Blackmagic BMPCC 6K review: Peerless video power

The Pocket 6K has a nearly identical body, button layout and screen to the last model. The only change is right in the middle, with a mount that’s wider and sticks out farther. That makes it quite a bit more bulky than the BMPCC 4K, which wasn’t exactly pocket-sized to begin with.

The reason for the hump is that it now uses Canon EF DSLR glass, rather than Micro Four Thirds lenses like the BMPCC 4K. Those are designed to be farther from the sensor than mirrorless lenses to account for mirror movement. The sensor is also larger at 23.10 mm x 12.99 mm. That’s Super 35 size, which is slightly smaller than the APS-C sensor on Canon’s 7D II DSLR, but much larger than the sensor on the Pocket 4K. The crop factor compared to full-frame is a 1.56x, in between full-frame and Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Some of you might think Blackmagic would have been better off adopting a mirrorless mount to keep the camera more compact. But I disagree, because EF is more mainstream, and EOS R glass is too expensive. Sure, you could use Canon’s EOS R adapter, but that would be an extra cost and hassle for most users.

As it stands, you’ll now have an easier time finding high-quality lenses. While it’s not full-frame, which is the on-trend sensor size right now, that can make it hard to keep things in focus — especially without an autofocus system. Super 35 is in a sweet spot, and still delivers cinematic images with shallow depth of field.

Considering that it’s a cinema-caliber camera, the BMPCC 6K is surprisingly simple to learn. While it can take hours and hours to master a regular mirrorless camera, I had the BMPCC 6K set up and ready to use in about 15 minutes.

That simplicity works because of Pocket 6K’s excellent ergonomic design and visual, intuitive touchscreen-driven menu system. Basic settings, like aperture, ISO and shutter angle can be changed using the manual dials. With the same bright, 5-inch touch display as the last model, I could also switch settings directly from the main screen. As good as it is, the display is a fingerprint magnet, however.

When I needed to dive in and change the resolution, RAW or ProRes, memory card and other settings, it was easy thanks to the simple menu system arranged by theme. I might sound like a broken record here, but the menus on Sony, Canon and Nikon cameras pale in comparison, and those manufacturers should look at what Blackmagic is doing.

Connectors, storage and battery

The BMPCC 6K kills every other mirrorless camera on the connection side. On top of the 3.5mm microphone and headphone ports, you get a professional mini-XLR mono locking connector for high-quality professional mics. You can use both the 3.5mm and XLR jacks at the same time for backup or improved quality, where all other mirrorless cameras offer just a single audio channel.

Meanwhile, the built-in stereo microphone delivers better quality than the built-in mics on any mirrorless camera I’ve ever tested. Other ports include a USB-C and full-sized HDMI connector for external recording.

Battery life is not great, giving you just 45 minutes when recording at 6K RAW with 50 percent screen brightness, according to Blackmagic. In the real world, it struggled to deliver just 30 minutes with the Canon LP-E6 batteries. Luckily, those are pretty cheap and easy to find, so if I bought the camera, I would get plenty of batteries to carry around.

Should you need to shoot for longer, Blackmagic has a $245 camera grip that can power the Pocket 6K for two hours. It also has a 12 volt power input that locks the cable in place to run it on AC power or use a larger external battery pack.

The BMPCC 6K has some pretty beefy recording formats. The only mirrorless camera that even comes close to that is Panasonic’s GH5/GH5s, which can shoot 10-bit, but not RAW, video.

With the 12-bit Blackmagic RAW codec, you can shoot at up to 6K (6,144 x 3,456) or wider-screen 6K 2.4:1 (6,144 x 2,560) at up to 50 fps. Dropping down to 2.8K (2,868 x 1,512) gives you a max shooting speed of 120 fps. The latter two formats are windowed and don’t use the entire sensor size, which means the image will be cropped in by varying amounts. In terms of frame rate and resolution, the BMPCC 6K beats every mirrorless camera, and many much more expensive professional cameras. Panasonic’s S1H will reportedly hit 5.9K resolution but cost around $4,000, and the only other options for 6K (and up) are cinema cameras from RED, Arri and Sony that are priced well over $20,000.

Blackmagic Design BMPCC 6K pocket cinema camera review

Compression ratios vary from 12:1 to 3:1 (81 MB/s to 323 MB/s). Unlike the Pocket 4K, there’s no option for uncompressed video. But given that 6K at 3:1 compression uses 323 Mb/s of bandwidth, uncompressed 6K video would require nearly a gigabyte per second — well beyond what even Blackmagic’s newfangled CFast 2.0 storage can handle.

Oddly, you can’t shoot 4K, DCI 4K or Full HD video in Blackmagic RAW mode, instead you have to use 10-bit ProRes mode for that. (At the same time, you can’t shoot 6K in ProRes.) In this mode, you can shoot 4K at 60 fps using the entire sensor and 1,920 x 1,080 HD at 120 fps in cropped mode. That matches what you can do with Panasonic’s GH5/GH5s.

The lack of RAW 4K isn’t too big a deal, because you’re buying this camera for the 6K capability, right? If you really need 4K RAW, the older BMPCC 4K can handle that. However, this might be an issue for some folks who prefer to stick to ProRes, so I’ve reached out to Blackmagic Design to see if that might change in the future.

To capture all this footage, there’s one slot for SD UHS-II cards and another for CFast 2.0 cards. UHS-II, with maximum speeds of 300 MB/s, is best for shooting ProRes, while the CFast 2.0 card’s maximum 525 MB/s speeds are fast enough to support all the RAW 6K formats. As before, you can’t shoot to both cards at once to have a backup, so the camera is not ideal for event videography.

Performance and video quality

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