Released in the spring of 2021, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro comes to refresh the original 6K model. And it comes as the third entry into the widely famous Pocket Cinema range. With the original 6K, the firm moved from the smaller Micro-Four-Thirds size to a much larger Super35 size sensor and the Canon EF mount. And while noteworthy, the original model had its flaws.
Namely, it lacked articulation, ND filters, an EVF and suffered from poor battery life. So with this new release, Blackmagic’s gone back to the drawing board to rectify these issues. Now, this Pro model adds a variety of essential features like a tilting HDR touchscreen, the Pro EVF option, built-in ND filters, dual mini-XLR inputs, a new battery, and refined color science. Yet, it comes to market with the same price tag as its predecessor. So while it’s technically an incremental upgrade, it seems to be one of significance compared to the base model.
Thus the 6K Pro looks to be an appealing option for filmmakers perfectly ready to deliver a Hollywood experience. Blackmagic aims this release to compete with Sony’s FX3 and Canon’s EOS C70. But, how does it stack up? Let’s find out.
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro?
It obtains the same 21.2MP Super35 (APS-C) sized CMOS sensor from the base model. And this sensor uses a full-time rolling shutter rather than a mechanical shutter. Yet, surprisingly, the camera can capture still images. And it can capture uncompressed DNG (RAW) photos using the Still button. So this is a nice bonus for photographing sets and scouting locations. But, ultimately, this is a video camera. And one that sits between a camcorder and a conventional mirrorless camera in complexity and user-friendliness. So let’s cover the video capabilities.
This camera offers quite a few resolutions, but they’re identical to the base model. Here is the list: 6K, 5.7K, 4K DCI, 4K UHD, 3.7K anamorphic, 2.8K, and FHD. All of these record with a maximum frame rate of 50 or 60p, while 2.8K and FHD can record at 120p. The camera also divides video capabilities into codec and quality menus. For codecs, you have the option for Blackmagic RAW (B-RAW) or Apple ProRes. And you have various quality options within these families to determine the data rate and compression. But, the data rates vary based on the bitrate setting (compression ratio) and Constant Quality settings. And, ultimately, the actual bitrate will depend on the medium you’re shooting. But, ProRes 422 HQ, the highest quality setting records at 117 Mbps and 6K RAW 483 Mbps. Even so, Blackmagic recommends experimenting with these settings to see which file size to quality ratio meets your production needs.
Overall, the image quality this camera produces is excellent and doesn’t disappoint. The Super35 sensor offers a more shallow depth of field than the smaller micro-four-thirds sensor used on the 4K. And this model brings Blackmagic’s Generation 5 color science for a pleasing yet film-like aesthetic to the images. And this particular update makes it easier to intercut the footage with other Blackmagic products, particularly the URSA Mini and ALEXA. At the same time, the dual native ISO range provides plenty of latitude in low-light scenes. But, ultimately, the BRAW codec remains the real star. It offers 13 stops of dynamic range and a soft highlight roll-off. Yet, it continues to capture all of the detail possible from the sensor. And together, you have unrivaled freedom in color-grading the footage. Additionally, the Canon EF mount on this camera opens the gates to a vast arsenal of lenses, from full-blown Cine lenses to casual starters. So you also have plenty of flexibility in this regard.
It offers three dynamic range options, ranging from Film, Extended Video, and Video. “Film” records with a log curve, preserving the dynamic range and maximizing the video signal’s information. “Video” shoots with the standard REC 709 gamma for standard HD video. Extended Video is a hybrid between both, offering a wider dynamic range with a smooth roll-off. However, it’s not as flat as “Film.”
It now features built-in Neutral Density (ND) filters. And the mechanical filter wheel switches from a clear, 2-stop (1/4), 4-stop (1/16), or 6-stop (1/64) ND. These are also Infrared (IR) blocking filters, reducing any IR contamination. And this addition becomes a key selling feature over the base model. So no more faffing with external ND filters and step-up rings. Instead, you can merely change the value in-camera, saving time and speeding up the workflow.
It offers both Zebras and False Color to check exposure for clipping within the frame.
