skipping and incorrect interpolation (downsampling).

The sensor demands a lens that can deliver a resolution of 154 lines per mm, or 77 line pairs per mm. This is very similar to the original BMCC 2.5K camera. In plain speak, you need a really good lens.

The sensor has a horizontal crop factor of 2.88. Here’s a table comparing focal lengths to full-frame 35mm equivalents:

Focal Length (mm) 35mm FF equivalent (mm)
5 14
8 23
10 29
11 32
14 40
17 49
21 60
24 69
28 81
30 86
32 92
35 101
40 115
50 144
75 216
100 288
200 576
300 864

The Blackmagic Pocket Camera comes in an active MFT mount (Micro Four Thirds, also sometimes written as m43). The advantages of the MFT mount are:

  • The lenses don’t have to cover a large sensor, so they tend to be smaller and hence lighter than full frame or APS-C lenses.
  • They are primarily designed for highly demanding still-camera sensors, so they should be able to resolve 77 lp/mm.
  • They are cheaper.
  • They have a smaller flange focal distance, because of which various lenses can be adapted to its mount via an adapter.

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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

As you can see, adapting most lenses on an MFT/m43 mount is easy. But let’s clear up some confusion regarding C-mount (Super 16mm, CCTV) and E-mount (Sony NEX, etc.) lenses.

The problem with C-mount Super 16mm lenses on the Blackmagic Pocket Camera

As you can see from the table above, the flange focal distance of the C-mount is lower than Micro Four Thirds. It doesn’t matter if the Blackmagic Pocket Camera is Super 16mm size, if the lenses made for that format (which are in the C-mount), cannot be adapted without major compromises.

I do not recommend old Super 16mm C-mount lenses for the following reasons:

  • They are old, and not all of them were good quality even when new.
  • Those that were of good quality, might not be good today.
  • The new C-mount lenses, made for CCTV cameras or for 1″ sensors, are expensive ($1,000+). Even if you were willing to pay the price, there aren’t any good wide angle options that cover the 1″ sensor.
  • Very few wide angle options, and they might have serious distortion and aberration problems. Most of them will vignette.
  • Because they are made for a smaller flange focal distance, focusing will not ‘work as advertised’. The worst problem is that you most likely will lose infinity focus. Please read this excellent article for more information.
  • The really good ones are still expensive today, because they are hard to find. What’s the point of recommending a lens that’s hard to find?
  • Some of the C-mount lenses will need to be physically modified to fit on a C-mount to MFT adapter.
  • These lenses will not work with IRIS and Focus control.
  • These lenses will not offer Image Stabilization, which you’ll need if you’re going to hand-hold the camera.
  • These lenses are heavy (especially the zooms), and are usually made of metal. Imagine the stress they’ll put on your Pocket Camera mount.
  • Finally, the most important thing – even if you manage to form a collection of these lenses, they most likely will not match when cut together. What happens if you drop or break one of them, or if they are stolen?

Seriously, unless you have quick access to a Super 16mm lens that fits perfectly, and can afford it, and love the optical quality and ‘look’ of that lens, go for it. Otherwise, stay away and don’t waste your time.

The same applies to lenses made for 2/3″ CCD sensors, E-mount lenses, Nikon CX lenses, etc.; which have an even smaller flange distance than Super 16mm. Lenses made specifically for such sensors, like ENG lenses, will not cover the entire image circle necessary for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. The ones that cover the 1″ area, are super expensive.

All this aggravation for your $995 Blackmagic pocket camera? Why bother?
SLR Magic Nokton
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Lenses for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera

Here are my lens suggestions for the Blackmagic Pocket Camera (the numbers in brackets signify the 35mm full-frame equivalent):

PRIMES

Wide Sunex 5.6mm f/5.6 Fisheye with Adapter (16mm)
Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 UMC Fisheye (22mm)
Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 ED Fisheye Lens (23mm)
All will need ‘fixing’ in post, and are compromises at best
Medium SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6 (35mm)
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm f/2.0 (35mm)
Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 G (40mm)
Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/1.8 (49mm)
Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 (50mm)
Voigtlander 25mm Nokton f/0.95 (72mm)
SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 25mm T0.95 (72mm)
Telephoto Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN (86mm)
Voigtlander 35mm (Ultron or M-mount with adapter) f/1.7 or f/1.4 (100mm)
Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 (122mm)
SLR Magic Noktor 50mm f/0.95 (144mm)
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 (216mm)
Zeiss CP.2 Primes
Super Telephoto Canon Super Telephoto L Series Primes with adapter

