When Blackmagic announced its first-ever Cinema Camera in 2012, the video production community respectfully perked up their ears. Here was a trusted, well-respected company unveiling a product with appeal to many. Not to mention at an an absolutely unbeatable price. Since its launch, Blackmagic has slashed $1,000 off of the Cinema Cam's original cover price, leaving consumers with the option of shooting 2.5K RAW video for only $1,995. That's a jaw-dropping statistic, especially when you consider it comes with a free copy of DaVinci Resolve (a $995 value). Make no mistake, if you have to shoot RAW video on a budget, this is the camera for you.
With a deal this good we simply had to get a Cinema Camera into our mitts, not only so we could test and review Blackmagic's claims, but also so we could actually use it for our own needs. People ask us for camera recommendations all the time, and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera is often one of the first items people want to know more about. That's just one more reason it became a necessity for our video team to get first-hand experience with the Cinema Camera.
After using the Cinema Camera for a few weeks we came away very impressed by its image quality—especially the ability to shoot in RAW—but we were far less enthused by its controls and handling. The $2,000 price tag is extremely cheap, but once you get all the much-needed accessories you'll probably end up spending at least double that (if not thousands more). That's still a fantastic deal compared to the options from Red Digital Cinema or Canon's Cinema EOS line.
But the Cinema Camera suffers from a variety of handling problems that too substantial to ignore. It's LCD is terrible, the iris controls are lousy, and the internal battery life is a joke. This is an extraordinarily challenging camera to work with, so it must be viewed primarily as a professional studio cam, not a run-and-gun camcorder that's ideal for shooting docs. If you're looking to get your feet wet in digital video production, our recommendation would be to try out a Panasonic GH3 or a Canon 5D Mark III first, particularly if you have no need to shoot RAW video. Once you get comfortable with that workflow, an upgrade to a Blackmagic Cinema Camera will be an easier step to take. Another option would be to check out the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, which has a more user-friendly design and costs just under $1,000.