Australian Videocamera has been going for 15 years and over that time, as well as in the preceding years when I was the Managing Editor of Videocamera magazine, I have road tested many, many camcorders and cameras.
Some were memorable such as the Canon XHA1, Panasonic HC-WFX1M and the Sony Z1, others not so and they will remain nameless.
But let’s use the Sony Z1 as a sort of benchmark here. I choose the Z1 as, for me at least, it was a ground breaker at the time in terms of the jump from SD to HD, and also allowing DVCAM.
It was also Sony’s first attempt at making a pro level camcorder that appealed to the consumer. “New” features at the time offered a 3CCD system giving 30, 25 and 24fps and there was a special CineFrame mode that “replicated the look of film production” according to Sony.
Recording was to the venerable MiniDV cassette which meant you needed a Firewire (IEEE1394 or iLink) port on your computer to ingest footage, but back then, circa 2005, this was not an issue and indeed, on many Macs it was standard.
Sure it had a fixed lens and cost over $7K in Australia, but nothing else even came close on the market at the time.
I never owned a Z1 although I did use one on one of my many east-west-west driving crossings of Australia at the time. But I knew a lot of people who bought Z1s and some like Australian Videocamera’s senior writer Dr David Smith still use theirs as they were then, and still are now, that good.
It took a while to dig out the specs of the Z1 (mainly because there were two versions, the Z1U and Z1E for USA and “Europe”), but if you are interested, I found them, and a review here.
So the question I wanted to ponder– and in fact answer – is what camcorder I would get today that I consider at the top of its game, the same way the Z1 was in 2005?
As I say in the opening paragraph, over the years I have been privileged to review many, many camcorders and cameras. The only major manufacturer no longer represented here in Australia is JVC, more the pity as they made some fine camcorders in my opinion, but we do have of course Sony, Canon and Panasonic as the staples with Red on the sidelines as a more niche manufacturer.
Blurring the lines though is the fact most dSLRs and mirrorless cameras from the likes of Fujitsu, Nikon etc operate quite nicely as camcorders with inbuilt 4K capability.
So you’d think I’d pick one of these? Well no.
My pick having had an extensive play with it over the last 6 months or so is a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro (BPCC6K)
As the BPCC6K has a standard EF mount I can use my 70-200mm zoom and nifty 50mm from my Canon 5DS and of course, there is a HUGE range of EF mount lenses from a number of manufacturers, not just Canon.
And the bang for buck you get from the BPCC6K for your $4K is enormous.
Firstly there is a Super 35 high resolution sensor giving an image up to 6144 x 3456, dual native ISO and whilst you can record to either SD or Compact Flash cards, with one of the recommended units, you can record direct to portable SSD drives (I use a Sandisk Extreme Pro Portable 1TB.
You get an adjustable 1500 nits HDR touchscreen, built in ND filters, 13 stops of dynamic range and a monstrous number of shooting resolutions along with associated metadata such as project, scene number, take and special notes. A 3D LUT can also be embedded in metadata of Blackmagic RAW files.
Another feature I love is the ability to control the camera from my Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro and the associated software.
Ergonomically everything is in the right place and easily accessible. I found the whole camera easy to come to grips with and if there is something that stumps you, the 150-odd page manual covers every aspect in detail.
If there was one thing that is a minor negative, it is that the “pocket” part of the model’s name is a little misleading. Unless you have a bloody big pocket. And this camera is not light at 1.2Kg (without lens) as I discovered shooting fireworks on Australia Day.
But everything else to my mind ticks every box in what makes a great camcorder and I suggest if you are in the market for one, go and have a look and a play if you can.
If the 4K price tag is just beyond reach, there is also the “standard” 6K version for a tad over $3K or the 2K model for $2K, so all bases are covered.
Oh and did you know that Blackmagic Design is an Australian company? That also accounts for something in my book.
You can get all the info and specs etc at https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/au/products/blackmagicpocketcinemacamera