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Most likely an age old question, but, what is the smallest camera that produces a high end look (that of a cinema camera, say)?

I work full time as a content creator for a sports retailer.

For big campaigns I rent Red, but sometimes I travel and use a Sony mirrorless, for portability and efficiency purposes, obviously. I’d love to take the travel videos up a notch.

Is this possible?

Perhaps the Black Magic pocket cinema 4K? 

Positive, helpful contributions only please.

David.

 

 

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If you have the money I guess Alexa Mini ,or a camera more budget friendly something like an fs7.. without the back V mount attachment its pretty small ,and uses small consumer type batteries ... audio is really the draw back on the Mirror less cameras.. or having to have ext recorder anyway.. as Im sure you know..

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I don’t need to record audio as it turns out. Thanks for the reply, although the fs7 is still pretty big.

Alexa mini rental could be an option. Or one of the Canon C cameras.

 

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If you want to own something, look at Blackmagic. Also, depending on the desire for 4K, you can go and get something like an old Sony F3, which has a degree of that high-end polish. Less low-light performance than modern stuff and really requires an external recorder, but very capable.

P

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Thanks for the reply and info. Yes, those new Black Magic cameras, particularly the 6k, look gorgeous. But the crop factor/s (3.3 crop I believe), when shooting high frame rates, is a real pain. I know from my previous A7s2. Thanks again!

 

Maybe I simply need to go a little bigger again. 

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I've done several projects on the BM pocket 4K, I've been really impressed - the image quality is really nice for the price range and its very gradable and robust. Size is good - I just did a multi cam music shoot with 3 pocket 4k's, and they were quite manageable - larger cameras would have become unwieldy. 

The built in screen is decent but the lack of flipping can make shooting difficult. Battery life is really bad as well.

You can still shoot full sensor to 60fps. The crop on 120fps isn't ideal but its not unworkable, especially on exteriors when you can back off. I've not tried it on a 4K finish - but on HD you can intercut full sensor and crop sensor without too many issues.

Basically it fits the bracket of a DLSR with a more robust codec. I've found it good self shooting documentary gigs where I don't want to carry a heavy camera and need something that holds up in lowlight and has the capacity to be pushed in post when filming conditions are less then ideal. I can't think whats better in the price range. 

I've got an FS7 shoot coming up that I'm going to try using the BM pocket as B camera - I'm pretty confident it will hold up.

 

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Ok, wow thank you man. I shoot 120 often outdoors so I can use 250 shutter and open the lens up shallow, of course.

60 with an Nd could be a good solution. 

Backing in and out is not something I’m going to introduce into my process, with the pressure for time on our sets, efficiency is key. 

Do you think a good cinematographer can get a more ‘premium’ look from shooting BM over, say, Sony Mirrorles?

Have you shot with the Ursa Mini Pro?

This was shot on an A73 with a 35mm lens, handheld. I’m looking to take this look up a notch.

 

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My experiences with Sony mirrorless is it looks great if you nail the look in camera - but it has less room to push around in post. Under perfect lighting conditions the results are quite similar.  

But in harsh sunlight the BM has a little more latitude to hold the highlights and manage the contrast a little better. 

I have shot with the Ursa Mini Pro but only in the studio under controlled lighting, I was impressed with it but didn't really push it

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On 8/21/2019 at 5:47 AM, Robin R Probyn said:

If you have the money I guess Alexa Mini ,or a camera more budget friendly something like an fs7.. without the back V mount attachment its pretty small ,and uses small consumer type batteries ... audio is really the draw back on the Mirror less cameras.. or having to have ext recorder anyway.. as Im sure you know..

That is what I'm trying to figure out. Audio for small cams. I need to attach a external mike. Was also thinking of using a wireless mike for interviews / music. Still studying up options. Never had a need for great sound before. Have a project where I'm doing a doc on an old yodeler in his late 80's. He has a huge historic archive as well. Have to do something decent. Not much more time left for him.

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7 hours ago, David Daniel Doherty said:

Ok, wow thank you man. I shoot 120 often outdoors so I can use 250 shutter and open the lens up shallow, of course.

60 with an Nd could be a good solution. 

Backing in and out is not something I’m going to introduce into my process, with the pressure for time on our sets, efficiency is key. 

