I’ve always hat­ed the gim­micky and most­ly mean­ing­less tech-jar­gony term “dis­rup­tor,” but that real­ly is the role Black­mag­ic plays in the film indus­try. It makes cam­eras that shoot footage with a qual­i­ty that approach­es giants like RED and ARRI but at a frac­tion of the cost. The Pock­et Cin­e­ma Cam­era line has become a favorite among indie pro­duc­ers, stu­dios, and DPs, and the lat­est iter­a­tion shoots at a stag­ger­ing 6K res­o­lu­tion and starts at just $2,500 instead of the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars those oth­er cam­eras com­mand. It’s incred­i­ble, but it’s cer­tain­ly not for every­body, and it isn’t designed to be.

Our review of Black­mag­ic Pock­et Cin­e­ma Cam­era 6K Verge Score 7.5 out of 10 Good Stuff Excel­lent image qual­i­ty Com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with a wide range of Canon EF-mount lens­es Low price of entry com­pared to oth­er cin­e­ma cam­eras Bad Stuff Atro­cious bat­tery life Screen is hard to view out­doors Weak aut­o­fo­cus func­tions Buy for $2,495.00 from B&H Buy for $2,495.00 from Ado­ra­ma

Black­mag­ic made waves last year with the 4K ver­sion of its Pock­et Cin­e­ma Cam­era. “Pock­et” is a mis­nomer, as the 6K’s body is 7 inch­es wide, 3.8 inch­es tall, and 4 inch­es deep, so that would require a pret­ty mas­sive pock­et. It’s a lot fat­ter and wider than your mod­ern DSLRs and full-frame mir­ror­less cam­eras from Sony, Nikon, or Canon, but it retains that same sort of shape. That’s curi­ous because while it can shoot still pho­tos, that’s real­ly not what this cam­era is made for. This cam­era is made for video, pure and sim­ple. Com­pared to those afore­men­tioned RED and Arri cam­eras, it is indeed much small­er.

Phys­i­cal­ly, the cam­era is very sim­i­lar to the 4K ver­sion. The back­side is dom­i­nat­ed by a mas­sive 5‑inch touch­screen. It looks great indoors, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, it’s real­ly hard to see any­thing when you’re out­side in sun­light. This is where you’ll real­ly wish it had an elec­tron­ic viewfind­er like a mir­ror­less cam­era, as it’s near­ly impos­si­ble to pull focus or judge prop­er expo­sure. Next to the screen are six but­tons for auto­ex­po­sure, aut­o­fo­cus, HFR (high frame rate), focus assist, menu, and play­back.

On the top right-hand side of the cam­era is the record start / stop but­ton with the still pho­to but­ton next to it. Behind that are but­tons for ISO, shut­ter speed, and white bal­ance, and hit­ting one of those but­tons will let you con­trol those set­tings with the sin­gle scroll-wheel by your index fin­ger. There are also three cus­tomiz­able Func­tion but­tons, which you can pro­gram to tog­gle zebra, grid lines, or LUT pre­views so you can what you’re shoot­ing might look like after you grade it. The cam­era does have a built-in mic, but its qual­i­ty is garbage. You might use it for sync­ing video with an exter­nal recorder, but that’s about it.

The right side of the cam­era has a door that cov­ers the SD and CFast 2.0 card slots. The left side of the cam­era is where all of the ports are. You’ve got a stan­dard 3.5mm stereo mic jack, a 3.5mm head­phone jack, a full-sized HDMI out (very handy!), a lock­ing 12-volt pow­er sup­ply, a USB‑C port, and a mini XLR in with phan­tom pow­er sup­port for high-qual­i­ty audio. I real­ly don’t like the port cov­ers on that side. They’re extreme­ly fid­dly, awk­ward, and hard to put back on. The bot­tom of the cam­era has the bat­tery door, the tri­pod mount, and a large open­ing so the built-in fan can keep the thing from over­heat­ing, which is a prob­lem that mir­ror­less cam­eras often encounter when shoot­ing long video clips.

The biggest dif­fer­ence between the BMPCC6K and last year’s 4K is the 6K has a larg­er image sen­sor. The 4K had a 4/3 sen­sor, while the 6K has been bumped up to a Super 35 sen­sor (sim­i­lar in size to an APS‑C sen­sor). This has sev­er­al advan­tages. For starters, the sen­sor being rough­ly 58 per­cent larg­er can gath­er a good deal more light, though the advan­tage is some­one mit­i­gat­ed by the high­er-res­o­lu­tion sen­sor, so it’s only a mod­est boost in low-light sit­u­a­tions. The larg­er boon is that you can use Canon EF-mount lens­es, which are wide­ly avail­able and have excel­lent optics. Fur­ther, the Super 35 sen­sor only crops the field of view 1.5x com­pared to a full-frame sen­sor, where­as the 4/3 sen­sor cropped 2x. The net effect is that you can get a clean­er, wider field of view.

