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NAB: Blackmagic camera close-up


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#1 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:10 PM

I had a chance to handle a prerelease Blackmagic Cinema Camera today. It didn't have final firmware and a few buttons did nothing, but it was possible to get a feel for the thing and verify a few facts.

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Fact one, just to clear up the sensitivity question, is that the ISO menu options go up to 1600. Of course this doesn't tell us anything about usable ISO or the characteristics of any noise, although I'm hoping that the positive experience of the Canon C300's downscaled grain characteristics will apply to an extent here as well (although the degree of downscaling is less).

Fact two is that it's very obviously a rolling-shutter device. This is expected, but it really is quite bad - it's hard to give numbers on this sort of thing based on a quick play, but it's not great.

The only other faults were obviously due to unfinished firmware, or possibly electronics tweaks. Right now it does reverse out in the middle of extremely overexposed highlights, just like certain Reds used to do. Some sensors do this, or it can be an overflow of some binary value (which will often cause white to wrap around to black, for instance). Presumably this will be fixed, as will the inactive focus assist button and a couple of others.

It's actually quite a lump, built into a chunky milled alloy sleeve - the visible silver sandblasted texture around the outside. I'm still not sold on the DSLR-style layout, which means accessories mounted on rods will obscure the display and controls. One suggestion that was warmly received was to powder-coat or anodise the sleeve of the case in black, to cut down on reflections, as it is pretty specular at the moment. The power connector takes 12-30V DC, which is a nice range, but there is no option to lock it - it's just a normal domestic-style DC connector. While there's internal lithium-polymer power, I would strongly suggest to Blackmagic that they provide some sort of tiedown point for the power cable, or very preferably just find the cash somewhere to fit a Lemo or Hirose. They showed the camera with a Zeiss Distagon lens worth more than it is; if that's the market, they can afford to fit a decent connector. The current approach is just a bit embarrassing.

The only evaluation I've had of the pictures is on the LCD on the back of the thing, which is far from a reference display. Anyone who's actually at NAB should go down to the Sony booth and look at F65 material downsampled to HD on a Trimaster OLED display; that's what very, very good pictures look like on a reference display; it's absolutely eye-searingly good stuff. Most sensors, including F65, currently claim the 13-or-so stops of dynamic range that Blackmagic claim for their camera, simply because that's the state of the art in 2012. I think the litmus test for this thing will be whether it can produce those 13 stops without excessive noise. If it can, it won't be difficult to like.

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