I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, so this is the first write-up of a series on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) and later the Cinema Camera (BMCC). I hope that these will start to come more regularly now and I can get this blog back up to the old days of 1000+ views a day :)
Also for those of you used to all my RED ramblings, my love of all things Epic has not changed, I’ve just found something else I like in addition, and for many of the same reasons. Blackmagic Design are responsible for some seriously ingenious and innovative products, and so now it’s their turn for a bit (until I get my hands on RED Dragon to review :P)
I also want to say I have my hands on these cameras every day, and interact with others who have been shooting for some time now on the Blackmagic cameras, so everything I’m writing about is real world, no BS feedback and opinion from actual use.
Digital Super 16mm
Super 16mm holds a special place in my heart. A few years ago I could be seen regularly with my clockwork WWII era Russian K3 hanging around my neck and a backpack full of film stock. I’d take the camera all over and shoot whatever was around me that was interesting.
As a result, I was very excited about the idea of a true super 16mm “digital film” camera and Blackmagic Design delivered exactly that. Of course it’s full HD, far cleaner and superior than the K3 I loved so much but it delivers a full 13 stops, records RAW and in post gives you all the latitude and flexibility you could ever want… plus I don’t have to load film in the dark, process anything or wait for telecine transfers. Bonus.
The BMPCC is a revolutionary device, and I know all about the new Digital Bolex, which is all well and good with its global shutter, dual CF card slots, internal SSD and $3300 price tag but Blackmagic Design have put the core essentials of all that in the palm of your hand at $995 (and you can actually have it right now). In my opinion I could care less about the Bolex.
With all that said, I am going to start this series by sharing a ideal minimalistic pocket setup that’s all about getting out there and capturing the world exactly as it is with no fuss, no setup, no excuses.
Very often less is more, and this configuration is about putting serious cinematic power in your pocket, literally. If you are a instagram or iPhone photo junkie like me then having a true full HD digital cinema camera in your pocket at all times opens up a world of creative possibilities.
I will say right now I’m a massive fan of the Voightlander Nokton lenses and the only reason I am not listing a Voightlander in this list is that for this setup I want something as flat as possible. I’ll touch on the Voightlanders again however in a bit.
13 stops of 1080p RAW in your hand.
For a camera you want to carry around with you, it’s all about being light and super compact so in this list theres no cage, no external V-mount battery, no handles, no excess weight. Just some extra EL20 batteries and media to carry in a free pocket, one fast medium wide pancake lens and a few filters.
For this recipe you will need:
1 x Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera
3 x BMD EN-EL20 Battery
1 x Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. Lens
3 x SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC 64GB Memory Card
1 x Heliopan 58mm Variable ND Filter
1 x Hoya 58mm Circular Polarizer Filter
1 x Hoya 58mm UV Filter
1 x 46mm – 58mm step-up ring
A note on the variable ND, the Heliopan is arguably the sharpest of all the variable ND filters available, but they don’t make a 46mm size. So I would recommend getting whatever size in the range that suits the largest of any other lenses you might want to use and get a step-up ring from 46mm for the pancake. I’ve chosen 58mm because it will fit the Voightlander Nokton 17.5mm and 42.5mm (and 25mm with a step up ring), as well as the fantastic Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 and carrying a step-up ring for the smaller lenses is not a big deal.Three batteries and cards should be great for most day outings that you’d carry your camera with you. We’re talking informal, fast, creative shooting here. Great results are all about light, contrast and composition. In this minimal list you’ve got one fixed focal length lens, so be prepared to move to frame your shots. It’s about capturing moments, and being fast enough on your feet to do so.A ultra portable tripod or monopod would work well also if you are willing to carry it. The Miller Air is fantastic and not too heavy on the shoulder. You could even get into carrying a small slider, but if you start down that road the portability and quickness starts to erode and you’re in production mode before you know it with a whole lot of gear on your back to lug around.
Taking this minimalist setup further is as easy as adding some more lenses, and at this point I’ll come back to the Voightlander Nokton lenses.
Seriously fast! Voightlander Nokton MFT primes at f/0.95.
These lenses deserve a whole write-up on their own. I love them! Available in 14.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm at a staggering F0.95 they practically see in the dark. While there is some glow in the highlights, or any light sources within your shot when wide open, it’s practically gone at F1.4 and beyond. Needless to say if you want a f/0.95 lens that doesn’t glow, the Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95 will set you back $11,000, so I think the Nokton trio at 1/10th the price can be forgiven.
On a side note, some additional fantastic lenses to keep in a small bag or your backpack with you if you wanted some options might be one or more of the following.Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0
Panasonic Lumix Leica D Summilux 25mm /F1.4 ASPH
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.8
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8You can find many good reviews of these lenses with a quick search.
The Olympus 12mm and Lumix Leica 25mm are also 46mm filter thread size so the same filters in the above list would screw onto these also. The Olympus 45mm I’ve listed has a smaller 37mm filter thread so you would need a step-up ring just for that lens.
The Olympus 75mm may seem like a odd lens to include as it is long (150mm equiv) for a portrait lens but really is a standout fantastic lens. It is a larger lens, with a 58mm filter thread, which is why I chose 58mm filters in the basic list.
Next time I’m going to talk about building a more serious production ready pocket cinema camera featuring the M43 to Nikon Speedbooster by Metabones and some more serious accessories.
I’ve also taken out the pocket cam rigged with the wooden camera PL adaptor and a few Optimos so I’ll touch on shooting with PL glass too.
More fun to come. Thanks for reading.