Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera: The Trusty Capture-Card Maker Introduces a Film-Look Video Camera

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Blackmagic's Cinema Camera, announced at NAB 2012, will be available starting July at a base price of $2,995.

Blackmagic's Cinema Camera, announced at NAB 2012, will be available starting July at a base price of $2,995.

For years, Blackmagic Design has been associated with products meant to help connect the camera to the computer — basically unassuming tools that help get the job done. They’re products you don’t see — capture cards hidden inside a Mac or a switcher tucked out of eyeline.

So when Blackmagic announced it was introducing a camera at NAB 2012, the crowd was taken by surprise.

What isn’t surprising is that it has the look of something built out of a computer rather than out of a traditional film camera. Blackmagic Cinema Camera, launched Monday, basically looks like an external hard drive with a lens stuck to its side. It has none of the panache of the in-development Digital Bolex I wrote about recently, but it also promises some mighty specs (see below).

The camera will go for $2,995 starting in July 2012, but the total “dress-up” package of the camera will be higher when you account for lenses and other accessories. The Blackmagic will accept Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses, and it lends itself to aftermarket bits from companies like Zacuto and Cinevate. And because it is devoid of the ergonomics of other cameras, the camera looks eminently droppable — it does not seem suited to handheld work. The dress-up will include handles (Blackmagic Cinema Camera Handles sell for $195).

It’s either a 1080p or a 2K, depending on whether you output in a codec such as ProRes or as RAW footage. In RAW, it produces 12-bit files, meaning more robust footage that lends itself to post-production. The camera promises a 13-stop dynamic range, meaning it will reach deep into the blacks while also capturing usable detail high into the whites.

Blackmagic’s announcement signals a change in the industry: The making of cameras is no longer the provenance of traditional film-camera and tape-based camcorder manufacturers. The quality of any camera has become more about the processing abilities of the device, so it isn’t a surprise that a company well-versed in moving footage from one place to another could jump in. The ability of filmmakers to get their hands on equipment that rivals the high-end stuff is getting better and better…

Here are the tech specs from the manufacturer:

  • High resolution 2.5K sensor allows improved anti aliasing and reframing shots.
  • Super wide 13 stops of dynamic range allows capture of increased details for feature film look.
  • Built in SSD allows high bandwidth recording of RAW video and long duration compressed video.
  • Open file formats compatible with popular NLE software such as CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD. No custom file formats.
  • Includes no custom connections. Standard jack mic/line audio in, BNC 3 Gb/s SDI out, headphone, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, LANC remote control and standard DC 12-30V power connection.
  • Capacitive touch screen LCD for camera settings and slate metadata entry.
  • Compatible with extremely high quality Canon EF and Zeiss ZF lenses.
  • Supports 2.5K and 1080HD resolution capture in 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 fps.
  • Thunderbolt connection allows direct camera capture via included Media Express software and supports live waveform monitoring via the included Blackmagic UltraScope software.
  • Includes a full copy of DaVinci Resolve 9.0 color grading software.

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Edward J. Delaney
Edward J. Delaney
Edward J. Delaney is a journalist, author, filmmaker and editor of DocumentaryTech, an online project that explores documentary filmmaking techniques and technology.
  • David Robertson

    Reminds me of the very fine ‘layout’ of my old Sharp Hi-8 Vu Cam .. it was not touchscreen but was well serviced with analog control buttons. No eyepiece viewing is, as is the case, with many dig vid cams a real pain especially for those who enjoy the proven ‘intimacy’ of looking through an true viewfinder. I suspect lots of expensive accessories to be marketed. One that should be included in the pricing is a “hood” to reduce sky/sun glare when used on an exterior daylight location. In any event, Blackmagic Cinema may send me one and I will be happy to test it under real filming conditions, and report back.

  • Evan Donn

    I believe the camera ships with a basic sun hood for the monitor, although I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d need something more substantial in direct sunlight. On the viewfinder side the lack of HDMI output is a limiting factor now, as most of the current EVF options are designed to work with DSLRs that don’t have SDI. Based on the initial reaction & interest this camera seems to be getting though I’d be very surprised if there weren’t a variety of SDI models of existing EVFs within six months.

    It’s a very interesting camera, and I’ll be taking a serious look at it as a replacement for my 5DmkII. For handheld work the ergonomics have me a bit concerned, as I prefer to shoot without the big shoulder rigs most people like to use with their DSLRs. The ability to shoot log directly to a 10bit edit ready format like ProRes is a significant factor though and may outweigh the ergonomics for me.

  • Bob K

    There already is an EVF with SDI in/out. The Cineroid

  • Anonymous

    Still waiting for our first camera… :|

  • Recombinant Films

    Can the Black Magic 2K camera, competently used, meet the latest PBS technical standards? More generally, does anyone maintain a list of which cameras are good enough to meet these standards? I know that PBS sometimes makes exceptions based on content, but I don’t want to assume that they will for my own work.