Important notes concerning the video above:
• After some concerns with our Blackmagic Production Camera 4K review unit we were holding publication of this article until we received a replacement unit from Blackmagic today.
• Now that we have a replacement camera in our hands we can confirm that the initial concerns are correct and seem to be consistent.
• The footage the camera produces IS sharp. It is not only important to shoot with quality lenses but to also use a good ND filter when shooting outdoors.
Unfortunately the “Light Craft Fader ND mark II” I’ve used when shooting this video is not up to the task and significantly softens the image beyond a focal length of 85mm.
• At the end of this article you can find an ungraded version of the video for your assessment.
• If you are interested in this camera it is recommend that you download the 4K source from Vimeo: LINK
After the first part of our Blackmagic Production Camera 4K review (from now on referred to as “BMPC4K”) I went out into the field for a more thorough and practical look, especially stressing the documentary abilities of the highly anticipated new “4K budget wonder”.
Blackmagic was kind enough to send us an early sample of their new Production Camera 4K which we took a very close at. One of the first things you notice is the name: The first Blackmagic camera was named “Cinema Camera” while this new version is identified as a “Production Camera”.
Blackmagic Design emphasises not only by its name that this camera is aimed at the production market, meaning studio and television productions, documentaries and small scale live event shoots.
I took the camera out for a short “documentary style” work and I’m happy to share my experience as I think there’s quite a bit to consider.
Anyone who previously used the original BM cinema camera will feel at home immediately as the camera body and menu structure are very much identical.
I haven’t changed my mind that in terms of ergonomics there is much left to be desired BUT the market has moved forward and today you’ll have the benefit that you can find lots and lots of accessories to make your life easier when working with this design. (external batteries and dedicated rigs and more dedicated rigs, etc).
In terms of overall picture quality I certainly got mixed results:
When there is sufficient light the camera will produce wonderful images as long as you record at no more than 400 ISO. When changing the ISO value to 800, you are risking recording unusable footage (unconfirmed). My advice is to avoid ISO 800 on the BMPC4K at the moment.
To be fair we have to note that Blackmagic’s CEO Grant Petty already wrote back in August of 2013 that “This camera is not a low light camera”.
A concern is Blackmagic’s quality control. The camera we originally got had a strip of black dots at the bottom left/center side of the image (right-click open images below in new window for 4K resolution). The second one did not have it.
A second issue we ran into were hundreds of white (dead?) pixels that were visible when shooting in dimmed/dark places and also dark areas of well lit images. In the screenshot below we show you footage taken in total darkness as this is where these white pixels on all parts of the sensor are best visible. We have circled some of them in red. Note that certainly we do not recommend shooting in a lowlight situation like that. the concern is however that the pixels also show up in dark areas on well lit scenes and also the image below has not been graded or boosted in post.
In part 3 of our review we discuss this issue further as these white pixels seem to appear and disappear without explanation. We are further investigating this issue.
On the positive side: No Moiré or aliasing were detected, the audio got improved and of course recording right to pro-res is a time-saver.
Concerning audio: I must admit I forgot to bring an SD card for my Tascam DR-60D so the mic was connected to the Tascam WITHOUT recording on it. I sent the audio signal to the BMPC4K and recorded internally. As you can hear the audio quality is good enough for “normal” usage or when you don’t have a soundman working with you. It is unfortunate that after such a long time there are still NO audio meters on the Blackmagic Cameras to judge in camera audio levels.
All in all. If some of the concerns raised here can be addressed in some way, the camera can become good value for the money.
Camera settings used in this short review:
• ISO: 400-800
• Shutter: 180°
• Recording format: ProRes (HQ) 4K
• Frame Rate: 25
• Dynamic range: Film
• Graded with: film convert
A big thank you to Thomas Strini who was up to the task of helping with this review in zero time.
You can find out more about Thomas and his work at www.strini.at
Ungraded version of the video:
vimeo link (to download 4K file)
Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com