Friday, September 7, 2012

Blackmagic Design Rocks the Cinema World - Again!

I guess you can tell from the name of this blog that I'm a bit of a revolutionary - that's why I like "insurgent" companies like Blackmagic Design - whose mission in life seems to be to upset the old order.  Well, they did it with the original $2995 Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera (BMCC) for EF mount a few months ago, and now they've done it again with a new Micro 4/3 (MFT) mount version, announced at IBC 2012 in Amsterdam.  The new version will be available in December for the same $2995 price! (see image below, with Voitglander 17mm f/0.95)

This is great news - one of the major criticisms of the original camera has been the EF mount - which seemed to be a poor match for the size of the BMCC's sensor, limiting lens choices at the wide end.  This problem is dealt with much more easily with the new MFT mount.  With the MFT mount, the camera is opened up to a range of manual lens options not available with the EF-only mount, such as the $549 SLR Magic HyperPrime Cine 12mm T/1.6 - while still retaining the ability to use manual PL or Nikon lenses with inexpensive adapters - or EF lenses in auto mode with a $600 Redrock LiveLens Active Lens Mount.

So, for $4 or $5K (plus SSDs), you can have a camera with 2.5K resolution that shoots 12 bit RAW with 13 stops of dynamic range and will mount just about any lens ever made?

Although this blog is nominally about the hybrid still/cinema camera convergence, and this is "just" a cinema camera - I am still excited.  Because what this blog is really about is the revolutionary democratization of image-making made possible in this century by the breakneck pace of change in technology.  When I was in film school, Super 8 sound cameras were revolutionary.  The idea that amateurs could actually get lip-synced sound in their movies without a clapboard and a Nagra was pretty heady stuff. My Super 8 sound camera actually had full manual audio level control (I wish my GH1 and GH2 had that!).

But sadly, the image quality from those cameras was terrible, even by 1970s standards.  The images were grainy (even at low ISOs - or low ASAs in those days), the registration was awful, so the picture jumped around, and the resolution was so low it couldn't stand up to projection on the big screen.  Okay, 16mm was better for projection, but not much better.  And it was an order of magnitude more expensive (not just the cameras and lenses - but the film stock and processing cost a fortune).

Fast forward to today - and with a few thousand dollars, a film school or amateur or indy pro crew can produce image quality with nearly the dynamic range of film that will stand up to the 2K projection in most theaters. No more excuses.  Thanks Blackmagic Design!

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