Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 1080p Survival Guide

For people who will continue to work with the old version of the BMPCC

by fcr (member filmwerkplaats Rotterdam), Version 1.0, 9/2018


The first version of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, sold from 2013 to 2018, remains the most affordable camera that can shoot RAW (CinemaDNG) and 10bit Log (ProRes) video.

The only other cameras in the same price range (ca. $900 new, ca. $450 used) that shoot RAW video are Canon EOS cameras (such as the 50D and first-generation EOS-M) with the third-party, Open Source firmware add-on MagicLantern. I use an EOS-M as my digital 8mm camera, with Super 8 lenses, next to the BM Pocket. For me, the MagicLantern user experience - while yielding enjoyable results - is rather experimental and less robust for everyday use.

CinemaDNG RAW video means that the camera records every video frame as an individual, 1920x1080 pixels raw digital photograph. 10bit Log video means that the camera retains most of the color depth and dynamic range that is also retained in RAW (exceeding that of typical video many times), but in a classical video file that needs color conversion in editing software.

If you are unsure whether you need a RAW/10bit Log video camera, there’s a good chance that you won’t need one. For most everyday video shooting purposes, there are better alternatives to the BM Pocket.

If “Cinema Camera” means for you to shoot a stylized teal-and-orange genre film look, then this can be done with the Pocket Cinema Camera, but only with considerable effort in front of the camera (lighting) and in postproduction (color grading). Shooting in available light and slapping on a styling LUT will yield awful results in most cases.

However, if you are looking for a digital motion picture camera that produces a photographic image, with deep colors and the same postprocessing flexibility as raw digital still photography, and you’re on a budget, then this camera may meet your expectations.

This is not a camera handbook, but a collection of practical tips & tricks resulting from five years experience of shooting with the BM Pocket. It comes out of the tradition of DIY manuals that are used in hand-made film labs for analog 8 and 16mm film where filmmakers keep the technology alive. Since the old BM Pocket is about to disappear from the market, this document will hopefully provide useful knowledge.

(Here’s the first video I shot with the camera, and here’s a recent one.)



HDMI port

The micro HDMI port of the BM Pocket is literally its Achilles heel: Soldered directly onto the camera’s mainboard, it will likely destroy the camera if it breaks. Cages with cable locks won’t provide a 100% safe protection. I therefore advise against using external HDMI monitors (including field monitors and EVFs) with the BM Pocket, altogether. When shooting outdoors and dealing with the camera’s dim built-in display, better use a display loupe or hood.

Infrared pollution

The camera’s sensor is sensitive to infrared light. This can result a unrepairable red/brown/magenta casts on footage. Many videos shot with the camera and shared on YouTube and Vimeo suffer from this. Infrared pollution can occur in almost any situation, even when no ND filter is on the lens.

My advice is to always use IR cut filters on the camera, no matter the shooting situation. IR cut filters made by B+W, Heliopan (103), Hoya, Marumi work fine, the Chinese brand Haida is a budget recommendation.

As ND filters, I recommend (like many BM Pocket owners) Hoya’s ND Pro filters. With the camera having a base ISO of 800, an ND filter will always be needed when shooting outdoors or in bright light. Depending on light conditions, ND16 to ND64 will be the typically needed filter strengths.


The camera is prone to producing heavily visible, colorful moiré when shooting CinemaDNG Raw with high-resolution lenses, particularly when geometrical patterns - such as clothing textures or architectural details - are in the image. (The Pocket 4K solves this issue with the new Blackmagic Raw/BRAW file format.) This is a limitation of the camera with which one simply has to live.

Mic & pre-amp

With the sound quality of a dictaphone, the camera’s built-in microphone is only good for recording scrap audio tracks that can later be synced with externally recorded audio. The built-in mic preamp is noisy and of low quality.


