We wouldn't call ourselves cinematographers, but over the past couple of years there has been some massive development in the professional camera market beyond HD resolution, although most of this equipment has so far been out of reach for smaller production companies and indie film makers. Blackmagic Design has decided to change that with the introduction of its comparatively affordable Cinema Camera that can shoot 2.5K video straight to an SSD.

We wouldn't call ourselves cinematographers, but over the past couple of years there has been some massive development in the professional camera market beyond HD resolution, although most of this equipment has so far been out of reach for smaller production companies and indie film makers. Blackmagic Design has decided to change that with the introduction of its comparatively affordable Cinema Camera that can shoot 2.5K video straight to an SSD.

Blackmagic Design is well known in the industry for its high-end video editing and capturing solutions, so launching a high-end video camera that takes on the big established industry giants is a bold move from what is a comparably small company. The Cine Camera offers at least a couple of unique features that we haven't seen on any similar product to date, namely Thunderbolt connectivity and support for standard 2.5-inch SSDs.

The sensor choice is somewhat unusual as well, as Blackmagic Design is using a 16.64×14.04mm senor, but the active part only measures 15.6×8.8mm. This is slightly smaller than the 4/3's format used on interchangeable lens cameras from Panasonic and Olympus, as well as some of Panasonic's own interchangeable lens camcorders. The sensor is said to offer 13 stops of dynamic range and it has a usable resolution of 2432×1366 or what Blackmagic Design calls 2.5K. It can shoot 12-bit RAW CinemaDNG video at this resolution, but it can also shoot at 10-bit 1920×1080 resolution using the compressed Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD codecs. The camera can shoot video at both resolutions at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p and 30p and this is possibly one of the cameras biggest weakness compared to competing solutions.

As you can see from the pictures, we're looking at a very unusual camera shape. The lens mount is protruding quite some way from the camera body and as you might already have guessed, Blackmagic Design doesn't make its own lenses for the camera. Instead the lens mount accepts Canon EF lenses and Carl Zeiss ZE mount lenses and the camera sports electronic iris control, but it's not clear if it supports auto focusing, albeit this is less of an issue in most instances where this camera would be used.

The rear of the camera is home to a 5-inch 800×480 capacitive touch screen as well as a small selection of controls. Most of the camera adjustments are done via the touch screen which might not seems like the most intuitive way of doing things, but we'll have to wait and see how this turns out once the Cinema Camera gets into the hands of some reviewers/users. The right hand side of the camera features the SSD compartment, the top has three standard quarter inch screw mounts and the bottom has yet another quarter inch screw mount.

The left hand side of the camera is where you'll find all the connectivity options and Blackmagic Design hasn't skimped on things here. You get – from top to bottom – a LANC compatible remote connector, a 3.5mm headphone jack, two 6.35mm balanced audio jacks that can be switched between mic and line level inputs, a 10-bit HD-SDI interface with a sample rate of 4:2:2, a Thunderbolt port, a mini USB 2.0 port for software updates and a 12-30V wide input power connector.

Besides the limited frame rate options, the only other apparent drawback of the Cinema Camera is that it has a fairly small, integrated Li-Polymer battery that only lasts for about 90 minutes of use and then takes about 2h to charge with the camera switched off. That said, thanks to the wide power input, it shouldn't be hard to find an external battery to power the camera with. The Cinema Camera might not look like it would be all that heavy, but thanks to its solid aluminium-alloy frame, the camera still manages to weigh in at 1.7kg and that's without an SSD or lens fitted.

Blackmagic Design is expecting to ship the Cinema Camera in July for US$2,995 (S$3,742) which might seem like a lot of money from a consumer perspective, especially as this only includes a detachable sun shield, a camera strap, a dust cap for the lens mount, a 12V AC adapter. You do also get a copy of DaVinci Resolve, Media Express and Blackmagic UltraScope with the camera, but as these are all in-house products, the actual cost to Blackmagic Design is fairly low. The handlebar you can see in one of the pictures is an optional accessory priced at US$195 (S$245) and it appears to be the only accessory on offer so far.

Based purely on spec and price, Blackmagic Design has come up with a very disruptive product that ought to make the more established players sit down for a long and hard think about what they're doing. The Cinema Camera might not compete in every level of the market, but it should be vastly superior compared to shooting video on a DSLR. The company has been smart and used standard storage device and gone for a lens mount that is compatible with a lot of high-end glass, but also some more affordable lenses. If you want to bring around a change in a stagnated market, this is most definitely a good way of going about doing it.

Source: Blackmagic Design