It’s been a while since I got my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. I have used it in various ways, various set-ups and configurations. Although it’s the smallest and the cheapest camera on the market shooting in RAW format, it can easily grow to the much bigger form factor and lose its pocket size.
The real pocket camera
At the time when I got the camera, all the lenses I had, were Canon EF mount so I had no way to attach them directly. I ordered some cheap adapter, but it was not ideal:
- the crop factor made all my lenses much longer and left me with no real wide angle lens
- the camera with the adapter and a big Canon EF mount lens was no longer “pocket”
So I decided to purchase one native m4/3 lens. I didn’t want to invest in some expensive fast zoom lens because ultimately I had the plan to use my Canon glass. Rather, I wanted to have something compact for the minimal setup with the camera.
The lens I eventually got was Lumix 20mm f/1.7 – really small pancake lens with f/1.7 aperture.
I still use this setup in some cases when I want to be discrete and keep the camera in my pocket. The setup is really lightweight, the focal length is pretty universal (around 60mm on FF format equivalent) and the aperture makes it usable in nonperfect light conditions.
The biggest downside of the described configuration though is the battery life.
The BMPCC uses Nikon’s EN-EL20 battery model – cheap and small but also lasting for a very short period of time. Ideally, it will work for 40-45 minutes of continuous shooting, but in many situations the camera dies after around 30 minutes or even earlier (especially with cheaper non-original replacements).
The good thing is that the camera is equipped with 12V DC input port, which means that we can plug in an external source of power. I was looking at various solutions and keeping in mind the form factor and the overall size of the package I decided to go for Anker Astro Pro2 20000mAh. It’s cheap, relatively small and can provide the juice for the camera almost forever.
Now, we can shoot all day without worrying about the power and without keeping tens of small battery replacements in our pockets. But we have another problem now – where to put Anker? Sure, we can keep it in a pocket and run around with the cable hanging around, but it’s not ideal. This is why I started looking for some sort of a rig.
From the increasing number of BMPCC accessories, I picked Tilta BMPCC Cage. It’s really well built and offers quite many additional features like:
- port protector,
- micro HDMI to HDMI adapter,
- hot-shoe mount.
It also provides easy access to the battery compartment and has a nice detachable top handle.
Now, the camera is secure, the increase in ergonomics is noticeable, but we are going away from the pocket form factor. And it’s only going to get worse.
To fully utilize the battery solution from the previous section I bought the Cheese Plate which allowed me to mount Anker directly to the rods in the back. This makes the whole configuration solid and allows shooting for hours.
With all the improvements from the previous sections, the usability of the camera was getting better and better, but I still had all my canon lenses that were pretty useless with the camera. Sure, I could attach my Samyang 35mm T/1.5 with the adapter, but ending up with 105mm equivalent wasn’t always what I was going for.
It was time to get another toy.
Metabones Canon EF to BMPCC Speed Booster converted the camera to almost Super 35mm sensor almost low-light monster. Almost. But the difference was huge. Now, I could utilize my existing lenses much better and the camera got 1 2/3 extra stops of light. This is a real deal especially in the camera that is technically limited to ISO 800 (native). Another benefit of using the speed-booster was that the stabilization in my EF lenses worked like a charm.
Metabones adapter paired with Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 is a wonderful combo. Crisp, sharp image and aperture of f/1.0 give lots of flexibility and make the camera perform well even in really bad lighting conditions.
Now, when we have a really nice setup we can improve the usability and ergonomics and make the whole thing even bigger. Another addition, in my case, was the follow focus.
I chose Fotga DP500IIS – solid and not too expensive. Works pretty well with all my EF lenses. It’s especially useful when the camera is on the shoulder and the focus has to be pulled by the operator.
In the picture above you can also see a lens support – might be useful when follow focus is used to avoid any lens movement.
Soon after going outside I realized that the built-in screen was not made with a bright sunlight in mind. It’s almost impossible to use it without additional loupe or external monitor.
From a few monitors that I tested out I picked out SmallHD DP4. Unfortunately, it cannot be powered through Anker, but the canon’s LP-E6 batteries last pretty long so having both of them connected will power the monitor throughout one shooting day easily. The built-in focus peaking and false color mode work a treat and the monitor coupled with a loupe acts as a really crisp and convenient EVF.
The monitor is mounted to the cage using Magic Arm.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera has a built-in microphone, but its quality is really bad. Anything external connected to the mic port will give better results than the on-board solution. Here, as an example, I plugged Rode VideoMic Pro which works pretty well as an on-camera mic.
Anything better has no point as the in-camera pre-amps will ruin the signal anyway so for a serious audio recording we have to use external recorders and use in-camera recording only as a reference to sync it in post.
Also published on Medium.