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Battle Of The 4K Mirrorless Cinema Cameras – Blackmagic Pocket Camera 4K, Canon EOS R, Fuji XT3

Several new mirrorless cameras were released or announced in recent weeks, including Blackmagic’s new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Canon’s EOS R, and Fuji’s XT3. All three cameras are clearly of interest to many filmmakers right now, so I wanted to share my two cents on them below.

I have been working like crazy over the past month on my feature film projects and a slew of commercials, and haven’t yet done any test shooting with these cameras. I have however, done some tests with Blackmagic’s new RAW codec, and will be sharing the results here on the blog this week.

But with regards to the new releases from BMD, Canon, and Fuji, what I’m going to outline below are simply my first impressions. I’ll aim to do follow up articles on each camera in more depth in the future, so if that’s something you would like to see, please let me know!

There are constantly new cameras being announced and released, but I wanted to highlight these 3 specific cameras together, as they share some commonalities – They’re priced in the same ballpark, are in direct competition to each other in some respects, and are all getting a lot of attention from filmmakers.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on each…

In no particular order –

BLACKMAGIC POCKET CINEMA CAMERA 4K – $1295

I’m sure some of you know I am a fan of Blackmagic. I’ve been shooting on their cameras for years and even shot my feature last year on the URSA Mini 4.6K… I’ve always respected that BMD strives to fill voids in the low-budget camera market that none of the other camera brands seem to even be aware of. The latest update to the Pocket Camera is no different.

If you think about it – what other camera on the market can compete directly with the new Pocket Camera 4K?

Just look at the specs, all of which you get for $1295 –

  • 4/3″ Sized HDR Sensor
  • Record DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 up to 60 fps
  • Dual Native ISO to 25,600
  • 5″ Touchscreen Display
  • Active Micro Four Thirds Lens Mount
  • Record up to 120 fps Windowed HD
  • CFast 2.0 & SD/UHS-II Card Slots
  • External Recording via USB Type-C
  • 13-Stop Dynamic Range, 3D LUT Support
  • Includes DaVinci Resolve Studio License

This is a fully capable cinema camera that costs less than most mid range DSLRs, and has some incredibly innovative features – namely Dual Native ISO. The design of the camera is actually quite smart too, as it appears like a DSLR but functions like a cinema camera. It’s truly the best of both worlds if you are shooting guerrilla style… It’s not as sleek as some of Blackmagic’s other cameras, but it seems to favor function over form, which I like.

It has a 4/3” sensor, but will certainly be used with speed boosters to achieve Super 35mm field of view. Or even without the speed booster, the 4/3” sensor size will still produce beautiful images with nice shallow depth of field.

So again, what other camera really competes with this? There are plenty of other great options in this price range, but none that offer this exact combination of quality and functionality. Shooting on any Blackmagic camera is far more similar to shooting on Arri/RED than it is to any DSLR/mirrorless, yet it is priced at the consumer level. There’s not much to complain about there.

If I were to make any critique of the camera, it would be that I miss the Super 16mm sensor size. Most will probably disagree with me here (and I can understand why!), but I just love the Super 16mm look. That’s what makes the Pocket Camera and Micro Cinema Camera so great to me, and as odd as this may sound, I almost would have preferred a smaller sensor on the camera. I never thought I would say that! 

In any case, I am feeling extremely optimistic about this camera, and imagine that it will find a home on many independent narrative shorts and micro-budget features. I’ll need to actually shoot with the camera before sharing my thoughts on the image quality (it’s pretty hard to say based on the test clips out there), but will aim to follow up on this soon.

CANON EOS R – $2299

You have to applaud Canon for showing up, even if they are late to the party… But their long overdue entry into the professional mirrorless market truly is just too little, too late.

I’ve shared my thoughts at length in the past about Canon as a whole, often pointing out their strongest qualities – reliability and color science. Despite falling way behind Sony and Panasonic with respect features and overall innovation, their cameras can still produce solid images, and do so reliably… And I’m sure the EOS R will follow suit.

