Thursday, August 29, 2013

Panasonic GH3 Marked Down to Match Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera!

If you're tired of waiting for your $995 Pocket Camera, or you have a gig coming up and need a camera right now - you might want to think about canceling your pre-order and getting a Panasonic GH3 body for $998 from Amazon (price good until 9/7/13).

Unlike the Pocket, there's no need to buy a hot shoe or an external battery charger to go with it - they're included.

As examples of what this camera can do, here are the winners of August's Hybrid Camera Revolution GH3 Film Festival. The categories are...(drumroll, please)....Narrative, Documentary, Travel, Mood, and Home Video. There were winners in only two categories this month (there are no rules, and the judging is completely arbitrary):

Documentary: The Barbershop by Rusty Earl

Travel: LA Vacation by Rob Woodward

Not bad for a $998 camera.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NEW Sony A3000 - Entry-level DSLR killer?

Okay, okay. Everyone is tired of this question - what's going to kill the DSLR? So far, consumers have ignored just about every alternative to heavy mirror boxes, mirror shake, a limited number of mechanical shutter actuations and viewfinders that are blocked by the mirror when shooting video.

Mirrorless cameras solve all of these problems - but despite the mirrorless "revolution", DSLR sales continue to rumble along, and relatively large and heavy reflex mirrored cameras beat mirrorless cams month after month on the sales charts - especially in the US market. Americans seem to want their cameras big - like their houses and cars.

 Nikon has admitted to dismal sales of the Nikon 1 - the Canon EOS M had to be marked down to $349 from its ridiculous $649 initial price to gain any traction - and you can't find an Olympus or Panasonic camera on the Amazon US DSLR Best Sellers' list anywhere in the top 20. As of today, the Panasonic GH3 is the top mirrorless camera on the list, probably because it is on sale for $998 (perhaps to compete with the $995 Pocket Cinema Camera).

David Taylor-Hughes over at soundimageplus says the mistake the mirrorless manufacturers made was to make their cameras too small (as an appeal to the youth market) - leaving the traditional DSLR design (and people who actually buy cameras) behind.

His principal criticism, though, is that these little cameras were too expensive - that consumers who make up the bulk of the market walked into shops and saw traditional DSLRs with higher resolution sitting next to a small, and often funny colored, camera with a 16 megapixel count and a higher price tag - and made the rational decision.

I have to agree. Poor first-generation EVFs; slow first generation autofocus; small, low resolution sensors and nontraditional design - all of these have been challenges for mirrorless cameras - but their Achilles heel has been that they are so darned expensive.

Why does a $796.95 Nikon 1 V2 body cost $100 more than a D5200 body, for example? And Nikon is surprised that Nikon 1 sales are tanking? I completely understand recouping R&D costs - but companies that don't sell cameras don't recoup their costs, and don't stay in business very long.

Which brings us to the new Sony A3000. Four and a half years after the groundbreaking Panasonic G1,  this is the first DSLM that looks like a DSLR, has the same sized sensor as a crop sensor DSLR, breaks the 20 megapixels resolution barrier - and actually costs less than an entry level Nikon D3200 or Canon T3i.

The Samsung NX20 came close - but, following in the footsteps of other low-sales mirrorless manufacturers, Samsung overpriced it.

The A3000 is certainly not perfect. Sony has cut unfortunate corners with it (non-standard hot shoe, no OLED, fixed LCD, no mic input, no wireless and no 60p) - but they have the big things right.  Shout out to Olivia Speranza from Oliviatech who does a great job of pointing out the pros and the cons in the official Signal by Sony video:

All of that said, the A3000 looks like a camera, not a candybar with a lens on it.  To my eyes, the somewhat more capable NEX-5T looks like a toy next to the A3000 in the video.

It has a DSLR-sized sensor, it's over 20 megapixels of resolution - and, most of all, it is affordably priced.

Consumers seem to have responded. As of today, preorders for the A3000 make it the best selling Sony on Amazon's DSLR list.