ZOOMS

Wide Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 (20mm to 40mm)
Medium Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 (35mm to 100mm)
Telephoto Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G (100mm to 288mm)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM with adapter (200-576mm)

Lens Adapters

Because some of the lenses are not direct MFT mounts, you’ll need adapters. Here are two 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 Pocket Camera:

What’s the common factor? None of these need adapters, and all of them are the lightest in their class. Of all these options, if I had to pick one/two lenses, these would be it:

Important:

MFT lens or Manual lens – The Blackmagic Pocket Camera has an active MFT mount, and you might find it convenient to use autofocus and IRIS control. These options will only be available with the Panasonic or Olympus lenses in my list. Also, they will be far lighter than their semi-metallic manual lenses. Don’t forget that electronic lenses might also offer image stabilization. That’s three very important features, if you need them.

SLR Magic vs Voigtlander – The biggest problem with the Voigtlander lenses is that their focus rings aren’t compatible with most follow focus systems. At f/0.95, you might find focusing an impossible task. On the other hand, SLR Magic are based in Hong Kong, and if you have defective product, shipping it back and forth might be more than you bargained for (depends on whether there are any direct dealers in your area). Get the ‘Cine’ version of the SLR Magic lens, and pay extra for the ‘Lens gear’ (about $100 difference) if you are planning to use it with a follow focus kit.

What about the Metabones Speed Booster? – At the time of this writing, there are three options available for the Micro Four Thirds mount:

  • Nikon F – $429
  • Leica R – $399
  • Contax Yashica (T-mount)- $399

Now, there is no doubt that the Metabones Speed Booster delivers on its promises, but is it financially and practically viable, in spite of it?

E.g., if you want to use cheap Nikon F lenses to go wider (0.71x) and faster (about 1 stop), then what are the options? You can find a used 18mm f/3.5 manual lens for $500, or a 20mm f/3.5 for $200. This would translate to a 13mm lens (40mm FF equivalent) at f/2.8 or slightly better. Total cost? At least $629 or more. The Olympus 12mm f/2 costs $799.

Or, let’s say you strike a bargain on a 24mm f/2.8 lens for $100. This will become a FF equivalent of 50mm at f/2. Price? $529. An Olympus 17mm f/1.8 (same 50mm FF equivalent) is only $499. You do the math.
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Here’s a video by John Brawley using the 12mm T/1.6 and the 17.5mm f/0.95:

Filters & Matteboxes

I’ve covered filters in great detail in the Chapter on Filters and Matteboxes in the Comprehensive Guide 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.

Even though Blackmagic Design can post a photo like this doesn’t mean it’s worth the effort:

BMDPCC Monster Rig

Matteboxes will make your rig seriously front-heavy (not to mention ridiculous-looking, with the lenses I’ve recommended), and might not be a very wise decision. Follow the suggestions I’ve listed in the link above, if you must have a mattebox. Don’t forget to match them against the front diameter of your lens.

Follow Focus Systems

The Blackmagic Pocket Camera will most likely have autofocus, but that won’t work with manual lenses. This means you’ll appreciate a follow focus system for those expensive f/0.95 primes. On the other hand, rigging a follow focus system is going to be tricky if the lens is small.

For cheap but reliable, try this:

Opteka FF180 Reversible Follow Focus

If you want something smaller but sturdier, try the Edelkrone Focusone Pro.

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

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free swipe file on how to shoot night scenes well (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).

 

46 replies on “The Blackmagic Pocket Camera Guide (Part Two): Lenses, Filters, Matteboxes and Follow Focus Systems”

  1. Rented two MFT SLR Magic CINE lenses for my BMPCC. Am I crazy or do these lenses not “lock” onto the camera mount? What gives? Anyone know?

    1. Well… sorry if this sounds condescendant but I dunno your level of experience… Did you pressed the button on the camera’s side, then align both red dots properly (the one on the lens and the one on the mount), then carefully get the bayonet in place and rotate it clockwise and push it a tiny bit counter-clock wise and heard a “tilt” sound?

      Also why didn’t you called the rental company about this problem? They could help you better than us.

