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Blackmagic Design shocks with Digital Cine Camera announcement at NAB

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April 17, 2012

Blackmagic Design Digital Cine Camera posing in a field

Blackmagic Design Digital Cine Camera posing in a field

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Blackmagic Design, best known for its well designed, keenly priced video peripherals and the DaVinci color-grading software, has created quite a buzz at the 2012 National Association of Broadcaster’s Show in Las Vegas. Like RED did five years ago, BMD seems to have suddenly changed the game by announcing a new digital cinema camera that breaks all the accepted conventions - including price.

The camera has a super-clean design consisting of a machined aluminum block with a lens mount on one face and a slanted touch-sensitive screen on the other. The left side carries all the connection and the right carries a covered slot for an SSD drive.

There are a number of things that make this a digital cinema acquisition device as opposed to a video camera - a large(ish) sensor, wide dynamic range and the ability to capture RAW to the inbuilt solid state disc.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes 13 stops of dynamic range, 2.5K sensor (FourThirds size, approximately 16.6 mm x 14 mm) , integrated SSD recorder that has the bandwidth to capture 12-bit CinemaDNG RAW, ProRes and DNxHD files, integrated capacitive touchscreen LCD for direct metadata entry, standard 1/4” (6.3 mm) jack audio connectors, refrigerated sensor and it's fully compatible with Canon EF and Zeiss ZF mount lenses. 

The Camera also includes SDI and Thunderbolt connectors and it comes with a full copy of DaVinci Resolve and UltraScope software. This makes off-loading and grading your RAW footage on set a potentially speedy process - the DaVinci software is worth $995 on its own.

Oh, the price? US$2,995 (£1,880/€2,275). I paid twice as much for my first Sony DV camcorder.

Blackmagic Design Digital Cine Camera configurations
Blackmagic Design Digital Cine Camera configurations

The camera records at 24, 25 and 30 fps and no files are custom in any way. It records into CinemaDNG format for RAW files, and DNxHD or ProRes for HD resolution files compatible with Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Pro. The SSD discs are formatted as MacOS Extended discs.

You can play back all recorded files on the LCD, and there is a built-in microphone and speaker for reviewing audio. Of course you can plug in high quality audio into the standard jack connectors and the audio is always recorded uncompressed.

The integrated LCD has a touchscreen and when tapped, a window called the "slate" appears where you can type in shot information just like typing on a smartphone. This is then recorded into the file as metadata in the Final Cut Pro X and DaVinci Resolve format. Common data like shot number can auto increment to save time. 

You can also change camera settings on the touch LCD, such as frame rate, shutter angle, color temperature, dynamic range, focus assist settings and more. The SDI output also has overlays showing you all the camera data when monitoring on set, and even the same data when playing back recorded files.

Obviously there are some compromises when compared to more expensive digital cinema cameras. No overcranking for slow-motion, no Super-35 mm sized sensor, no cinema style PL mount (though that looks possible) and of course it’s not 4K. But frankly it makes some of those cameras look silly for the price. Sony, Canon and to a lesser degree Panasonic, even Arri - the titans of moving picture acquisition over the years are starting to look shaky. Canon’s convolutions over technology, features and pricing for its cinema range are thrown into sharp relief against the sheer simplicity and compatibility of this offering from Blackmagic Design.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is due to go on sale in July ... and likely to be sold out a couple of days afterwards.

Source: Blackmagic Design

About the Author
Vincent Rice Vincent Rice has been an audio-visual design consultant for almost 30 years including six years with Warner Brothers Cinemas. He has designed several large retail installations in London and a dozen major nightclubs across the world from Belfast to Brno to Beruit. An accomplished musician and 3D computer graphics artist, Vince also writes for AV Magazine in the U.K. and the Loudscreen digital signage blog.   All articles by Vincent Rice
6 Comments

The Red cameras are a little over hyped and more than a little over rated.

This new camera will be what a compact digital snappy camera is to a professional DSLR.

They may be game changers in the lower budget market and hopefully will see the demise of DSLR's being used as movie cameras. They are all massive compromises compared to the best cine cameras out there.

Film still looks the best, then the ARRI Alexa and the Sony F65.

Dan Bronks
17th April, 2012 @ 11:38 am PDT

Yes, this is a very interesting camera primarily because of cost and lack of unused frills.

However, there's one important difference between it and the Red camera, for example.

Sensor size.

Many people forget that the film 'look' is mainly optical rather than electronic. For the same shot, the larger the sensor, the longer the focal length of the lens and therefore the smaller depth of field.

This is why 2/3" HDTV cameras fail to recreate the look, despite loads of electronic trickery.

keithbrook
18th April, 2012 @ 03:53 am PDT

Well I can see us shooting all episodic TV with these cameras pretty soon.

oldguy
18th April, 2012 @ 05:43 am PDT

Ha! The price is jokes for such machine! Awesome. Though I agree the sensor is smaller...

Kirill Belousov
18th April, 2012 @ 05:29 pm PDT

Film schools the world over will buy these by the bucketload. And that small sensor is still 4 times the size of super16

Gethin Coles
19th April, 2012 @ 07:47 am PDT

keithbrook errs in his analysis of whatever he calls as "look". If his analysis was correct Hasselblad still cameras would have been total disasters compared to any 35 mm or 16 mm film cameras.

With change in the sensor size you MUST also change the lens to have the same angle of view.

BTW the depth of field is mainly a function of aperture size and NOT the focal length of the lens. I suggest he look up on the subject and search for "circle of confusion" in some old books on photographic camera optics.

It is indeed sad that with all the digital gimmickry the real art of image creation and knowledge of physics behind it is totally lost.

pmshah
19th April, 2012 @ 10:36 pm PDT
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