Many of you know that I’ve recently purchased the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Although this camera produces an amazing image, recorded in 10-bit ProRes 422 codec in different flavours (422, 422 LT, 422 HQ, 422 Proxy) as well as RAW output with high dynamic range of 13 stops, it is actually much harder to get an overall pleasing image and good skin tone out of it than any DSLR camera – you need good lighting, nice lenses, color grading knowledge and more often than not – a denoise filter like Neat Video. Despite its size and form factor, BMPCC is not by any stretch a consumer camera.
Still, I think BMPCC was a good investment and I have learned a good deal on exposing, lighting, color correcting, adapting lenses etc. since the purchase.
Here’s what I learnt from shooting with this camera for the first 4 months:
Good quality lenses in BMPCC’s native mount, Micro 4/3, are expensive. Well, not crazy expensive, but not cheap either. My fist lens purchase was Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 G, which is an okay lens, but not great for indoor use – although the aperture of f/2.5 seems fast enough for DSLR users, due to the smaller sensor of BMPCC I need to set up really strong lights for the image to be usable at f/2.5 ISO 800. Crazy, right?
More over, I really dislike the way this lens loses focus whenever I change the camera settings and besides, it hasn’t really impressed me with its sharpness or color rendition either, so I will eventually opt for a better wide-angle lens, for example Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 or Olympus Zuiko 17mm f/1.8, or even go the popular route of purchasing Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens and the Metabones BMPCC speed booster. While saving money and thinking whether BMPCC is really the right tool for me, though, I began to look for more affordable alternatives such as adapting lenses of different mounts.
Mounts: C-mount, Minolta MD, Canon EF, M42 …
Because the BMPCC’s native mount system Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) uses a really short flange distance of 1.925 cm, lenses of most camera mounts can be used on BMPCC with a cheap adapter.
Generally speaking, you’ll always want to use lenses of a mount with a larger flange focal distance to a camera system with a smaller flange focal distance.
As you can see in the table below, you’re free to use any Nikon, M42, Minolta, Canon FD and Canon EF lens on BMPCC, well to be honest many C-mount lenses work just fine as well. Similarly, you’d be able to use a Nikon lens on a Canon DSLR, but not the other way around.
My first non-M4/3 lens was a C-mount Fujian 25mm F/1.4 CCTV which cost around 20 Euros including the C-mount – M4/3 adapter. Although it’s been fun to use, the corners of the image are so soft that only the center is really usable. The build quality is not great and it is a bit hard to expose/focus. I like its clickless aperture though, which opens many creative possibilities. For example, the opening shot of Time Stands Still was shot with this lens (note: this shot has been cleaned up significantly with Neat Video plugin).
Later on, browsing through several forums, the mounts that really caught my eye were Minolta MD and M42, the latter also known as Pentax mount, because of their affordability and the superb optical quality of the lenses built specifically for these mounts (Helios 44-2 anyone?).
Minolta MD lenses on BMPCC
My next purchase was two 28mm f/2.8 MD lenses, an RMC Tokina and a Minolta – I got each of them in mint condition at just over 20 Euros! I’ll eventually sell on of them but I can’t decide which one I like better. Besides, I ordered a MC Minolta (it can be used with the same MD-M4/3 adapter) 50mm f/1.7 in excellent condition from Germany for only 30 Euros, and wow is this an amazing lens.
At first I was using the Minolta mount lenses with this cheap MD-M4/3 adapter, but I was missing the shallow depth of field I was so used to with my Canon 600D. Besides, especially with the 28mm f/2.8 lenses I simply wasn’t getting enough light on BMPCC’s sensor in my studio, even at ISO 800. More over, the focal length of all the lenses I own seemed too close and uncomfortable, so I thought the 0.71x reduced factor of the RJ Lens Turbo MD-M4/3 focal reducer would be a nice bonus, so I decided to order it from Personal View forum.
Filing the aperture pins of Minolta MC/MD lenses
When using manual Minolta MC/MD mount lenses with any focal reducer, a large percentage of them will not fit because the aperture pin is usually quite long and will get blocked by the optical element of the focal reducer. Therefore I needed to shave off between 0,5 to 1 mm from the aperture pins of all of my Minolta mount lenses. As you can see in the photos below, I protected the glass with a handkerchief and a piece of tape to prevent any little metal pieces from entering the lens interior.
After doing this little trick, you can see below that my Minolta MD 28mm F/2.8 fits the RJ Lens Turbo MD-M4/3 focal reducer perfectly.
Are double adapters possible on the BMPCC?
This was the big question I wanted to know the answer to before acquiring Helios 44-2 lens. The answer is yes, as long as you’re progressing to mounts with shorter flange distance, you can use two adapters. On the image below the superb vintage lens Helios 44-2 (M42 mount) adapts first to MD with a cheap Chinese adapter and then to M4/3 using the MJ Lens Turbo focal reducer (MD – M4/3). Using the focal reducer the field of view converts from “tele-zoom” 167 mm to more manageable 118,6 mm full-frame equivalent.
Focal lengths with and without the focal reducer
To have a clear overview of all of my lenses’ effective focal lengths on BMPCC, I made the following table.
That’s it for today. Subscribe and stay tuned for more useful info about the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.