Recently there has been a flood of new camera announcements – especially Blackmagic's incredible 12K URSA Mini Pro, the Canon R5 / R6 and most recently the Sony A7S III. I will soon share my thoughts on these cameras, but today I want to focus on them BMPCC 6K – A camera that I have wanted to check for a long time, but which I have only recently been able to take pictures with.
Over the years, BMD has been able to continuously innovate and develop unique tools in the professional low budget market that provide solutions for filmmakers looking for high quality, low budget images. This BMPCC 6K certainly corresponds to this tradition.
No camera is perfect for any type of filmmaker or project, but as I explain in more detail below, the BMPCC 6K will throw it out of the park for a certain type of user. This is a versatile and affordable tool that benefits in particular all types of professionals who switch between narrative, commercial and documentary projects.
My goal with this review is to provide clarity to those of you who are interested in making a purchase. I will highlight what I think are the biggest considerations when buying this camera. Hopefully it will help you make a decision one way or another.
It's worth noting that I was only able to shoot a limited amount of footage with the camera because it was borrowed for me and I had it in the middle of our shutdown here in Los Angeles. I usually check cameras in more detail after using them for real world productions. Therefore, this review is not exhaustive, just a report of my first impressions after a few days.
Countless other reviews have been written, which describe the technical data of this camera in detail. However, this review should mainly focus on the experience aspects of the Pocket 6K. We will first check the technical data briefly to bring everyone up to date.
CHARACTERISTICS & SPECIFICATIONS
This camera is also impressive on paper …
- Super 35mm sensor
- EF mount
- 6k resolution at 6144 x 3456
- Dual native ISO up to 25,600
- 13 levels of dynamic range
- Blackmagic RAW or ProRes recording
- Record to CFast 2.0, SDXC or an external USB drive
- Up to 50 fps in 6K, 120 fps in HD
I have to imagine that for most people, the super 35mm sensor and 6k shooting functions are the best-selling features of this camera. In contrast to the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (Micro Four Thirds), the 6K model offers a larger, more traditional S35 sensor – together with the additional resolution, of course.
To be honest, neither of these two characteristics is decisive for me, but I am definitely in the minority in this case. While I love S35 size sensors, for some projects I'm just as happy (or even prefer) to shoot with MFT or Super 16. This always depends on the requirements of the project, but photographing with a smaller sensor can have some advantages – both aesthetically and practically – despite the stigma that surrounds cropped sensors.
The same applies to 6K. While it's incredible that BMD was able to deliver stunning 6K images with this camera, 6K (even 4K) is really not that critical to the work that I personally do. That's why I shot my latest feature film in 2K on my Arri Alexa Classic 4: 3.
Still, I'm thrilled that this camera has a resolution of S35 @ 6K because some people really need these skills. If you want to capture VFX elements or draw still images from your video, a ton of resolution can be very powerful. Not to mention that the larger sensor allows you to capture a more traditional 35mm field of view, which can also be a big advantage. And for filmmakers (like me) who don't have to constantly shoot in 6K, the camera can of course be easily reset to 4K or HD for a clearer workflow.
For me, the biggest advantage of this camera is the dual native ISO at 400 and 3200. While I rarely shoot above ISO 800 on most projects, there are rare cases where I may need to move it to 3200 or higher. Knowing that I can do this with this camera without sacrificing dynamic range or color information is a big plus. And I can only imagine that the double native ISO functions for documentaries or other run-and-gun productions will prove even more important. Although I wasn't able to shoot as much in low light as I hoped with this camera, every time I increased the ISO to 3200 I was extremely impressed with the results.
Added to this is the possibility to record in both RAW and ProRes, frame rates of up to 50 frames per second in 6K / 120 frames per second in HD and the classic Black Magic image quality – this small camera offers a lot of clout. There is really no other camera on the market (at least in this price range) that competes with some of these specifications. Yes, there are many mirrorless / DSLR cameras that offer different benefits, but none that compete in this area.
DESIGN & BUILD
Right from the start, I particularly liked the fact that this camera looks like a DSLR. I don't like taking pictures on DSLRs all the time, but their only big advantage is that they can help you stay understated. Even small cinema cameras like the one from RED attract attention, but the Pocket 6K can camouflage itself well in and around you when taking pictures in the field.
Although I would probably choose one of Blackmagic's larger cameras (the URSA Mini Pro) for most full-size productions, the Pocket 6K could easily find a home in these larger commercial productions as well. There really isn't much that this camera can do with almost no set – but a more traditional camera like the URSA Mini Pro could only speed you up a bit. Differences in ergonomics and when accessing further key combinations can be very helpful in an emergency.
