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LightForm, December 30 2018

Blackmagic Design Pocket 4K Review & Thoughts

This will be my thoughts and essentially a mini "review" of the Pocket 4K. I'm not a colorist, nor am I a cinematographer rather just filmmaker and likes to shoot their own things. I wrote reviews on our past website but sadly don't have access to them anymore. I work with a lot of people that are not as interested, or well versed in some of the more technical aspects hence these posts will be written with that in mind. Basically they'll be simply, my thoughts and what I would tell to my friends.

INTRODUCTION

The Blackmagic Pocket 4K is probably one of the most anticipated (video/cinema) cameras of 2018. It's garnered a lot of attention and with that there's a lot of information on youtube and various sites. There are a lot of filmmakers/channels that do excellent gear reviews therefore I won't be delving too heavily into those aspects. But the guiding question I'd like to focus on in this post will be: is the Pocket 4K a camera capable of cinematic imagery, or use in a film production? And from my various tests and use in a short film, the answer to both is a definite yes.

BODY

The body of the Pocket 4K doesn't really remind me of the original Pocket Cinema Camera (I still remember when that and the Production camera were leaked back in 2013). Rather, it reminds me of an updated, slimmer version of the original 2.5K Cinema Camera. I heard someone say:  "it's spiritually is the successor to the 2.5K Cinema Camera in many ways." And I'd have to agree with that.

The body is solid, lightweight—yes it's very light, and easy to use. Something Blackmagic Design has always excelled at is the fusion between form and function and that still rings true. I'm not a big fan of cages though my brother always shows me how useful they are whenever we need to mount accessories on other cameras but in essence, you don't NEED to use an external cage with the Pocket. It works as a self-contained unit without extras in a run & gun environment. But for some, a cage will be useful and luckily there are a ton of options out there. I prefer to use the Pocket with a cage when we have it on the Ronin-S just because that allows us to mount a wireless follow focus (the Tilta Nucleus M).

The touchscreen is a bright and the interface is always easy to use. I'm a fan of touchscreen interfaces since they allow for fast access to different settings and with the newest OS, I don't think a manufacturer has a better navigation setup. It's easy and intuitive. For the most part it will fill every major need. Though you'll want an external "highbright" monitor when you're outside when it's bright.

The Pocket 4K uses the m43 mount with a 4/3 sized sensor and that allows for excellent adaptability. I prefer not to use m43 lenses on the camera, rather using my Sigma Arts (nikon mount) or my Nikon AIS lenses adapter so I can't comment on the usability of autofocus and the likes.

IMAGE QUALITY

So the Pocket 4K states that there is 13 stops of dynamic range and it has dual native iso which right off the bat represents one of the best, if not the best bang for buck. Essentially what the two native ISOs represent is two sets of ISOs where the noise is cleanest. Below I've shot two different scenes: one at an iso of 400 and one at 3200.

Dynamic range is one of the most important factors to me when talking about image quality and I've always been astounded by the flexibility afforded by the BMD cameras. As of November 2018, there's no other camera that allows you to record in Prores, cDNG—and soon Blackmagic RAW at this price point. 

Dual ISO
I'll be going over this later but as a first for Blackmagic Design, the Pocket 4K has more than one native ISO. The two most used ones will either be: 100-1000 with the native at 400 and 1250-6400 with a native at 3200. In other words, if there's not a lot of light out, you'll most likely want to use the range of 1250-6400. If you are shooting in Prores then iso 3200 will the best in terms of balancing DR and shadows. But this also means that if you are shooting at iso 1000 then you may want to bump it up to 1250 and bring the exposure down through bringing the aperture down or using something such as an ND filter. 

There are tradeoffs to this though in terms of dynamic range since the second set does have less total dynamic range, and a different distribution. So something to be aware of.

Color
Another important factor is the color science of the Pocket 4K. I won't go into the semantics of color science, what that means and such, rather I'll approach it from the perspective of: do I like the way this system renders color? The answer is yes. 

One of the biggest strengths—arguable maybe the biggest strength— of Blackmagic Design cameras have been their color science. There is something organic, and yet "cinematic" about the color science from the start. Each new generation gets better and better and when combined with the variety of available codecs, offers incredible flexibility in post.

Blackmagic RAW & Codecs

Having shot with Blackmagic RAW, it's my go to codec. I like the flexibility, speed and size that it offers. Having used the 

Versus Ursa Mini Pro
The image quality is astounding on the Pocket 4K. Does it match or beat the Ursa Mini 4.6K sensor in terms of dynamic range? No, it does not from my perspective. Generation 4 color science allows the two systems to intercut very well but the UMP "wins" in that department. The two situations where the Pocket excels is in low light and portability. The Pocket 4K is definitely better than the 4.6K in low light and it's lighter/easier to use on certain systems such as gimbals versus the much heavier 4.6K. 

For me, those two fields are where I see them being used: complementary cameras in that intercut incredibly well. For us the UMP is the A camera, whereas the Pocket is B camera or used when a moving shot or lowlight shot is needed. 

SOUND QUALITY


FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Written by

LightForm

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