Image qual­i­ty is the entire rea­son to get this cam­era

The largest (dare I say, only) rea­son to get this cam­era is the image qual­i­ty, and wow, it does not dis­ap­point. Shoot­ing 6K video with 12-bit col­ors pro­duces footage that is unbe­liev­ably flex­i­ble, espe­cial­ly in the col­ors. Select­ing Film mode in the dynam­ic range nets you some very flat, gray-look­ing footage straight out of the cam­era. But don’t be fooled: there is a ton of data stored in those files that lets you push and pull the col­ors in any direc­tion you please. This means you can achieve all kinds of dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent looks. Want it to look like some washed-out 1970s film­stock? Easy. Or make it look like an ear­ly-2000s Bus­ta Rhymes video? Not a prob­lem. Take a look at my test footage, and you’ll see what I mean.

While the col­ors are incred­i­bly mal­leable, you don’t get quite as much flex­i­bil­i­ty in the shad­ows. Black­mag­ic claims 13 stops of dynam­ic range, but I think that may be a bit exag­ger­at­ed. It’s pret­ty easy to blow out high­lights if you aren’t care­ful, so then you stop down. But you can only bring the shad­ows up so far before you start see­ing a lot of noise in them, and that noise tends to be pur­ple and ugly. The camera’s sen­sor has a dual native ISO of 400 and 3200, and both look real­ly good. Things start­ed get­ting pret­ty noisy at ISO 6400, but it was still usable. At ISO 12,800 that dig­i­tal noise is far more promi­nent, and I’d def­i­nite­ly avoid the camera’s max­i­mum of 25,600. My Sony A7Riii has bet­ter dynam­ic range, is less like­ly to blow out high­lights, and detail in shad­ows is bet­ter-pre­served (as you’d expect from a full-frame cam­era). But because it’s only 8‑bit video, the col­ors aren’t near­ly as flex­i­ble. It’s hon­est­ly not even close in the col­or depart­ment.

The BMPCC6K’s flex­i­bil­i­ty with col­ors runs cir­cles around oth­er mir­ror­less cam­eras

There are a lot of advan­tages to shoot­ing in 6K. Most like­ly, you’ll be mix­ing down to 4K for your fin­ished prod­uct, right? Well, when you shrink a 6K frame down to 4K, that over-sam­pling gives it a nice lit­tle boost in qual­i­ty. You can also crop in by about one-third, and you won’t have any loss in qual­i­ty. Or say you’ve got some shaky footage. You’ll prob­a­bly want to apply a sta­bi­liza­tion effect (such as Warp Sta­bi­liz­er in Adobe Pre­miere), but that crops the edges of your video a bit. If you were shoot­ing in 4K and fin­ish­ing in 4K, that crop would mean that you have to stretch the video to get it back to a 4K frame, which caus­es pix­el-stretch­ing and a notice­able drop in sharp­ness and qual­i­ty. When you’re shoot­ing 6K, you can sta­bi­lize a very shaky video (which would require even more edge crop­ping) and still not have any pix­els get stretched. You can see some exam­ples of that in my video above. It’s pret­ty amaz­ing. There’s also a built-in 6K time-lapse mode, if that’s your thing.

Part of the BMPCC6K’s spe­cial sauce is that it lever­ages the pro­pri­etary Black­mag­ic RAW codec. It’s some Pied Piper-lev­el com­pres­sion. I shot the above video using the 5:1 con­stant bitrate set­ting, which pro­duced fan­tas­tic footage. If you want to try to eke out a lit­tle more col­or info, you can even go to 3:1 com­pres­sion, but that’s a dif­fer­ence only a pro­fes­sion­al col­orist would see while using a very expen­sive mon­i­tor. Even with that impres­sive com­pres­sion, though, files are very large. If you’re shoot­ing 6K24 in Black­mag­ic RAW 5:1, you’re look­ing at 1.5GB for a 10-sec­ond clip, and you can dou­ble that if you’re shoot­ing 6K50. That’s sig­nif­i­cant, and it will eat through your cards very quick­ly. The 256GB card I was test­ing the cam­era with filled up in just over 28 min­utes of shoot­ing when I was shoot­ing exclu­sive­ly at 4K24, Black­mag­ic RAW 5:1.

