At around £2100 or $2500 USD and spec list that seemingly exceeds its competition in the same price range we took a gamble on the BMPCC 6K for video production.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K for Video Production Review
If you’ve seen any of our video production equipment reviews, you might have read our Canon C200 review and/or Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review. These are two very good and relatively new cameras in their own right. We’re not professional reviewers or a publication but instead a video production company that reviews gear that it buys and uses on a daily basis. So why buy the BMPCC 6K for video production? Was it a replacement for one of the other cameras? To have a third camera? Or to have one camera to shoot in 6K, lock-off a wide angle and just crop from there?*
* This is lazy as shit, and we don’t recommend this.
Why go for the BMPCC 6K for video production?
In short because we like the BMPCC 4K so much! It’s not a perfect camera, but for the price it’s incredible. We’ve already talked at length about the pros/cons of the 4K model, but as the BMPCC 6K shares so many of the same positives here’s a list of what really stands out for us:
- Price (cheapest 6K internal recording camera around)
- 6K (Future proofing your investment and a lot of content)
- Internal RAW recording with Compression Ratio options
- S35 Sensor (rather than M43)
- EF Mount which means full electronic compatibility with Canon EF lenses and saves you from having to buy a pricey metabones adaptor
- 10-bit and 12-bit internal recording (C200 8-Bit H.264 4K, or 12-bit raw)
- Choice of recording codecs (editor friendly ProRes)
- Choice of media formats (SD, CF, SSD)
- DaVinci Resolve Editing Software
- Easier to match with the BMPCC 4K than the C200
The BMPCC 4K is the perfect companion to the new BMPCC 6K
The Good Stuff
What stands out to us as the positives of the camera and why did we get it?
The BMPCC 6K is the cheapest 6K internally recording camera currently available. If you need 6K (n.b. you probably don’t) on a budget then this is your camera! However, the price is pretty meaningless in isolation, it all depends on what you get for your money and at a current price of £2,450 you certainly get a lot for your pounds.
6K internal recording
As far as I can see there are two main advantages to having a 6K resolution camera, 1) future proofing your investment and potentially your content, and 2) shooting 6K and delivering 4K allows for reframing.
Realistically though I don’t think we’ll be using the 6K on this camera for most jobs. Mainly for the reasons of file sizes and data.
Worth noting is that 6K can only be used on the BMPCC 6K while using Blackmagic Raw, which have huge file sizes. This not only demands large hard drive space but a powerful computer (and the use of the bundled Davinci Studio as Final Cut and Premiere Pro can neither natively edit the raw files).
Tech changes though, so I do think that if the camera tech is there now it’s better to have the feature than not have it, but I wouldn’t go rushing to get this camera personally just for the 6K.
The BMPCC 4K and the BMPCC6K are pretty much the same camera but the mount
Raw, ProRes and video options
Having ProRes files straight out of the camera is an editor’s dream. Straight from the card they can go into Premiere, FCPX or Davinci and can be edited smoothly.
This particularly stands out when we compare with editing with footage from our C200 and Fuji X-T3. Both these cameras record their 4K footage in h.264 and the difference between editing speed between these two cameras and the footage from the BMPCCs is huge.
The codec from X-T3 in particular is horrible to edit with and usually ends up with us transcoding straightaway into another codec. The BMPCC cameras don’t have this problem and we can work with them in any editing software smoothly.
8-Bit, 10-bit, or 12-Bit
One of the worst things about our C200 is that the standard 4K on the camera is only 8-bit h.264 at 150 Mbs. I have a £400, 4–year–old Panasonic mirrorless camera that does 8-bit h.264 100 Mbs 4K footage. It’s really not good enough from Canon for a camera that was released with a price of £7,000. Yes, you can get 12-bit 4K from the C200 but this requires shooting in Raw and using the CFast card slot, and the amount of data this uses it really isn’t practical for most jobs. The HD is a laughable 35 Mbs too.
Whereas, the BMPCC 6K has 10-bit as standard for its HD, UHD and 4K footage in ProRes and 12-bit for its 6K RAW.
While the Canon C200 4K footage can look good the BMPCC6K footage often looks sharper, more detailed and has more manoeuvre in post-production.
Especially if you are shooting something against a solid colour backdrop or green screen, with 8-bit I have found the footage to look rather unpleasing in these situations.
The result of this is that the BMPCC 6K has excellent image quality. We’ve found the footage to be sharp, detailed and great to work with in post-production.
The metabones rapidly became our best friend when using the BMPCC 4K, essential buy!
Super 35mm sensor and EF Mount
One of the worst things about the BMPCC 4K for us is the M43 mount. Not because of its effects on things like depth-of-field but more for the practical reason of that we already own several EF mount lenses which we couldn’t use on the BMPCC 4K camera without the aid of the Metabones Speedbooster (which costs approximately 40 % of the price of the camera).
Having an EF mount for us is perfect as we have several manual focus lenses and Canon lenses, the latter can also utilise the camera’s autofocus function. Which brings me to the next point.
EF lens autofocus is a bit meh
‘A cinema camera with autofocus?! Amateurs use autofocus!’ Yeah, well it’s an advertised feature and the camera itself is full of contradictions: aren’t ‘pocket camera’ and ‘cinema camera’ contradictions, really?
That being said the autofocus is all but useless in real terms. It’s not continuous so can’t be used on a gimbal whilst relying on autofocus and likewise has no face-tracking focus so is only really useful for fast focus checking in a designated focus area. It has never seemed that fast or accurate the few times I have tried to use the autofocus either.
Choice of media formats (SD, CFast, SSD)
We use both SD cards and CFast cards to record our footage on with the BMPCC6K. It’s great to have the option between both formats. Why have we not used an SSD drive? Mainly the hassle of attaching one to the camera in a secure and reliable place. An SSD takes up another space on the cage, which is not something we’ve been willing to try yet.
