Black magic studio camera


Mark Stopher TV-Bay Magazine
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by Mark Stopher
Issue 92 - August 2014

Blackmagic Design recently released their new Studio Camera - it’s a small, portable broadcast camera, intended for live studio productions. There’s an HD version that you can pick up for £1,289 and a 4K version is said to be shipping soon. At tv-bay we were shooting some product demonstration videos in our studio - so we put it to the test!
The main feature that grabs you on this camera is the huge viewfinder on the back. It’s 10 inches and attached completely to the body - so it is fixed on the same axis as the lens. Now, Blackmagic wanted this to feel ergonomic - so you don’t have to look higher up, or to the side to see what you’re shooting. I get that, it feels pretty natural. However it offers no way of tilting the screen - it’s rock solid. For a vertically challenged (cough) operator like myself, it makes it a bit difficult when the camera needs to be higher up. There is a significant hood covering the screen.

The camera is very light, and seriously small - which makes it great for a portable kit. The body itself is magnesium alloy - damn strong and it looks nice. I felt like the menu controls would have been nicer as touch-screen, but apparently Blackmagic didn’t want to add that kind of coating to the monitor - to reduce glare. The actual menu is nice - it gives you plenty of options like zebra and focus peaking, but can be challenging to navigate as the buttons themselves feel a little soft, and need to be pushed quite hard, a longer term test would be interesting to see how they would serve being used every day.

There is no inbuilt recording on the camera, it is intended specifically for live use - Blackmagic suggest using their HyperDeck Shuttle for capture. This would also allow playback of what you just recorded, through their PGM input. That’s cool. You could also display your program feed during a live show via the SDI in. You just hit the PGM button, and it pops up! In our case we used an Atomos Samurai Blade to capture our footage - and it still worked well.

In terms of connectivity, it has SDI in/out, optical in/out and LANC for remote controlling some lenses. I really liked the fact that it has 2 phantom powered XLR inputs - we had a radio lapel mic on one, and a shotgun mic on the other. The camera also has built in talkback - embedded in the SDI or optical connection - so you don’t have to run separate cables. It has a general aviation headset connection on the side - useful. It also has a nice illuminated tally on the front, and back. However, tally is done via the SDI return link - this is a non-configurable signal which the ATEM sends - so you can’t integrate the tally functionality with any other switcher which is a bit of a shame.

I believe you then need the Blackmagic Studio Converter if you actually want to use the optical fiber or SDI to add talk-back functionality with multiple Studio Cameras. You could also use it for a single camera. The Studio Converter is designed to connect up to 4 cameras. Cool, but another bit of kit to buy.

There is no way of doing a white balance unless you use the Blackmagic software interface controlled from an ATEM system. It’s some great software - you basically have DaVinci colour correction built in, but when you just want to do a quick white balance in a small studio, and you only have one camera - it seems like a bit of a hassle. The iris button is only an auto-iris ‘take’ button and does not allow you change of iris when using MFT lenses, and there is no compatibility with a CCU - you have to use ATEM kit.

The Studio Camera has an MFT lens mount. The Panasonic lens we had worked well but required a refocus after manually zooming. Powered zoom MFT lenses get a bit more expensive, and using B4 lenses via an adaptor as Blackmagic suggest results in a crop factor, so may mean stepping backwards a bit!

The body has multiple mounting points which I found really useful - attaching a teleprompter and radio mic pack was no problem. There are two mounting points on the base - it would also be easy to switch between a tripod and studio pedestal.

An unexpected discovery was an internal power source. Accidentally powering up the camera when it wasnt attached to the mains was a surprise. (Maybe we should have read the spec sheet!) So when we repositioned the camera out of reach of the attached mains we could keep rolling. A feature that you may not seek in a studio camera solution but could be a useful feature.

The cost and portability of this camera are neat features. If youve already got an ATEM system, these will be a nice addition to your studio and would definitely work well together as part of a multi-camera studio.


Tags: iss092 | Blackmagic | studio camera | reviews | Mark Stopher
Contributing Author Mark Stopher

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