Do you think a good cinematographer can get a more ‘premium’ look from shooting BM over, say, Sony Mirrorles?

Have you shot with the Ursa Mini Pro?

This was shot on an A73 with a 35mm lens, handheld. I’m looking to take this look up a notch.

 

Very nice! 

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17 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

I've done several projects on the BM pocket 4K, I've been really impressed - the image quality is really nice for the price range and its very gradable and robust. Size is good - I just did a multi cam music shoot with 3 pocket 4k's, and they were quite manageable - larger cameras would have become unwieldy. 

The built in screen is decent but the lack of flipping can make shooting difficult. Battery life is really bad as well.

You can still shoot full sensor to 60fps. The crop on 120fps isn't ideal but its not unworkable, especially on exteriors when you can back off. I've not tried it on a 4K finish - but on HD you can intercut full sensor and crop sensor without too many issues.

Basically it fits the bracket of a DLSR with a more robust codec. I've found it good self shooting documentary gigs where I don't want to carry a heavy camera and need something that holds up in lowlight and has the capacity to be pushed in post when filming conditions are less then ideal. I can't think whats better in the price range. 

I've got an FS7 shoot coming up that I'm going to try using the BM pocket as B camera - I'm pretty confident it will hold up.

 

Do you think the BM had more range than the Sony for heavy post work?

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2 hours ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

Do you think the BM had more range than the Sony for heavy post work?

Sure the small sony's codecs aren't as robust as either ProRes HQ or BM RAW. You can improve the Sony's by using an external recorder to get a higher bit rate - but then your making it unwieldy and defeating the point of small mirrorless. I've shot projects I'm happy with on sony's that I've been happy with, the do give a nice image out the box. But more recently I've some some run and gun jobs under really difficult lighting with no time to fix. It was a bit more fixable in post on the BM then the Sony.

It seems are the small Sony's are compromised by weak codecs, maybe to protect sales of the FS7 - which does allow proper 4K 4:2:2 at 10 bit.

I do like the FS7 though. My next upcoming short will be a chance to see how it performs under careful lighting and a good DOP (I'm directing not shooting) curious to see how nice we can make it look

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The Sony A7,s are all 8 bit you cant get 10 bit out of them even ext recorder .. its not a terrible codec but its the consumer XAVC S.. the lack of 10 bit is more to do with processing power, battery  and over heating.. Panasonic can do it on the much smaller sensor Micro ⅔ .. personally Id rather have the advantages of FF sensor over 10 bit.. 

Audio is always an inherent problem with any of these stills cameras..as is hand held.. manual  focus.. lens choices .battery life.. at the end of the day they are what they are.. if you want to up grade, a purpose built video camera is  the way to go.. best bang for the buck and universally accepted camera in  your market.. is Fs7.. MK II preferably .. you need XLR inputs .. a decent EVF (although the Fs7 isn't the best !)..a camera you can put on your shoulder.. ..a camera you can use no stills lenses .. etc

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All 3 of the below micro four thirds cameras have the same sensor and mount type. Pros and cons are listed. They are all very small. 

Panasonic GH5S

- Pros: Weather sealed and most reliable, low noise image, great battery life, fast menus, and takes photos if needed as well

- Cons: Color takes work, not the greatest dynamic range, no ProRes internally

Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

- Pros: ProRes internally, raw footage, fast menus, nice color straight out of camera, decent dynamic range

- Cons: Battery life is awful (20-30 minutes per battery), software is buggy, focus peaking is not good

Z Cam E2

- Pros: ProRes internally, 4K 120fps H.265, great color, accepts Sony NP batteries, good dynamic range, and has very good battery life

- Cons: New company with unproven track record (seems to have good customer service?), is just a brain to start

 

The BMPCC4K and Z Cam have the high-end look that you're going for. And the GH5S is just a solid, reliable option. I'd be comfortable using a GH5S without a backup, where with a BMPCC4K with its bugs and the Z Cam with its unproven record, I'd be sweating. 

These are just the cameras that came to mind from my experience. Other people could have completely different opinions about these cameras. I'm curious to know what other people think.

Last thought... If you're talking about a camera that can literally fit in your pocket, then maybe a Sony Cybershot RX100 VII? The new one can shoot supersampled 4k in log and output a 422 signal (funny thing that this little camera can do that while Sony's other cameras can't). They also claim 14 stops of dynamic range if shot with S-Log 2.

