The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. Is it a good choice for low-budget digital cinema filmmakers?

Updated 2018: (for the Pocket 4K)

Is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K be a good choice for DCP format productions?
How does the specifications compare to other cine cameras and the DCP format used in cinemas?

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Spec sheet
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera webpage
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera manual

B&H Photo link

Price with Resolve studio license = USD 1295

13 stops of dynamic range. Dual Native ISO to 25,600.

It can record in 12 bit cinemaDNG Lossless RAW, 4096 x 2160 270 mbit.
12 bit raw gives you more information in the important darker areas than in the brighter areas of the picture.

This is similar to digital cinema DCPs that use 12 bit 2.6 gamma encoding which also gives you more range in the important darker regions of the picture.

2.6 gamma 12 bit preserves more dynamic range and shadow detail than 8 bit 2.4/2.2 gamma videos.

270 mbit in 4096 x 2160 CinemaDNG RAW 30 FPS 
337.5 mbit CinemaDNG RAW 24 FPS is good enough DCPs which uses 250 mbit intraframe jpeg2000 encoding.

-250 mbit jpeg2000 is good for film grain/preservering high ISO noise, fake film grain or added noise, but it still can have problems with fog and smoke compared to uncompressed.

-Cinematic 25P/24P 180 degree shutter mode.

-DCI 4k 4096 x 2160
-DCPs uses these standard resolutions:
2K Flat 1.85: 1 1998×1080
2K Scope 2.39:1 2048×858
4K Flat 1.85: 3996 x 2160
4K Scope 2.39: 4096 x 1716
-Getting the resolution correct is important.
-Flat and Scope are the standard presets in all cinemas.
-1.78:1 (16/9) and 2.35:1 films can get image artifacts (trapezoid shape) in the cinema because the standard side masking presets are made for 1.85 and 2.39. The trapezoid shape is caused by off-axis/tilted projectors. It is not allowed to use keystone in cinemas so digital cropping/masking is used to adjust the picture to the side masking.
-Scope films are projected wider than Flat films in a common height cinema.
-A 4K DCP is compatible with both 2K and 4K projectors.
-Full container (C) 2048×1080/4096×2160 is not used by Hollywood feature films. Films made with these resolutions will probably be projected in Flat with cropping on the sides at most cinemas.
-I recommend using framing lines for 1.85 and 2.39 when making a digital cinema film. Blackmagic cameras usually have framing lines for these aspect ratios.

Frame rate
Up to 60 FPS in 4096 x 2160.  120 FPS in HD windowed
You can record in 60 FPS and 120 FPS if you want to use slow motion.
-Interop DCPs uses these frame rates: 24, 48
-Digital cinema equipment with updated software support SMPTE DCPs and can play these 2K frame rates: 24, 25, 30, (also allowed is 48, 50, 60, but these can cause problems), 4K frame rates: 24, 25, 30
-In Europe where many productions are 25 FPS = 25 SMPTE DCPs are common.


The Arri Alexa SXT and other cine cameras often uses a super 35 sensor. The 4K Pocket camera has a M43 size sensor, but there is a lot of cine primes made for the M43 sensors on the GH4 and GH5 and similar cameras. There are also MFT adapters for PL mount and other common Super 35 lens mounts. The M43 sensor is smaller than S35 so all S35 lenses can be used.  The m43 sensor will probably not be as light sensitive as the sensor on the super 35 sensor camera Arri Alexa SXT , but it will be better than the S16 sensor on the first Pocket Camera.

The FOV comparisor does not yet have the Blackmagic Pocket 4K camera,  its a bit larger than GH5s.

The MFT  Pocket Camera can use a Metabones speedboosters to achieve a larger FOV.

-Pocket 4K FILM TO REC2020 HLG
– and more

-It has Pro audio mini XLR connection with phantom power.

The Pocket 4K camera has similar specifications as some of the 4K cameras that are approved by Netflix. But it is not approved.

The Pocket 4K camera compared to other cameras
The Panasonic GH5
Link: B&H Photo

-400 Mbps 4:2:2 10-bit All-Intra video internal recording
-Anamorphic mode

The Panasonic GH5s
Link: B&H Photo
-Better low-light performance than the GH5
-400 Mbps 4:2:2 10-bit All-Intra video internal recording
-Anamorphic mode

The Sony A7S II
Link: Sony

-Slog 3 capture in 8 bit XAVC-S.
-Good low-light capture
-Internal UHD capture
-Full frame
-Super 35 mm mode
-120 FPS 1080 mode
-Big sensor

Other digital cine cameras:
Shogun Inferno Prores Raw Cameras:

Sony FS5 II ProRes RAW Atomos Kit
Link: B&H Photo
-super35 sensor
-internal ND filters

Canon C300 MKII
Link: Canon
-Good in low light
-XLR inputs
-Canon LOG 2 Gamma

Panasonic AU-EVA1 Compact 5.7K Super 35mm Cinema Camera
Link: Panasonic
-5.7K super 35 sensor
-Dual native ISO of 800/2500