  1. Use a small field recorder with built-in mics and line-out

    …such as the Zoom H1 or Tascam DR-05. Set input levels to “line” (instead of “mic”) in the camera’s audio setup menu and connect the line-out of the recorder to the Pocket’s mic-in with a stereo mini-jack cable. This allows you to simultaneously record external and in-camera audio, and completely bypasses the camera’s pre-amp.

  2. Use a microphone with a high output level…

    …such as the binaural Ohrwurm mic, an excellent companion to the BM Pocket. With this mic, the camera’s microphone input level can be turned down to 20% or less, thus suppressing preamp noise. On Rode video mics (and similar microphones), turn their built-in amplification to the max with the “+20db” switch.

  3. Record sound externally, use the built-in mic for a reference track, sync-up in post. (Most NLE software including Resolve provides automatic alignment of separately recorded tracks.)

Storage media

Only use the SD cards listed by Blackmagic. This cannot be emphasized enough. For CinemaDNG RAW recording in particular, other cards than those listed will not work. (Not even if such other cards are advertised as 95Mb/s cards. Don’t bother trying.) If the red “REC” indicator in the upper left corner of the camera display is blinking, it means that the card you use is too slow and has dropped frames. If you’re recording CinemaDNG, this means that your last take is lost.

For CinemaDNG recording, only Sandisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s cards work. Only them, and no other Sandisk card with similar (but not the same) names or speed numbers. This cannot be repeated often enough.

With the current prices for SD cards, an investment into a 128GB or 256GB SanDisk Extreme Pro card (ca. $60/$120) seems reasonable.


Another weak spot of the first-generation BM Pocket are its Nikon EN-EL20 compatible batteries. Depending on the camera setup, the rechargeable battery provided by Blackmagic only lasts 15-20 minutes. In many shooting situations, this is impractical.

There are easy workarounds:

  1. Original Nikon EN-EL20 batteries

    In my experience, these last longer than clones, including Blackmagic’s. On a BM Pocket with non-electronically coupled lenses, about thirty minutes CinemaDNG recording time can be achieved on one fully charged, original EN-EL20 battery. Since these batteries were originally manufactured for the discontinued Nikon 1 camera series, they can sometimes be found as discount items in camera stores.

  2. Sony NP-F adapters + batteries

    Sony’s NP-F batteries have been a quasi-standard for video cameras for several decades. An inexpensive, well-constructed NP-F battery adapter for the BM Pocket and the older Blackmagic Cinema Camera is sold by SmallRig (and under other brand names) for ca. $25. With a fully charged NP-F 970-compatible battery (ca. $30), the BM Pocket can run 3-4 hours nonstop. Since the adapter also charges the EN-EL20 battery inside the camera, NP-F batteries can be swapped without powering off the camera. - Ikan offers an alternative, more expensive NP-F adapter for the BM Pocket that can be attached to camera rigs with 15mm rails.

Which format & color space?

Which lenses?

Which system?

There are three choices:

  1. Electronic Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lenses - by Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, Tamron, Xiaomi and maybe others;

    These lenses do not have aperture rings and use focus-by-wire instead of mechanical focus rings. They can be used on the Pocket 1080p, but in a rather clumsy and long-term frustrating way through semi-automatic “Focus” and “Iris” buttons + manual adjustments using arrow keys. The Pocket 4K greatly improves the operation and usability of these lenses.

    Many electronic MFT lenses - particularly those made by Panasonic and Olympus - are designed for in-camera electronic geometry and vignetting correction which neither the old nor the new version of the BM Pocket does support. Depending on the model, using these lenses on the Pocket will yield images with minor to heavy fisheye or pincushion distortions. This mostly concerns standard and wide-angle zoom lenses as well as wide-angle primes (including the Panasonic 14mm/2.5, which therefore is not an ideal standard lens for the camera).

    MFT lenses with built-in stabilization are supported by the BM Pocket. However, their stabilization cannot be turned off unless there is a physical switch for that on the lens body. (In the Pocket 4K, stabilization can be toggled in the camera menu.)

