Blackmagic Cinema Camera Review: It’s Aussome
Full disclosure: I have never filmed with film. The closest I’ve physically been to film is watching the Behind the Scenes of The Shining. Or, perhaps, seeing Hugo in 3D. While I’m making confessions, I’ll also admit I have yet to shoot with an Alexa or a RED (although I’ve been in the same room with the latter). So I come from a decisively digital pedigree. That being said, nothing has made me feel more like a filmmaker and less like a CIE-XYZ-digital-color-spacemaker than the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The ins and outs of this camera have been chronicled by others, but I’ll share my perspective as a filmless filmmaker.
A past user of DSLRs and the Sony FS100, the main personal draw of the BMCC was the motion rendering. There is something decisively off with the motion of the FS100. While it’s still a fantastic bang for your buck, it’s tough to get a cinematic look from the FS100 (see my example here). The Blackmagic Cinema Camera doesn’t have this issue. The motion is organic and very filmlike.
With this new Australian masterpiece, many have feared the rolling shutter and its alleged judder. I wanted to tackle this issue head on and filmed a quick handheld test in 90 minutes. Using a simple shoulder rig, I did not notice any more rolling shutter, judder, jello, etc than the FS100. Even when using a 35mm lens (equivalent of a 50mm on a 35mm sensor), I feel like it was easy to achieve natural stability. What do you think?
While filming the thought-provoking and provocative film above, it was 20 degrees and I was using a new not-yet-calibrated Small HD DP6. I was a little too dark, so I was overexposing a bit. I was avoiding zebras but when I imported the RAW footage into DaVinci Resolve, I found many of my clips to be 2-3 stops overexposed. Several profanities later, I realized all of the detail and color info was still available! There are maybe two or three shots with blown out highlights, but almost all detail was easily retainable, even at 3 stops overexposed. If you even overexpose a ½ stop on a DSLR or FS100, you’re in bad shape. Not so with this camera. It was a mindblowing experience pushing the footage with in Davinci. Like Bruce Willis in our favorite M Night Shyamalan joint, it couldn’t be broken.
The detail is also incredible. In the video below, I did a quick shoot with my wife. As you can see in the hair, skin and macro closeups of the eyes, there isn’t detail this camera doesn’t suck up.
While I think Canon has really fallen behind the curve in the large sensor video value game, they did create an ergonomic masterpiece in the C*00 series. But other than that, there really isn’t a nonbroadcast camera that doesn’t need a rig in most situations. So I’m not really sure what the fuss is over the form factor. The BMCC body is beautiful and it is pretty easy to rig. I’m using the Ikan battery plate, which easily allows me to use my FS100 batteries. If you have old Canon or Sony batteries and are lookign for a budget-conscious decision, I would highly reocmmend the Ikan plates.
Because the camera isn’t very long, it’s also easy to balance on a shoulder rig, using my FS100 should rig, I found the BMCC much easier to balance and significantly more comfortable than my FS100, even though the FS100 weighs less.
The only thing that is a pain thus far is the audio situation. I thought I could use a battery-powered Sennheiser me66, but it doesn’t work. You’ll need a preamp no matter what.
Blackmagic is quickly becoming the Google of the camera world; they provide way more value than necessary to make their products a great deal. I haven’t been using DaVinci for long, but it’s a fantastic tool. To get it for $399 less than the very affordable Magic Bullet Looks is incredible. The FCPX/DaVinci workflow has been working flawlessly so far. As I outline here, I’m a big fan of FCPX and this integration is fantastic. If you forgo RAW, it’s nice to still give Clipwrap a break and import your Prores files straight into FCPX. The log-like Prores footage is great to grade, either in FCPX or Resolve.
The wait was worth it. The 5 month delay tested our first-world patience, but Blackmagic is providing something unlike any other camera company and it makes sense that it took a little more time to develop. At age four, my parents gave me my first unauthentic Australian experience and took me to Crocodile Dundee II at the theatre. For whatever reason it freaked me out, but I was not forever scarred: my favorite camera company is Australian.