Still, the Pocket 6K case has some great custom shortcuts that are incredibly useful on the set. For example, the special buttons for ISO and white balance on top of the camera are very practical. The same applies to access to playback controls or settings for high frame rates.
The camera feels quite large in your hands when operating, which I don't mind. Camera housings that are too small are more susceptible to micro jitter, but this seems to be a little less of a problem with the 6K – especially when shooting with larger focal lengths. The camera is also lighter than it looks, with independent buttons for capturing video or still images on the right and full-size HDMI access, headphone jack, and other ports on the left.
The body appears to be mostly plastic, but still feels relatively firm and strong. I've always loved that BMD uses metal for its cameras (which goes back to my original 2.5K cinema camera). So it would have been great to see this. At this price, it's not a deal breaker for me. Not to mention that the plastic housing works in favor of the reserved DSLR aesthetics and the lower weight of the camera.
And of course you can easily add a cage to this camera, which not only makes it feel more durable on the set, but also makes it easy to attach peripherals such as an EVF. The Pocket 6K is actually fairly modular (if you want) and can be effectively upgraded for larger customer productions or downsized for small guerrilla shots.
This camera already offers a lot of amazing features in a relatively small space, but if I get greedy, I would love to see a built-in ND filter. While I'm sure this is not an easy task (especially at this price), it is a crucial feature that would make me unique as a Pocket 6K user. After using built-in NDs on the URSA Mini Pro as well as other cameras (Alexa Mini, Canon C-series etc.), I am a bit spoiled. The ability to achieve this kind of ease of use with the 6K would make it even more perfect for low budget productions … maybe we'll see this in the next iteration?
If you've ever shot with a BMD camera, you'll feel right at home with the Pocket 6K.
Like all other Blackmagic cameras, the 6K camera has the same beautifully designed menu that is easy to use and highly functional. I wish other camera makers would improve their game in this department – the BMD menu system is one of the few I've used and that feels related to it in this decade!
Most of the settings that you need to adjust are directly available on the main home screen. Audio levels, zebras, peaking and frame guides can be found intuitively with just a few clicks. And of course the camera's main menu is just as accessible and intuitive to navigate, regardless of whether you use it to change camera settings or enter your slate information.
As with any other Blackmagic camera, the 6K lets you easily switch between RAW and ProRes shots, which I often do in extreme lighting conditions. As fantastic as Blackmagic RAW is, for the vast majority of my productions I never need more than ProRes 422 HQ, so I usually set the camera to capture. In the rare cases where I take pictures in an extreme situation that requires maximum dynamics and flexibility in the mail, it's great to be able to quickly switch between the two modes.
Blackmagic RAW is also a treat that you can work with in DaVinci Resolve, especially when compared to many other RAW formats. On my computer (an aging Mac Pro trash can) it cuts like butter and feels almost like I'm working with ProRes files natively.
The camera also offers you the option of charging custom LUTs into the camera that you can use for surveillance purposes, which I really love. I've used this feature on the URSA Mini Pro in so many scenarios, but mostly when I'm working with clients on the set. This is a great way to visualize the final color palette in real time without looking at the captured image (unless you want to).
The other thing that I love about this camera is all the recording format options. Personally, I am a big fan of working with CFast cards because they are very reliable but also quite expensive. To save money, you can easily use the SDXC option or record externally on an SSD drive. All three options only make the camera more versatile and do not force you to take a single picture format.
Since I took pictures at home, I did not operate the camera with a battery, but only connected it to the wall. I know other people have complained about the battery life with the Canon LP-E6 internal batteries, but you can of course run the 6K Pocket with external power too. If I had the camera, I would probably always use a different power source (e.g. a V-mount battery) and only use the internal Canon batteries as a backup or temporarily when I take pictures with a stripped down camera.
The camera's built-in LCD screen produces sharp, organic-looking images and reproduces colors very precisely. I only used it inside while recording, so screen brightness was never an issue for me. Based on the feedback I've received from other 6K users, you may need to bring an external monitor or attach some kind of hood to the camera when shooting in strong sunlight.
The most important variable when choosing a camera is the image quality, and the 6K does not disappoint in this regard either.
I took pictures in virtually every mode of the camera – RAW, ProRes, 6K, HD, etc. – and I didn't find a single combination of settings that led to poor visual results. After seeing this kind of performance, I would certainly shoot with all the settings on this camera – including normal HD.
