Blackmagic Design Micro Color Panel Review & First Impressions – Many Functions, Small Package

Along with a flood of other new products, Blackmagic Design announced the release of a new color panel called the Micro Color Panel at this year’s NAB. The manufacturer was kind enough to lend us a unit for review. Let’s have a closer look!

More functions in a smaller form factor

The biggest difference between the old version and this one is one you notice straight away – the size and weight of the product. The older Micro Panel was around 42 cm / 16.8 inches wide and 26 cm / 10 inches deep at a height of 7.5 cm / 3 inches and weighed 3.5 kilograms or 7.7 pounds.  The newer version was slimmed down to 36 cm / 14.1 inches in width, 19 cm / 7.4 inches in depth, 4 cm / 1.6 inches in height, and only weighs 1.18 kilograms or  2.6 pounds.

The new Micro Color Panel compared to its predecessor – Image credit: CineD

Other physical differences include the iPad holder groove at the top of the new version and the fact that it has more buttons. Not only that but the new Micro Color Panel also introduces shift buttons that add even more functionalities to some of the controls. This is a truly portable device that you can put in your backpack together with your iPad Pro and it enables you to professionally color grade on the go or on set.

Trackballs and rings

Just like the previous version, this model features three trackballs and rings. These either control color balance adjustments and exposure for the shadows, midtones, and highlights – or (when offset has been selected) color temperature and tint as well as master color and exposure. The new trackballs and rings are smaller than those on the previous version and are made out of plastic. They still feel well-produced and have good inertia so they will only continue to spin for a short distance once you let go. 

Buttons and dials

The dials at the top of the panel closely resemble those of the previous model although their layout has changed slightly. Instead of 4 groups of 3 buttons, we now get 3 groups of 4 buttons, which might take some getting used to if you have been using the previous model. 

The biggest difference between the two models definitely lies in the layout and functions of the back-lit soft touch buttons. They have a nice click to them and travel a lot easier than the ones of the older Micro Panel, but it feels like they could be much easier to activate by accident. 

The button layout has changed quite a lot with some buttons moving from the right side of the panel to a newly created column on the left side. Here at the very bottom, you will also find the newly introduced shift buttons. These are exciting additions since they add a lot of functionalities to the panel. 

Useful functions

Before using the Micro Color Panel, if you wanted to create, size, and track a window, this would all have to be done via the user interface on the desktop. Now, by pressing the ‘add window button’ and then holding shift, you can resize the window, add or subtract feather to the edges, and reposition the window. With another shift-hold and pressing Play, you can then track the window throughout the clip. This is a great shortcut for people who work a lot with Windows and will save you a huge amount of time. So far an operation like this was only available on the Mini Panel, which costs around $2,100. 

A printed quick guide comes with the panel explaining all the “Shift” functions – Image credit: CineD

Overall impressions and conclusion

While feeling a little bit cheaper than the older model due to the materials used and the lighter buttons, the new Micro Color Panel nevertheless delivers a lot more functions than its predecessor. The new layout of the dials and buttons might take some getting used to for users of the older model, but the additional features make it easy to justify the effort. If you are using DaVinci Resolve on the iPad Pro for color grading, this device is pretty much a no-brainer, but it also looks and feels good in a desktop setup – freeing up more desk space due to its smaller form factor.

Whether it is a good purchase depends on your use of DaVinci Resolve since all the functions it offers can also be done using the mouse and keyboard. If you do a lot of color grading, this device – especially with the newly introduced functions of the shift buttons – will speed up your workflow and allow for finer control of functions like exposure or color balance adjustments. 

Price and availability

The Blackmagic Micro Color Panel is available now and will set you back $509 – which is $350 less than its predecessor, but does not include a DaVinci Resolve license.

What do you think about this new panel? Are the new functions useful to you? Will you make the purchase? Let us know in the comments below!


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