It has built-in 3D LUT support, which you can output or record into the files. And it can independently apply them to either the LCD or a monitor connected via HDMI. Plus, you can save ten custom LUTs into the camera, so you have plenty of flexibility to gauge the recorded footage during capture.
It has Anamorphic Desqueeze, letting the camera apply a de-squeeze to the LCD and HDMI output when recording in the anamorphic format.
It has Frame Guides, letting you toggle various aspect ratios for both the LCD and the HDMI output. And it makes it easier to record in both conventional and non-conventional anamorphic sizes.
It features a digital slate, letting you add custom metadata to recorded videos. And you can add extra technical or production specific information, which is visible when editing in DaVinci Resolve.
It can output a clean 10-bit 4:2:2 1080p 60p signal with HDR support via HDMI. And you can convert this port to an SDI using Blackmagic’s Micro Converter. There you can interface with professional SDI devices like monitors or broadcast switchers. Plus, the camera can also output B-RAW via USB to a compatible SSD drive.
Low Light Performance
It features an ISO range of 100 to 25,600. But it obtains the dual native ISO capabilities of its predecessor of 400 and 3,200. And, overall, its low light performance is excellent. As such, users can expect usable videos up to ISO 6,400 and even 12,800 with processing.
Blackmagic cameras are known to be quite demanding on batteries. Thankfully, new for this release is a brand new battery system. In this case, it now uses the Sony NP-F series rather than the Canon LP-E series. This change effectively bumps the camera’s battery capacity from 1,800 to 3,500 mAh. With that, Blackmagic has overhauled the battery longevity. Now, users can expect 60 minutes of uninterrupted recording when using the NP-F570 battery, depending on the resolution. And you can triple this to three hours by using the battery grip. Sure, this may not appear to be a substantial improvement. But, given the camera’s vastly updated HDR display, it’s quite a feat. As such, this becomes a key selling point that fixes a fatal flaw with the original model. Not to mention, these batteries are widely available and quite affordable. Additionally, the camera supports USB charging with compatible sources, so you can gradually charge the installed battery. There’s also a 12V DC input that can connect to household power for indefinite use.
Display & Viewfinder
It features an updated rear touchscreen LCD. In this case, it’s the same 5-inch HDR display with a 1080p resolution as the original. But, it now offers a brightness of 1,500 nits, and it now tilts up 90º and down 45º.
These are substantial changes, as the original only offered a fixed LCD. Thus, it brings articulating to the line and answers a long-requested feature. And its display wasn’t exceptionally bright. So it was not easy to see outdoors in most circumstances. Overall, this new display is excellent. It’s responsive, sharp, and easy to use. And now, you can compose above or below eye line much easier without always having to use an external monitor. It’s also more than bright enough to use outdoors in bright sunlight.
It also obtains the Pro EVF option, letting users attach an external viewfinder to the top plate by removing the blanking panel. It’s a paid-for accessory. But, it’s well designed, small, and versatile. And it eliminates the need for any rigging necessary and the hassles with a traditional EVF accessory for these cameras.
It features Blackmagic OS, taken from the URSA Mini Pro. And the user interface is organized into six tabs from the record, monitor, audio, setup, presets, and LUT subcategories. And each has an elegant smartphone-like design. As it stands, Blackmagic OS is, arguably, the most intuitive camera software around. And it closely matches Leica in terms of general organization, consistency, and ease of use. So overall, the user interface on this camera is excellent. It’s well designed, clear, and simple to navigate. And the touch implementation is also perfect, where all camera functions are accessible by touch alone.
You can save 12 custom presets in the Preset tab to the SD or CFast card to transfer the settings to a different camera. And this makes configuring multiple cameras fast and straightforward.
Blackmagic has also added a new Heads Up Display (HUD), which gives users visual access to the most critical camera settings. These include the following: frame rate, iris, shutter angle, white balance, audio levels, ISO, battery life, and much more. And all of the settings are adjustable by touch alone and quite interactive for this style of input.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
Physically, it features a similar design as the base model. But it’s noticeably larger to accommodate the EVF housing and the built-in ND filters. So much so, it’s now nearly 1 lb (37.8%) heavier, tipping the scales at 2.73 lbs. It’s also 27% taller, 10% deeper, and slightly wider than the base model too. Now, its chunky, angular design makes it comparable to most full-frame DSLRs, like the Nikon D6 and Canon 1DX Mark III. Even so, it remains small enough that you can use a compact travel tripod or monopod. So it’s surprisingly ideal for filming in difficult-to-reach locations. And it’s surely smaller than the majority of professional cinema cameras in this class.
