The black magic pocket cinema camera 4K has an unnecessarily long name, but the camera packs a lot in for the £1100 price tag.
So if you’re looking to upgrade your camera or buy your first camera, is the pocket 4K worth it?
We’ve been putting one to the test for the past few weeks and we are going to be reviewing it in this video.
Just to say up top, BlackMagic did send us over the pocket cinema camera 4K, but everything we say in this video is our honest opinion.
With every piece of filmmaking equip ment that we review, we always like to use it on a production and put it into real world shooting condition. With the Pocket 4K we have used it to shoot episode footage for this channel which is something we do daily, and we have also used to in a screen test for our next short film.
Since we have been shooting on the Sony a7s Mark I for about 2 years, and use it to shoot everything, we will be comparing it to the pocket 4K when we can.
Today’s video is certainly a user review and not necessarily a spec review. I’ll be speaking about the features I think matter when making films. But I have added a link to the black magic website if you want more details.
The black magic interface has got to be one of the easiest to use. With having a 5-inch touchscreen, the layout and buttons are big, it's easy to flick through and adjust the settings.
When shooting with the camera, the record button is big and in a normal place, unlike the Sony A7s record button. In fact, the pocket 4k has two record buttons, but I am not too sure why it is here.
To change the setting on the camera, you select them on the screen and change them from there, or use the jog wheel on the front. On top of the camera, you have the most common buttons to change your ISO, shutter and white balance, and you can change to f/stop with the jog wheel.
Also, you have three custom function buttons which can be set to things like false colour, Zebras, grids, safe areas, also to turn a LUT on and off which is essential if you’re shooting with a flat picture profile.
Recording Format and Resolution
With this camera, you have a bunch of recording formats to choose from.
Which is great to have if you are going to be using this camera to record a bunch of different projects like films or YouTube Videos.
If you are shooting a short film you’re most likely going to shoot RAW. You might as well as you have this camera. With RAW you will get the greatest level of control over your image in post-production you can change the white balance, you have more information to recover your highlights, colour grade, and noise reduction.
More on post-production later on.
You can record onto an SD card, C-fast card, and an external SSD. If you want to shoot at the highest quality you will need to buy external SSD to record onto. The SD and C-Fast card cut out after about 30 seconds because of the size of the RAW recording.
In fact, the best value for money and capacity is an external SSD, as you can get a 500GB card for around £120. A 128GB C-Fast card will cost you 2 or 3 times that, depending on where you by it.
We have a 512 GB SSD. At 4K RAW Lossless you get 15 minutes of record time. For us this file size and the record time is unmanageable, but the camera can also record 4K RAW at 3 to 1 and 4 to 1 which is a reduced quality but you get a much longer record time and there is not a great difference in quality.
When shooting a film we would probably shoot at RAW 4 to 1.
Like us, if you shoot on a daily basis and make videos for YouTube, shooting RAW is again unmanageable in terms of hard drive capacity and unnecessary levels of image clarity, but the camera has a few different flavours of ProRes codecs and quality levels to shoot at.
For a recent video on our channel, we recorded the footage in a mixture of RAW and ProRes at different qualities and it all mixed together well. I even turned a 4K RAW Lossless clip into a gif for social media.
That video was 5 minutes long with a project file size of 131 GB. On average, other videos of that length when shot on our Sony a7s have a total project file size of 20 GB.
For YouTube videos we would probably shoot Pro Res 422, as it has a good balance between quality and file size.
Image Quality Comparison
We pre light our short film 60 Seconds and tested the Pocket 4k. We recorded at a number of different formats and resolutions so flick through them to compare.
This camera has a 3.5mm microphone and headphone port. You can plug in a full-size HDMI cable, it has a 12v power port so you can run the camera from a wall socket. A USB-C port for external hard drives, and a mini XLR port.
This allows you to plug in a mini XLR to full XLR cable into the camera. This is a great feature to have as you don't have to buy extra equipment like this smart rig converter box which we currently use.
When we tested this out and monitored the audio through headphones whilst recording, the audio was delayed from the video and sounded like this.
The footage was all in sync in the final clip, but it made it impossible to monitor the audio whilst recording. Hopefully, this can be fixed in a firmware update because it is a big problem.