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Good man, Evan. Very helpful breakdown.

No, not literally in my pocket, just small enough for travel work.

I had an A7S2 but my work requires photography, along with video, so I switched to the A73. A beautiful stills camera with some serious Zeiss glass (55, 1.8). But I won’t go off topic.

Wow, the Z Cam is tempting, no? I hadn’t even heard. I’m not scared of a bit of risk. And I think the anxiety would go once you’ve had a decent session on it.

 

 

Wow, the Z Cam is tempting, no

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On 8/22/2019 at 6:00 PM, Robin R Probyn said:

The Sony A7,s are all 8 bit you cant get 10 bit out of them even ext recorder .. its not a terrible codec but its the consumer XAVC S..

There is no worse codec then XAVC-S. UHD @ 100Mbps? My youtube uploads are higher bandwidth. lol 

On 8/22/2019 at 6:00 PM, Robin R Probyn said:

the lack of 10 bit is more to do with processing power, battery  and over heating.. Panasonic can do it on the much smaller sensor Micro ⅔ .. personally Id rather have the advantages of FF sensor over 10 bit.. 

The A7S doesn't even use the full frame imager to capture video. So you're ALWAYS cropped anyway. 

On 8/22/2019 at 6:00 PM, Robin R Probyn said:

Audio is always an inherent problem with any of these stills cameras..as is hand held.. manual  focus.. lens choices .battery life.. at the end of the day they are what they are.. if you want to up grade, a purpose built video camera is  the way to go.. best bang for the buck and universally accepted camera in  your market.. is Fs7.. MK II preferably .. you need XLR inputs .. a decent EVF (although the Fs7 isn't the best !)..a camera you can put on your shoulder.. ..a camera you can use no stills lenses .. etc

There really is no audio, it's all just such a joke. Using "still" cameras for video just because the manufacturer says you can. 

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A7S is an old camera.. the A7III A9 all the newer ones .. are down sampling from a 6K sensor to 4K/HD.. even at 60p.. definitely you are using the FF sensor in video mode.. plenty of good images on youtube in XAVC S.. as I say.. it its what it is.. a consumer camera for video purposes.. if you want higher level of course you need to move up to a professional level video camera .. that's not rocket science ..

Re the audio.. people use external recorders .. you can use Sound Devices if you want.. but you are going to have to sync it up and its another thing to carry around if your one man band.. its an oxymoron .. small but with all the bells and whistles .. and small for hand held is actually the opposite of what you want..

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I mean now that the 6k pocket is out, the entire slate is clear of cameras below $10k. The pocket blows the doors out of all of them. I've been watching tests and I'm very impressed with the image coming out of it. Not only can you capture in the standard Super 35mm image size (yes it's 1.8mm shy of full super 35mm) but you can do so in 6k which means you get a beautiful shallow depth of field high resolution look that's very nice. Being able to capture in full bandwidth 12 bit 444 RAW is essential in 2019. I really don't care what anyone else says on this matter. It works flawlessly in DaVinci which is free and the backup codec Pro Res 422 is still 10 bit and looks great for those shoots you don't need RAW capture. It uses C-Fast, SD and USB3 media, which is a first in a camera that small. It has XLR audio input as well as two stereo mic's built in. It has a real power connector, so you don't have to worry about it breaking off the side of the camera. It has timecode input, so you can sync multiple cameras AND your audio recorder to it for instant sync in post. Then you've got the double base ISO which means you don't have to worry about losing dynamic range when you shoot in lots of light or low light. You're always at an optimum setting. With the Canon EF mount, the lens selection is wildly open and inexpensive. I'm sure someone will come out with a hard PL mount for it soon as well, converting isn't that difficult as people have found out with DSLR's. The battery life issue is a non-issue, there is a double battery holder that BMD makes for the bottom of the camera that gives you nearly 2 hours of life. Did I mention the amazing menus, something NONE of the competition have? Did I mention the ability to map your keys which only high end cameras have. Did I mention the nearly invisible rolling shutter, which is a rarity amongst the A7S and GH5 cameras, which both kinda suck in that department. 