We'll see if this is a flash in the pan - or a harbinger of things to come. In my view, this camera will appeal to a lot of people who want a lightweight travel viewfinder camera that actually looks like a camera, has a big camera sensor with big camera resolution - and doesn't break the bank.

If Sony can actually get this camera into the retail channel, they will sell a lot of them this Christmas.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Great Pocket Cinema Camera Travel Video

For some reason, the best travel videos seem to come out of Southeast Asia.  The great "Oh Angkor", shot on the GH2, is one example.  Another is "Thailand Singapore Bali" shot primarily with the Sony RX100.

Now we have another - "Siem Reap 2013" from ThirtySix-O Media - this time shot with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and a couple of small lenses - the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and Olympus 12mm f2.   Again, great dynamic range in this piece:

This is great video quality to bring back from vacation - especially considering that a camera the size of a cellphone and two tiny lenses were used to shoot it.

Some are saying that this is primarily a "professional" camera, but I beg to differ.  In the hands of advanced amateurs who know what they are doing, the Pocket is going to be a terrific little camera to travel with.

Just make sure to bring along a few extra Nikon EN-EL20 batteries, an MH-27 charger and a laptop to manage your cards! 

Again, you can pre-order your Pocket Cinema Camera here or by clicking on the Adorama display ad below.

If you don't want to wait for the Pocket, you can order a Cinema Camera EF or MFT from Amazon. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep posts like this coming.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Another Great Pocket Cinema Camera Narrative from Jsfilmz

I'm turning into a real fan.  Impactful short film with a message.  Please watch all the way to the end. Shot by J's friend and his wife with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

Dynamic range is very impressive. This camera is the real deal - and so is Jsfilmz.

Again, you can pre-order your Pocket Cinema Camera here or by clicking on the Adorama display ad below.

If you don't want to wait for the Pocket, you can order a Cinema Camera EF or MFT from Amazon. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep posts like this coming.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Narrative Short Shot With Pocket Cinema Camera

Another sign that we may be about to get our cameras! They are starting to appear in the hands of consumers who don't seem to have special relationships with either Blackmagic or with dealers.

A talented amateur who goes by "Jsflimz" has posted a 1080p action short on YouTube.  As far as I can tell, this is the first Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera footage with the whole package - actors with dialogue, VFX, and post-production (cutting and grading). Check it out (please watch at 1080p):

This is clearly an amateur production with a couple of rough spots, but the dynamic range here is very exciting and, dare I say it, "filmic".

This is what I had hoped the camera could do - give amateurs access to the dynamic range and bitrate to allow them to get past the typical DSLR's horrid compression and 8 bit colorspace.

Reading Jsfimz' notes in the comments section is informative too - but not at all  like reading "American Cinematographer".  Here, the filmmaker describes his motivation:
"btw i dont have any experience at all. i just do this short films for fun. instead of getting drunk everynight. this and fishing is [sic] my outlet"
Nevertheless, he did a great job.

If you're as impressed by the image quality here as I am, and you've been waiting to see some narrative from this camera before ordering, you can go ahead and pre-order your Pocket Cinema Camera here or by clicking on the Adorama display ad below.

If you don't want to wait for the Pocket, you can order a Cinema Camera EF or MFT from Amazon. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep posts like this coming.

Wedding Shooters - Don't Let This Happen To You!

Epic Fail

Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt - and I admit that I laughed when I found out the groom only suffered a few cuts.  But in all seriousness, flying a copter in close proximity to people on the ground can be a matter of life and death - and should not be attempted unless:
  1. The operator is experienced - this means hours of practice, not minutes

  2. The equipment is reliable and suited to the payload it is to carry - no DSLRs on a copter rated for a GoPro

  3. Winds are relatively calm - strong or gusty winds can exceed the abilities of even the most experienced pilot.
This video has had over a million hits in a little over two weeks. My concern is that the media and attention-seeking politicians will use this video as an excuse for clamping down on copter-mounted cameras.