This camera is an investment. You will need to build up the camera to be able to use it efficiently when shooting, but this is very similar to most cameras out there like our Sony a7s.
The first thing you will want to get after the camera is a cage as this will help you mount the other accessories you need for the camera. The cage we have is from SmallRig, it comes with a top handle, HDMI clamp, and hard drive mount.
We have a full review of the cage in the next video, which you can find here if you are watching this in the future.
The battery life of the camera sucks and the LP-E6 battery will last about 30 minutes. So you will either have to buy a bucket load of LP-E6 batteries or work out some form of external battery solution.
We used a dummy battery and our DIY NPF mount, but the results weren’t great. A battery at 100% dropped straight down to 60 or 40%.
This could have just been our battery setup, so if you are thinking of getting the pocket 4k look into other external battery setups. Especially ones that run through the 12v power input which is on the side of the camera.
Like I said earlier, external SSDs are at the best option to record onto and having a cage like this will allow you to mount one and not just have it dangle down.
If you are going to be shooting all day you will need to buy a few SSDs to get you through a whole day’s shoot. The other option is to have a computer nearby so you can copy the footage off the card.
If you have to do this whilst shooting a film, you would have someone whose sole job it is to ingest the footage off the card and onto the computer, this person is called a DIT.
Most of the time it’s difficult to find someone who can record sound on your film, so a DIT is a bit of a luxury for us indie filmmakers.
If you want to shoot RAW, you’re going to need hard drive space for your computer, but the next investment is having a computer that can handle the workflow of editing RAW.
To process the footage you're going to be going through DaVinci Resolve which is an amazing program for being free.
I am not going to go into any more detail about the RAW editing workflow in this video, but I have linked to a good tutorial in the description below.
In the past, I have edited a film which we shot in RAW on a laptop that could not handle the workflow, and it was very difficult to play back the edit and be creative. So some advice, make sure your computer system can handle the workflow before you buy this camera.
We have good computers that can handle the RAW workflow, I’ve linked to two videos below about the 2 computers we use if you want to check them out.
When grading your footage, DaVinci Resolve is the king. Again, it’s amazing that this program is free, and I am not getting paid to say that. There is a big learning curve with the program, especially when it comes to grading. So you want to spend your next investment learning it.
If you are looking for Resolve tutorials, check out Izak Jackson’s channel. He’s got a bunch on DaVinci Resolve and some other great videos too.
Shooting RAW will give you the greatest level of control over your image, compared to shooting at H.264 on the Sony or even ProRes on the Pocket 4K. The image will be sharper, you can correct mistake a lot easier by having the ability to adjust the ISO and white balance in post. There are just fewer compromises you have to make when trying to achieve the film look you want.
Who is this camera for?
So after all of that, who is this camera for? We have used it to shoot episodes for this channel and test shot for our up and coming short film. For our YouTube videos, we wouldn’t really use the camera. As we make 8 videos per month the file sizes are just too high and we would be buying new hard drives every month.
To shoot a film, which we do 2 to 3 times a year, we wouldn’t mind the extra production expense we would need to spend on hard drives VS the quality of image we would get. Since every film is a one-off.
If you need the highest level of image quality because you are shooting video production work for a client and are making money from it, the pocket 4K is a very good option.
Any negatives that I have said about this camera or the extra investment you have to make to be able to use this camera, is all thrown away because of the price of the pocket 4K.
And at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to, the price.
The image quality you get from it is amazing, and in order to get the same quality from another camera you’re going to need to spend 10 thousand pounds plus.
If you are looking to buy this camera, just remember the extra investment you will need to make in terms of accessories, hard drive storage, and a computer that can handle the workflow.
But for £1100, you get a lot of camera for the price.
In the description below I have linked to a few different articles that go into more detail about the specs of this camera, which I would highly recommend reading if you think about buying this camera. If you like this video give it a thumbs up and down if you don't, and remember to achieve it one shot at a time.
Black Magic Website - https://goo.gl/EyXXzE
Raw Editing Workflow - https://youtu.be/clRnEwOcVis
Data Rates - https://goo.gl/zZdGgW
Wolfcrow - https://goo.gl/id2dCA
Izak Jackson Resolve - https://youtu.be/zXOGJaAnwoo
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