Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Review

I’ve always detested the gimmicky and largely meaningless term “disruptor” in IT lingo, but Blackmagic does play a disruptive role in the film industry. It creates cameras that capture video with a level of quality that is comparable to industry heavyweights like RED and ARRI but at a far lower price.

The latest version of the Pocket Cinema Camera range, which has grown to be a favorite among independent filmmakers, studios, and directors of photography, shoots at an astounding 6K resolution and starts at just $2,500 as opposed to the tens of thousands of dollars those other cameras demand. Although it is amazing, it is obviously not for everyone and wasn’t intended to be.

When Blackmagic released a 4K version of their Pocket Cinema Camera last year, it caused a stir. The term “pocket” is misleading because a pocket so big would be needed to fit the 6K’s body, which is 7 inches wide, 3.8 inches tall, and 4 inches deep. It is broader and fatter than full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras made by Sony, Nikon, or Canon today, yet it still has the same design.

It’s odd because, despite the fact that it can capture still images, this camera is really not designed to do that. Simply said, this camera is designed for recording video. It is in fact much smaller than the RED and Arri cameras discussed above.

The camera and the 4K version are fairly similar in terms of appearance. A huge 5-inch touchscreen takes up much of the rear. Although it appears fantastic inside, the sunshine outdoors makes it very difficult to see anything.

You’ll really wish it had an electronic viewfinder like a mirrorless camera at this point because it is so difficult to pull focus and determine the appropriate exposure. Six controls for autoexposure, autofocus, HFR (high frame rate), focus assistance, menu, and playback are located next to the screen.

The record start/stop button is on the top right of the camera, and the still photo button is directly next to it. You may adjust the settings with the single scroll wheel by your index finger by pressing the ISO, shutter speed, and white balance buttons behind it.

Additionally, there are three programmable Function buttons that you can use to enable zebra, grid, or LUT previews so you can see how the footage you’re filming might seem after grading. The camera does feature a built-in microphone, however, it is of poor quality. The only other possible usage is to sync video with an external recorder.

The SD and CFast 2.0 card slots are hidden behind a door on the right side of the camera. All of the ports are located on the left side of the camera. There is a locked 12-volt power supply, a USB-C connector, a conventional 3.5mm stereo mic jack, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a full-sized HDMI out (extremely useful! ), and a small XLR in with phantom power compatibility for high-quality audio.

The port covers on that side truly irk me. They are exceedingly awkward, difficult to put back on, and finicky. The camera’s battery door, tripod mount, and a sizable aperture for the built-in fan are all located on its bottom. Overheating is a common issue with mirrorless cameras when recording long video clips.

The BMPCC6bigger K’s image sensor is the primary distinction between it and the 4K from last year. The 6K has been upgraded to a Super 35 sensor from the 4K’s 4/3 sensor (similar in size to an APS-C sensor).

This provides a number of benefits. First off, the sensor is about 58 percent bigger, which means it can capture a lot more light. However, the higher resolution sensor offsets this benefit, making it only a slight improvement in low-light conditions. The bigger benefit is that you can utilize Canon EF-mount lenses, which have great optics and are commonly accessible.

Additionally, the 4/3 sensor cropped the field of vision 2x, compared to the Super 35 sensor’s 1.5x crop when compared to a full-frame sensor. You can obtain a clearer, wider field of view as a result.

The sole reason to purchase this camera is for its image quality.

The visual quality of this camera is by far the main—dare I say, the only—reason to purchase it, and wow, it does not disappoint. The film produced by 6K video with 12-bit colors is incredibly adaptable, especially in terms of color. When you choose Film mode in the dynamic range, the video you get out of the camera is very flat and colorless.

But don’t let it deceive you—there is a ton of information saved in those files that allows you to manipulate the colors whatever you like. This implies that you can create a wide variety of drastically diverse looks. Do you want it to have a 1970s film stock look to it? Easy. Or make it like a Busta Rhymes video from the early 2000s? Not an issue.

While the colors can be changed in countless ways, the shadows aren’t as adaptable. Blackmagic claims a dynamic range of 13 stops, although I believe this claim may be a bit overstated. If you’re not careful, it’s really simple to blow out highlights, so you stop down.

However, you can only raise the shadows so high before you begin to notice a lot of noise in them, and that noise usually has a purple color and is unsightly. The camera’s sensor has two native ISO settings of 400 and 3200, both of which provide excellent images. At ISO 6400, everything started to get quite noisy, but it was still workable.