It behooves all of us who would like to retain the freedom to fly these small copters for personal and light commercial use to operate them safely - or at least not to post our accidents on YouTube or Vimeo.

There are safe, easy-to-fly copters that cost a little more than trying to build one yourself.  I recommend buying one instead of trying to lash together parts from hobby stores, hoping to save a few bucks.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Adorama has their Hands on the Pocket Cinema Camera!

According to this August 15th blog post from Adorama, they have their first camera in - which gives hope to all of us who pre-ordered our Pocket Cinema Cameras there.

In the meantime, the box cutter and my Olympus 11-22mm lens, Panasonic MA1 adapterWooden Camera hot shoe, Rainbowimaging pistol grip with trigger, and 64GB ADATA SDXC card all wait patiently by the door, ready to get the box open and shoot some ProRes as soon as the camera arrives!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SHAME - Second Tier Profiteers Mark Panasonic G6 up by $100

If you click on the image above, it will take you to a page where you can back order the Panasonic G6 at $749.99.  You can also get on the pre-order list for the camera for $749 at Adorama.

Sadly, however, if you do a search for the camera at Amazon, you'll be taken to a page that lists it for $100 above retail through a company called 6th Ave Express (I am naming them because I'm calling them out - but there's no link, because I don't want to encourage this behavior).

As it turns out, the folks at so-called "BigValue" are doing the exact same thing on eBay.

This is clearly not as pernicious as profiteering from food during a famine - or even from overpriced fuel during an oil embargo, but consumers deserve to know that it's going on.

I completely "get" the law of supply and demand - and that retailers should have some price flexibility to cover extra costs - but a $100 markup on a $750 camera?

As we used to say in the military, YGTBSM.  This is profiteering, pure and simple.

This isn't all the retailers' fault - ultimately, it is Panasonic's.  Once again, they have introduced a camera, promised a delivery date, and then failed to ramp up production to meet demand.

Sadly, this is a pattern. Panasonic cameras routinely miss promised delivery dates in North America, they have poor availability in the largest retail channels in the United States (that's being charitable), and they do not issue updates explaining the situation to consumers.

I tend to recommend Panasonic cameras on internet fora and on this blog because, in my view, their hybrid still/video bridge camera (the FZ200) and their DSLMs (the G6 and the GH3) are the best-in-class hybrids between about $500 and $1500.

That said, Panasonic's supply chain challenges are a real problem for the company and its consumers.  It is clearly a losing sales strategy - and it is not very helpful to the company's credibility among camera buyers and bloggers.

If anyone at Panasonic is reading this - you should know that it is becoming more and more difficult to recommend your cameras - because it is becoming more and more difficult to find your cameras at the prices you advertise on your website.

For now, hybrid still/video camera buyers with less than $800 in their budgets, who want moire-free video and terrific stills - and who cannot wait for the G6's supply challenges to work themselves out, may want to consider the Nikon 5200, $797 with the 18-55 kit lens at Amazon (or even less on eBay).

The G6 is a great camera, and a good value for the money at $750 with the kit lens - but it is a bad deal at $850, and I don't recommend it at that price.

If you're in the market for any of these cameras, please click on the display ads below.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it makes it possible to keep these posts coming. Thanks!

While You Wait - Five Downloadable Pocket Cinema Camera Videos

Click on the image to go to the download page

For your grading pleasure, the folks at Wooden Camera have posted five gradable videos from the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

Something to keep you occupied as you sit by the front door waiting for your Pocket Camera to arrive.

Monday, August 12, 2013

12-35mm f2.8 Lens on RedShark's Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Test Unit!

Congratulations to RedShark for getting their hands on what appears to be the second Pocket Cinema Camera in the wild.  Hop over to their unboxing post to see some nice pictures of the Pocket mated to the Panasonic 12-35 f2.8 lens:

From RedShark News

This is a great lens, but sadly, it is a little over my budget, so I will break out the trusty old Olympus 11-22mm f2.8-3.5 4/3 lens with the MA1 adapter. This should give me full autoiris and push-to-focus compatibility with the camera. It will be pretty bulky on the Pocket, but should produce some great images.  

