Production

Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K vs competition: Canon, JVC, Panasonic and Sony

Ahead are comparisons and answers from Blackmagic to previously unavailable information.

The recently announced US$1295 Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K offers unique features in its price category, including: 13 stops of dynamic range, dual native ISO up to 25,600, a balanced mini-XLR audio input with phantom power, inboard ProRes or 12-bit CinemaDNG RAW recording, a bright 5-inch touchscreen display/monitor with a very intuitive menu system, full sized HDMI output, 3D LUT support, Bluetooth, USB-C expansion port, a full license for DaVinci Resolve Studio and more. Ahead I’ll reveal answers to my questions asked to Blackmagic and compare this intriguing camera with its closest competition, like the Canon EOS M50, JVC GY-LS300, Panasonic GH5(S) and Sony A7 III. This will be interesting and exciting 🙂

Questions and Answers from Blackmagic about the “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K

Tépper: How many audio channels can be recorded simultaneously among the inputs (built-in mics, mini-XLR and stereo 3.5” TRS)?
Blackmagic: Two channels, but the user can mix and match which track gets recorded to each channel. For example, a mono mix of the camera’s internal microphone on channel one and the XLR input on channel two. Also: 3.5mm stereo input allows LTC input and records as proper timecode track in video file.

Tépper: Does it record audio at 16-bit, 24-bit or otherwise?
Blackmagic: 24-bit audio, 48 kHz.
Tépper: 🙂

Tépper: What is the maximum available gain via the Mini XLR input, in dB?
Blackmagic: It hasn’t been set yet but it looks like it will be up to 60dB gain.

Tépper: Will it accept audio input via Bluetooth (per my recent Review: JK Audio BlueDriver-F3 wireless Bluetooth transceiver for ENG)?
Blackmagic: No, the Bluetooth is just for wireless camera control.

Tépper: Does it have a global shutter?
Blackmagic: No, it has a rolling shutter.

Criteria to be compared among the cameras

  • Is it a worldcam? (See my Why we should only use worldcams , illustrated above) This is critical if you are going to shoot raw footage for clients in both 25/50 Hz and 29.97/59.97 Hz regions with the same camera. The Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K (B&H) is fortunately worldcam.

  • Does the camera include an inboard balanced XLR or mini-XLR input with phantom power? (See my Balanced audio: benefits and varieties, illustrated above) The Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K fortunately does offer this, although a single one. When the camera does not include this, I will include the official accessory with digital hot shoe (when available) or a third-party option. The Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K includes a single built-in mini-XLR balanced input with phantom power. If you need more than one, you can either use an external audio mixer (to combine multiple audio sources to one to this input) or use an external interface to feed “stereo” into the 3.5 mm TRS input of the Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K.
  • Does the camera shoot both types of 4K (4K UHD 3840×[email protected]:9 and 4K DCI 4096×[email protected]:135)? The Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K indeed offers both.
  • Does the camera offer shooting at 23.976p (often rounded to 23.98p) and exact 24.000p? (See my article: When exact 24 fps beats 23.976… and when it doesn’t) If so, does it offer it at all framerates or only at 4K DCI? The Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K offers both at any spatial resolution.
  • Does the camera offer autofocus? According to Blackmagic, the new “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K offers: “single auto focus as you can with the existing Pocket Cinema Camera. We do not have continuous auto focus but we are reviewing the possibilities of adding that feature at a later time.”

Comparison with Canon EOS M50

The Canon EOS M50 is a new release in 2018 for US$779 (AmazonB&H). The US version is apparently not worldcam, but sadly segregated (i.e. it apparently does not offer 25p or 50p) although the version sold in Spain apparently is indeed worldcam, according to this official Canon website in Spain. In Spain it costs about €600 which by today’s conversion is about US$739. This is perhaps the first time I have ever seen a European version of a camera costing less than the US version. Both the European version and the segregated US version have a maximum recording duration of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, according to my research.

A few notes about the EOS M50 before the roundup:

  • There is an additional crop when shooting in 4K UHD compared with 1080p.
  • Although there is autofocus in 4K, there is no dual pixel autofocus in 4K UHD as there is in 1080p.