  2. Sareesh Sudhakaran compass2k On further investigation I found mine works ok but doesnt lock on at all. I’m not going to gaff it on or hold a big chunk of glass like the 17-35 so its useless to me unless I happen across as AI classic lens. It seems pretty robustly machined and finished so I guess it works for a narrower range of lens than described.
    Ordered the fotodiax (through your link ;) ) it has good reviews with AF-S lens on amazon so fingers ‘n toes x’d.

  3. compass2k I use a few chinese Nikon to EOS adapters myself. Bought them from dx.com and they work fine. But it’s really hit and miss. A tiny variation in the machining will ruin it. Mine has really fragile locks – you can’t keep removing them or they break.

  4. Sareesh SudhakaranGot a cheap chinese one – nicely machined but despite being advertised as Nikkor AI lens – my AF-S lens (a flavour or AI mechanically according to Ken Rockwell) it didnt fit at all – not a misfit but clearly machiined for something else. It was cheap so its the three weeks waiting for the turtle to swim from Honk Kong to Sydney that hurt. Guess he didnt know about that high speed stream Nemo used .. ;)

    1. Great article but I wanna point some things out :
      1) You will need an IR cut filter for this camera.
      2) You will need large 256 or 512 Sandisk Extreme Pro cards for RAW footage. Only Sandisk cards are accepted by BlackMagic. Don’t ask me why…
      3) This camera records more than 13 fstops of dynamic range, believe it or not. For some reason Black Magic decided to go with a file format that doesn’t allow to display the fukl dynamic range. I think this is because it’s already such an unbelievable deal with 13fs that they don’t want to spoilt their higher-end products.
      Don’t believe me?
      Go in DaVinci Resolve. Adjust your exposure as needed and then bake-in a lut of your choice (Fujifim’s ones are
      great). In camera RAW, after clicking “preserve luminance”, change the color space from BM Log to Rec.709
      Change the gamut to Rec.709
      Change the inpuy to Rec. 709
      Click luminance mapping
      Change the output to Arri Alexa

      This will de-compress the dynamic range. I saw this first-hand, and it looks like Arri footage once you do this.
      We have a camera that goes for 500 bucks and with this little
      trick produce images as good as a camera that goes for 50 000.
      Enough said…!

  5. Sareesh Sudhakaran compass2k I am 10X glad I have the older (aperture ring AFS ) model as that seems to be the price differential.
    I will get the fotodiox one and shout how it goes.
    Thanks for the feedback.

  6. compass2k If it’s the older version(s) you have to set the aperture manually and use a dumb adapter, like the first one I listed. If it’s a G type (no aperture ring), use the second, which allows you aperture control.
    Both are F-mounts.

  7. Sareesh Sudhakaran I should have said AFS instead of g mounts (g having no aperture ring).  The physical connections are different. 
    It’s a bit infuriating as people at the forums have been caught and yet the vendors flogging adapters dont discriminate which type they are.

  8. Sareesh Sudhakaran compass2k I saw that but unfortunately they don’t distinguish between f and g type mounts – f has an aperture ring (as mine does). I’ve noticed when the vendor doesn’t distinguish its usually the wrong one.
    Which means problems. Not just with aperture – the adaptor just doesnt work.  a few people in the forums have got caught. Might have to ask directly at some shop that lists this product.

    But thanks for the research.

  9. Any idea’s Sareesh on a lens adaptor from Nikon f mount ( Nikkor afs ed 17-35 zoom) to MFT for the BM pocket?
    Fotodiox dont seem to have one and metabones are pricey (plus I dont use auto controls). 
    Am based in Aus but for such a light item international is fine (exempting those yanks which offer only $50 courier for $10 items outside the safe borders of the land of the free ..). It’s ok I know the NSA already have
    every hostile keystroke Ive typed recorded in my record ;).

  10. In speaking to a colleague last evening, there is a possibility I am in error regarding the 10mm Switar, which is to say, I noticed one of my Switar 10mm f/1.8 lenses only vignettes on the right side of the frame. It turns out, a trip to a lens specialist for “optical re-centering” may cure the vignetting. Upon the introduction of Super 16mm, many lenses used on the Bolex Super 16mm camera, like the 10mm Switar, simply needed optical re-centering to properly cover the format. It simply wasn’t necessary when only the 1.33:1 (4×3) 16mm format was the standard.

