BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera as a Stills and Motion Portrait Device

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The latest modification of my hand held rig: BMPCC, JuicedLink and Rode NTG1

UPDATE: Since this is my most viewed post about the Pocket Cinema Camera, I’ve posted pictures of just one type of workflow you can use to edit Cinema .DNG’s with sample files from the PCC that you can download for your own personal learning purposes.  I’ve placed this at the end of this rolling post.

The small camera pictured below is the BlackMagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera.  A long name for a small camera that is about the same size as a Playstation controller.  Why this camera, and why is it better in some situations than the larger sensor DSLR’s most everyone these days use for video?  Well..

The BMPCC is a great tool because it shoots very sharp high bit rate ProRes HQ 4:2:2 video, and the ability to also shoot 24 (or 30) frames a second of Cinema DNG RAW’s.  So it is basically like a movie camera shooting individual frames that one can edit just like a still photo.  For a person like myself, who just enjoys documenting life in general and trying to paint those moments in the prettiest way, this camera is definitely an interesting disruptive tool not from any of the companies out of Japan.  So as another photographic device, I think this Pocket Cinema camera is a powerful yet frustratingly quirky tool that punches well above its weight.

The proof they say is in the pudding, and seeing the video files on a full screen monitor, you can definitely see the improvement compared to the DSLR video I’ve been shooting for fun for all these years, since the release of the Nikon D90 and Canon 5D mk II.  Those are still impressive cameras of course, but different tools for different tasks.  Video is definitely not my main interest, it has always been way down on the list, but I think we now have a tool that can shoot important family and life events for posterity.  Even if one were to never show the video clips, it’s good to know the archived footage will hold up much better than VHS, DV, or consumer HD.

I’ve had the camera since Jan of 2014, shooting random things, but I mainly wanted to see if the BMPCC could be a “motion portrait” camera.  Meaning I use it to take video, but afterwards in the computer, take still frames, either from the ProRes or RAW and use that as still photographs.  The camera sensor’s lack of an AA filter means that the 1920×1080 video size is a very sharp 2 MP image.  While marketers are still trying to trick the public with large megapixel numbers, this is good enough for web use and even a 4×6″ print.  This camera does no line skipping or downsampling I believe to get the 1080 image, so it is pixel sharp, much like the files from the Sigma Foveon sensors.  Even in pro level DSLR’s with Bayer sensors and AA filters, one would have to downscale the image correctly to barely get this level of sharpness.

This perhaps is the way of the future, photographers stopping with the incessant clacking of the shutter and just leaving the record button on and just bookmarking keyframes to be later turned into still frames from the video stream.  4K resolution video cameras are just around the corner, and that image area is 8 megapixels, which is good enough for printed photographs and most magazines.  However you decide to create your photographs, either film, digital, or video, this really is the golden age of imaging.

The program I use to color correct/grade these images is also made by BlackMagic Design.  I’m using the free version of Da Vinci Resolve, and I would have to say the color options are as robust as Photoshop and Capture NX2.  On the left you see the straight out of camera shot.  The PCC is meant to be shot in film Log, which is the flat, no contrast low saturation look that isn’t going to impress anyone.  However, after a little tweaking, you can make the video exactly how you remembered the scene, or even better.

The above image is an example of grading/correcting ProRes video.  I’m in agreement with many others online, that properly shot 10bit ProRes 4:2:2 is actually as good as Cinema DNG, which for some situations is just overkill in terms of storage space or workflow.  If any famous people ever step in front of my lens, then Cinema DNG it is, but even ProRes requires some of the most expensive SD cards and lots of computer storage.

This example is grading Cinema DNG.  The original was overexposed a bit and can be brought back in Resolve, or you can edit the individual RAW files in Photoshop or Lightroom, and export out those frames for unlimited creative and color control.

I downscaled all the images from the original 1920×1080 TIFFs to 900 pixels wide for my blog.  Full screen on my editing station looks pretty nice and sharp.  I know companies are pushing us into 4K territory, but for most uses Full HD is still amazing.

Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera and Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (The affordable kit lens that I took from the E-PL1).  It is surprisingly sharp.

Here’s how crazy the weather down south has been this year.  These two photos were taken literally two days apart.  On Sunday, it was in the 50’s with some nice sunlight (but still really cold creek water).  On Tuesday later that week was the big snow/ice storm that shut down Atlanta.

This is a 900 pixel 100% crop from the 1920×1080 TIFF.  I have the exact same pose shot with my Nikon D600, color corrected in Capture NX2, and it is very comparable to this Resolve graded image.  Not bad for a little camera with a cheap kit lens. 🙂

I was pretty far away from the Chinese New Year festivities and it was still quite sharp.  At 100% in the computer and with a little sharpening one can make out the individual faces in the video.