Black­mag­ic RAW files are increas­ing­ly easy to work with. Up until recent­ly, you had to use Blackmagic’s DaVin­ci Resolve edit­ing soft­ware to edit it. Now, Black­mag­ic has released soft­ware that lets both macOS and Win­dows com­put­ers use the files with rel­a­tive ease, which meant I could cut the above video in Adobe Pre­miere. DaVin­ci Resolve 16 is a ful­ly func­tion­al post-pro­duc­tion suite now, and it has best-in-class tools for col­or grad­ing (espe­cial­ly if you’re shoot­ing Black­mag­ic RAW). But there is a learn­ing curve, and I didn’t have time to teach myself an entire­ly new edit­ing plat­form in time for this review.

The max­i­mum speed when shoot­ing 6K is 50 frames per sec­ond, but if you know your project time­line will be 24 fps (which gives a more cin­e­mat­ic look than the stan­dard-for-video 30 fps), then you can shoot in the High Frame Rate mode. This will shoot at 6K50 but save the file as 24 fps, slowed down to half-speed. The half-speed footage it pro­duces looks real­ly good, and if you know for sure that you want that clip to be slo-mo, then it’s an easy option. It does record audio, but the audio is real time, so it isn’t synced to the half-speed footage and will run out halfway through the clip. Still, it’s bet­ter than not hav­ing audio at all, and you can stretch it in audio edit­ing pro­grams if you want.

The cam­era looks friend­ly enough, with its rea­son­able price, its big, bul­bous shape, and its extreme­ly intu­itive touch­screen menu (seri­ous­ly, the menu is fan­tas­tic), but don’t be fooled. This isn’t the type of cam­era that a begin­ner can grab and just start bust­ing out beau­ti­ful clips. For starters, it doesn’t have the auto fea­tures you would expect on a con­sumer or pro­sumer cam­era. It doesn’t have things like auto ISO, which would be nice for times when you want to lock in your shut­ter speed and iris. It also doesn’t have any in-body sta­bi­liza­tion (which we’re now see­ing in mir­ror­less cam­eras from Sony and Nikon), so hand­held shots are real­ly shaky. You’re going to want a tri­pod or a gim­bal for basi­cal­ly every shot. Also, the body isn’t weath­er-sealed, so using it in the rain or in dusty areas would be a sig­nif­i­cant gam­ble.

The worst part is the aut­o­fo­cus. For starters, there is no con­tin­u­ous aut­o­fo­cus option, so it can’t track a sub­ject if it moves in the frame, which basi­cal­ly all mir­ror­less shoot­ers can do, and do well. (Sony’s Eye-AF is the cur­rent leader in this arms race.) If you want to use aut­o­fo­cus, you press the but­ton in the back, and then it typ­i­cal­ly takes a few sec­onds of wild hunt­ing until it locks in on the focal point, which makes it effec­tive­ly unus­able dur­ing a shot. You also can’t tap to focus or move the focal point away from the cen­ter of the frame, which means you may have to move your shot to focus on some­thing, and then move it back, and even then, the aut­o­fo­cus isn’t super accu­rate.

Get­ting the best footage out of the BMPCC6K requires a skilled hand and a lot of patience

All of this is to say that you need to have a good eye and a prac­ticed hand for man­u­al­ly pulling focus, and that’s a skill that can take years to devel­op. But even if you are a skilled DP, the screen’s lack of bright­ness is going to make it real­ly dif­fi­cult for you to see what you’re doing if you’re shoot­ing out­doors, so you may find your­self spend­ing more mon­ey on an exter­nal mon­i­tor. This is less of a big deal for pro­fes­sion­al DPs, though, and that’s real­ly who this cam­era is for.

“It’s got a con­sumer price but it’s real­ly a pro cam­era,” Blackmagic’s direc­tor of sales oper­a­tions – Amer­i­c­as, Bob Caniglia, told me. “The con­sumer price helps us reach peo­ple who are new to it but want to be seri­ous about it. It’s not real­ly some­thing the week­end dad is going to get, unless he already real­ly knows what he’s doing.” That’s about my read on it, too. If you’ve got some film­mak­ing skills already and have reached the lim­its of what a pro­sumer mir­ror­less cam­era can do, this thing is incred­i­bly pow­er­ful. But even so, it would be nice to see some of these mod­ern con­ve­nience fea­tures added.