  11. I read through this particular page, and find it seems to be the work of an avid newcomer. Regarding C-Mount lenses, the information is in error. Yes, there are terrible C-Mount lenses, essentially the kind which sullied the C-Mount name itself, which is to say “security camera lenses.” 
    If you seek true 16mm film production lenses of the past, keep in mind the rule of the “circle of confusion.” In lens design, the circle of confusion refers to the circular cross section of the cone of light as it is focused by a lens. When that circular cross section gets small enough to make the observer say “Tack sharp focus!” (or the technical limit of the lens,) you have the required circle of confusion. This gets SMALLER as formats decrease in size. 
    Thus, good lenses from the dead days of 16mm film will often be of excellent quality on a Pocket Cinema Camera. I even use a dual converter setup: Nikon to C-Mount then C-Mount to M43 to put some lenses on my Pocket Cinema Camera, and even with all that conversion, no problem focusing to infinity to near focus limit. Same goes for all of my Super 16mm covering 16mm lenses from Angenieux and others. Great lenses have no issue.

    Even a regular 16mm lens will sport a sufficient image circle to cover Super 16mm once the focal length gets to about 25mm. Too bad the 10mm Switar does not cover, as it is superior, likely, to any lens Canon or Nikon makes in acuity and image quality. That lens was a thing of wonder. Scenes shot with it on fine grain 16mm film easily matched the acuity of standard 35mm film production, which was much to the amazement of the colorist with whom I worked in Miami all those years ago.
    On the Blackmagic Design Cinematography Forum, I have viewed results from M43 Third Party lenses (brand new purchase) on the Pocket Cinema Camera. In some cases, they simply cannot focus to sharpness. Awful. Soft. Useless. Contrast that with my 25mm f/0.95 C-Mount Angenieux, maybe 45 years old… tack sharpness, wonderful imaging, and great bokeh ready for Davinci. It displays only its former strength on the Pocket Cinema Camera.

    Now, to my dismay, everyone wants to have auto iris, auto focus, auto everything with the Blackmagic cameras. These are not filmmakers, but lay people or hobbyists likely without an exposure meter.

    As to the Angenieux 17-68, I have it  in the standard 16mm version. It vignettes wide and settles into usefulness at around 25mm. So, semi useful. It also cost more, when new, than most every 35mm SLR lens. It has exceptional optical quality.
    Finally, if you want some wide angle, great C-Mount current manufacture manual lenses, look to Kowa and Schneider. Their 1″ (One Inch) series of machine vision lenses exceed the imaging ability of the Pocket Cinema Camera and even the Kowa 6mm f/1.8 has very well controlled distortion. And yes, it focuses fully.

  12. Sareesh Sudhakaran JoaquinEscriva   yeah, its C-mount. That means too much vigneting? Hey, a simple question, but I would really love to have your opinion. Between the panasonic Gh2 and the sony nex5n, which one would you choose?

  13. Sareesh Sudhakaran AndreyValentsov Well, they still will need some testing, as their current model is not really good. But their official representative promise to make everithing good in a new version.

    Also there is Mitakon Lens Turbo. From what I see it has a descent image quality, but this company doesn’t have Nikon to MFT version yet (mainly NEX versions for now).

  14. Well, I think a Metabones can be a considerable option, because having a set of Nikon lenses will be useful in case in future you will need to use any other camera (BMCC 4K, for example).
    Also, while the price for 1 lens + 1 adapter is quite high, the price of 6-7 lenses and 1 adapter is very reasonable. 
    Metabones is not the only adapter available, Fotodiox is going to release 2 new MFT-Nikon F Focal Reducers (with 0.5 and 0.7 magnification), which are gonna cost around 200 USD.
    I personally plan to get some simple MFT lens (like Pana 14-42) for occasional shooting with small rig and metabones Nikon-MFT for some serious work.

  15. Sareesh Sudhakaran EugenMaximilianDanzinger 
    ah nice … didnt know about that one … and its cheap too !

  16. Sareesh Sudhakaran EugenMaximilianDanzinger  
    just heard the IS is not working … all olympus lense haven onboard IS not in the lens.

