When the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera was announced at NAB this year I immediately felt it could be a great addition to my Nikon D800. The reason being that these are two completely different types of camera's:
- One (the D800) is a better photo camera then it is a video camera, the other (BMPCC) is a dedicated video camera.
- The D800 shoots H.264 24 Mbits compressed video, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera shoots 220 Mbits ProRes and Losless Cinema DNG RAW video
- The D800 has a full frame sensor to achieve that ultra shallow depth of field look, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera has a S16 sized sensor on which a shallow depth of field is a little harder to accomplish
- The D800 with a 80-200mm lens (my longest lens) is not not long enough by far to shoot birds / animals in nature whereas the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with the same 80-200mm lens has an equivalent FOV as that of a 240-600mm lens on a D800
- The D800 is pretty big and heavy, the BMPCC is tiny and light
But I didn't pre-order the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera because I was still in doubt wether I really needed it.
Trips into Nature
But since NAB I have joined my friend Ivo a few times on trips into dutch nature (is that proper english?) to take pictures of birds. He is really into birding and taking pictures of birds, whereas I am just loving to be outdoors in nature and shoot video of everyting that I find interesting. This is a video I created after one of those trips:
First Bird Hide
When we visited a bird hide in the east of The Netherlands in late august I really couldn't leave the hide that much to shoot anything other than the birds and was really limited by the focal length of my 80-200 F2.8 Nikkor lens. So when we decided to go back there again late october for those nice autumn colors the thought of buying a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera came to my mind.
Ordering the BMPCC
I convinced myself based on the differences of the cameras described above in conjuction with the fact that I would love to experience what it is like to shoot RAW video, to buy the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.
There was already some footage online which I liked (apart from the white orbs and black dots) so I decided to call a few shops in The Netherlands to find out if I would be able to get one in time. This was in the last week of september and we had booked the bird hide for the 3rd of november.
With the bad experience of deliveries for the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera in mind most of the shops I called told me that it could take quite some time, maybe even in the new year that they would be able to deliver.
I decided to pre-order the Pocket Camera at three different (online) stores, I chose them because I had already ordered products from each of them several times and really liked their service, plus I thought that people interested in the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera were more likely to (pre)order it at some other online stores that were more (consumer)video centric.
Will I get it in time?
So one week before we went to visit the bird hide I decided to give each store a call to find out if they had already had pocket cameras delivered since I had pre-ordered it. I was pretty dissapointed to find out that none of them had received one yet. So I thought that chances were very slim for me to receive my pocket camera in time.
But on a thursday afternoon, 2 days before we went to the bird hide, I received an email from one of the stores that they had received my camera and that they would send it to me as soon as I had paid. I couldn't believe the luck I had!
I immediately transferred the money and called them to see if they could send the camera on the same day because I had to receive it the next day to be able to take it with me to the bird hide... but they couldn't do it...no! no luck after all! My payment would be processed the next day by their financial administration and only then would the camera be shipped, for delivery on saturday, when I was sitting in a bird hide...damnit. I asked them if I could pick it up in their store or at their storage facility but they couldn't do it. A little dissapointing I must say. I explained the whole situation but they wouldn't diverge from their process / protocol.
Since I would not be at home to sign for the package I asked them to ship it to my fathers place so I would at least be able to play with my lovely pocket cam on sunday :-)
On friday afternoon I got a call from one of the two other stores that they had received my camera!!! No way! So I immediatelly asked them if I would be able to pick it up straight away? Sure, no problem. So I got in the car and drove about an hour to Urk to pick up my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera at Cameranu. I hadn't been there before but was amazed at what a large store it really was, they told me that they had received 5 pocket cameras and that I was number five on the list...man I am lucky or what?
SD Card, Lens Adapter and extra battery
I had already bought a Sandisk Extreme 95MBs SD Card, a Novoflex MFT to Nikon adapter and an extra Nikon battery for the camera so I was ready to shoot the next day!
In the bird hide
We left early saturday morning for the bird hide, a two hour ride from where we live, we were at the bird hide a little before nine o'clock in the morning. I had only shot one clip with the camera the night before and could only shoot ProRes, RAW was not available at the time.
Using the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
The camera is really easy to use if you are familiar with the terminology. There really isn't anything to it. Because I didn't do any proper testing with the camera I wasn't able to use it to it's full potential yet. The only thing I did remember reading on the Blog of John Brawley was that it is best to expose to the right, which meant I should protect the highlights like I was used to on my D800 but I didn't really execute that well enough on this first day.
The cabin has two Benro GH2 Gimbal Heads, I used one but this really wasn't ideal for shooting video as you were able to see in the video above. It's too shaky and it's real hard to make fluid pans and tilts.
I already knew from the several reviews out there that the pocket camera really drains down the battery pretty quickly. John Brawley wrote that this is because the camera is cooling the sensor actively, it has no fan so it uses something inside the camera to cool the camera which needs power, therefore it is best to turn off the camera when you are not shooting.
Then there is also the psychological factor, which makes you feel like the battery is losing it's power really fast and this is because blackmagic decided to give us detailed information on how much percentage of power there is left in the battery. For my Nikon D800 and a lot of other camera's you just see some bars, for the D800 there are three bars, so that's like for each 33% you see something change. With the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera you see a change for each 1%!!
At the end of the day I was able to manage to shoot the entire day with just 2 batteries! I still don't know how I did that :-)
As mentioned before, I shot all the clips in ProRes, I then imported the clips in Resolve, applied Captain Hook's LUT, added some extra nodes for each clip to make the autumn colors stand out and rendered the ProRes HQ files to edit in FCPX.
It's amazing to see the flat looking images come to life in Resolve after applying a LUT and do some tweeking, this is really something else.
When I took the clips out of resolve to edit in FCPX I was amazed at how much information there is in the clips when I tweeked the exposure and color some more in FCP itself. This is were the Pocket Camera really stands out from my Nikon D800 for me, it's the colour.
Things I didn't like
When I watched back the clips I shot, in some of them I noticed some kind of glow, when just a little overexposed or not even overexposed (according to the zebras) when focus is not spot on you'll see a glow, like in this frame:
I don't know yet if that has something to do because I am using 35mm Full Frame lenses on the camera or that it's just a characteristic of the sensor, but I am not really pleased with it.
All in all I think it was a great first experience with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, I still have some testing to do to really get to understand how the camera is best operated, but more on that in later articles. I never expected I would enjoy a bird hide so much, as I told before I am not really into birding so most of the times I didn't even know what bird I was shooting, but after a while I started to recognize them and even go really excited that the Crested Tit made an appearance and ofcourse the little squirrel at the end, who doesn't like to watch these adorable animals... :-)