At the beginning of August Blackmagic Design announced the latest addition to its Cinema Camera line the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K. This new camera doesn’t just promise a bump in video resolution as the name implies. There are sensor and lens compatibility changes as well as some body differences to take into consideration should you be looking to upgrade. Even with these changes, the new 6K keeps many of the positives and negatives of its predecessor.
I have some personal history with the original Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and I’ve been a little wary of the cameras since my experiences with the original. My short film Time Signature was shot on the original Pocket using Blackmagic RAW. While my crew did a fantastic job and the image from the camera was great, the poor battery life and lack of internal stabilization was frustrating during production and post production. I subsequently produced the web series, Maybe Sunshine, which was also shot primarily on the original Pocket and while we had workarounds for those frustrations, as a Producer I was less than enthused about the earlier product.
I do see the value in the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera line though. A compact camera at a relatively low price that can produce an impressive image quality and record RAW video out of the box is definitely exciting. It’s a versatile camera line and here at KitSplit we listed the BMPCC 4K as one of our most anticipated new cameras for 2019 and then awarded it most anticipated gear for our CineGear Awards. So, we’re also pretty excited to see this newly announced upgrade.
The first comparison to make between the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and its predecessor the 4K is right there in the name: 6K. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K offers a larger frame size for your video recording versus the 4K frame size of the previous camera. This additional resolution is only available when shooting with the Blackmagic RAW codec however and shooting in ProRes on the BMPCC 6K maxes out at 4K.
This additional resolution bump also means you get an increase in resolution for shooting in higher frame rates. At full 6K resolution you can shoot up to 50fps or if you adjust to the 2.4:1 aspect ratio (6144 x 2560) you can shoot up to 60fps. The BMPCC 6K also offers 120fps at 2.8K (2868 x 1512). That’s not 120fps at 4K but it’s still a bump over what’s available in the prior model.
The resolution increase may not be necessary for every shoot you have but having more to work with doesn’t hurt. In broad terms people aren’t watching in resolutions over 4K, so 6K can feel a bit like overkill. That said the additional resolution can be helpful for VFX shots. It can also be for something as simple as setting up a medium shot and then cropping in from that to get a close-up in post without losing resolution.
A major shift for the BMPCC 6K is the sensor size. The new 6K offers a Super35 sensor compared to the 4K’s four thirds sensor. It’s a larger sensor, which means it has more surface area to absorb light from the lens. In practical terms this offers a bit more sensitivity in low light and also a shallower depth of field.
This sensor size increase isn’t necessarily going to make a huge difference in light sensitivity, but there is some. The shallower depth of field really comes down to aesthetic preferences. In practical terms the sensor size increase means changes to the lenses you can shoot with on the new 6K versus its predecessor.
The new sensor size on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K means that Blackmagic has also removed the micro four thirds lens mount and replaced it with a Canon EF lens mount. With the new sensor size and new lens mount for the camera you can put on EF lenses without having to pick up one of the popular Metabones adapters. It also means you can mount an anamorphic lens to the 6K for your more epic videos.
The lens mount change seems like it will have mixed results for users. If you’ve been using the previous versions of the BMPCC with a metabones adapter and using EF lenses anyway, there won’t be much need for a change. If you’ve not been using an adapter, you may have to get a new set of lenses for this new model. It does seem like this would make a good option for anyone coming from using Canon cameras who may want to switch up to the Blackmagic.
Another change between the BMPCC 4K and the 6K is an increase in megapixels for photos. The 4K offers 8.8 megapixels while the 6K offers 21.2. It’s quite a bump in the specs for the new camera, though still not quite as much as some competitors. Not that this is likely to be a major detractor for those familiar with the Pocket camera line as despite the body similarities to DSLRs they’ve always been intended to be used as video cameras first.
The camera body is mostly the same for the two cameras. Button placement is the same and so is the 5 inch screen at the back and the overall shape of the camera. Where they differ is the lens mount. The 6K is bigger when it comes to this, which makes sense with the change in sensor size and lens compatibility.
Calling the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera a pocket camera with the 4K seemed to be a bit of a stretch. The 6K is going to need a bigger pocket. It’s still a compact camera but it’s definitely less compact than the 4K. The 6K is very close to the size and shape of its predecessor but the differences could impact some of the cages or other accessories that should otherwise be compatible with the new camera. Cinema 5D discusses this at the end of their video comparison of the two cameras: https://youtu.be/cIypiQR9p6s
By all accounts the battery life on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K is not much of an improvement over the 4K. This is pretty much in line with the history of the Pocket Cinema Cameras. Fortunately, if you’re upgrading from the 4K to the new 6K, you can use the same solution you’ve been using for its limited battery life for the new camera. The BMPCC 6K uses the same type of LP-E6 battery and is compatible with the battery grip you may already have from Blackmagic.
Is it Worth it to Upgrade?
The changes to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K come with a price. The new camera is $1200 more than the 4K at $2495. The BMPCC 6K is an upgrade over the previous model offering greater resolution and some additional options for frame rate and lenses. It also offers shallow depth of field not as readily available in earlier models. Many accessories that already work with the 4K should continue to work with the 6K, though the changes to the body may affect some cages.
The BMPCC 6K still has the same issues as the 4K insofar as the battery life issues, a stationary screen, and no internal stabilization. It also doesn’t boast much of an increase in low light sensitivity. It is an upgrade in resolution and options for your lenses primarily. For someone looking to get their first Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera or for anyone who may need additional resolution beyond 4K in the compact size, the 6K seems to be worth it. On the other hand there doesn’t seem to be quite enough difference between the BMPCC 4K and the 6K to be worth upgrading if the 4K has been serving you well.
You may not quite be ready to buy the BMPCC 4K or the 6K right now, but KitSplitters have them available if you’d like to try them out on your next production:
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