Panasonic Gh4

Apr 122013

*Well, its not actually a DSLR. But everyone wants a DSLR, so just pretend that this is a DSLR. At first, I was like who the heck needs a camera that shoots RAW video? Most of the amateurs that buy DSLRs for video upload all their projects to YouTube or Vimeo which results in the same yucky end result: overly compressed footage (keep shooting on your high bit rate hacked settings and uploading to YouTube brah). So, when I heard that Black Magic was coming out with a camera that can shoot RAW video for $1,000 I was like “big ^%$#@ing deal”. Then I went to the Black Magic website, read the specs, and was like “Holy shit this is a big %$#^@ing deal!!”. Basically, if we focus strictly on the specs relating to image quality your GH3, 7D, 5D, etc… are all turds compared to the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera. Large, old, steamy turds.


What Makes The Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera Awesome

The number one thing that you get is “13” stops of dynamic range. I doubt it is really 13 stops, but even if it is only 11 or 12, that is truly great. Normally having a high dynamic range on your DSLR in video mode doesn’t matter. I repeat:  having a high dynamic range on your DSLR for video sucks. The reason high dynamic ranges on DSLRs suck is that you don’t have enough color data to make use of the dynamic range. Because DSLRs only shoot 8 bit video, you only have 256 colors to work with per channel. The greater dynamic range you have the more spread out these colors become. This is why you get banding when shooting on aggressive picture styles. So if the Pocket Cinema was an 8 bit camera, the high dynamic range wouldn’t be such a big deal. Fortunately, this camera can shoot at up to 12 bits. You get a ton of color data, and a high dynamic range that is actually useable.

Having a bunch of color data throughout your dynamic range means you will be able to color grade your footage aggressively. And it even gets better. The second thing that jumped out at me is that it shoots at a 4:2:2 sub sample. DSLRs only shoot video at 4:2:0.  What this means is that pixels in your video or more accurate. Your colors are less blocky/muddy. The color resolution is increased making your image seem sharper and truer. 4:2:2 is particularly useful when the color difference between pixels is high. If all the pixels are generally the same color (like a sky, or white wall) it would be difficult to see a significant difference between 4:2:2 and 4:2:0. But for stuff like green screen work, the benefits of 4:2:2 are very noticeable.

Finally, you get lossless RAW footage, all that color accuracy and dynamic range does not get ruined by in camera compression. The 4 major features I outlined: (high dynamic range, 12 bit color depth, 4:2:2 chroma sub sampling, and uncompressed RAW) basically mean that you are getting great picture quality. But before we all get over excited, I need to point out some unknowns:

Stuff That Might Suck About The Black Magic Pocket Cinema

  • A sensor size of 12.48mm x 7.02mm means that you might get noise in low light. Who knows how this thing will perform in low light or high ISO. Also, you may want to pick up some wide angle lenses since you will be experiencing a fairly high crop factor.
  • Speaking of lenses, the Pocket Cinema is only compatible with Micro Four Thirds format lenses. Not a big deal, but you will need adapters if you want to use  non MFT lenses.
  • Who knows how it will handle moire. The Black Magic Cinema handles moire well, so I hope the Pocket Cinema will  deal with moire equally as well.
  • Software: If the software sucks, it would probably change nothing. But… ideally the software won’t suck.
  • It might not get shipped for a while. The Black Magic Cinema has been “released” for over a year now? At least it feels like it has been out for a year. And yet, nobody is able to get their hands on it. So hopefully when the Pocket Cinema release date comes around, people will actually be able to.. you know.. get the camera.


I would prefer to work with a DSLR body. The shape of DSLRs is designed to be comfortable and functional in your hands. So the ergonomics of the Pocket Cinema is kind of meh. But if the image quality is half as good as I expect it to be, the ergonomics won’t matter. Right now I have one suggestion. Well two suggestions actually. Pre order the Pocket Cinema, and start building a computer that can handle 12 bit RAW video.  Check out the Pocket Cinema on the official Black Magic website.

Oh Snap:

How quickly things change. Magic Lantern has released some updates that allow several Canon DSLRs to shoot raw. The Black Magic Pocket Cinema is still the way to go if you want a stable camera that shoots RAW. But at the rate Magic Lantern has been unlocking RAW video features on the Canon cameras, there is no telling who will rule the sub $1000 RAW camera segment.

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