  2. Manual-focus and -aperture MFT lenses - by Voigtländer, Veydra, SLR Magic, Samyang/Rokinon, Laowa, 7artisans, Meike and others;

    These vary in price and quality, but offer full manual focus and aperture control. Their optical formulas do not rely on electronic geometry correction.

    Voigtländer and Veydra are the highest-quality and most expensive brands. Laowa, Samyang, and (depending on the individual model) SLR Magic provide decent medium-price lenses.

  3. Adapted lenses.

    Possibilities abound - since almost any lens mount can be adapted to MFT, with cheap adapters available on Ebay, Amazon and elsewhere. Not the mount is the bottleneck, but the focal lengths suitable for the 1" sensor of the Pocket 1080p (see next section).

    To cover only the two most common scenarios:

    1. Adaption via focal reducer/Speed Booster.

      The Metabones Pocket Speed Booster 0.58x is specifically designed for the first-generation BM Pocket and will only work with this camera (and its sibling, the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera), not the Pocket 4K. It can adapt either Nikon F or Canon EF mount lenses, reducing their focal lengths - through built-in optics - to 0.58x their original number and increasing their f-stop by the same factor. (It thus turns a 28mm/f2.0 DSLR lens into a 16mm/f1.2 lens on the Pocket.)

      It is an expensive but well-working solution. When adapting Canon EF mount lenses, in-lens optical image stabilization will be supported (at the expense of battery life).

      A cheaper alternative to the Metabones Pocket Speed Booster is the Viltrox Focal Reducer with 0.71x focal length reduction and one stop aperture gain. It is compatible with other MFT cameras, too, including the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

    2. Adaption of 1"/Super 16 film and video lenses.

      This is more difficult, since genuine (PL mount or Arri Bayonet) Super 16mm cine lenses are expensive, even second-hand. Quality adapters often need to be bought from boutique manufacturers. C-mount lenses, which were most commonly used on standard 16mm cameras, rarely cover 1"/Super 16 (exceptions include Canon’s TV-16 lenses and V series zooms). On top of that, some of them cannot be adapted to MFT to reach infinity focus.

      1/3" and 2/3" B4 mount broadcast zoom lenses with built-in 2x extenders will cover the sensor but lose two stops of aperture.

      My experience is that second-hand film and video lenses do not resolve HD and produce a soft image. (See my second video above, shot with an adapted B4 zoom lens.)

Which focal lengths?

The Pocket 1080p has a 1" sensor with roughly the same size as a frame of Super 16mm film (i.e. the larger, 1.66:1 widescreen version of 16mm motion picture film). This means that the sensor is smaller than Micro Four Thirds despite the camera having an MFT mount. 25mm would be the normal focal length for an MFT sensor camera (including the Pocket 4K), 17mm is the normal focal length for the first-generation Pocket with its 1" sensor.

A quick overview of focal lengths:

wide-angle normal tele
slight 12mm 28mm
standard 10mm 14-19mm 35mm
super 8mm (and shorter) 50mm (and longer)

(When using a Speed Booster/Focal Reducer, focal lengths of adapted lenses need to be multiplied with the adapter’s focal reduction factor, such as 0.58 or 0.71.)

Pragmatic scenarios

If the choice is overwhelming, some pragmatic recommendations:

The Speed Booster + Sigma 18-35mm combination is better in low light than the Voigtländer lenses (which are extremely soft wide open) but produces more moiré.

When swapping lenses and juggling filters (IR cut & ND), the Xume magnetic filter holder system is a practical (but not cheap) solution.


Pulling focus

For manual-focus lenses, turn on focus peaking by pressing the “Focus” button once, and turn on 1:1 focus magnification by double-clicking the “OK” button.

The BM Pocket’s focus peaking is excellent and a reliable help for manually pulling focus.