Otherwise, it features a carbon fiber frame to make it both rigid and lightweight with a matte black finish. It also features a large grip with rubber cladding, deeply recessed, easily accommodating large hands. So it handles very much like a full-frame DSLRs. Otherwise, it also has cooling vents on each side to reduce the likelihood of thermal shutdowns.
Overall, the design here is tactile and responsive. All of the buttons are logically placed and within reach. They also retain the familiar position as the base model. So the camera is primed and ready for action. However, it remains much smaller than its traditional cinema or camcorder counterparts. So the large grip and relatively compact design here make more sense for handheld filming than most rivals.
It now has double 1/4-20″ threads on the bottom plate rather than one. This addition gives users two points of contact, creating a more secure connection on plates or rails.
It has a tally LED light on the front face that indicates the camera’s recording status.
It features three top-mounted Function Buttons that you can map to frequently used features for quick access.
It has a Settings Wheel on the front grip, which lets you adjust the aperture of compatible lenses. But, you can also control the white balance, shutter angle, focus magnification, and ISO.
It now features dual mini-XLR inputs, both with +48V phantom power, to interface with professional audio equipment. And it’s a nice change over its predecessor’s single mini-XLR input.
It has a microphone input. And the internal preamps are pretty good. There’s undoubtedly a notable upgrade over previous Blackmagic cameras, and easily usable.
It has a headphone output.
It has a built-in stereo microphone to capture scratch or reference audio.
It has a timecode generator, accessed via the 3.5mm microphone input. There, it provides accurate time coding to sync multiple cameras.
It features dual card slots. In this case, it features an SD slot supporting UHS-II cards and a CFast slot supporting CFast 2.0.
It has a USB-C port (USB 3.1 Gen1) which now supports charging during operation, which is a notable upgrade over its predecessor.
It has a full-sized HDMI port for interfacing with monitors, the ATEM Mini, or external recorders.
Blackmagic includes DaVinci Resolve Studio with purchase.
It features timelapse recording, which saves one single clip that matches the codec and frame rate set in the camera. And you can customize the number of frames and the interval.
It features two focusing assists, Focus Peaking and Colored Lines. Focus peaking sharpness areas heavily in focus while colored line superimposes a line on parts of the image that are in focus. Additionally, you can double-tap the LCD to zoom into an area, which you can move around to check focus.
It has a Flicker-Free Shutter, which automatically calculates a flicker-free shutter value for the current frame rate.
It has Bluetooth connectivity, letting you control the camera wirelessly from a connected device with the Blackmagic Camera Control app. There you can change settings, adjust the metadata, and trigger remote recordings. And the app follows the same logical design as the primary user interface of the camera.
It has Pixel Remapping, which recalibrates the sensor to reduce hot pixels (variations in brightness caused by age).
It uses the Canon EF mount rather than the newer RF mount. And this change will be a slight disappointment to some users, despite the vast ecosystem available to the EF range. Canon’s released several excellent lenses in the RF mount, many of which are class-leading in their respective segments. But, crucially, they’ve also debuted the EF-EOS R 0.71x speed booster, which would effectively turn this camera’s Super35 sensor into full-frame. And it’s a particular highlight accessory for the Canon EOS C70 as such. So for a future model, adding the RF mount instead would create an unrivaled camera at this price point. And it would be a massive win for Blackmagic.
While this camera can technically shoot still photos, it doesn’t offer the standard controls for adjusting exposure. So it’s not the best option for traditional photography, especially consider its size.
It lacks waveforms. So to get this particular tool, you’ll have to attach an external monitor.
This camera uses a similar contrast-detect-based autofocusing system as the remaining pocket Cinema cameras. And it only offers one-shot autofocusing, which helps get you into the ballpark. But, there’s no continuous autofocus. So, the autofocus on this camera is useless for video. But, considering the target demographic for this product, it’s unlikely they rely on autofocusing while recording. Granted, new users may find this a deal-breaker considering there are plenty of competing cameras with outstanding continuous AF abilities.
