A Review of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K
The Blackmagic 4K Production camera is one extremely complete piece of technology if what you’re looking for is a tool for your Ultra HD 4k production needs, and it all comes packed into one nicely compact build. This is due to the extremely advanced technology inside the Blackmagic and in this regard the manufacturer really delivers some of the best that the market has to offer. The most notable aspect of the Blackmagic is its powerful Super 35 mm image sensor and accompanying EF compatible lens mount.
This camera can record Ultra 4K in a variety of formats and serve a wide assortment of truly professional video production needs, all of it coming packaged in a very handsome design with a machined aluminum chassis.
Camera update 2.4 now available for the Blackmagic 4K Production camera for following:
Updated camera utility
Adds support for more frame guides option
Holding down MENU for bypassing the Dashboard
Shooting 4k Ultra HD TV and 4K film features is a cinch with the Blackmagic 4k. Giving you a versatile Super 35 sensor, global professional shutter and the already mentioned precision EF mount flexibility. It also features high end visual loss-free compressed CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) recording capacity inside its compact, self-contained design. A built in touchscreen lets you easily manage the cameras settings, interface and any metadata tags you need to handle as you’re shooting film. Furthermore, built-in uncompressed audio recording capacity lets you capture professional audio streams right into the ProRes video files and thus eliminate time consuming post production audio synching.
Finally, the compact and very durable design features precision engineering and a tough but surprisingly light weight machined aluminum chassis.
Not much bad about this piece of excellent 4K video production hardware. But the Blackmagic 4K is not as powerful in low light conditions as one might want it to be, it definitely works better under ideal lighting conditions.
A last thing that’s worth mentioning is the Blackmagic’s built-in battery and its relatively short runtime. Thus you should definitely buy an external battery or power plugging system for extended use. Also, there is the slightly annoying fact that the battery charger doesn’t tell you if the battery is fully charged or not, requiring you to turn on the camera and check charge status on its LCD display.
For any sort of professional 4K video production you could possibly want to do in-studio or in a controlled field setting, this is a superb camera that will cover your needs extremely well and deliver some truly fine quality video footage.
Blackmagic Production Camera 4K Specs
• Camera Type: 4K video Production Camera
• Video Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
• Sensor Type: 21.12 x 11.88 mm (Super 35 mm)
• Recording Formats: Apple ProRes 422, ProRes 422 (HQ), ProRess 422 LT, ProRes 422 Proxy at 3840x2160 and 1920x1080
Compressed CinemaDNG RAW at 3840x2160 and 1920x1080
• Recording media: Removable 2.5” SSD formatted for Mac OS or PC via Macdrive
• Lens Mount: EF and ZE mount, compatible with electronic iris control
• Display: LCD 5” Touchscreen
• Microphone: built-in mono microphone
• Connectivity: 1 SDI Video output (10 bit 4:2:2), 2 Analog audio input, 1 Analog audio output, 2 channel SDI Audio output
• Screen Size: 7.6 cm
• Frame Rates: 3840 x 2160p: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 1920 x 1080p: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 1920 x 1080i: 50, 59.94
• Dynamic Range: 12 stops
Standard 2.5mm LANC jack for connection to a remote control for start/stop recording and iris controls.
When it comes to the Blackmagic 4K production camera, there are plenty of really cool highlights.
For starters, the camera, offers 12 stops of dynamic range which give you the ability to create incredible imagery that goes beyond the quality of almost any regular video camera and even many high end broadcast cameras in media use. These 12 stops of dynamic range are further improved by being captured in ProRes and CinemaDNG 4K resolution files which let your images maintain a noticeably clean and beautiful film look.
Another highlight is the included built-in Thunderbolt connection that lets you plug the Blackmagic into a laptop or PC and use the accompanying UltraScope software for waveform monitoring in real time. And as far as additional connectivity highlights go, the Blackmagic also includes ¼” jack mic/line inputs for creating ultra-high quality uncompressed audio recordings that sync directly with your RAW video.
The already mentioned Super 35 (21.12 x 11.88 mm) sensor is also a noteworthy highlight of the Blackmagic 4K. Thanks to this development and the Blackmagic’s EF compatible lens mount, you can get the same familiar framing and optical behavior from lenses you already own from brands like Canon, ZEISS or Schneider due to the high level of compatibility. The sensors global shutter also gives you excellent panning and extremely low crop factor for maximally broad shots from your wide angle lenses.
Another benefit of the Super 35 is that, if you’re working in HD, it lets you reframe and zoom into different focus levels without notable resolution loss and also scale down from 4K into normal HD while preserving clean, smooth imagery.
Finally, we need to also mention the Blackmagic’s open and multiplatform compatible file formatting concept. Instead of recording hard to convert file formats, this camera does its best to record in file formats that are easily compatible with whatever existing video editing software you might be using.
So how does the overall performance of the Blackmagic 4K production camera come off? Well, to put it simply, it handles excellently under the conditions it’s been designed for. This gadget is definitely an excellent substitute for many overly complicated and much larger professional production cameras on the market. It’s also a lot cheaper than many of them.
The film quality it gives you easily compares to some of the best you’ll find with far more complex professional broadcast cameras and thanks to its very simple, easy to use design, the Blackmagic is on the whole a very versatile and easy to use device given all the capabilities it has.
We’ve already covered a number of them above but excellent technical features that will make your production work much easier are numerous in the Blackmagic. The manufacturer really put effort into fitting a lot inside this UHD video production machine’s small 3.97 pound body.
