Thoughts About The Black Magic Camera
This guy did a very nice real world comparison between the Black Magic and the 5DIII. I would like to have seen the same thing with the 5DII instead of the III because you have to sharpen up the III footage to get rid of some of the muddiness. Doesn’t look like he really did that. Also on the big panoramic scenes, the 5DIII is going to have less DOF, so some parts are not going to look as sharp as the smaller chip BM.
However, the BM looks really good. As it should, doing RAW.
At the risk of repeating myself, I wouldn’t buy one for the type of work I do today, but for others it could be the best thing since the $5 pizza at Little Ceaser’s (a godsend on any late night shoot). Although, I don’t think it is ready to replace a “real” video camera for normal production. I saw one test where the guy using it was holding up his hands to help shield the sun off the screen because the big hood didn’t cut it in the afternoon brightness with a low sun to the side and behind. Also, you have to carry a battery pack, or use a rig to hold one.
In other words, if you want to use it you’re going to have to add a lot more stuff. Just as with a DSLR. You need a rig, you need an audio recorder, you may need an EVF unless somebody comes up with a bigass hood to cover the camera’s huge screen. Zacuto, naturally, has full blown rigs already available. http://store.zacuto.com/Blackmagic-Camera/ Many of us have been working with all these workarounds for several years to adapt DSLRs to more convenient video shooting. So a person using a 5DII probably isn’t going to be scared away from the BM. And I don’t mean to bash the camera. I think it’s a great effort, and the low base price could push the big guys to get more reasonable. For example, the BM’s arrival might have had something to do with Sony’s big sale on the FS100, which put it down low enough for me to justify.
I used to say that resolution is like money: it’s not everything, but if you have enough you can pretty much get everything. That was before 1080 HD became common. Now I think that most all cameras have plenty of resolution. I think the image quality is good enough so anybody who knows what he’s doing and is motivated to do so can make a feature film with most any of the cameras we normally talk about around here.
Instead of resolution is like money, what I’ve been saying lately is: there’s more to a camera than its image. Given that they all can create great images, what is it that makes me want one camera over another? Price, certainly, is a biggie, but not the end-all. Recently I bought the Sony FS100 because I want the convenience of shooting with a “real” video camera again. I have accepted and worked with all the things you have to do to make a DSLR work in a video production world–a sound recorder for double system sound, an expensive EVF that tilts up for low angle shots, a rig for hand held shooting, and more. I seemed to slip into the DSLR user mode easier than many because I’ve always had to work within the limitations of gear available to me. I also shot double system sound back in the film days. So none of this was a serious problem for me, though it did cost some money.
However, when Sony dropped the price on the FS100, I decided it was worth the money to me, for the work I’m doing now and will do in the near future, to go for it. Until Sony put the S35 chip into an affordable “real” video camera, I had no intention of going that route. I’m a big chip guy. I would like the Sony even more if it had a “full frame” chip, although the S35 APS-C sensor is full frame in the cinema world. Sony’s affordable big chip camera sways me to make a purchase, Black Magic’s better image quality doesn’t. At some point I have to stop and say: OK, this quality is good enough. Why does it have to be better? If the camera has better low light capability, better latitude, I can make it look as good as it needs to look for anything I’m doing today or am likely to do in the future. I bought the FS100 because it helps me to do things better, not because it is inherently better than the image quality from the 5DII (although it is in many respects).
It’s a bright, crisp, sunny early fall morning in Kansas City today. If I were so motivated, I could pick up my FS100 out of its bag, turn it on and walk outside and shoot something hand held. With the BM, that’s not going to work without a lot of add-ons. Same for the 5DII, actually, since I’d need the EVF or LCD viewer and a rig if I didn’t have an IS lens on it. And that’s my point–ease of use. For what I’m doing, I want a more traditional video camera, but at the same time I want a cinema style video camera with a big chip. That’s what the Sony FS100 is, that’s what the Canon C100 is, the Sony FS700, the Canon C300, the Sony F3, and so on. When the 5DII came out four years ago, we didn’t have those options.
Others may want the better clarity of image the BM gives, over the convenience Sony and Canon give in their digital cinema cameras. My reason for writing this today is to point out, as I did when video enabled DSLRs hit the fan, that the camera body is the tip of the iceberg. Quite a few people thought they could buy a T2i for under a thousand bucks a couple of years ago and they were set. Doesn’t quite work that way, and the same is true for the BM, lovely image or not. Before you jump, make sure you have a big enough pile of money to land on.
If you’ve been shooting with a DSLR and have a fairly complete rig, as most people who’ve been shooting professionally with DSLRs do, then going to the BM might not be such a big leap. About the only additional thing you’d need would be batteries and a way to connect them. Again, Zacuto will have all you need for that. With this in mind, the question arises: Is the BM a DSLR killer? I hate to use that phrase because the fact that a new camera is available doesn’t “kill off” the older one. Nor does it make it obsolete. The real question should be: If a person is all set to buy a DSLR for video, with all the add-ons he would need to make it video friendly today, should he go with BM instead? The answer to that might be a qualified yes–if the smaller chip isn’t an issue. With a DSLR you sacrifice a lot of “real” video camera things for that big chip. With the BM you sacrifice the same things and more, not for a big chip but for that RAW file. For some it’s worth it, for others it’s not. I think for people like me who like big chips and who are ready to move from the DSLR to a “real” video camera now that they are available for a reasonable cost, the BM is interesting but not going to put a big dent in Sony sales. For people who do lots of effects and want those RAW files, then the BM might be the best choice.
Probably the smartest thing I’ve heard about the BM comes from a friend who owns a DSLR and Zeiss lenses. He routinely rents the Sony F3 for shoots, sometimes a Red. Some things he shoots with his 5DII setup. He’s looking at the BM as a nice B-camera that would intercut well with any other camera he routinely uses but will not replace any of them. What I’d like to see is in a couple of years a Sony FS100 type camera, or Canon C100 type, with the S35 chip and the same RAW capability as the BM. If a non-camera manufacturer like Black Magic can make a camera with that kind of quality that sells for $3K, Sony should be able to do it with a big chip for $5K or $6K.
For more discussion on the Black Magic camera visit our Camera Forum.