Phil Peel

Film, video, photography, sound and story

Black Magic Pocket camera ..and the Panasonic GH4

Posted by Phil On June - 8 - 2014

I remember about 20 years ago, when the first  digital stills cameras came in, telling my students that I reckoned that, within their life time, a video camera would become just a black box with a lens. They were sceptical .  I think they thought I was being fanciful.

Ironically  it was Kodak who released the very first commercially available digital SLR. Who could have suspected that the biggest photographic company, who created the first DSLR would be bankrupt within 20 years?


Anyway I digress..  I was filming with the Black Magic Pocket Camera recently. It truly is a black box with a lens. ..and therein lies the problem.   I know it produces gorgeous RAW video files , but from a cameraman’s viewpoint, I think it’s a bit of a backward step.  It’s taken minimalism to the extreme. The screen is very poor. You have  to view it straight on to get an acceptable image, which means you can’t use it low down or above your head, the menus readings are so small I can’t read them, can’t do a white balance and battery life is dire.  A friend told me he takes out 5 batteries

Black Magic Pocket Camera

If you’re wondering where the camera is in this photo is the little black box to the right of the big space behind the lens.

Really to use it sensibly, you need an external monitor, power supply sound mixer etc. etc. So it ends up no longer being something you can just take out of you pocket. This is the rig we were using …and we needed to power the BMPC, Atomos recorder, hdmi to HDSDI converter and Tascam audio recorder …all separately.   BUT it does produce lovely RAW video quality. The CinemaDNG RAW files give users incredible freedom to be able to adjust the exposure manually during colour correction with Davinci Resolve allowing more flexibility for incredible feature film look colour grading.


The GH4 on the other hand does not produce the RAW files that the BMPC  does, so you don’t have the flexibility in post-production, but it is  virtually a complete  pocket  (big pocket) sized camera.  Gorgeous electronic viewfinder, flip out screen, 4 K recording, very long battery life. i ran it all day on a conference at week on a single battery. Built in slo-mo at 96 fps. Built in time lapse.

In these photos it’s the same lens as on the BMPC

Panasonic GH4

2014 - 1


Of course you can hook it up to an external record facilities if you want to.

GH4 with B4 lens

GH4 with add ons

Here is the GH4 in a cage with Hyperdeck Shuttle recording via HDMI straight to Pro Res files , Zoom S4n recorder & radio mic receiver.


Incidentally the advantage of this 14x zoom lens is that it allows smooth powered zooming.  I was using the S4N separate audio recorder as I need continuous sound recording over several hours and the GH4 has the infuriating EC limit of 29mins 59secs recording.


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