Blackmagic delivers big and small |
I have always asked myself the question “Which camera should I buy?” “
It’s always coming from someone who isn’t in the market for an Alexa Mini or 8K RED, but rather something new, capable, and inexpensive. Did I mention cheap?
There is no slam-dunk answer to this question, of course, and never will be. No camera is right for everyone or for all situations. But among the wonders of our 4K moment is the fact that virtually all 4K cameras take good pictures, considering their markets and prices.
Namely, you just have to reach for that iPhone Pro in your pocket, the one with a wide, ultra-wide and 3x zoom lens turret that captures HDR (high dynamic range), or a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with his four 8K lenses and capture, or a Sony Xperia PRO-I with its oversized 1 â³ sensor, how did they fit it inside? !!
It’s hard to imagine that we won’t see new trends in making documentaries based on these pocket cameras, which again run away with goalposts, like they did with still photography.
But to those who ask in 2021 “which camera should I buy?” Â», The affordable pocket camera that I recommend more than any other belongs to a different category: the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro from Blackmagic Design.
I’ve spent much of the past year investigating the latest wave of “mirrorless” cameras. They are mini cinematographic cameras derived from digital SLRs. As was the case with their pictured background, the controls and ergonomics are geared towards individual use, not crew use. From the photo above, the design elements of the DSLR in Blackmagic’s PCC 6K Pro are clear.
The practical field use of these mirrorless cameras for video production typically requires mounting them inside a skeletal “cage” with numerous mounting holes. Connected devices often include an LCD screen larger than the camera, an external recorder for ProRes or RAW files, audio items like an XLR input adapter, microphone, shock mount, wireless receivers, and sometimes a small digital audio recorder. These “Frankencameras” are commonplace these days in low budget production.
What Blackmagic Design has provided in the PCC 6K Pro is a compact Super35 camera that already packs in much of what you would otherwise need to add on a mirrorless platform. First, a tilting 5-inch HDR display with a blinding maximum brightness of 1,500 nits, easily visible in daylight. This makes, for example, an Atomos Ninja V unnecessary for surveillance, as well as the extra weight of its battery.
No audio input module is required. Two audio channels are always recorded, either from the PCC 6K Pro’s built-in mics, via two mini-XLR inputs with phantom power, or via a 3.5mm stereo mini phono jack. Thanks to this mini phono jack, the PCC 6K Pro can also record external timecode. Its own high-resolution internal timecode clock is accurate to within one frame of six hours and can be synchronized with other devices.
The PCC 6K Pro is EF mount only. Here I could quote Orson Welles: âThe enemy of art is the absence of limitations. However, an EF mount is hardly limiting: in addition to the classic Canon L series, you can attach Zeiss CP.2 lenses or Sigma Art lenses. The list of suitable EF lenses is long. The camera’s 6K sensor looks great and can capture the quality of any lens placed in front of it. Some in the Hollywood community have described her appearance as “organic” and “filmic.” As with the very latest sensors, it provides native dual ISO: 400 and 3200. In front of the sensor, the PCC 6K Pro incorporates an internal 2/4/6 stop ND filter wheel that suppresses unwanted IR (infrared) transmission, which may discolor dark objects.
Internally, the PCC 6K Pro records Blackmagic RAW and ProRes to high speed SD cards or CFast 2.0 cards. Externally, it records to affordable off-the-shelf SSDs using a USB-C cable, which also powers the SSD. As an alternative, you can also use the full size HDMI port for external recording or live streaming. Each of these media types can be formatted in the camera, or you can then format on your computer as HFS + (Mac) or exFAT (Windows). The camera doesn’t care which one. For RAW and ProRes, the maximum frame rates for 6K, 5K, and 4K are 50 or 60 fps, depending on the aspect ratio. 2K and HD offer 120 fps.
I can’t say enough good things about the care Blackmagic has put into designing a simple, easy-to-use user interface (UI). If you’ve gotten yourself tangled up with endless menu trees full of functions poorly explained in other cameras, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of a large touchscreen with well-organized and generously-sized selections that are clear and neat – in l ‘one of Eleven languages ââyou can choose from.
If you want a clean viewing screen with no data overlay, just swipe up or down. If you want to magnify the image to check the focus, double-tap the screen and zoom in with the front scroll wheel. If you’re using an autofocus lens, you can touch the screen to select an object to focus on. The touchscreen can also control the iris of an autofocus lens. By the way, the same goes for an app called Bluetooth + on an iPhone. And not just the irisâ¦ I have experimented with using this app to accurately focus remotely on Canon L series lenses, and got pretty good at it while observing the red peak. on the PCC 6K Pro screen.
If you’re a viewfinder like me, the PCC 6K Pro is for you. Blackmagic has designed an excellent modular viewfinder for the PCC 6K Pro that attaches to the top of the camera. It offers a feature I’ve never seen before, a Siemens star to confidently adjust the viewfinder diopter to your eye. Otherwise, it displays the same image and data as found on the LCD screen. It costs $ 495 more, but I consider it essential.
As mentioned above, no camera is perfect and the PCC 6K Pro has some shortcomings. The location and arrangement of the physical buttons are disadvantageous for portable work. Popular functions like continuous autofocus, automatic white balance tracing, automatic ISO, in-body stabilization, etc. are absent. (Canon lenses with optical image stabilization will compensate for the lack of stabilization in the body.) And to be clear, you would need a fairly large pocket for this camera. The PCC 6K Pro is significantly larger than most mirrorless cameras, in part to fit that five-inch LCD screen. Indeed, the PCC 6K Pro reminds me of a VW bug or a CitroÃ«n 2CV from the 60s: simple but beautiful in its simplicity and reliability.
Unlike those air-cooled vehicles, however, the PCC 6K Pro must use a cooling fan to expel the considerable heat generated by moving so much internal data. This may be slightly audible when the camera is on, and it can be completely turned off during filming if desired. But heat always means battery drain, and the PCC 6K is indeed battery hungry. Fortunately, there are different ways to power the camera, including USB-C and a dedicated AC adapter with a locked connector.
Finally, the purchase of a PCC 6K Pro includes a full license for the Studio version of DaVinci Resolve ($ 295). Especially for a novice independent filmmaker, using the PCC 6K Pro in tandem with Resolve opens a gateway not only to a fun production playground, but also to an advanced stationary program. Resolve’s well-written manual can introduce you to the wonders of professional color grading, effects (Fusion), audio publishing (Fairlight), and modern wide-gamut color management. With the friendly help, of course, countless how-to YouTube videos.
That’s a hell of a lot of value for $ 2,495 – and why, in 2021, I could easily recommend the PCC 6K Pro to any independent filmmaker, regardless of their level of experience. My choice for independent camera of the year.