Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K v.s. Panasonic GH5: Why I’ll being buying the Black Magic over the GH5

 

Let me preface this post by saying that I have used neither of these cameras; Black Magic are yet to release the Pocket 4K to eager customers and I have only used the little brother of the GH5, the Panasonic GH4. What I know of these two cameras come from user reviews and the information released from the respective companies about these two fine cameras. I can talk about the GH5 with a bit more confidence, since this camera has been out for over a year now, however there is still some mystery surrounding the Black Magic Pocket 4K based on the sheer fact that it has not be released yet. But let’s carry on shall we.

I bought the original Pocket Cinema Camera back in 2014 and initially I was very impressed (“It’s God Damn a Cinema Camera” I kept telling myself). But after that euphoria that comes with buying a new camera had ended I began to see all the problems with this Pocket sized camera. The Crop Factor was horrendous (Like most of Black Magic’s cinema cameras), the battery life was a joke and you could forget about shooting handheld due to a lack of image stabilisation. I don’t want to be too harsh on the PCC though. After all for a very reasonable price you were able to shoot RAW CinemaDNG with 13 stops of Dynamic with black magic’s unique colour science, which was and still is truly marvellous. It appears though that Black Magic have addressed many of these problems when designing the 4K PCC.

Without further digression, here are the 4 main reasons why I will be choosing the BMPCC 4K over the Panasonic GH5.

  1. Colour Science

BMPCC 4K: This is essentially the calling card of Black Magic as all the cameras can boast great image quality when it comes to the colour profiles, and this pocket camera is no exception. The BMPCC 4K can shoot in Cinema DNG Raw with 13 stops of Dynamic range as well as ProRes 422 HQ. On the original Pocket Camera we could already shoot on Raw but to be able to do so in 4K is simply spectacular. It is something that should have all filmmakers working within a strict budget enthusiastic. You can’t argue that Black Magic’s film like image texture is unique and it is one thing they have gotten right time and time again.

Panasonic GH5: The GH5 is capable of shooting in V log, but this however comes at the added cost of $100 in order to install it. Like the GH4 it can still shoot in CineD but can do so in 4K up to 400mbps. From what I can gather the dynamic range of the GH5 has slightly improved from the GH4 but still sits around a value of about 10.9 stops. The GH5 is more of a Video Camera and is marketed as such.

 

  1. Sensor Size and Low Light Capabilities

BMPCC 4K: The Black Magic has a sensor size of 18.96mm x 10mm (Four Thirds). Here’s where it gets a bit tricky though since there is no definitive measurement. As I mentioned earlier one of the biggest problems I, and many other customers had with Black Magic’s cinema cameras, was the enormous crop factor, a feature that most ignored in favour of the many other great things Black Magic had to offer. However Black Magic claim that the crop factor of this new 4K camera is “greatly reduced” because “the full size of the 4/3 sensor is designed to perfectly match MFT lenses”. The cynic in me says that “greatly reduced” by Black Magic’s standard might not be so great at all, but the optimist in me says that to even have the crop factor reduced to that of the GH4 (2.3) would be admirable. However only time will tell what Black Magic Design mean when they say “greatly reduced”. Whatever the case may be a larger effective sensor will mean better low light capabilities, which coupled with black magic’s dynamic range will offer excellent images when light is scarce.

Panasonic GH5: The sensor size of the GH5 is in fact smaller than the BMPCC 4K, however without the information of the pockets crop factor, I can’t possibly comment on the field of view in comparison to the GH5. However as a GH4 user, I must praise Panasonic for making the crop on the GH5 smaller. To be able to shoot in 4K with a crop factor of only 2 is a great improvement and one of the reasons I considered an upgrade to the GH5. As far as its low light capabilities go I don’t see a great difference from the GH4. Under such conditions one has to push the ISO way up which only introduces noise that looks terrible to say the least.

 

  1. Frame Rates

BMPCC 4K: Apart from being able to shoot in a number of different standard frame rates (23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94 and 60 fps) the pocket is able to shoot in a higher frame rate of 120fps. However this high frame rate is not in 4K resolution but rather in a windowed or cropped HD version. This of course means that the field of view will be reduced and the light reaching the sensor will be a little less, however with a speed booster this could slightly alleviate the issue.

Panasonic GH5: The GH5 seems to actually outshine the pocket in this regard, since it can shoot in a frame rate of up to 180 fps also in full HD. However the reason that I choose the pocket over the GH5 is for its high frame rate when coupled with the unique image texture that Black Magic offers. The GH5 still offers great slow-motion nonetheless.

  1. Price

BMPCC 4K: When it comes down to it, money talks. To be getting this camera and all its features for as little as $1,739.00 (I have found cheaper but most sites sell it for around this price) is something that can’t be ignored.

Panasonic GH5: What bothers me most about the GH5 is how expensive it is when it is hardly even an upgrade from the GH4. Why pay $2,799.00 (Video Guys AUS, Body Only) when for $1000 cheaper you can get the BMPCC 4K? Of course the pocket has not actually been released yet so that may turn away some potential customers, but for what you are getting it is well worth the wait.

 

To be frank, it is not one specific feature of the BMPCC 4K which makes me want to buy it, but rather it’s all the features when considered with the others that make it the camera I most desire on the market in that price range. I must make the distinction though that the pocket, as stated in its name, is a “cinema” camera and is therefore aimed more at filmmakers and not so much videographers. The GH5 on the other hand is more suited to those who are videographers and is far more accommodating to run-and-gun work due to features like built in image stabilisation, which the pocket does not have. In saying that it seems as if Black Magic has made a camera which may be more suited to videographers, having now improved the built in microphones, and having an XLR input which I found unusual for a camera of its size.

All I can say is that I can’t wait.