Stabilizing the camera

Out of the box, the BM Pocket is not suitable for hand-held shooting in any decent or acceptable way, not even with wide-angle lenses - despite the name of the camera. Its tiny size, lacking grip, low weight (and absence of any in-body image stabilization) are detrimental to usable hand-held footage.

However, anything that stabilizes the camera with three or more physical points of contact will do the job. There are plenty of low-cost options:

Which computer for editing?

For ProRes + simple color corrections

Almost any half-way current PC or Mac. Recommended: i5 CPU or better, 8 GB RAM or better, for Resolve: 16 GB + Nvidia/ATi graphics card with CUDA/OpenCL acceleration, display with 100% sRGB color space coverage, calibrated with a colorimeter. (I recommend the Open Source program DisplayCal for the latter.)

For CinemaDNG RAW + Resolve

Windows/Mac/Linux computer, i7 CPU, 16-32 GB RAM, Nvidia GTX 970 or better (or comparable AMD/ATI equivalent), dedicated video hard drive, colorimeter-calibrated display with 100% sRGB color space coverage, preferably: Blackmagic Decklink card + external Rec709 monitor. (I recommend the Open Source program DisplayCal for monitor calibration. It can even work through and with Resolve.)

Neat Video Pro is highly useful to have as an (OFX) plugin for denoising RAW footage.

(Disclaimer: I use the Studio version of Resolve and am insufficiently familiar with the limitations of the gratis version of the program.)

Hardcore (frame-by-frame structural filmmaking)

Almost any computer:

  1. Convert the compressed CinemaDNGs into standard DNGs. (Unfortunately, this can only done with Adobe DNG Converter.)
  2. Edit frame-by-frame in RawTherapee or The Gimp.
  3. Save frames as TIFFs, convert into video (with ffmpeg).

Getting good color

The BM Pocket is a minimalist camera, meant to outsource most of its color science into postproduction. More than the Pocket 4K, it has been designed as a bare-bones RAW/ProRes recorder with a sensor and lens-mount. It is practically a front-end device for Davinci Resolve with which it forms an eco system.

There are several workflows for bringing Log or RAW footage from the BM Pocket into good (Rec709 or sRGB) video color. In any case, we’re assuming that you are interpreting your RAW footage as Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film log in Resolve or any other program you use. At least in Resolve, this is the default setting. (One of the advantages of RAW is that it doesn’t have baked-in color science and can be interpreted as any color space that a program supports.)

Don’t manually correct Log footage

A typical beginner’s mistake is to manually correct Log footage by just increasing contrast or playing with saturation/exposure curves. (An even worse beginner’s mistake is leave Log footage uncorrected because it’s “Cinema” color, and upload material in Log color space to YouTube and Vimeo.)

A Log profile is not simply a “flat” image profile with reduced contrast, but a mapping of how the sensor sees color - roughly comparable to viewing the world through the eye of an alien creature that sees color differently from a human being. Simply increasing contrast will result in colors that are off or wrong (such as red becoming orange, or the whole image lacking certain colors).

Translating colors from the sensor’s alien vision to human vision involves complex mathematics (through color look-up tables or through color space transformation, as explained below) that cannot be easily reproduced with a few color correction curves.

Five proposals…

Method 1: LUTs

A LUT is a look-up-table that numerically maps color values from one color space (such as Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film Log) to another (such as Rec709, the standard for HD video which is closely related to sRGB, the standard for digital still pictures).

Blackmagic provides a standard LUT for transforming the camera’s Log footage to Rec709 video. It is called “Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film to Rec709 v2” and automatically installed with Resolve. - Ignore the older LUT “Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film to Rec709” (without “v2”). It represents an older (and not very good) version of the camera’s color science, back from the time when the camera had just come out, and is just included for compatibility reasons.

Since Resolve 15, Blackmagic provides a third LUT, “Blackmagic Film to Extended Video v4”. More about that later.

