Small Bag Cinema Camera

After two months of waiting since Blackmagic Design supposedly started shipping Pocket Cameras I finally got mine. I heard it was in a batch of first twenty that CVP Group received in England. I knew this camera won’t be perfect so I prepared for it. I got a Schneider Kreuznach Variogon 1:2/18-90 C-mount lens (together with beautiful Beaulieu R16 camera), M-mount lens adapters for my SLR Magic lenses (HyperPrime CINE T0.95 35mm and 50mm). Everything else I took from my FS700 rig. Camera plate and rails, power, monitor and side handle. So I managed to fit together this run and gun rig.

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This camera has or had many problems and compromises. I was a bit worried while I was waiting for it about the black dots and white orbs, but then I saw that it can be firmware updated to correct this and my worries went away. My camera was already updated so there was none of that. The camera also supports only a few very fast SD cards. Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB can shoot up to 37min in ProRes (HQ) codec which is enough for small shoots. You must have a second card to rotate the two and copy the clips of one while you shoot on the second one. When they enable raw recording, recording times will go down. If you look at the files John Brawley posted on the web (yeah, raw is coming soon), you can see that their file sizes are variable from 2,1MB  to 2,5MB for a frame. That means if you shoot 25fps, the minute of footage is from 3 to 3,6GB and you can record from 17 to 20 minutes of footage on one 64GB card. So I will probably need to add another card in the arsenal. This cards are not cheap as they go for around 110€ on Amazon. You will also need to make habit of buying a few additional disks for storing footage every month. And the camera doesn’t have a format option so you  have to remember to delete all the footage from the card when you copy it to the computer.

The camera also has a very small battery so it drains in about an hour. So I took Hawkwoods DV-F980L, 7200mA Sony style NP-F battery I had for my Sony NEX-FS700 with DV-CA12 Link Power Adaptor (2 Hirose and one D-Tap output). I than made a D-Tap to DC Power Jack adapter for powering SmallHD DP4 monitor when it is on FS700 and another adapter from 2.1mm DC Power Jack to 0.7mm one for powering Pocket Camera when the battery is on the monitor. The battery provided with the camera has only 800mAh capacity so this 7200mAh NP-F is going to provide 9 additional charges and that is more than enough to get me through the day. This powering solution proved to be great if not so elegant. You can get PowerBase from Switronix for powering but it will also look as it was bolted on and made in a hurry. At least my solution doesn’t add additional appendixes to the camera because unfortunately you need to have additional monitor on the camera which is my only rant with the Pocket Camera. The PowerBase goes for $105 or $155 with two Canon batteries for quadrupling the run time. My solution was 160€ for battery, power adaptor and some connectors and cables. You have to be careful not to have DV-CA12 Link Power Adaptor on the battery when not shooting for longer periods of time because it is always converting power to 12w and so draining the battery even if you don’t have the camera on. Of course I can always put smaller batteries on the monitor to lighten the load.

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Monitoring is the only problem I have with this camera. Forget that the 3.5″ LCD isn’t the best (it could have better contrast and resolution for a monitor coming out in fall 2013) and that it flickers in low light situations and almost can’t be seen in bright sunlight cause there is no option for sun hood . What I really would like to have is the ability to swivel the monitor. If a small Sony NEX-5N can have a swivel LCD why can’t this camera have one. The camera could be just a tad bigger to encompass all additional hardware. Without the swivel LCD you have to hold the camera in front of your eyes at head height. This makes the camera shake if not using a stabilised lens. Or you can use a shoulder mount rig (from high end ones to the cheapest plastic ones) or put on additional monitor like I did with SmallHD DP4. But all this options make camera bigger than the name pocket suggest. I really liked swivel LCD on 5N and I could even put an sun hood on to block the sun a bit. At least the Pocket Camera has another mounting point (1/4 20) on the top where I screw a cold shoe on and attached the monitor on a small ball head.

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I wanted the camera to sit a little more comfortably in my hands so I was thinking to add some handles. At first I used Half Inch Rails handlebar with handles but this brought unnecessary width to the rig.

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The Pocket Camera has a LANC connector. As I got the camera I have had my FS700 serviced (4k upgrade and S-Log2) so there was a handle laying around. I was curious to see if the Sony Handle and the Pocket Camera were compatible and I was really surprised to see that they were. Record Start/Stop works and so I attached the handle to the rig with Zacuto FS700 Grip Relocator. Now I am able to hold the camera with the rig firmly at my waist level without the shakes and monitor what I shoot. It. Is a tad bigger to to fit in my pocket that is why I changed its name to Small Bag Cinema Camera.

Another problem with the camera is that many lenses extend lower that the base of the camera and are as such unable to be mounted to the camera when you have the tripod plate on (look image below where the plate and the lens almost touch). Many lenses have great width at the base, like Panasonic 14-140 ore even SLRMagic HyperPrime 12mm T1.6 with original lens gears on. That is why it is necessary to get a cage for the camera to raise it a bit. I like Viewfactor Contineo BMPC Cage but there are others too.

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The footage is great. Schneider lens is beautiful. It has the organic feel of the old lenses. I really don’t like the look of the new sterile lenses. I did a quick flare test and looks nice but not so prominent that on SLRMagic HyperPrime CINE 35mm T0.95, but I must do a thorough test.

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I never thought I would like a better codec so much. I always wanted FS7oo to have a better codec and now with the raw recording you can but it is not cheap and the camera with the recorder is big. But this camera is actually the size you can always lug around with you. And get great footage. I shot a music clip few weeks ago and used Pocket Camera as a B cam. The grading is so different between those two cameras (and FS700 wasn’t S-LOG2 enabled at the time) that I wish I shoot only with the Pocket Camera. Blacks are blacks now. No strange artefacts in the shadows. I the future I will do some tests with the LOG mode (FILM and S-LOG2) on both cameras to see if I can match them more in grading.

Sample frame from a recent music clip shoot (DPX download link).