That said, the image of the model holding the camera above is really interesting.  We talk a lot about a camera's price/performance ratio on this blog - but the size/performance ratio of this camera is amazing.

With the Pocket Cinema Camera, a filmmaker will be able to shoot a "film" in front of the White House  - or attend an important event - and attract no more attention than someone with a point and shoot or small mirrorless.

This camera will literally be able to go places that larger cameras, with comparable image quality, cannot go.

Where some see a "B" cam or a "crash cam" - I see this camera as great new tool for cinema verité or street filmmaking - combining the urgency and immediacy of cell phone video with projection-quality images.

Yes, we will see a lot of shaky, poorly shot stuff - but we will also see high impact footage shot in newly accessible places - by people who could not have afforded to shoot ProRes before the advent of the Pocket.

The terms "revolution" and "revolutionary" are often overused (I'm certainly guilty of it) - but, if any camera deserves that description,  this one does.

If you're interested in any of the lenses mentioned in this post, please order them here.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help me keep the blog running.  Thanks!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Just Bought a Fast SDXC Card for my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Since the cameras seem to be really shipping (!), it is time to buy a memory card.  After all these months of waiting, it would be pretty frustrating to have the camera waiting on my doorstep when I get back from Spaceport America next week - with no memory card to put in it.

Looking at this list of fast cards on, I couldn't bring myself to spring for a 95MB/s $133 Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB - so I bought an ADATA 64GB (95MB/s read, 45MB/s write) for $56 (on sale at Amazon) instead.  ADATA, an established DRAM and NAND flash memory manufacturer from Taiwan, just entered the high speed SD card market a few months ago, so their prices are a little lower than Sandisk's.  On sale, this card is a very good deal.

At 45MB/s write, the ADATA will be good enough for ProRes, but won't cut it for CinemaDNG RAW. When Blackmagic issues the RAW firmware update, I'll buy a faster card, but until then, this will do.

Video from Blackmagic's August 8th NYC Event!

Hat tip to filmmaker David Bates, Jr., who has posted video shot at Blackmagic's event in New York on August 8th.  If you want to skip David's mano a mano challenge to Spielberg, Lucas, et. al to a shootout with the Production camera, you can bail out of the video after about 1:10:

"Filmmakers' Challenge" aside, there is some good information on the Pocket and Production Cameras here.

First, push to autofocus seems to be pretty fast on the Pocket - and, second, the global shutter on the Production Camera seems to be effective in preventing skew.

This is iPhone video, not a studio test under controlled conditions, but it makes me that much more anxious to get my hands on the little Pocket Cinema Cam.

First Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Unboxing Videos

The guys at Wooden Camera have posted a couple of short unboxing videos on Instagram.  I am so jealous:

For those of you who were waiting until the camera actually started shipping to order, you can get on the list here, or by clicking on the Adorama display below.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Boxed & Ready to Ship!

Hat tip to RedShark News

Hope this is mine!  

To whet your appetite even further, here is a new downloadable (and gradeable) ProRes BMPC file from John Brawley (you might have to wait a while - so many people have tried to access the file that Dropbox has temporarily disabled the link).

In the meantime, here is a graded sample from the download via Ruben Kremer on Vimeo:

If you're as impressed as I am, and want to order this incredible little camera, please click here or on the display ad below:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Blackmagic CEO: BMCC Price Drop to $1995, Pocket Camera Now Shipping!