First off, there is the super quick SSD recording system of the Blackmagic. Its built-in SSD recorder captures 4K in ProRes 422 (HQ) and compressed CinemaDNG files easily and extremely quickly, letting you later extract the SSD card and get started on your post production workflow with a minimum of hassle. Formatting options for the built-in SSD consist of HFS+ and exFAT for both Mac and Windows compatibility.
Both Ultra HD 4K and 1080HD are available for the Blackmagic production camera. 4K UHD recording can be done either in ProRes 422 (HQ) and visual loss free compressed CinemaDNG RAW. Naturally, both formats come at an absolutely crystal clear 3840 X 2160 pixel 4k resolution. 1080HD can also be filmed with ProRes and CinemaDNG. Furthermore, a 6G-SDI output lets you perform UHD live production on the fly in live environments with just one single cable, as opposed to the 4 different SDI cables that used to be necessary with older Ultra HD cameras.
Metadata entry has also been greatly simplified in the Blackmagic. This crucial video production feature, which lets you manage your varied digital assets and organize them effectively, can be done on the fly as you shoot with the Blackmagic. Entering keywords, comments or marking files under specific labels are all possible and follow standard protocols for compatibility with assorted post production software platforms.
Also, there is a new set of software tools for disk formatting on the Black Magic Production Camera 4K that was released on September 6th, 2014. This software package is called the Camera 1.9.5 update and is available for free to owners of this machine at the Black Magic Design website. What this particular new update does is allow users to format SSDs inside the camera that they don't need to use their external computer for making an SSD recording.ready.
Unlike computers that format disks for general storage use, the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K can now format SSDs that are optimized for maximal high performance video use. The camera confirms the brand of SSD and its other parameters and then configures the storage media for maximal performance for its specific type.
Also, we should mention the Remote Control LANC feature of the Blackmagic, which gives you an industry standardized 2.5 mm jack into which you can connect a camera remote that allows you to control start and stop record functions as well as electronic lens control of iris and focus.
Addtionally, Blackmagic Design added in a new "heads up display" for the Production Camera 4K as of July 24th, 2014 with its Camera 1.9 software package, which is available for free from the Blackmagic Design site. This new system includes the “heads up display” for screen metering and gives users histogram, peak audio meters and an indicator for recording time remaining for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. Right here is where you can check this update out.
Finally, we have the newly updated Camera 1.8.2 software --which adds three new Apple ProRes™ file formats for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K-- and a new Blackmagic Camera Update 1.8 software that offers updated features for the entire line of Blackmagic Design cameras. This update to the camera's software is described in detail here on the Blackmagic site.
Other Recent Software Updates.
Blackmagic Design recently released Blackmagic Camera Utility 1.9.7 for the Production Camera 4K. This update Improves in-camera formatting support. It's available here if your camera is connected to your PC.
The company also released Blackmagic Camera Utility 1.9.9 for improved in-camera format reliability. It can be downloaded from here while your camera is connected to your PC
Finally, there is the Blackmagic Camera Utility 1.9.10 for enchanced in-camera format reliability when formatting in HFS+. This can be downloaded from here with your camera connected to the PC.
As we’ve already covered in some detail, image quality and resolution on the Blackmagic are simply superb. In both 4K and HD, it offers Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) and CinemaDNG RAW at UHD 3849 x 2160 and HD 1920 x 1080 resolutions. The bit rate sits at 880 Mbps under ProRes 422 and the frame rates that the camera gives you range along the following:
3840 x 2160p23.98,
3840 x 2160p24,
3840 x 2160p25,
3840 x 2160p29.97,
3840 x 2160p30,
1920 x 1080p23.98,
1920 x 1080p24,
1920 x 1080p25,
1920 x 1080p29.97,
1920 x 1080p30,
1920 x 1080i50,
1920 x 1080i59.94
Pricewise, the Blackmagic Designs 4K production camera is an excellent value given all of its enormous capabilities and compact size. It’s currently available for just under $3,000 dollars but bear in mind that it does require quite a few expensive accessories for full shooting capacity (see below).
Also, as of September 12, 2014, Blackmagic Design released a new version of its root Production Camera 4K model. Called the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K PL, the new edition of the shooter comes with a PL lens mount that allows for the use of professional and even vintage cinema lenses that the original Blackmagic Production Camera 4K couldn't accept. The new camera version is available from $2,295.
Update: Nov 2015 - On sale for $2,919.89
We’ve already covered the main negative features above. They really aren’t many given what this camera is offering. More than anything we’re talking about minor annoyances such as the short built-in battery life, its charger not letting you know when the battery is full again and the fact that the Blackmagic isn’t as great in low light film settings as some competitor brands are.
Also, the camera itself comes as a pretty barebones package in terms of all the accessories that you’d need to buy in order to really shoot 4K RAW professionally. Thus, while the Blackmagic’s price tag is reasonable, the add-ons you’ll need will cost you quite a bit extra. You can check out the Red Scarlet X 4k Camera for a comparison.
• Fantastic 4K/UHD and 1080HD video recording
• Excellent 12 stop dynamic range
• Easy to upload videos via SSD
• Tough, light weight design
• Open file format for easy software synch
• On the fly audio recording
• Live environment production capacity with 6G-SDI
• Super 35 mm Sensor for max compatibility
• EF lens mount for max compatibility
• Slightly subpar in low light settings
• Short internal battery life
• Becomes expensive with all the needed add-ons