  17. What about this lens?

    35mm F/1.7 CCTV Lens
     http://www.ebay.it/itm/221120944434?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649

  18. KneetoeGreat question. Why just Leica M, why not Leica R, Nikon F, Canon EF, etc.?
    The idea is to find a lens that is ‘compatible’ with the Pocket Camera in both size and price – otherwise even PL and PV zooms (not unlike those shown in the marketing campaigns) are fair game. Nothing wrong with using any of these lenses, though recommending them to the average Pocket camera user as the lens to have is going too far. 
    Secondly, Leica M lenses come in ‘sparse’ focal length options. How will they work with a 2.88 crop factor? E.g., the widest available prime is 18mm, which will give you an FF equivalent of 50mm, no wider, but with f/3.8. Now you have the problem of ‘matching’ the lens draw or look with a wider option. If there are acceptable options, then people wouldn’t be so fanatical about M lenses in the first place!

    I’d hate to use Leica glass for just its ‘center sharpness’ and lose out on most of its area, angle of view and drawing characteristics on a full frame sensor. But if you already have several lenses, why not try them out? Any Leica lens with good MTF performance in the center should serve well.
    I have a Comprehensive Guide that does include Leica lenses of all kinds. Horses for courses, and all that.

  19. i have several leica m lenses, but if i’m reading correctly leica isn’t on your recommended list.  why is that?  i have an adapter i’ve attached to my fuji xpro1 and the m images, although often out of focus, are beautiful.   i am not a pro shooter although i’ve directed 4 theatrical features, so consider this a question from an amateur.  thank you–

  20. Hi Suresh.
    Here these information above about BM pocket camera are realy easy to understand, but i am really confused on lenses with adapter. ma confusion on “i have all canon L series Lenses” i mean all canon lenses, is tat would be possible to use adapter to attach these canon lenses with BLack magic pocket Camera.. if yes!! Name a adapter. If NO!! i’l drop ma idea to buy one.

  21. Hi Sareesh,
    Thanks for all the information you provide. Just wondering if a follow focus kit of some sort with hard stops, would be required when using the Panasonic zoom lenses?  I have not got my camera & lenses yet but as Im used to focus by looking at the distance scale on my current EX1R, I’m a little apprehensive of what to expect with these ‘fly by wire’ type of lenses.
    Thanks–Ajit

  22. Hi Sareesh
    I have a gh3/ 12-35 mm Panny 2.8 with a4/3 adapter for 2 eng 2/3 fujinon and canon lenses. They work great with the adapter and power packs designed for use with the Gh3.
    These 1.7f 10-100mm lenses also have 2x capability to cover the Gh3 sensor. Should not this setup not cover the super 16 sensor of the BMD Pocket Camera?
    I know it will work with the Panny lens but would think or hope my eng lenses would work with the BMD pocket as well.
    These eng lenses are clean and cinematic sweet. I have been using sony’s v1u ‘ s in our company to date.
    But the results in low light with the Gh3 and stated lenses is the reason for my switching.
    Your thoughts? Thx
    Brian
    HDmax Productions
    Canada

    1. Hdmax  If it covers m43 (the GH3 sensor) completely (or even with slight vignetting), it will be perfect for the Pocket camera. In fact, it will be better because you will only be using the sweetest spot of the lens – the center.
      ENG lenses are top notch, especially the 2/3″ ones – which is why they are super expensive. 
      On the flip side, I say wait and watch for actual results from the Pocket camera, because the GH3 is brilliant and an all round better camera for video.

      1. Sareesh Sudhakaran Hdmax 
        Thanks for your thoughts. I agree waiting for more results with the Pocket camera. The GH3 is brilliant. it beats my V1U Sony completely when it comes to almost any shooting situation other just bright daylight.  Thanks again.

  23. Nice post, thanks for the info.  You recommend the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 but this one can’t take a filter so forget using any ND.  On my GH2 I can’t shoot anything outdoors during the day without ND even fully stopped down and at the lowest ISO of 160 due to overexposure.  Any solutions on this lens or should I consider the Olympus M ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 as an alternative.  Any reason you didn’t include this one?  thanks

  24. Excellent post, I almost got sucked into the whole S16 lens guess. Question, does the apiture change along with the FOV. Does a f2.8 stay at f2.8 or does it increase also? Thanks
    Best,
    Anthony Marino

    1. Marino215 Anthony, thanks for writing in! Actually, I don’t understand your question completely. The FOV at a given focal length is fixed, and the aperture changes will not affect that (it shouldn’t).
      Aperture rings that can lock on to a value, say f/2.8, will stay that way, however the FOV might change due to focus breathing.

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