The digital noise is much more noticeable at ISO 12,800, so I’d steer clear of the camera’s maximum setting of 25,600. As one would anticipate from a full-frame camera, my Sony A7Riii has a higher dynamic range, less tendency to blow out highlights, and better preservation of detail in shadows. However, because it is only an 8-bit video, the color options are much more limited. It doesn’t even come close in terms of hue, to be honest.

The BMPCC6color K’s versatility outshines that of rival mirrorless cameras.

The benefits of shooting in 6K are numerous. You’ll most likely mix your final product down to 4K, aren’t you? Well, the over-sampling offers it a nice little quality boost when you downscale a 6K frame to 4K. Additionally, you may crop in by roughly a third without losing quality. Or mention that you have some shaky video.

The edges of your movie will be somewhat cropped if you use a stabilizing technique (like Warp Stabilizer in Adobe Premiere). The video would need to be stretched to fit back into a 4K frame if you were shooting in 4K and completing in 4K, which results in pixel stretching and a discernible loss of sharpness and quality.

When you shoot in 6K, you can steady a highly shaky video without any pixels stretching out (which would require even more edge cropping).

The BMPCC6K uses the exclusive Blackmagic RAW codec, which is part of what makes it special. Pied Piper-level compression, that’s what it is. The 5:1 constant bitrate setting, which I used when taking the aforementioned video, yielded excellent results.

Even at 3:1 compression, you can try to squeeze out a little bit more color information, but only a professional colorist using a very expensive monitor would be able to tell the difference. However, despite the remarkable compression, the files are still somewhat big.

For a 10-second clip, shooting in 6K24 in Blackmagic RAW 5:1 will require 1.5GB, and filming in 6K50 will require twice that amount. That is substantial, and it will soon deplete your available cards. When I was exclusively filming at 4K24, Blackmagic RAW 5:1, the 256GB card I was using to test the camera was completely full in just over 28 minutes of shooting.

Working with Blackmagic RAW files is getting easier and easier. You had to edit it using Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve program until recently. I was able to trim the aforementioned film in Adobe Premiere because of the new software that Blackmagic has made available for both macOS and Windows machines.

DaVinci Resolve 16 includes best-in-class color grading tools, making it a fully functional post-production suite (particularly if you’re filming Blackmagic RAW). However, there is a learning curve, and I was unable to complete my evaluation in time by teaching myself how to use a brand-new editing tool.

The maximum speed when shooting in 6K is 50 frames per second, however, you can choose the High Frame Rate mode if you know your project timeline will be 24 frames per second (which has a more cinematic appearance than the typical video frame rate of 30 fps). While recording at 6K50, the file will be saved at 24 fps, which is half-speed.

If you know for sure that you want that clip to be slo-mo, then it’s an easy alternative, and the half-speed movie it generates looks great. Although it does capture audio, it is not synced to the half-speed video and will end halfway through the clip because it is real-time. Even so, it’s still preferable to having no audio at all, and if you wish, you may stretch it with audio editing software.

Don’t be deceived by the camera’s approachable appearance, which includes its affordable pricing, large, bulbous shape, and great touchscreen menu. This is not the kind of camera that a novice can pick up and suddenly start producing stunning clips with.

To begin with, it lacks the automatic functionality you might anticipate on a consumer or prosumer camera. When you want to lock in your shutter speed and iris, features like auto ISO would be excellent to have. Handheld images are rather unstable since it lacks in-body stabilization, which is currently a feature of mirrorless cameras from Sony and Nikon.

For virtually every shot, a tripod or gimbal is required. Additionally, the body is not weather-sealed, making it extremely risky to use in wet or dusty conditions.

The focus is the worst aspect. First off, it doesn’t have continuous autofocus, which means it can’t follow moving subjects in the frame like almost all mirrorless cameras can. (In this arms race, Sony’s Eye-AF is currently in the lead.)

When you hit the back button to activate autofocus, it often takes a few seconds of wild hunting before it locks on to the focal point, rendering it practically useless during a shoot.

Even then, the focusing isn’t very good, so you may need to move your shot to focus on anything, then move it back. You also can’t tap to focus or shift the focal point away from the middle of the frame.

The BMPCC6K demands a deft touch and a lot of patience to produce the best video.

