To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review: Serious filmmaking on a budget

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £1055
inc VAT

Rough around the edges and battery life is terrible, but image quality is simply sublime


  • Fantastic image quality
  • Pro-level features
  • Easy to use


  • No stabilisation
  • Short battery life

Although professional photo quality has been accessible to the masses for some time now, pro video has remained somewhat out of reach. You can buy DSLRs that capture great 4K video, particularly from Panasonic and Olympus, but those rarely provide all the facilities required by professional videographers.

That’s where the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera comes in. It aims to provide the image quality, tools and all the capabilities a professional videographer needs, but at the sort of price you would pay for a consumer-level DSLR.

READ NEXT: The best DSLR cameras you can buy

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K review: What you need to know

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, in a nutshell, is a camera for budding filmmakers. It’s mainly focused on recording cinema-quality video and offers professional-level features. Crucially, it does so at a price that’s much less than most pro video cameras. Even the cheapest professional-level cameras come in at a minimum of £1,500 for a 4K model.

To be able to shoot in RAW and ProRes at 4K and 60fps and not cost thousands, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is basic in some regards. It doesn’t have continuous autofocus; all you get is single touch-to-focus that works via the huge, 5in screen on the rear. It also lacks in-body image stabilisation, which means you’ll either need to pop it on a gimbal or tripod to get stable footage.

There are a couple of other things to be aware of: the first is that, although it can capture photographs, the Blackmagic is not a practical alternative to a DSLR for stills photography. The second? Despite the name, the Blackmagic is most certainly not pocket-sized. It might be small compared with other professional-level video cameras but, compared with something such as the Panasonic GH5S or the Sony A7R III, it’s heavy and unwieldy.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera review: Price and competition

With all that out of the way, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K makes a very good case for itself on the price front. For the body only, it’s £1,055 and, while that might sound expensive for a device that’s essentially a one-trick-pony, it undercuts any camera that has even remote pretensions at professional video.

The Panasonic Lumix GH5S is probably the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s main rival in terms of pricing, features and video quality. But that’s £1,935 for the body only. Dedicated video cameras that can record 4K 60fps (such as the Panasonic HC-X1000) are also more expensive and tend to be much bulkier as well.

Buy the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K from Park Cameras

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera review: Features and specifications

So, other than the price, why might you choose the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K over its rivals, particularly the GH5S? Well, there are plenty of reasons, but let’s start with the basics first.

For starters, although it feels a touch plasticky in places, it’s very sturdy and well built. There are tripod threads at the bottom and top for mounting accessories, the grip is wide and prominent and the controls are plentiful and sensibly located.

That’s not all, though. The lens mount is metal and feels robust and, as the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K uses a micro four-thirds sensor like the Panasonic GH5, there’s plenty of glass available to choose from. And I don’t just mean dedicated 4/3 lenses, either. It’s possible to use vintage 16mm and SLR 35mm lenses (such as those with the M42 mount), with the sole addition of an optics-free mount. It’s a hugely flexible system.

This is a very easy camera to get to grips with. There’s a clickable dial at the front of the grip at the top and shortcut buttons for ISO, shutter speed and white balance on the top plate alongside shutter buttons for video and stills. Three customisable function buttons sit towards the rear of the camera next to the on/off switch and the iris control button is on the rear.

It’s the Blackmagic’s huge Full HD 5in touchscreen that you’ll use most to control things, though, simply because it’s so easy to use. Large onscreen buttons coupled with a sharp display make it a doddle to frame your images, focus via touch and change settings with a tap or a swipe. In fact, the camera uses the same UI as the company’s professional-level £4,845 URSA Mini Pro, so if you’re coming from one of those, there’s no learning curve whatsoever.

The main problem here is that, in sunny conditions, it’s impossible to make out anything on the screen, so if you’re planning on using the camera outdoors regularly, you’ll need to budget for a decent external video monitor.

Otherwise, this is an eminently practical design that offers plenty of connectivity and storage options. Under a flap on the grip are slots for SD and CFast 2 cards (you’ll need the latter if you plan to shoot in RAW or ProRes 4K). For longer shots, you can record directly to a USB SSD via the camera’s USB Type-C port.

Under a series of rubber flaps on the left edge are a full-sized HDMI output, a pair of 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, a two-pin, locking 12V power input and a mini-XLR audio input for a pro-level microphone. Battery power is supplied via a fairly standard LP-E6 power pack, which in many ways is good news. These batteries are pretty standard and can be picked up pretty cheaply on Amazon (you can pick up a pair with a charger for around £24), which means you can grab a whole bag full for relatively little outlay.

The bad news is that battery life per charge is utterly abysmal. I’ve never got more than 45 minutes from a single charge and, worse, you’ll need to keep a very close eye on the level of charge because, if you run out mid-shot, you’ll lose your footage completely.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera review: Shooting and image quality

The main attraction of the Blackmagic is that it can shoot at 4K at up 60 frames per second in super high bitrate professional formats, or 1080p at up to 120fps. You can either go full RAW or, for slightly smaller file sizes, record in ProRes. There are all sorts of different resolutions and colour profiles to shoot in, too.

The camera itself has 13 stops of dynamic range and can record at ISO rates of up to 25,600, but the most interesting thing about the BMPCC is that it is a “dual native ISO” camera. The only other camera that can do this at a price that’s even remotely close is the Panasonic GH5S and it’s more than £800 more expensive than the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

This means the camera has a pair of native ISO circuits feeding power to the sensor instead of just the one. The upshot is that, in theory at least, noise should be the same at both low and high ISO sensitivities. In the case of the Blackmagic, its native ISO levels are set at ISO 400 and ISO 3200 with the aim of maintaining a similar noise profile right across the range.

For comparison, single native ISO cameras – that is 99.99999% of other cameras – only have one native ISO setting (the setting with the lowest signal-to-noise ratio). To get a brighter image without altering aperture and shutter speed these cameras must increase the voltage, which produces more noise.

Dual ISO is a system that’s been in use in pro-level cameras for some time now, but never in a camera this cheap and it’s a system that really works, as you can see from the comparison edit embedded below:

Colours and noise are similar, not only across ISO 400 and ISO 3200 but also when you look at ISO 1250 and ISO 1600, where the noise levels should be at their highest and lowest respectively. That’s seriously impressive stuff.

In fact, the camera is capable of producing stunning imagery all round. Not necessarily in my hands, and apologies for the rather amateurish clips below, but you get the idea. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is clearly a camera that’s capable of great things.

And, importantly, it gives videographers all the essential tools for checking exposure and focus, too. There’s adjustable zebra striping for an instant view of which parts of your shots are overexposed, focus-peaking (also adjustable), a live histogram and false colour to help you nail the perfect skin tone exposure.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera review: Verdict

It might be a bit of a niche product and one that’s rather basic in some respects, but the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is also revolutionary.

In combining professional connectivity and storage options with the ability to record to RAW and ProRes formats and adding exciting technology such as dual ISO into the mix, while keeping the price low, Blackmagic has created something truly special.

It does have shortcomings that need some investment to remedy. The battery life is awful and you’ll want an external monitor for shooting in bright environments. However, if you’re a budding film or documentary-maker on a budget there’s nothing else that can touch the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K in terms of value for money.

Read more