Obviously, there are some notable differences between 6K and HD footage, and the latter contain far more visual information in the file. As I said, 6K isn't always required, and it's great to be able to trust the other settings (like HD) when you need them. Not all cameras work so well across the board – I remember that with early firmware for my Sigma FP, the camera had problems in HD that didn't occur in 4K. So it was definitely a great sign that the 6K bag delivers consistently strong images regardless of the setting. The choice of 6K vs 4K vs HD then only depends on your personal creative preferences and your desired workflow in the post.
Not surprisingly, the 6K's color science is wonderful too. This is another area where Blackmagic has always excelled.
As someone who loves achieving color levels, I'm attracted to cameras that give me a lot of flexibility in posting and that make it easier to get strong color palettes.
The most important variable to achieve this goal is a neutral starting point. You want to work with raw material that is balanced without obvious color shifts and offers a perfect basis for creating a creative look. Unfortunately, many cameras hinder this by rendering colors in an uncomfortable way or by not being able to produce natural skin tones. Fortunately, the 6K delivers exactly the organic, unprocessed look that gives you a strong starting point in the color suite.
I always liked one thing about the original 16mm pocket camera was the cinematic quality that the pictures had directly from the camera. At least for my eyes, this combination of sensor and camera had a tiny appearance that I happened to really love.
In this sense, the Pocket 6K feels much more neutral to me and hasn't baked the same thing in film quality, but that doesn't make it better or worse – just different.
Because the 6K footage is so neutral, your shots in the post are incredibly malleable. In DaVinci Resolve, you can easily adjust the contrast ratios or experiment with the highlight rolloff to achieve a more analog appearance if you wish. Or you could of course go in the opposite direction and keep the images really sharp and sharp … The raw image is really just a starting point.
In any mode (especially 6K), the images are brilliantly detailed and clear without ever feeling overly sharp. Combined with really sharp lenses, I could imagine that you want to add a Black Pro Mist filter (or a similar one) to remove the edge. However, this is a good practice, regardless of which digital camera you are working with, and it also depends on taste.
Without controlled dynamic range tests, I cannot speak to the exact technical performance of the camera in this regard. In my opinion, the dynamic range seemed to be as strong as any other BMD camera I've shot with, which says a lot. I'm a natural light shooter (at least on my own projects), and a camera that can capture a wide dynamic range is critical. I would definitely not worry if I take pictures with the 6K.
If I had this camera, I would probably shoot 90% of my footage in 4K at ProRes HQ. While all modes work very well, 4K / ProRes feels like a sweet spot for my needs, giving me the quality and level of detail I am looking for, while making my life in the post easier. If I ever need RAW or 6K, I can switch briefly for a particular shot, but for most of my work, 4K in ProRes is more than enough. That's just me, depending on what you're shooting and how you'd like to edit / process your footage, a different configuration could be much better for your individual needs.
Who is it for?
The great thing about this camera is that it can be used for practically any type of project as it is built and designed to be versatile.
Low-budget storytellers love the 6K Pocket Camera because it offers a real cinematic experience at a very reasonable cost ($ 1995 to be exact). No DSLR or mirrorless camera I've ever worked with achieves this kind of real cinema feeling – even though these cameras have their own strengths. In my opinion, the 6K bag is more geared towards RED / Arri than any other DSLR … Filmmakers looking for this type of camera at a lower price are therefore an obvious target market.
But I could see just as well how this camera was accepted by documentary filmmakers or company video production companies. The small footprint, the strong image quality and the simple operation make it ideal for small crews who want to work quickly without compromising the image quality.
It is also a natural addition to fashion videos, wedding videos, or other projects that require still images because you can capture still images with your 6K video at the same time.
But perhaps the best use for the Pocket 6K is not one type of project, but all.
Many filmmakers are today accept the title "All-rounder"and actively diversify their work efforts. They may be shooting a personal film project on Monday, a corporate / commercial on Thursday, and an event on the weekend. This is a normal scenario for many working filmmakers, and for these types, the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is a hard-to-beat camera.
In many ways, the 6K itself is an all-rounder. It does everything. It is flexible. Adaptable. Reliably delivers beautiful images and can process practically anything you throw at it.
Much of this could probably be said about the 4K Pocket Cinema Camera, which is another fantastic option for the low-budget audience. Those who don't need all the features of the 6K or S35 / EF mount system may save a few dollars and opt for the 4K model. At a price of just $ 1995, however, the 6K is hard to miss.
If I have the opportunity in the future to take more detailed pictures with the camera (or to buy my own), I will try to record and publish test material. For now, let me know what you think about the camera in the comments below!
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Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!