To use both LUTs in other programs (such as Premiere or Final Cut), install the free version of Resolve and copy the files “Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film to Rec709 v2.cube” and “Blackmagic Film to Extended Video v4.cube” from Resolve’s data folder (on Windows: C:DesignResolveDesign, on macOS: Library/Application Support/Blackmagic Design/Davinci Resolve/LUT, on Linux: /home/resolve/LUT) into the folder where your other program stores (and expects to find) LUTs.

When applied to Log footage, “Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film to Rec709 v2” should yield a neutral color rendition of the footage. Since LUTs are dumb translations of color values, colors may look off if the image wasn’t exactly exposed as anticipated in the LUT. (I.e. if middle gray in the footage isn’t at the value where the LUT expects it, it will be transformed into something else.) For correction, one can apply Lift, Gamma and Gain controls (on the ProRes Log footage) before the LUT. For CinemaDNG RAW footage, it suffices to adjust the “Exposure” slider and if necessary the “Color Temp” and “Tint Sliders” in the RAW tab of the “Color” workspace (or in the CinemaDNG RAW settings for the entire project).

Another issue: Rec709 color space reproduces less dynamic range than Log color space. With the LUT applied, highlights might be blown out and shadows blocked-up. They can still be recovered through color correction, for example, with Resolve’s “Shadow” and “Highlight” wheels.

The “Blackmagic Film to Extended Video v4” LUT solves this issue as it preserves the material’s dynamic range within Rec709’s color space - however, at the expense of color vibrancy: Colors look rather washed out. (In Resolve, they can be brought back with the “Color Boost” parameter either in the RAW tab or in the second Color Wheels tab.)

Working with LUTs is the most standardized workflow and therefore the easiest to reproduce when not working with Resolve. Inside Resolve, there are arguably better alternatives:

Method 2: Color Space Transform with Tone Mapping

In the “OpenFX” panel on the “Color” workspace, Resolve provides the effect “Color Space Transformation”, in the rubric “ResolveFX Color”.

This effect is a swiss army knife that can transform almost any color space into any other color space. To transform Log material recorded with the BM Pocket, select “Blackmagic Design Film” as Input Color Space and Input Gamma, and “Rec709” as Output Color Space and Output Gamma.

This results in an identical picture to the one produced by the “Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film to Rec709 v2” LUT, unless one uses extra options of the effect panel: By activating Tone Mapping and selecting “Luminance Mapping” as the Tone Mapping Method, highlights and shadows will be automatically mapped into Rec709 color space. In other words, Log material transformed this way into Rec709 will no longer clip and no longer require manual highlight/shadow pull-back.

Method 3: Color chart

Arguably the best method for obtaining vivid and natural color is Resolve’s Color Match function in combination with a color chart such as the Datacolor SpyderCheckr 24 (affordable) or the X-Rite Color Checker Passport Video (more portable and versatile but expensive). This function effectively performs color space transformations that are custom-calibrated for a particular shot. Aside from obtaining good color, this is an effective tool for color-matching different lenses, different scenes and even different cameras.

When shooting, it takes the discipline to make reference shots of the color chart each time locations/light conditions have changed.

To transform colors from Log to Rec709 in Resolve, select a frame showing the color chart, select the type of color chart used in the “Color Match” menu of the “Color” workspace, set Source Gamma to “Blackmagic Design Film”, Target Gamma and Target Color Space to “Rec 709”, superimpose Resolve’s color chart matching grid in the player window and press the “Match” button. This produce an image with both saturated and accurate colors. Sometimes, however, reds might be oversaturated when using IR cut filters (a result of the filter having cut off the red color spectrum); this can be fixed by desaturating reds with a “Hue Vs Sat” curve.

A downside common to the color chart/Color Match method and the “Blackmagic Cinema Camera Film to Rec709 v2” LUT is the possible clipping of highlights and shadows after Log-to-Rec709 transformation. This can be fixed either with manual corrections or by using a hybrid method (see below).