More Expensive/Rentals

Link: RED
-High frame rate

Arri Alexa SXT  and Alexa LF
Link: Arri
– wide gamut and pre-made 3D LUTs to convert C-Log Prores or RAW footage to Rec. 709, P3 DCI, P3 D65.
-WCG (Wide Color Gamut) is rec2020 compatible

Panasonic Varicam LT
Link: Panasonic
-Dual native ISO,  800 and 5000
-DCI 4K prores 4444
-1 to 120 fps in AVC-Intra 2K422 and from 120 to 240 fps in AVC-Intra 2K-LT

Sony F65
Link: Sony
-Global Shutter

Some notes on the “Hollywood” look

The “Hollywood” Cinema look
-I have worked on a lot of short film festivals and it is usually the film that has the best story/artistic vision that win the award/get noticed. Technically best is not an award category.
-Having a good looking film can help. Having a look that is different than others can help.
-If you live in a city that have a cinema that screen 35 mm print or DCPs correctly, watch a lot of films at that cinema.

Hollywood look: Anamorphics
-Hollywood films are often shot with the Arri Alexa SXT cameras that can use 2X anamorphic film optics in 6:5 sensor mode mode.
The Pocket 4K can use M43 anamorphic combo 1.33 kit like the SLR magic anamorphic kit, but is it difficult to achieve the same results as a big budget movie.

Hollywood look: Fast cine prime lenses with shallow depth of field.
-Hollywood films often use fast cine prime lenses near open aperture to get shallow depth of field and nice bokeh.
-You need to use ND filters to get a shallow depth of field on a sunny day.
-With adapters the 4K Pocket can use Super 35 mm film optics like the Cooke primes and other cine prime lenses that have a “Hollywood” look.

Hollywood look: Warmer white
-Hollywood films seldom use clipped/blown whites if that is not what they intend to use.
-100 percent white is almost never used.
-White is usually warmer than video monitor white (D65), it is closer to traditional film projection (around D60).

Hollywood look: 180 degree shutter
-Hollywood films almost always use a 180 degree shutter. Films with 360 degree shutter have a lot of motion blur. The Blackmagic cameras lets you choose 180 degree shutter mode.

Hollywood look:Conclusion
A film made with cine cameras like the Pocket MFT and Vintage optics, 180 degree shutter, ND filters/shallow depth of view and grain/noise can look more like a Hollywood film than a film with made with an expensive camera shot with studio lighting that has a “made for TV” look.

More info:
Cine Lenses
-are built for manual focusing with follow focus systems
-zoom lenses often lack “breathing” when focusing
-Prime lenses often come in matched sets

Cine lenses ( can be used with a PL adapter)
Cooke 25mm T2.8 miniS4/i Cine Lens
B&H Photo Link

Cine lenses (MFT mount)
Veydra 16mm T2.2 Mini Prime Lens
B&H Photo Link

Focusing with just about any still photo zoom lens will create a breathing effect that is simply an optical design characteristic. There is no adjustment for this flaw within the lens. It’s part of the optical-mechanical design and is taken into consideration during the development of a lens. Breathing is a bad thing in cinema because it really pulls the audience out of the scene. It changes the field of view of the lens and appears as though the lens is zooming in and out during even a small focus pull. This is why cinema lenses are designed not to breath and add substantially to the cost in order to do so.

Duclos: Why Cinema Lenses Cost So Much

Used lenses
KEH and ebay sells used lenses like the Zeiss Contax lenses
Link to contax lenses at keh

If you build a set of Voigtlander Nokton, Zeiss Contax, Leica R, Nikon Ais or Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, you can do the Duclos Cine-mod on them.

For USD 250 each you get:
-80mm front with cap,
-focus gear
-de-clicked, damped aperture movement. Or USD 60 for just the declicked aperture.

5) What lenses work best with the Cine-Mod?
The lenses that benefit from the Cine-Mod the most would be Zeiss ZF.2 lenses and Leica R series lenses. Other lenses such as the older Nikon Ais series and Zeiss Contax lenses can also be used along with the Cine-Mod for cinema with great success.

Extra equipment

ND filters
For shallow depth of field in daylight.

ND filters and matte boxes:
Redrock Micro microMatteBox Deluxe Bundle
B&H Photo link

LEE Filters 100 x 100mm Big Stopper 3.0 Neutral Density Filter
B&H Photo link

Professional shotgun microphone
Sennheiser MKH416
B&H Photo link

Cheaper shotgun microphone
Rode NTG2
B&H Photo link

Field Mixer
Sound Devices 633 6-Input Compact Field Mixer and 10-Track Digital Recorder
B&H Photo link

Cheaper external recorder
Zoom H6
B&H Photo link

Electronic Viewfinder
Zacuto Gratical HD Micro OLED EVF 
Viewfinder with 3d lut support
B&H Photo link

Useful links:
Use this Angle of view/Field of view comparator to compare the field of view (FOV) on different sensors and find what kind of lens you need.

Film grain and stock emulator software

Contax Zeiss Survival Guide
Nick Morrison forum post

What is Angle of view/Field of view?

What is depth of field?

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