Now the roundup:

  • Does the camera display non-integer framerates to at least 2 decimals? (See my Why I pardon rounding of shutter speeds in camera menus, but not framerates!) Yes, the EOS M50 does this appropriately. Thank you Canon!
  • Does the camera include an inboard balanced XLR or mini-XLR input with phantom power? (See my Balanced audio: benefits and varieties) No, the M50 does not include this. You can either use an external audio mixer or an external interface to feed “stereo” into the 3.5 mm TRS input of the EOS M50. Add that cost to the total price to compare with the Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K.
  • Does the camera shoot both types of 4K (4K UHD 3840×[email protected]:9 and 4K DCI 4096×[email protected]:135)? The EOS M50 only shoots 4K UHD, not 4K DCI.
  • Does the camera offer shooting at 23.976p (often rounded to 23.98p) and exact 24.000p? The EOS M50 offers 23.976p and rounds it to 23.98 in the menu.
  • Does the camera offer autofocus? See comment above.

Comparison with JVC GY-LS300

The JVC GY-LS300 with Super 35mm sensor has been a out for a while, but is definitely still worth considering. It has a current street price of US$2495 after a US$1000 instant rebate (AmazonB&H).

  • Is it a worldcam? (See my Why we should only use worldcams) As I have covered in prior articles, the GY-LS300 is fortunately a worldcam in all 4K and HD modes. It is only segregated in SD mode.
  • Does the camera display non-integer framerates to at least 2 decimals? (See my Why I pardon rounding of shutter speeds in camera menus, but not framerates!) No, the GY-LS300 sadly rounds integer framerates to the closest integer, which is even more confusing with this camera, since it offers exact 24.000 in 4K DCI, and 23.976 in other spatial resolutions, but calls all of them the same “24”. JVC, please fix this ASAP via firmware in all of your cameras.
  • Does the camera include an inboard balanced XLR or mini-XLR input with phantom power? (See my Balanced audio: benefits and varieties) Yes, the GY-LS300 offers two of them in its handle.
  • Does the camera shoot both types of 4K (4K UHD 3840×[email protected]:9 and 4K DCI 4096×[email protected]:135)? Yes, the GY-LS300 offers both.
  • Does the camera offer shooting at 23.976p (often rounded to 23.98p) and exact 24.000p? (See my article: When exact 24 fps beats 23.976… and when it doesn’t) The GY-LS300 offers exact 24.000 in 4K DCI only, and offers 23.976 (sadly rounded to “24”) in other spatial resolutions.
  • Does the camera offer autofocus? According to Lee Power, “The LS300 has continuous auto-focus with MFT lenses…” (source here).

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix GH5(S) and DMW-XLR1

The GH5S currently costs about US$2498 (AmazonB&H).

After the recent introduction of the GH5S, the street price of the original GH5 has dropped to about US$1998 (AmazonB&H).

Add about US$400 for the DMW-XLR1 (details below) to spend a total of either US$2898 or US$2398, as opposed to the US$1295 Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema 4K.

  • Does the camera include an inboard balanced XLR or mini-XLR input with phantom power? (See my Balanced audio: benefits and varieties) As they come from the factory, neither the original GH5 nor the new GH5S includes this. See my article Panasonic DMW-XLR1 XLR interface for GH5 quality revealed by Curtis Judd (illustrated above) and add about US$400 (AmazonB&H) to the price of the camera to compare with the Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K. Since that article, Curtis Judd has confirmed that the camera can only record 24-bit audio with the DMW-XLR1.
  • Does the camera shoot both types of 4K (4K UHD 3840×[email protected]:9 and 4K DCI 4096×[email protected]:135)? Yes, both the original GH5 and the new GH5S can record both types of 4K.
  • Does the camera offer shooting at 23.976p (often rounded to 23.98p) and exact 24.000p? (See my article: When exact 24 fps beats 23.976… and when it doesn’t) If so, does it offer it at all framerates or only at 4K DCI? The original GH5 and the new GH5s can record either at any spatial resolution.
  • Does the camera offer autofocus? Yes, both the original GH5 and the GH5s, but it is not the best autofocus on the market, although it can be improved somewhat via some hacks.

Comparison with Sony A7 III and XLR-K2M

The new US$1998 Sony A7 III (AmazonB&H) is another excellent contender.

Add about US$598 for the XLR-K2M (details below) for the XLR-K2M (details below) to spend a total of about US$2596, as opposed to the US$1295 Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema 4K. (The XLR-2KM is more expensive than it should be since it forcibly includes a microphone.)