The rear display doesn’t fully articulate like many video-centric mirrorless cameras, limiting its usability. So, performing pieces to the camera will be mostly guesswork unless you attach an external monitor. But, the tilting articulation is surely welcomed and better than the fixed LCD.
While the clip-on EVF is useful outdoors, the quality doesn’t match up to a camera of this price point. It only offers a 1280x960p resolution, which isn’t sharp enough for proper manual focusing. In this situation, you’ll want to use the AF button to initiate single-shot AF to help capture focus.
This camera has many recording options, which will be slightly confusing at the onset. And you’ll need to spend some time getting familiar with the codecs, resolutions, and frame rates that work together. For example, to shoot 120p in HD, you first select ProRes, then 1080p, the sensor area to 2.8K, and the frame rate to 120p. It’s a slightly confusing set of steps. But, this is the usual flair with most of the configurations in this regard, so be prepared. The best bet is to set these up and save them as a preset.
While the camera uses a carbon fiber composite, it doesn’t feel particularly premium. The build quality is sufficient but not in line with this price point. Additionally, this camera is quite large and hefty at 1,238 g. And its size makes it somewhat challenging to rig, particularly on gimbals. And it’s just a bit awkward to configure. For a future update, we’d like to see Blackmagic move away from this DSLR-styled design. And opt for something more in-line with a camcorder. This design works for the smaller 4K variant, but this Pro version is too bulky.
It lacks weather sealing.
It lacks in-body image stabilization. You’ll have to use optically stabilized lenses instead.
It lacks an SDI port. For this, you’ll have to purchase an adapter to convert the HDMI port into SDI.
It lacks a full-size XLR input. Thus, you will have to use an adapter to interface with many microphones.
Is this a good beginner camera?
There’s no autofocusing, the stills functionality is rudimentary, and the camera lacks any program modes. Instead, it’s strictly a dedicated video camera inside and out. Even so, if you’re a beginning videographer, better options exist for 1/3th its price. Consider the Panasonic GH5 instead.
Is this a good camera for you?
But, if you’re looking for a run-and-gun documentary camera, this isn’t the best choice. Without usable autofocus and image stabilization coupled with a large, heavy body, this camera merely isn’t the ideal option.
Current Pocket 6K owners shouldn’t upgrade, for the most part. The sensor here is identical, so you won’t see any upgrades in image quality. The only reason to upgrade is the built-in NDs, EVF, and updated battery. That said, the built-in ND filters alone could prove sufficient enough for some users. And it does deliver a key advantage in-field that will save time over the long run.
Cinematographers looking for utmost quality and flexibility for post-processing should consider this camera. With the Super35 sensor, it offers excellent depth of field, dynamic range, and it does so with an affordable price tag. Plus, you get 6K RAW video and built-in neutral density filters, making it comparable to the higher-end URSA Mini. As such, it makes sense why this camera has such a buzz in the indie filmmaker community.
In the end, Blackmagic’s Pocket 6K Pro becomes the best addition to the Pocket lineup. And it’s now the perfect opportunity for new users to enter the system, despite the higher price. With the improved battery life, bright tilting screen, built-in ND filters, optional viewfinder, and dual XLR inputs, this camera delivers quite the quality of life upgrade. Yet, it provides these high-end capabilities at a bargain. And it’s also doubly capable for existing filmmakers wanting an URSA Mini substitute, sidestepping its demanding price. Sure, it’s missing some features we take for granted on a consumer mirrorless camera. Even so, this approach helps keep the general cost affordable and more accessible to the broader demographic. And it still manages to outperform the competition in general functionality, nonetheless. So it seems the 6K Pro continues the legacy of delivering professional cinema cameras into the hands of the masses, with a fraction of rivals’ cost. And it makes the competition now look quite expensive by contrast. So if you’re looking for the best bang for the buck against larger cinema cameras, this is it.
The Blackmagic 6K Pro comes to market to answer many of the initial requests of the user base. And it does so while leapfrogging against rivals, to now stand as the best compact cinema camera in the sigement. It’s not perfect. But, the changes made here are noteworthy and genuinely welcomed.