Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem

Just over a week ago I reviewed the SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem and discovered its minor quirks and an … ahhhm… omitted entry in the user notes.

But all in all, I thought the concept was a brilliant one, and still do.

Now, in my further playing investigations, I have discovered something else. I alluded to this in the original article, but only now managed to get around to testing it.

Will the SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem work as an external SSD for a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro?

And the answer is yes, but again with a weird quirk.

I had formatted the drive for Windows as per the finally discovered documentation covering this area that is missing from the user notes (thank you Norman at SanDisk Tech for this – ), and connected the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro to the Transport unit containing the Mag (the actual drive).

And damn it, the camera would not see it in the installed media on the main screen in the LCD.

However going into the bowels of the camera’s OS, and the area covering storage, it DID see the drive as unformatted. So, in for a penny and in for a pound, I used the camera to again format the drive.

It took around 30 seconds for the 2TB and then lo! It was there, and I have a tasty 5 hours + of storage available.

Why it needed a camera format (both were set for NTFS) I have no idea, but what the hell, I don’t car, it worked and Windows can still the SanDisk when it is plugged in to the USB-C port.

Footnote: It is imperative in both cases you use the USB-C cable that comes with the SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem. From my experience, other 3rd party USB-C cables may not work, but your mileage of course may vary.

Image: The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro inside a SmallRig cage and the SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem. If you are interested in the cage I reviewed it here and they are available for a wide range of cameras from the Videoguys.

The mounted light is an Aputure AL-M9 (reviewed here) available from Kayell.

Review: SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem

The concept is stunningly simple in its execution.

Imagine a “memory stick” on steroids capable of holding 1TB and with units available up to 4TB. To get data on and off it, there is an aluminium cradle affair that looks like, and is about the same size as, say a 10K mAh Powerbank.

This means you can have a couple or more of these “memory sticks”, and safely have data such as video or mass numbers of stills backed up safely from the camera / camcorder medium. To add icing to the cake, the Mags are hot swappable too.

This is called the SanDisk Pro-Blade Ecosystem, comprising the Pro-Blade Mags (the memory sticks) and the Pro-Blade Transport (the cradle). Also included (optionally) is the Pro-Blade Station which can carry 4 Pro-Blade mags at once, simultaneous offloading and super-fast speeds up to 3000MB/s read and write.

The Pro-Blade Transport in contrast can “only” read and write 2000MB/s.

It’s not only technically very impressive, but looks the goods too, all stylish and science-fictiony in ribbed gun metal.

The Mags start at AUD$329 for the 1TB units, the Transport is a further $149. The Station will be released in a few weeks, and we’ll have a price then.

One area this will be of interest to many is the ability for this unit to be plugged directly into a camera such as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Pro 6K. Instead of having to swap out drives when they are full (which does not take long in RAW); you can just switch out a Mag and replace it with a new one on the fly.

But before you race out the door to get one (I can imagine any number of people that will be dribbling over this), there is a catch and a ‘gotcha’.

The ‘gotcha’ first. Unless I am as blind as a bat, nowhere in the documentation I got is there mention that ALL SanDisk products are preformatted as the Mac OS. This means that if you try and get it working on a Windows PC, it simply will refuse. The fix to that is here.

And that catch is that USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2 is needed to be able to read / write at maximum speed.

My workhorse desktop is a 4-year-old Dell XPS, and while this will read the likes of Samsung T5s and T7s, it wouldn’t have a bar of the Pro-Blade. Sure, you get the customary beep when connected, but while showing in Disk Management under Windows 10, it will not mount as a working readable / writeable drive.

4 years in the life of a computer is a long time, so I wasn’t overly surprised, if not a tad disappointed. But not to worry, my 12-month-old Gigabyte Aero laptop will no doubt be up to date enough?

Nope. Same result.

I had to interrupt the proceedings to go into town, and as an afterthought, took the Pro-Blade Mag and Transport with me. One of my errands was next door to the local Hardly Normal, and so popped in there to see what they had on display that would read it (without going to the exorbitant costs of some of the gaming machines on show).

None of them is the short answer.

It took my wife’s up to date iMac she uses for creating music with Logic Pro to finally break the impasse.

And now that it has been broken, the Pro-Blade system IS impressive. There is not really a lot you can say about it really, as it does exactly what it says it’ll do. And bloody fast at that!

But even then, it is still only running at ½ the capable speed as far as I can tell, with not even this mighty Mac giving the full USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2 support.

You see, USB 3.2 2×2 supports 2 lanes of data going at 10Gb/s both ways to reach the maximum speed of 20Gb/s. Macs however (and still many PCs) can only support one lane of data flow through USB 3.2 2×2 cables and devices though and so you will only get USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds on a Mac i.e. 10Gb/s via one single lane.

I do stand to be corrected if I have missed something by the way.

Now I don’t pretend to be a technical person as such. I get the gist of most stuff but prefer plug ‘n’ play to going back to the bad old days. In my researching of all this, I was fortunate enough to get sent a chart of info by Ray Shaw from Cybershack that gave me serious assistance as per below, so thanks Ray.

  • USB-A 1.0 1.5-12Mbps half-duplex (< half-speed both ways)
  • USB-A 2.0 480Mb/s half-duplex
  • USB- A 3.0 5Gb/s. half-duplex (has a Blue tongue and likely on PCs post-2010)
  • USB-C 3.1 Gen 1×1. 5Gbps half-duplex (PCs post-2015)
  • 3.1 Gen 2×1. 10Gbps (full-duplex approx. full speed both ways. PCs post-2018)
  • 3.2 Gen 2×2, 20Gbpps (full-duplex likely on PCs post-2020)
  • 4.0 Gen 2×2, 20GB/s (full-duplex. PCs late 2021)
  • 4.0 Gen 3×2, 40Gbps (full-duplex) but rare
  • Thunderbolt 3, 40Gbps and backwards compatible with USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (or may require a dongle/dock
  • Thunderbolt 4, 40Gbps and backwards compatible with USB-C 4.0 and 3.2 Gen 2

The end result of all this is that I have decided to bite the bullet and buy a new computer to future proof at least the next 4 years. These days that is a mammoth task in itself with so many permutations available, even if you discard laptops and all-in-ones.

Last time I bought online (the Dell), and after trawling around the displays at hardly Normal, JB Hi-Fi and Officeworks etc, I have decided to revisit that method (at least 3 people assured me that I only needed 8GB RAM for video editing).

It turns out a PC (no monitor or keyboard) to match all the specs needed is going to cost about $3299.

So, this turned into a slightly expensive review!