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 webpage

B&H Photo link

Price with Resolve studio license = USD 1295

13 stops of dynamic range. Dual native ISO 400 and 3200

It can record in 12 bit Blackmagic Raw 4096 x 2160 24/25 FPS .
12 bit Blackmagic Raw gives you more shadow and highlight details.

Digital cinema DCPs  uses 12 bit 2.6 gamma encoding which also gives you more range in the important darker regions of the picture.

Blackmagic Raw (BRAW)
Blackmagic RAW 4K 12:1  4096 x 2160 24 FPS 42,5 MB/s bitrate is similar to 4K DCPs which uses 250 mbps/31.3 MB/s intraframe jpeg2000 encoding in Scope 4096 x 1716 and Flat 3996 x 2160 .

2K DCPs also uses 250 mbps/31.3 MB/s intraframe jpeg2000 encoding in Scope 2048×858 and Flat 1998×1080 . Closest match in 2K is  1920×1080  Blackmagic Raw 3:1  24 FPS 41,5 MB/s

Using Blackmagic RAW 3:1  (4096 x 2160 24 FPS 167 MB/s) also in 4K  is recommended for digital cinema material. Especially if you are using high ISO or shooting in the forest and other places where high bitrate is essential.

Digital cinema DCPs uses 250 mbit jpeg2000 which is  good for shadow detail, high detail scenery like forests and water, film grain/preservering high ISO noise, fake film grain and added noise. Combined with 2.6 gamma and 12 bit encoding you can use more shadow detail than in 8 bit web videos.  


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

– Resolutions
DCI 4k 4096 x 2160
-I recommend using framing lines for 1.85 (3996 x 2160) or 2.39 (4096 x 1716) when making a digital cinema film.  Blackmagic 4K has framing lines for these aspect ratio. It also has framing lines for 1.78:1, 2.4:1 and 2:1

firmware 6.6 adds 

4K 2.4:1 4096×1712
2.8K Anamorphic (2x stretch) 2880×2160

-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.


Frame rates
Up to 60 FPS in 4096 x 2160.  
You can record higher 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.

M43 Field of view (FOV)
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. 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 smaller m43 sensor with smaller photosites is not as light sensitive as some s35/Vistavision cameras.

The FOV comparisor does not have the Blackmagic Pocket 4K camera, but you can use the GH5 to get an idea of how it compares to other cameras. (The sensor is a bit larger than the GH5 sensor)

The MFT  Pocket Camera 4K can use  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 to some of the 4K cameras that are approved by Netflix for original content. But it is not approved. 


The Pocket 4K camera compared to other cameras

Blackmagic Cinema Camera 6K
Link: B&H Photo
-Canon EF mount
-6K 6144 x 3456 
-Super 35 sized sensor

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12 K (PL
Link: B&H Photo
-12,288 x 6480 12K Super35 sensor,
12K 17:9 up to 60 fps, DCI 8K to 100 fps, 220 fps in 4K Super16. 8K and 4K anamorphic: up to 140 fps
-Blackmagic’s new Generation 5 Color Science
-PL mount. Can switch to Canon EF, Nikon F,

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 III
Link: B&H Photo

-UHD 4K up to 120p
-10-bit 4:2:2
-S-Log2, S-Log3 
-SXAVC S-I, intraframe codec up to 600 Mb/s.
-Full frame sensor
-Great in low light 

Canon C300 MKIII
Link: B&H Photo
-Good in low light
-XLR inputs
-120 fps in 4K raw,  
-Canon LOG 2/3  Gamma

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 Venice
Link: Sony
-Full frame

Some notes on the “cinematic” look

-At short film festivals it is usually the film that has the best story/artistic vision that win the award/get noticed. 
-Having a good looking film can help getting noticed.
-Having a look that is different than others can also help.

 Fast cine prime lenses with shallow depth of field.
-Hollywood films often use fast vintage/modified cine prime lenses near open aperture to get shallow depth of field and nice bokeh.
-With adapters the 4K Pocket can use Super 35 mm film optics like the vintage Cooke primes and other cine prime lenses that have a cinematic 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).
-Shooting in Blackmagic Raw helps retain highlights.

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 Pocket 4K lets you choose 24/25 FPS 180 degree shutter mode.

Is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K a good choice for DCP format productions?
 A film made with cine cameras like the Pocket 4K, vintage optics, 180 degree shutter, D60, ND filters/shallow depth of view and grain/noise can give the fim a “cinematic” look. You can also do something different to stand out. Either way the Blackmagic Raw 12 bit codec and using the correct framing aspect ratio for cinema are good building blocks if you are shooting for digital cinema. 

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 21mm T2.2 Panchro/i Classic Prime Lens
bhphoto link

Budget Cine lenses (MFT mount)
Meike 25mm T2.2 Manual Focus Cinema Lens (MFT Mount)
B&H Photo Link


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.
-80mm front with cap,
-focus gear
-de-clicked, damped aperture movement. Or just the declicked aperture.

RPlens also does cine upgrades on lenses.

Extra equipment

ND filters
For shallow depth of field in daylight.

ND filters and matte boxes:
Bright Tangerine Misfit Atom 4 x 5.65″/4 x 4″ 
B&H Photo link

Schneider 4 x 5.65″ Platinum IRND 0.9 Filter (3-Stop)
B&H Photo link

Professional shotgun microphone
Sennheiser MKH416
B&H Photo link

Field Mixer
Sound Devices 633 6-Input Compact Field Mixer and 10-Track Digital Recorder
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.

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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