All of this is to imply that manual focus pulling requires a strong eye and an experienced hand, and that talent can take years to master. Even if you are an experienced director of photography, it will be quite challenging for you to see what you’re doing if you are shooting outside due to the screen’s low brightness, thus you might end up spending additional money on an external monitor. For professional DPs, though, who are primarily who this camera is for, this is less of a problem.

Bob Caniglia, director of sales operations for Blackmagic in the Americas, told me, “It’s got a consumer pricing, but it’s actually a pro camera. “The consumer pricing enables us to connect with those who are new to it but want to take it seriously. It’s not really something that a weekend dad will get unless he is an expert in the field.

That’s also how I interpret it. This device is tremendously powerful if you already have some experience in filmmaking and have hit the boundaries of what a prosumer mirrorless camera can do. However, it would still be good to have some of these contemporary conveniences included.

In direct sunshine, it can be very difficult to see the huge LCD.

The camera consumes memory cards and batteries like a T. rex coming off of a juice fast. It uses the little Canon LP-E6 battery, a model that has been used in digital SLRs for as long as they have existed. Blackmagic states that 45 minutes of 6K24 recording at 50% brightness on a CFast 2.0 card is possible.

If you’re outside, you’ll need to use the screen’s maximum brightness, and even that won’t be bright enough. I tried it using an external SSD, but the record time was just 30.5 minutes. In either case, that is not good. There is a new grip from Blackmagic that takes two much larger Sony L-series batteries. You will receive two hours of recording time from Blackmagic. It will be available for $245, plus the price of batteries, which will be about $125 per.

Blackmagic has a list of memory options that have been tested to function with the BMPCC6K without causing frame drops or other glitches in terms of storage.

You’ll need to utilize a CFast 2.0 card for a 6K video. The issue is that CFast 2.0 is still quite new, which makes it hard to get and prohibitively expensive. For this study, I purchased a SanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB card, which cost a staggering $420 before tax. It is ludicrous.

Compared to CFast 2.0 cards, external drives are a more affordable option for storing video.

The USB-C connector and an SSD would be the preferable solutions, right? There are just two drives on the aforementioned list that are authorized for shooting at 6K50 rates. There are not many possibilities there.

However, both the light and small (so they can just dangle from the camera) SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD and the Samsung Portable T5 with which I tried it operated wonderfully. You’ll receive a lot more value for your money with that option than you would with a CFast 2.0 card, which is a nice alternative to have.

You’ll need a computer with strong graphics processing capabilities while editing 6K video, especially since you’ll be working with color and applying filters, both of which demand even more processing power. Additionally, you’ll want to use the quickest SSD you can find.

My late-2018 HP Spectre x360 15-inch laptop and a Samsung Portable SSD X5, which makes use of Thunderbolt 3 and the incredibly quick NVMe interface, were both used for my edit. It was a relief that the hard disk offered me no problems at all. The computer also performed nicely. Adobe Premiere CC was the only thing that kept falling flat on its face.

About every five minutes, Premiere would crash when coloring the video. It made me wish I already knew how to use DaVinci Resolve when I chatted with some other producers and they all concurred that Premiere CC has been experiencing numerous problems lately.

Resolve Studio, the most feature-rich version that comes with this camera contains everything from assembly to sound mixing and motion graphics.

The stunning colors are really what the camera is all about. They are wonderfully bendable, colorful, and lifelike. I had never been able to shoot in 6K before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Blackmagic RAW didn’t cause my machine to catch fire, and it allows you a ton of versatility for trimming and stabilizing in post. I truly wish it had sharper focusing, a little less shadow noise, in-body stabilization, an EVF, and weather sealing, but there must be trade-offs in order to capture footage of this caliber for this price.

Many of the DPs I’ve worked with in the past year have utilized the BMPCC4K as their B-camera, and the results they obtain are stunning (even though they, too, have a lot of focus issues with the camera). I am aware of a few people that have preordered the 6K and will switch over as soon as it is available. Why is clear to see?

In the coming months, many small studios and independent DPs will start using them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if your next favorite independent film was shot on one of these. You must be knowledgeable in order to produce pure eye candy, but if you are, you will be.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Price

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • outstanding image quality
  • affordable entry price in comparison to other movie cameras
  • Wide compatibility with Canon EF-mount lenses
Need Improvements
  • inadequate battery life
  • weak autofocus capabilities
  • The screen is difficult to observe outside

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