Shooting with the BMPCC

When it comes to camera equipment, I’m a total sucker for a good deal. The Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) was already competitively priced when it was first released at the extremely affordable $999.95 price tag. So when Black Magic decided to slash the price to $500 for the month of July, I was all in.

I had previously acquainted myself to all of the camera’s major drawbacks – limited ISO/white balance options, a touchscreen designed menu system without actual touchscreen functionality, absolutely atrocious battery life and generally being a beast when it comes to eating through SD Card memory (which has since been addressed in a recent firmware update by including several more options for Prores codecs.)  Most of these didn’t concern me so much, as there are basic workarounds for all of the above, but being an avid Canon shooter, I needed to know that I would be able to effectively use all of the EF glass that I have invested in. Luckily with the purchase of a speedbooster from fine folks at Roxsen, not only are all of my lenses now compatible, but I’m also given an extra stop of light as well as having converted the camera’s very small Super 16mm sensor to just a hair below a Super 35mm sensor.

I spent last weekend up in New Hampshire and while there, had the opportunity to begin briefly testing it out. In the quick sample test footage below you’ll see my fiancée trying to coax our timid indoor cat outside as well as some shots of our nephew, Parker and his dad, Jeff. Footage is shot mostly handheld, with a few instances of using a monopod. Lenses used are the Canon “nifty fifty” 50mm f1.8 as well as some vintage glass (Canon FD 28mm f2.8 & Vemar 35mm f2.8, both adapted for EF Mount.)

What I really love about the camera is that the image has such a textured, cinematic look. However, coming from Canon DSLRs, I’ve gotten incredibly used to having numerous picture styles and color profiles to work with. I typically always do some color correction on all of my projects, but have become comfortable with nailing down what I can in camera (which is incredibly helpful for those “run-and-gun” style shoots.) With the BMPCC, this is not really an option as the camera outputs a very flat image that will always need some form of color grading.

A few shots from the footage below compare the ungraded image straight out of the camera to some fast and dirty color grading I added directly within Adobe Premiere.

Some extra work is required with a profile this flat, but you are given so much latitude in how far you would like to push the image, along with a great amount of dynamic range (13 stops, I think) which seems like a fair trade. I still have a ways to go in terms of becoming a more skilled colorist and I realize the learning curve from DSLR to cinema camera may be steep, but given some of the results I’ve already seen, I am very seriously considering this camera for use on my next major film project.

2 Comments

  1. greg jandrys says:

    Great review and support media. I’ve wanted to bite on something black magic for a while but there are no real in depth reviews. I’d say go for it Dom…

  2. Dom Portalla says:

    Thanks very much for reading, Greg! Really just scratching the surface here and plan on doing a lot more shooting with the BMPCC soon. If you’re interested in more Black Magic info, definitely look up some of the really in depth reviews online from Phillip Bloom, Dave Dugdale and Caleb Pike.

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