  • Is it a worldcam? (See my Why we should only use worldcams) This is critical if you are going to shoot raw footage for clients in both 25/50 Hz and 29.97/59.97 Hz regions with the same camera. Yes, the A7 III is a worldcam.
  • Does the camera display non-integer framerates to at least 2 decimals? (See my Why I pardon rounding of shutter speeds in camera menus, but not framerates!) Sadly no. The A7 III sadly rounds all non-integer framerates to the closest integer in many cameras. Sony, please fix this ASAP via a firmware update in all of your cameras.
  • Does the camera include an inboard balanced XLR or mini-XLR input with phantom power? (See my Balanced audio: benefits and varieties) No. Add about US$698 for the XLR-K2M (AmazonB&H).
  • Does the camera shoot both types of 4K (4K UHD 3840×[email protected]:9 and 4K DCI 4096×[email protected]:135)? No, (as of publication time of this article) the only type of 4K offered by the A7 III is 4K UHD.
  • Does the camera offer shooting at 23.976p (often rounded to 23.98p) and exact 24.000p? (See my article: When exact 24 fps beats 23.976… and when it doesn’t) No, the A7 III only records at 23.976 and (as of publication time of this article) sadly rounds to “24”.
  • Does the camera offer autofocus? Yes, and it is very good autofocus according to many reviewers and from what I can see in their test recordings.

Regarding ProRes and 12-bit raw CinemaDNG recording

ProRes is a family of códecs from Apple which is known for being nearly lossless, even after 20 generations. Apple recently added ProRes RAW. ProRes is readable on Mac, certain applications on Windows and even certain ones on Linux. Before ProRes RAW, the main reason to record with ProRes has been to achieve a nearly lossless —yet compressed— signal at 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 10-bit, but occupies much less space than uncompressed video.

CinemaDNG, per Wikipedia:

CinemaDNG is the result of an Adobe-led initiative to define an industry-wide open file format for digital cinema files. CinemaDNG caters for sets of movie clips, each of which is a sequence of raw video images, accompanied by audio and metadata. CinemaDNG supports stereoscopic cameras and multiple audio channels. CinemaDNG specifies directory structures containing one or more video clips, and specifies requirements and constraints for the open format files, (DNG, TIFF, XMP, and/or MXF), within those directories, that contain the content of those clips. CinemaDNG is different from the Adobe DNG (Digital Negative) format that is primarily used as a raw image format for still cameras. However, each CinemaDNG image is encoded using that DNG image format. The image stream can then be stored in one of two formats: either as video essence using frame-based wrapping in an MXF file, or as a sequence of DNG image files in a specified file directory. Each clip uses just one of these formats, but the set of clips in a movie may use both.

Seven years ago in 2011, Blackmagic Design announced support for CinemaDNG in DaVinci Resolve 8 and DaVinci Resolve Lite. The main reason to record in CinemaDNG is to have more latitude when grading (etolonaje/étalonnage).

To my knowledge, the only camera mentioned in this article which can record ProRes or 12-bit raw CinemaDNG recording inside the camera (or via DAS/Direct Attached Storage) is the Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema 4K Camera. The others would require an external recorder from Átomos, Blackmagic itself or Video Devices (Sound Devices). Of those, Átomos now also includes ProRes RAW.

The specific types offered by the Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K (B&H) are currently: CinemaDNG RAW, CinemaDNG RAW 3:1, CinemaDNG RAW 4:1, ProRes 422 HQ QuickTime, ProRes 422 QuickTime, ProRes 422 LT QuickTime, ProRes 422 Proxy QuickTime.

At NAB 2018, when answering a question by a visitor (not by me) about the possibility of ProRes RAW in the Blackmagic “Pocket” Cinema Camera 4K, the response was that they were investigating whether any additional benefits would be achieved compared with CinemaDNG RAW.

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No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur , BeyondPodcasting or TuNuevaRadioGlobal programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is a bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994, Tépper has been consulting…

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Tony
Tony

Yawn!

Dustin

Love the idea of a comparison between the new Blackmagic camera and some older/current ones. But what was the rationale for picking these others? They seem like strange bedfellows. You could argue they compare in price, but then you have the M50 thrown in, or in size/ergonomics, but then the JVC is an outlier.