Black Magic Cinema Camera Review – Another DSLR Killer?

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EOSHD wrote up a great review on the new Black Magic Cinema camera, which joins an ever expanding group of cameras, such as the Panasonic Lumix GH3 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5, that are being labeled as “DSLR Killers”.  You can seriously make that case for any of these cameras (in our opinion, that is especially true of the GH3 and the BMC camera, which have hoards of pro level features), and as the technology of these smaller, yet increasingly powerful mirrorless camera systems keeps getting better and better, and their ability to easily flow from stills to video and back to still becomes more of a necessity in the new era of Hybrid Photography, it seems that the days of DSLR dominance are indeed numbered.

Here’s EOSHD’s Conclusion:  12 bit raw might be the headline spec but it isn’t all the camera does well.

When people didn’t have 24p, frame rate was what made the fabled cinema look. When people didn’t have large sensors, shallow DOF was suddenly the cinema look. Inundated with large sensors and shallow DOF, some might now consider a raw codec as an essential part of the cinema look. All this kind of thinking is flawed. The cinema look is about carefully balancing every single aspect and minimising the weird stuff. Get rid of the compression, get rid of the banding, the stepped fall off to highlights, increase the resolution, use a sharp lens, an intra-frame codec, 24p, the list is almost endless!

Thankfully the Blackmagic Cinema Camera does exactly that – minimizing the weird stuff and making the most of the good stuff.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera produces the most organic, least electronic looking and most cinematic image ever outside of Arri, Red and Hollywood – and it costs just $3000. Extraordinary stuff.

Like the people at Arri, the design team at Blackmagic clearly knows what makes a cinematic image. None of the DSLRs have the same organic feel and lack of digital artefacts that the Blackmagic Cinema Camera is blessed with. Why can’t they give us that better codec? Why can’t they give us less moire, a finer grain of noise, more detail? Why can’t Canon, Sony and Nikon put high bitrates and intra-frame codecs in there? The answer is that they have carved up the market into consumer / pro and stills / motion. Blackmagic are not carving up the market, rather creating a niche for themselves. It just so happens that their niche is a lot better in terms of performance than the entire mass market put together.

It isn’t without pain though. The pain of waiting. The pain of investing in hardware to edit raw on. The decisions about rigging, batteries, SSDs. The pain of learning a raw workflow, of transcoding, rendering, of getting to grips with the admittedly very intuitive DaVinci Resolve for the first time. Actually pain isn’t the right word. I’ve enjoyed all of this process, it has been an adventure – but some may not.

If you don’t have a selection of lenses to suit the sensor size or lens mount that could be a considerable extra investment too and a selection headache. It won’t be worth the artistic gain in image to some.

This camera and especially future versions have the potential to challenge the big players in cinema cameras and DSLRs – but in my view the sensor supplier should be changed in light of ‘dirty glass’ issues and CMOS updated to Super 35mm size. Aptina (supplier of the only good part of the Nikon J1 mirrorless camera) do some interesting CMOS sensors and custom designs, it would be great to see Blackmagic partner with suppliers who can help them mass produce this camera without diluting the raw power it wields in terms of the image.

If I were to sum up the Blackmagic Cinema Camera it would not be a DSLR killer  or Canon C300 competitor. It is a completely new class of camera. It is a baby Arri Alexa. And there’s no higher artistic praise to bestow on a piece of camera hardware than that.


  • Cinematic overall output
  • Under the price of a ready to shoot Scarlet it beats everything for resolution & dynamic range including Canon C300
  • Film like noise grain
  • Much more latitude in the highlights than a DSLR
  • Black detail can be pulled up more than on the FS100 and DSLRs
  • Very high build quality with no plastic used at all (rubber and metal)
  • DaVinci Resolve is superb editing package and colourist’s dream
  • Responsive in-camera playback of raw
  • Responsive touch-screen and user interface
  • Thunderbolt and HD-SDI, no wobbly HDMI. Robust SSD port and card door
  • Large screen negates need to use external monitor or EVF in many situations
  • Straight forward and minimalist approach to design of both software and hardware
  • Superb battery life with external battery solution, internal battery useful to have as a back-up
  • Affordable media
  • Affordable raw editing with correct GPU on a PC
  • The camera has ‘soul’ unlike many mass produced products


  • Potentially large extra investment in lenses, hardware, etc. for some shooters
  • No built in ND filter
  • No Super 35mm sensor size
  • No HDMI port for lower end external monitor / EVF options
  • No global shutter mode, rolling shutter not the best
  • Cinema DNG raw not as space efficient as GoPro CineForm compressed raw
  • No 2.5K recording option other than raw (2400 x 1350 80Mbit Intra-frame H.264 would be nice option for those who only do minimal grading)
  • Screen not articulated (difficult to see from low angle when camera is above eye-level)
  • Narrow viewing angle of LCD panel compared to DSLRs (polarises quite easily)
  • Poor screen visibility in strong sun light
  • Electronic aperture control on EF lenses is fiddly – should be two buttons or a jog dial
  • Final packaging issues – debris inside the lens mount on some cameras shipped so far
  • Fluff and debris tends to cling to rubber on rear of camera and cannot easily be wiped clean

(Read full review on EOSHD)



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