View­ing the large LCD can be very chal­leng­ing in direct sun­light.

The cam­era chomps through bat­ter­ies and mem­o­ry cards like a T. rex com­ing off a juice cleanse. It uses the puny Canon LP-E6 bat­tery, a design that’s been around for as long as dig­i­tal SLRs have. Black­mag­ic claims it will get you 45 min­utes of 6K24 record­ing to a CFast 2.0 card with the screen at 50-per­cent bright­ness. Real­is­ti­cal­ly, you’re going to need the screen at full bright­ness if you’re out­side (and even that’s not bright enough). I test­ed it with an exter­nal SSD and only got 30.5 min­utes of record time. Either way, that’s pret­ty bad. Black­mag­ic has a new grip com­ing out that uses two of the Sony L‑series bat­ter­ies which are a lot big­ger. Black­mag­ic will get you two hours of record­ing time. It will be released next month for $245, plus the cost of bat­ter­ies at rough­ly $125 a pop.

As far as stor­age goes, Black­mag­ic has a list of mem­o­ry solu­tions that the BMPCC6K has been test­ed to work with with­out drop­ping frames or oth­er­wise glitch­ing. For 6K video, you’re going to have to use a CFast 2.0 card. The prob­lem is that CFast 2.0 is still pret­ty new, so it’s not wide­ly avail­able, and it’s wild­ly expen­sive. I picked up a San­Disk Extreme Pro 256GB card for this review, and it set me back a knee-wob­bling $420 before tax. That’s absurd.

Exter­nal dri­ves are a more eco­nom­i­cal way to store footage than CFast 2.0 cards

The bet­ter solu­tion would be to use the USB‑C port and shoot to an SSD, right? Well, the above list only has two dri­ves approved for shoot­ing at speeds of 6K50. That’s not a lot of options. How­ev­er, I test­ed it with a Sam­sung Portable T5 as well as a San­Disk Extreme Portable SSD, both of which are light and com­pact (so they can just dan­gle off the cam­era), and they both per­formed flaw­less­ly. That’s a great option to have, and you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck than you would with a CFast 2.0 card.

When it comes to edit­ing 6K footage, you’re going to want a com­put­er with some seri­ous graph­ics pro­cess­ing pow­er, espe­cial­ly since you’re going to be edit­ing col­or and apply­ing fil­ters, which take even more horse­pow­er. You’re also going to want to use the fastest SSD you can get your hands on. For my edit, I used my late-2018 HP Spec­tre x360 15-inch lap­top and a Sam­sung Portable SSD X5, which uti­lizes Thun­der­bolt 3 and the very fast NVMe inter­face. That hard dri­ve gave me no bot­tle­necks at all, which was a relief. The com­put­er did well, too. The only thing that kept falling on its face was Adobe Pre­miere CC. While col­or­ing footage Pre­miere would crash rough­ly every five min­utes. I spoke with some oth­er pro­duc­ers, and they all con­firmed that Pre­miere CC has been hav­ing tons of issues late­ly, and it made me wish I already knew how to use DaVin­ci Resolve. This cam­era comes with the Stu­dio ver­sion of Resolve, which is the more ful­ly fea­tured ver­sion, and it includes every­thing from assem­bly to sound mix­ing and motion graph­ics.

The cam­era is real­ly all about the incred­i­ble col­ors. They’re real­is­tic, vibrant, and amaz­ing­ly mal­leable. This was the first time I’d ever been able to shoot in 6K, and I absolute­ly loved it. It gives you a ton of flex­i­bil­i­ty for crop­ping and sta­bi­liz­ing in post, and Black­mag­ic RAW didn’t make my com­put­er burst into flames. I real­ly wish it had bet­ter aut­o­fo­cus, a lit­tle less noise in the shad­ows, in-body sta­bi­liza­tion, an EVF, and weath­er-seal­ing, but to get footage of this qual­i­ty at this price, there are bound to be some trade-offs.

In the last year, a ton of the DPs I’ve worked with have used the BMPCC4K as their B‑camera, and the results they get with it are gor­geous (even though they, too, have a lot of focus issues with the cam­era). I know a cou­ple have already pre­ordered the 6K and will be switch­ing to it as soon as it arrives. It’s easy to see why. A lot of small stu­dios and inde­pen­dent DPs will pick these up in the months to come, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised to see your next favorite indie flick shot with one of these. You’ve got to know what you’re doing, but if you do, you’ll be capa­ble of pro­duc­ing pure eye can­dy.

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Brent Rose for The Verge

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