Shooting test footage at the last Caffeine and Octane car show gave me some good learning material, to see if I could pull from memory the hues and saturation of the cars.  Resolve is powerful enough to turn a foggy cold day into a summer evening.

The BMPCC is a proper cinema camera so it works on shutter angles and not shutter speeds like a still camera.  Using the slow kit lens I don’t have too many options against low light so I had to shoot at a 360 degree shutter, which is equal to 1/24 second if you are on 24p.  Not the best of choices for subject movement, as humans do move pretty fast.  I shot some at 30 fps and 180 degrees which smoothed out the motion a bit, but this camera is pretty much for slow non video looking footage.  If you’re needing to record fast moving things at 60fps for slow motion, then look elsewhere.  I know the film greats want to push High Frame Rate on us, but there’s still something lovely about 24p.

Shot with an old Canon 50mm f/1.4 FL with a Micro 4/3 adapter.  Finally this very soft lens is getting some use.

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In addition to photographs, I left the BMPCC rolling when covering the event with Governor Nathan Deal.  In large group pictures someone is always blinking or looking the other way.  With video captures I can at least guarantee myself at least one usable frame.

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Shiny and Chrome!! 🙂

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From an ASA 1600 Cinema DNG. Taken in my somewhat dim drawing environment. Maybe I’ll make a portrait drawing video one day.

The Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera is an interesting video/still frame tool to keep in the bag simply because of the size and image quality (that is if you have enough light!).  Even with its horrible battery life (with the possibility of going from 40% to dead in an instant), an LCD screen you can’t possibly see in daylight, and the very large crop factor really limiting your wide angle lens options, it’s still a powerful movie camera used in many productions.  For me, it’s yet another tool that I can use to grab short vignettes of life.  The same things I could do with any old phone of course, but quality things are worth studying and learning, and this little camera has really opened up the door to a world of malleable footage with free professional level color grading software.

For more posts on the PCC, please click the tag below.

UPDATE: The PCC is on sale right now, half off at $500, until Sept 1st!  Even though the camera is now really affordable, that is just the cost of entry.  You still need a fast memory card, lenses, and lots of hard drive space.  But finally, stop using the DSLR’s for video and get one now!! 🙂

UPDATE2: The PCC now has firmware version 1.8.2, which gives it the ability to shoot lower bitrate ProRes (Regular, LT, and Proxy).  So for those needing longer recording times and slower speed memory cards, that just made this camera an even bigger bargain!)

UPDATE3: Seems this camera is sold out everywhere and back to normal price, darn.  The PCC now has firmware version 1.9.3, which gives it a histogram, audio levels, and time remaining on the card.  Finally!! 🙂


DaVinci Resolve is definitely the best software to use in color grading the footage from the Pocket Cinema Camera, but there are situations in which you’d want to convert the .DNG files to a format that can be edited (for a still image, or for round tripping a batch of images).  Here is one “free” way:

1) Download Adobe Digital Negative Converter, and covert to a version of .DNG that older versions of Photoshop or Lightroom can open

This image is an example of what a PCC .DNG file looks like in Windows 8 Image Viewer. Notice the brightness, since it wants to render as 8 bit Rec. 709.

By going into the camera section in Resolve, you can toggle the preset to now display Film mode, which is the flattest look made for corrective or creative grading.

Download this PCC .DNG  (2.23 MB).  Again, the RAW file is supplied for learning purposes only, no commercial use.

My backyard was looking quite colorful one morning so I shot with 3 cameras, a D600, 5D mk II, and a Pocket Cinema Camera to try and get the same footage that I could learn on in terms of grading.

Download this PCC .DNG  (2.4 MB).  Again, the RAW file is supplied for learning purposes only, no commercial use.

Download this PCC .DNG.  Again, the RAW file is supplied for learning purposes only, no commercial use.

Download this PCC .DNG.  Again, the RAW file is supplied for learning purposes only, no commercial use.

Download this PCC .DNG.  Again, the RAW file is supplied for learning purposes only, no commercial use.

 Download this PCC .DNG.  Again, the RAW file is supplied for learning purposes only, no commercial use.


meHi! My name is Boon.  I’m an Atlanta based Artist.  I draw.  I take pictures.  I write.

I’ve been covering events and documenting the multi ethnic Asian Pacific Islander community here in Georgia since 2004!  Feel free to share with the links below.  Thanks to all for posing for photos!

All Artwork and Photos © Boon Vong. For image usage feel free to Contact Me.

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