Okay - just one more Blackmagic post.  Grant Petty, CEO at Blackmagic Design, continues to shake up the camera industry.  Here is an excerpt from an email he sent out overnight:

"Camera Update 
The new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is now shipping and there is a software update for it posted on our web site. 
There are some new features in the software for the Pocket Cinema Camera. You can now focus by pushing the focus button when using an active MFT lens. This makes it very easy to accurately focus. The focus peaking feature is still there and you enable it by double pressing the focus button. The focus zoom feature is enabled by double pressing the OK button. 
There will be an update for the 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera soon that will also add these features, plus new de-bayer processing that will improve the cameras sharpness when shooting non RAW files. 
The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K is not yet shipping as we need some more time. Our first batch of sensors was delivered only this week, so we have not been able to complete the software for the camera.  
We expect to start shipping in about 3 to 4 weeks once the final software work and testing is completed.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera Price Reduction 
We have worked very hard over the last year to be able to build the Blackmagic Cinema Camera at a lower cost so we can reduce the price and allow access to digital filming to a wide range of cinematographers and photographers. 
We have done it and from today the Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF and MFT models will be reduced in price to US$1,995. This is very exciting and is one of the proudest moments of my life to be able to do this! 
I think people will be able to use the savings to invest in some exciting lenses and rigs to really boost the creative possibilities. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is a fantastic design that's now well proven. The advantage of the 2.5K sensor is it has enough resolution to eliminate the bayer resolution loss of a HD sensor, but when shooting RAW it produces files that are too not to big to store and work with easily. It's a fantastic solution. 
All orders placed that have not yet been filled, can be reduced to the new lower price."
There is lots to digest here, but at least two groups of people should take immediate action - if you are still within the return period for your new BMCC EF or MFT - you should probably send it back.

And, if you have an order in for the BMCC at $2995, you should cancel it and re-order at the new price to make sure your card isn't charged the full $2995.

Although there has been a lot of (understandable) gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing from people who have had their Cinema Cameras for long enough to be outside of the return window - overall, this is great news for the community.

This puts a 2.5K projection quality image in the hands of film schools, high schools and consumers who would otherwise never have had access to a cinema camera.  It will also force the hands of the big manufacturers, who will, I predict, have to include RAW and native ProRes in their next generation of cameras below $5000.

And, lost in the buzz over the price drop, is the great news on the Pocket Cinema Camera firmware upgrade. Now, push-to-autofocus, in addition to auto-aperture, is enabled with system MFT lenses.  This is a critical addition to the camera's feature-set, and will make it much more usable out of the box.

Here are the links to the latest firmware upgrades for Windows and Mac (sorry Linux users, you're out of luck).

Now, back to waiting by the mailbox for my Pocket Camera.  If you haven't ordered yours yet, please use this link.  If you can't wait, and you need a BMCC at the new $1995 price right now, please order the EF from Adorama here (with a free set of handles) or the MFT from Amazon here - or click on one of the display ads below.  Thanks for your support.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera "In Stock" Dates in Australia, NZ, UK - Where's the US?

This is my last post on the elusive Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera until it actually arrives (sure it is) - but I had to comment on this interesting difference between the US and our friends in the rest of the Anglosphere.

While searching for the latest clues on Pocket Cinema Camera shipping and arrival dates, I noticed an interesting pattern. Stores in Australia, New Zealand and the UK are committing to actual dates - or at least to "early August" (sometimes with caveats, but sometimes not) - while US stores, to include Adorama, B&H and Markertek provide no date information at all.

At Video Pro in Australia, they, "...expect to start shipping the initial orders out in early August".  At Rubber Monkey in New Zealand, stock is "arriving 16th August".  At CVP in the UK, the camera is "Expected: 14/08/2013".

The relative silence of the US stores on ship dates is interesting - and a little frustrating.  I'm sure that not going out on a limb and promising something you may not be able to deliver is good business practice, but, it seems to me, it should be possible to provide some information on expected in-stock dates - while including a caveat such as "in-stock date based on information from manufacturer" - or even a lengthier explanation, such as this one from CVP:

At the moment we're not sure when it is scheduled to ship or will actually ship but based on our experience with the existing 2.5K model we expect long delays. Please rest assured that we have already placed a substantial pre-order with Blackmagic Design and orders will be fulfilled in order of placement.

US stores can learn something from CVP here.

As a US customer, it would certainly be nice to have at least some idea where our cameras are and when they will arrive.  The store that steps up to this will differentiate itself from the pack - and earn the loyalty and return business of its customers.