However, recently seeing things such as the SmallRig Handle or the Tilta handle that can incorporate an SSD and battery does allow us to think more seriously about using the SSD as a recording option, especially when thinking about the price of SSDs compared to CFast cards.
One big disappointment with the BMPCC 6K is the lack of dual recording. For a camera with such high-end features this is really a bit of an oversight and a serious drawback from a professional point of view.
Working with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K
Sometimes a camera can be capable of the most amazing things but the operating system or physical layout of buttons can make operating the camera far more hard work than needed. Luckily we’ve found that the operating system on the Blackmagic is simple, intuitive and well laid out. I believe it’s the same menu layout as their other cameras so if you’re a fan of that, you’ll feel at home here; but even if you’re like us and newcomers to the Blackmagic ecosystem of cameras in many ways the menu system couldn’t be easier.
Davinci Resolve Studio
Getting £300 software bundled with the camera is always a bonus, but that’s before even thinking about the quality of the software: you’re getting software that is regularly used to edit feature films and major TV shows. It really is a no-brainer that this is a plus point. Even if you decide it’s not for you it’s great to have the option of Davinci Resolve Studio.
Choose the codec, quality and resolution of your footage quickly and easily with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K menu system.
The Ultimate Camera?
So many positives it seems that the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is the perfect camera? Well, it’s certainly a very good camera, but there are several not so good things that are needed to know if you’re thinking about buying it.
An update on the BMPCC 4K with all the flaws fixed? Er, no.
What this camera certainly isn’t is an updated or improved BMPCC 4K. There are several not-so-good aspects to that camera, and disappointingly this camera shares them all.
Bad Battery Life
Batteries drain rapidly in this camera, but that’s not actually the worst thing about the battery life. The worst thing is that the percentages of battery life are completely unreliable. They can go from 90% to 10 % in the blink of an eye and then stay on 1% for ages. Or it can be ticking along nicely get to 50 % and then just suddenly switch off.
Bad battery life is one thing with this camera, but battery roulette is another thing altogether. This has basically stayed the same from the BMPCC 4K as you can read on our review.
Bad firmware or hardware I don’t know but it feels like the Canon LP-E6N battery choice was a bad idea from Blackmagic.
The battery grip looks an interesting idea, but good luck getting one, pre-orders are being taken but few people seem to be getting them.
One solution we went for was to the use the Core SWX battery pack. It looks stupid but you get 3.5 hours of battery life in it from one charge which is a lifesaver really.
The Core Powerbase Edge can power the camera for 3.5 hours, while we found individual batteries lasted up to 45 mins.
Poor Quality Control
Blackmagic seems to have a bit of a reputation for poor quality control. We’ve bought two Blackmagic cameras and both arrived with a fault. The BMPCC 4K we had to return in the first week as a battery overheated and got stuck in the camera. And the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K arrived with the body not sealed properly.
It must be said though that Blackmagic customer service was very good in both cases. The cameras were shipped back and a replacement sent in both cases rapidly.
Those rubber side covers are a nightmare. Once you’ve plugged in a microphone, a monitor, headphones and if you want to an SSD that side panel is so packed with connections that it’s difficult to get things in and out. And those rubber covers just always get in the way. We’ve ended up just ripping them off.
The Camera Shape – not gimbal friendly
The camera is ugly. I won’t hear anything else said about it. I mean just look at it?
That, however, is not a problem. I can live with it. But the shape of the camera actually does have a practical problem with it. We’ve found it very difficult to fit the camera onto many gimbals, due to its width. We’ve eventually managed to get it to fit on the Ronin-S gimbal but only because Ronin includes a little plate raiser which we use to offset the camera to the left. Even then, it is a tight fit. This took some serious testing of equipment. In fact, one of the reasons we sold our beloved Ronin-M (review of the Ronin-M here) was the fact we couldn’t fit the BMPCC6K on it. Oh well!
The 5 inch screen on the BMPCC 6K is great; it is large, clear and the touchscreen allows quick, intuitive access to almost all the camera settings. It does not, however, articulate in any way, which is a problem for high or low shots or even outside in sunny conditions. It also doesn’t help that there isn’t an EVF of any kind so you are left totally reliant on the back screen while filming. Of course an external monitor can be used – and it is what we use most of the time now – but this adds to the set-up where sometimes it might not be preferable.
No Built-in ND Filter
A camera this size was never going to fit ND filters in, however, I would certainly have preferred the camera to have a bigger body a little price increase and have a couple of built in NDs than have its current shape and lack of them.
For a camera that is priced more like mirrorless or DSLR camera it is noticeable that there is no in body image stabilisation. Handheld shots with this camera are not great unless you have a lens with image stabilisation built in.
The Core Powerbase Edge: not the most ergonomic, but very practical.
Final Thoughts – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K for video production Review
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is not a camera for pulling out of a bag and quickly shooting ad hoc with. It’s not in that sense a pocket camera at all. It’s a cinema camera in an ugly body that needs to be worked with and for the user to possess a certain level of expertise and cinematic understanding to get good results.
It kind of feels like Blackmagic have out the two words ‘pocket’ and ‘cinema’ in the name so they can deflect any criticism about its features. “It has no ND filters built-in!”, you say, “but it’s a pocket camera!” they could respond. “It has no articulating screen or IBIS!” you say, “But it’s a cinema camera!” they could respond. And so it’s a compromise. But they’ve compromised in probably the best way they could. The image quality from the camera and the format options which allow a wealth of flexibility in post-production mean it’s in many ways a joy to work with. If you can live with the obvious downsides that have been compromised in order to produce the camera at this price point.