I recommend an organizational workflow for the color chart/Color Match method where each color chart transformation, along with the selection of clips to which it should be applied, is assigned to an individual color correction group (which can be defined and assigned in the “Color” workspace when right-clicking on a clip’s thumbnail). “Color Match” transformations should then be performed in the “Group Post-Clip” nodes specific to each group.

Method 4: RAW control sliders

The following is likely the easiest method of color-correcting RAW footage, since it is very similar to the way programs like Adobe Lightroom work. However, it can only be used with CinemaDNG footage. I don’t recommend it for projects that mix CinemaDNG and ProRes footage, or footage from other cameras.

The “Camera Raw” tab in Resolve’s “Color” workspace (and, for global adjustments, the Camera RAW/CinemaDNG preferences in Resolve’s project settings menu) gives basic yet fairly complete color correction controls - over white balance, exposure, shadows and highlight correction, saturation and “Color Boost” (vibrancy), lift, gain and contrast. In many cases, this will suffice for turning camera material into good-looking, finalized footage. It removes the learning curve for Resolve, since no knowledge of Resolve’s node-based expert color correction interface is required.

For correctly previewing and rendering color, Color Science in the Camera Raw tab should be set to “Version 4”, Color Space and Gamma either to “Rec.709” or to “Blackmagic Design” + “Blackmagic Design Extended Video”. (The difference of these two color spaces/renderings has been explained in a previous section.)

This method has, however, one limitation: any adjustment made in the Camera Raw tab affects the rendering of the source clip, anywhere in the project. If, for example, a source clip is split into several sub-clips within the same timeline, or if it is being reused in several timelines of the same project, any change of its Camera Raw settings will automatically affect all occurrences of that clip in the project. It is, in other words, not possible to assign two or more different Camera Raw parameters to the same clip used several times in a project.

Method 5: Hybrid

The methods described above can be combined in order to improve results or compensate their individual shortcomings. For example, Color Space Transform with Tone Mapping can easily be combined with color charts and Color Match in a subsequent node. (I.e. the Color Spacer Transform effect is applied to a clip showing a color chart, in a second node colors are fine-tuned through performing a chart Color Match.)

Note on styling LUTs

Next to LUTs that translate video material from one color space into another, there are many LUTs that stylize footage. The Internet is full of videos - particularly BM Pocket videos - where these have been used in incompetently. My two cents on this issue:

My advice is to avoid styling LUTs that claim to be specific to the BM Pocket (or the first-generation Blackmagic Cinema Camera) and its Log color space, but start from a properly corrected, neutral Rec709 image. If desired, use styling LUTs that expect Rec709/sRGB source material. Such a LUT can be put on the last node in the color correction chain (either onto a “Group Post-Clip” node or a “Timeline” node). Optionally, its effect can be dialed-down in Resolve by reducing “Key Output” in the Key tab of the “Color” workspace.

Rendering & archiving

Edited projects

For 1080p web video, mp4/h264 8bit 4:2:0 at 10-24 Mbit/s is (currently) a typical mastering codec. Its high compression will, however, throw away most of the color information and a lot of image detail of the original footage.

Good archival codecs for rendered projects are ProRes HQ (in a Quicktime container, supported as a rendering codec only on macOS) and DNxHR HQX 12-bit (in an MXF OP1A container). Both can be played back and processed with Open Source video software such as VLC, mplayer/mpv and ffmpeg.

When using Resolve, the quality of mp4/h264 web video master files can be improved when first exporting to DNxHR or ProRes and then converting the resulting file to mp4 with an external program such as ffmpeg or Adobe Media Encoder.

Camera files

CinemaDNG, while demanding more disk space than classical video formats, has one clear advantage over the latter: Since its color science is not baked-in, it can later be re-used for any other color space supported by the editing software, including for example Rec2020 and HDR video. A case in point is Blackmagic’s new “Color Science v4” (released with Resolve 15 in 2018) whose Extended Video color profile can be retroactively applied to CinemaDNG material shot with the BM Pocket five years ago.