So the downsides... Screen isn't movable. For those times you need it, buy an inexpensive electronic viewfinder. The codec's are heavy so you'll need a bunch of media. It's not a "pocket" sized camera so eh... whatever, not a big deal. 

GH5S is a bear to use. It's a real piece of junk. I've used it a lot, can't stand it. 
A7SMKII not even worth discussing. Good luck shooting outdoors without 7 stops of ND
ZCam is a complete toy, when they go out of business, I will be sad for the people who bought. 
Pocket 4k. Was a great beginning, but the M43's imager, didn't stand out as being very good. 
 

 

 

 

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Just now, Robin R Probyn said:

if you want higher level of course you need to move up to a professional level video camera .. that's not rocket science ..

Well yea, Sony wants you to spend lots of money. Blackmagic doesn't. 

Just now, Robin R Probyn said:

Re the audio.. people use external recorders .. you can use Sound Devices if you want.. but you are going to have to sync it up and its another thing to carry around if your one man band.. its an oxymoron .. small but with all the bells and whistles .. and small for hand held is actually the opposite of what you want..

Yea of course. Where is the timecode input on the Sony handheld cameras? No TC, no magic audio sync. 

Blackmagic has all of these features and Sony has no excuse. 

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11 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Well yea, Sony wants you to spend lots of money. Blackmagic doesn't. 

Yea of course. Where is the timecode input on the Sony handheld cameras? No TC, no magic audio sync. 

Blackmagic has all of these features and Sony has no excuse. 

Im sure BM camera is great.. Ive never used them .. but you still have the "stills" camera form factor.. you cant just throw these cameras on your shoulder.. no XLR .. no BNC...  audio.. pretty easy to sync with a hand clap to a slate.. but that's the hassle of these type of cameras.. I thought the OP was looking g for the smallest "real" camera.. 

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2 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Im sure BM camera is great.. Ive never used them .. but you still have the "stills" camera form factor.. you cant just throw these cameras on your shoulder.. no XLR .. no BNC...  audio.. pretty easy to sync with a hand clap to a slate.. but that's the hassle of these type of cameras.. I thought the OP was looking g for the smallest "real" camera.. 

The OP already has a Sony Mirrorless camera and said he's looking for something better, something "that produces a high end look" in the smallest form factor. 

Red's and Alexa mini's require identical rigs to the BM pocket for shoulder mounting. 

The Blackmagic 6k Pocket cinema camera has XLR audio input and timecode input. These are two features that have been missing off all of the other smaller cameras. Where it's true, the only video output is HDMI, there are "locking" L shape HDMI adaptors that do the trick and won't fall off the camera. 

I have used nearly everything on the market but the true toys and yes, the pocket has a few issues, but they are due to their amazing design, rather than something wrong like poor codec's, shitty menu's, cropped imagers or ridiculous base ISO's, for a price point that seems crazy. Where the pocket isn't something I'd use when I had a budget for professional production, for 99.95% of the other times one is out having fun, get something that shoots amazing images and is inexpensive.  

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3 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

The OP already has a Sony Mirrorless camera and said he's looking for something better, something "that produces a high end look" in the smallest form factor. 

Red's and Alexa mini's require identical rigs to the BM pocket for shoulder mounting. 

The Blackmagic 6k Pocket cinema camera has XLR audio input and timecode input. These are two features that have been missing off all of the other smaller cameras. Where it's true, the only video output is HDMI, there are "locking" L shape HDMI adaptors that do the trick and won't fall off the camera. 

I have used nearly everything on the market but the true toys and yes, the pocket has a few issues, but they are due to their amazing design, rather than something wrong like poor codec's, shitty menu's, cropped imagers or ridiculous base ISO's, for a price point that seems crazy. Where the pocket isn't something I'd use when I had a budget for professional production, for 99.95% of the other times one is out having fun, get something that shoots amazing images and is inexpensive.  

Like I say I have no dog in this race.. but the pocket camera is still ,in a stills camera format.. and a very plastic one at that .. it has one mini XLR.. no EVF and where is the TC in..?.. and its HDMI... its prosumer in design.. Im sure the picture is great.. but there is no getting around this is not a Pro level camera.. its a B camera and Im sure its great for that or shoots climbing up mountains .. I,am not comparing to Sony A7,s .. they are the same .. .. Im comparing to pro level ,shoulder mountable cameras.. with an EVF..

