To count the Blackmagic Design company among the young wild ones may be cocky – after all, the Australians have been on the market for 18 years. And yet: Appearance and claim are a provocation for some established manufacturers, Blackmagic cameras often cost significantly less than other film cameras, although they are intended for high demands and the professional film business. This also applies to the cheapest Blackmagic segment that has been established for some time – the pocket cinema cameras. At least the manufacturer bravely calls them Pocket, although they already have the format of very full-blown SLR cameras.
Two versions are offered: The slightly narrower model with a FourThirds image sensor and a maximum resolution of 4K, i.e. Ultra HD, and the 6K model with a larger Super 35 sensor. A larger sensor gives the filmmaker a little more leeway, for example if he wants to work with a shallow depth of field, i.e. wants to present people in front of a blurred background. Conversely, this also means that it is easier to keep an image sharp in all planes with smaller sensors. This can simplify filming, especially in the documentary or journalistic field. The SZ had the 6K camera there for testing, which not only has a higher resolution, but also the possibility of using the very common Canon EF lenses.
Due to its size and shape alone, the Blackmagic Pocket is involuntarily compared to classic photo cameras, with which good videos can often be shot. But most cameras let you feel from time to time, and especially at inopportune moments, that they were primarily made for taking pictures. With Blackmagic it’s the other way around. It is certainly capable of taking photos, but the clear operating concept is geared towards filming. This is also noticeable with the screen on the back of the camera, which at five inches is almost as big as that of a small iPhone. It is operated at the touch of a finger and whatever you are looking for in the settings – you will quickly find what you are looking for.
The screen is large, but unfortunately cannot be rotated or pivoted
However, at the latest during the first shoot, one regrets that this screen cannot be moved and is also not one of the brightest. This is particularly problematic if you shoot out of your hand and maybe even at waist height – with the rigid screen, this quickly leads to blind flight. But five inches is also five inches – if you work with a tripod, the picture can usually be assessed quite properly with it. Especially since Blackmagic also offers tools for controlling brightness (zebra), sharpness (focus peaking) or a magnifying glass function, which are helpful when shooting. If the recorded image material is to be viewed quickly, zebra and focus peaking can also be switched on afterwards.
Better to use a hard drive for recording
What is really impressive about the Blackmagic camera is the variety of possible recording formats, including raw format. Raw means that the raw data, i.e. all the details recorded by the image sensor, are also saved – there is much more to such a video file than what can be seen on the screen. This expands the possibility of post-processing a film enormously. Each manufacturer uses its own raw format, with this camera it is Blackmagic Raw. Not every video editing software can handle it, but Blackmagic conveniently supplies a video editing and color correction program with the Da Vinci Resolve software. By the way, if you want to film in the full 6K resolution, you can only do so in the raw format.
This creates enormous amounts of data. It is therefore advisable to save the data directly on a hard drive while filming, which is possible via the USB-C connection.
The name Pocket not only suggests a certain lightness, but also that this camera could be made to take with you and film anytime. Well, she doesn’t necessarily invite you to spontaneous filming. It starts with the battery. The standard battery only lasts about half an hour, only a battery grip with several batteries allows longer shoots. This camera also does not have its own image stabilization. This means: If you want to film by hand, you should at least have image stabilization in the lens or, even better, use a gimbal – a carrying frame that compensates for movements.
When filming interviews, it must also be taken into account that, unlike many cameras, the Blackmagic does not have face recognition or autofocus for moving objects. Professional filmmakers may well be able to do without such functions, but those who are used to being able to fall back on these tools in tricky moments from their photo camera should take this into account when buying. External microphones are also important because the camera does not work silently, which can be clearly heard on recordings with the internal microphones.
For a price of a good 2000 euros, the Blackmagic offers numerous possibilities that invite you to experiment – especially for those cases in which the focus is not on speed but on artistic demands. If that’s too much money for you, you can also use the smaller model, which offers almost as many options but costs a third less.