Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

Three Myths About The Blackmagic Cameras

In case you happened to be living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, Blackmagic Design has announced two more cameras to their lineup. Not only were they able to do what Red wasn't by offering a 4k camera for $4k, but they also introduced a Super16 pocket camera. Once again, the show floor at NAB was abuzz about Blackmagic. At NAB 2013, and in the weeks following, I have heard three myths repeated in casual conversation, and on podcasts, that are simply not true. Here is what you need to know...

Before tackling the three myths, I want to make it clear that I have never heard any of these statements from Blackmagic themselves. Instead they have come from potential customers, and people interested in the tech.

Myth #1: DaVinci Resolve (Full) Comes With All The Cameras
CORRECTION: Resolve ONLY comes with the Production Camera & The Cinema Camera

It would be AWESOME if the Pocket Camera came with the full version of Resolve. But that would mean they would be giving away the camera. And, last I checked, Blackmagic is not a charity. However, there is a Lite version of Resolve that is offered for free. So as long as you do not need the full functionality of Resolve, the Lite version is a great place to start.

Recording Formats For The Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Myth #2: All Of The Cameras Shoot Uncompressed RAW
CORRECTION: ONLY the Cinema Camera Shoots Uncompressed RAW

This is an easy point to get confused on. If you take a quick glance at the product summary it is easy to think that every camera shoots uncompressed RAW. But as you read the fine print of each camera, it is revealed that only the Cinema Camera shoots uncompressed RAW. The Production Camera shoots "visually lossless" compressed RAW, and the Pocket Camera shoots "lossless" compressed RAW.

But RAW is RAW; it doesn't really matter that it has been compressed, right? It depends on who you are and what your needs are. Many people have been shooting 4k on compressed cameras like the Red for years with great success. Others, especially those in the VFX world, have a tendency to grumble when having to do heavy VFX work with a compressed format- especially when there is noise in the image.

You may not even notice the compression in the typical work you do. And if that is the case- more power to you- this doesn't apply to you. :) But I'd encourage you to talk with your post team, and run some tests, before blindly committing to format/camera system just because it is cheap.

EF to PL Adapter from Foto-Akcesoria

Myth #3: An EF to PL Adapter Can Fit All Cinema Lenses
CORRECTION: ONLY SOME Zoom Lenses Will Work With an EF to PL Adapter

Unless someone has figured out a way around physics, then an EF to PL adapter will only work with some zoom lenses. The limiting factor here is the EF mount itself. The flange distance, depth, and size all contribute to the prevention of the use of most PL mount cinema lenses.
Measurements for use on an SLR Camera
The only PL lenses that will work with this adapter have to conform to the measurements above. If they do not conform, they will not work - believe me, I've spent the $200 to test it out for myself.

Taken From AbelCine's FoV Calculator

A Point of Clarification: Crop Factors For The Cameras
Blackmagic is marketing the Production Camera as a Super35 sensor, which sounds fantastic, especially after the odd sensor size they put in the Cinema Camera. However, upon closer examination of the camera specs, the sensor in the Blackmagic camera is actually smaller than Super35. Here is how the cameras break down when compared to Super35 and Full Frame Sensors:

Full Frame Size [FF]: 36mm x 20.3mm (41.3mm Diagonal)
Super 35 Size [S35]: 24.9mm x 14mm (28.5mm Diagonal)
Super 16 Size [S16]: 11.9mm x 6.7mm (13.7mm Diagonal)
(Sizes taken from AbelCine)

Crop Factors When Compared to...
Production Camera (21.12mm x 11.88mm - 24.2mm Diagonal)
[FF] 1.7x
[S35] 1.2x
[S16] 0.6x
What this means:
If you are used to shooting with a S35 sized frame, your lenses will have a 1.2x narrower field of view. So your 35mm lens will now see the equivalent field of view of a 42mm lens.

Cinema Camera (15.81mm x 8.88mm - 18.1mm Diagonal)
[FF] 2.3x
[S35] 1.6x
[S16] 0.8x
What this means:
The sensor is too big for many lenses designed for S16. You will have to carefully test S16 lenses to see if they vignette/porthole, or move up to S35 lenses.

If you are used to shooting with a S35 size frame, then your 35mm lens will now see the equivalent field of view of a 56mm lens.

Pocket Camera (12.48mm x 7.02mm - 14.3mm Diagonal)
[FF] 2.9x
[S35] 2x
[S16] 0.9x
What this means:
The sensor is slightly bigger than S16, which may cause lenses to vignette or porthole when used with this camera. The vast majority of S16 lenses should work- but test and verify!

If you are used to shooting with a S35 size frame, then your 35mm lens will now see the equivalent field of view of a 70mm lens.

There is no doubt that these are exciting times to be a filmmaker and a cinematographer! It can be tough to keep up with the latest camera tech. But as you research new camera tech, take a look at the fine print, as a lot of times the details get lost in the hype.

What are your thoughts about the new cameras from Blackmagic? Are there other points of clarification that you would like to add?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!
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