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9 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

its prosumer in design.. Im sure the picture is great.. but there is no getting around this is not a Pro level camera.. its a B camera 

I think of it as one of the most "pro" level camera at its price point.

Its limitations are frustrating in general production, particularly run and gun doco's. Its not a camera you would want if you can afford something better e.g FS7 or Ursa Mini. But if you have minimal funds and have to compromise on the camera, the nice thing about the BM pockets is you only have to compromise on ergonomics not image quality (it really holds up). So for the entry level filmmakers that are cash poor but time rich, the BM's are good fit because you get nice image quality if you don't mind working round the limitations. On professional productions where speed and reliability are a priority then the BM is not a great choice. In its niche its perfect. 

I teach film/cinematography and we have just brought 5 BM pocket 4K's - they are the perfect starter camera. You can demo RAW and Log workflows etc... and they are simple to use and small and light weight. Not all students have cars, so having a small lightweight camera kit they can transport easily to shoots is also important.

 

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5 hours ago, Phil Connolly said:

I think of it as one of the most "pro" level camera at its price point.

Its limitations are frustrating in general production, particularly run and gun doco's. Its not a camera you would want if you can afford something better e.g FS7 or Ursa Mini. But if you have minimal funds and have to compromise on the camera, the nice thing about the BM pockets is you only have to compromise on ergonomics not image quality (it really holds up). So for the entry level filmmakers that are cash poor but time rich, the BM's are good fit because you get nice image quality if you don't mind working round the limitations. On professional productions where speed and reliability are a priority then the BM is not a great choice. In its niche its perfect. 

I teach film/cinematography and we have just brought 5 BM pocket 4K's - they are the perfect starter camera. You can demo RAW and Log workflows etc... and they are simple to use and small and light weight. Not all students have cars, so having a small lightweight camera kit they can transport easily to shoots is also important.

 

Sure that's a logical way to look at it.. I agree, Im sure its a fine image.. but its entry  level as you say.. and probably the best bang for the buck.. where is the TC in that Tyler claims it has .. ? I see Noi mention of this claim ..?

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20 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Like I say I have no dog in this race.. but the pocket camera is still ,in a stills camera format..

Ok, so clearly you don't know what a still camera is. 

A still camera is one that is setup specifically for stills. The outside adjustment points, function as still adjustment points for still lenses and still settings like shutter speed (vs shutter angle), preset color balance vs infinitely variable (kelvin), F stop settings not T stop settings, electronic controls vs manual controls. Imager's best output can only be used for still capture. Menu's that are specifically designed for still people and require lots of digging to find video-only settings. 

The Blackmagic Pocket 4k/6k is not a still camera. It may have a similar form factor, but it's a real cinema camera that when you use it, the settings and functions are more similar to a Red then a Canon DSLR. 

20 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

it has one mini XLR.. no EVF and where is the TC in..?..

It has one mini xlr
It as one Lomo 2 pin power connector 
It has one 1/8" Stereo output
It has one full size HDMI
It has one USB C connector 
It has one 1/8" stereo audio input (line/mic) and timecode. 

Last time I checked, Red's and Alexa's didn't come with EVF's. They were a very expensive add-on. So it's an unfair comparison. The camera does have a beautiful display that yes, isn't great for outdoor work. It is really the only "problem" with the camera. 

20 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

and its HDMI...

SDI devices are very expensive. You're liable to spend $40k for a decent SDI grading/set monitor, but $3k for a decent HDMI grading/set monitor. So it's smart to have HDMI and not SDI, especially with some of the new L connectors these days that allow locking. 

20 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

but there is no getting around this is not a Pro level camera..

It's not suppose to be! Why does everyone just think every camera NEEDS to be a Pro level camera. 

You do know the professional market makes up less than a half a percent of the "video" industry right? 
So what about a camera for the rest of us who can't afford a "professional" camera but don't want a camera that is so limited in it's functions. 

20 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

I,am not comparing to Sony A7,s .. they are the same .. .. Im comparing to pro level ,shoulder mountable cameras.. with an EVF..

It's not suppose to be a pro level camera, so why are you comparing it to a pro level camera? 

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