But this is the first new camera from Canon of its kind, and will feature an entirely new lens mount (RF). I’m just not gonna be convinced that these features will compel anyone to make that switch –

  • 30.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • UHD 4K30 Video; C-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF, 5655 AF Points
  • 3.69m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.15″ 2.1m-Dot Swivel Touchscreen LCD
  • Expanded ISO 50-102400, 8 fps Shooting
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, SD UHS-II Card Slot
  • New RF Lens Mount

Probably the biggest complaint people have with this camera, is the 1.8x crop factor when shooting in 4K (there is a 1.6x crop in HD). That in itself will be enough to turn away many die-hard Full Frame shooters… But even for those who can live with the crop factor, why would they want to switch to this camera?

The main benefit of a mirrorless camera is size. And the EOS R when paired with a full frame lens (and/or adapter to EF) is not a small camera at all. So if it doesn’t offer value in terms of design, it’s missing key features (like internal stabilization), and requires you to adapt to an entirely new lens mount…

Often, Canon’s cameras make little sense for filmmakers, but survive because they still work well for (and are popular with) photographers. But even then, I wonder how many stills photographers will want to switch to this system? Personally, if I were just shooting stills I would prefer NOT to have a mirrorless camera. I like the analog feel of using the mirror to look right through the lens, and many photographers do too… So in many ways, this camera feels like it is in no-mans-land.

The EOS R is not a camera I would personally want to invest in, and I doubt many others will either… We can all get more camera for less money almost anywhere else, so until more features are added with firmware updates, or the $2299 price tag comes down, I just don’t see this camera taking off.

FUJI XT3 – $1499

I don’t know if anyone could have expected just how quickly Fuji would rise to the top of mirrorless game… That includes myself, and I have been shooting on Fuji cameras for years!

Photographers always loved Fuji’s cameras, as they offer incredible color science – arguably the best of any camera manufacturer out there. Just look at how the Classic Chrome film simulation mode has garnered a cult following at this point. But as well as Fuji has done with photographers, it wasn’t until their last few models that the brand became a viable option for filmmakers.

Over the past couple of years, they have done a complete 180, releasing cameras like the XT2 (which I own) and the XH1, both of which finally offered filmmakers that amazing Fuji look, with a camera body that was fully functional for video recording. That trajectory has continued on with the release of Fuji’s XT3.

Here are the specs –

  • 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
  • UHD 4K60 Video
  • F-Log Gamma
  • 10-Bit H265
  • 0.75x 3.69m-Dot OLED Viewfinder
  • 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Tilting LCD Touchscreen
  • Extended ISO 80-51200, 30 fps Shooting
  • Weather-Sealed Magnesium-Alloy Body

This is effectively a fully upgraded XT2. It has a new sensor, internal F Log, and apparently great autofocus – although that isn’t a feature I would use myself.

The biggest highlight for me is it’s ability to record 10bit to H265 files. Unlike common H264 files, H265 are more likely to require transcoding in post, but will offer superior image quality while still keeping file sizes down. At some point I hope we see ProRes recording or compressed RAW in DSLRs/mirrorless cameras like this one, but for now H265 is a great alternative.

Despite the XT3 having almost all the latest features from Fuji, it’s clear that the XH1 is still the flagship of their line. This is most clearly demonstrated by the lack of internal stabilization on the XT3… This isn’t a deal breaker for me, as I don’t really use IBIS (I would rather a shoulder rig), but if you do need IBIS, the XH-line may be the way to go.

I have to imagine the XT3 will be very hard to ignore by filmmakers, even for those who never gave Fuji any real thought. After all, it is a Super 35mm digital motion picture camera that boasts the best color science in the market, in a slick, retro-inspired body. For filmmakers that choose their cameras based on image quality and design, the XT3 may just be the way to go.

On another note, Fuji is the only brand to really understand how to roll out promo footage. For the release of this camera, they worked with Matthew Libatique – one of the single best working cinematographers out there – to direct and DP a short film using the XT3. This is exactly what filmmakers want to see when assessing potential camera choice, and I hope the other brands will take notice and follow suit!

WHO ARE THEY FOR?

I may have my own personal preferences and biases, but at the end of the day, all 3 of these cameras will be used by filmmakers. It always comes down to subjective taste and personal needs.

If history is any indication, I would imagine the Blackmagic Pocket Camera 4K will be a massive hit with filmmakers and small production companies. I am certain these will start popping up everywhere, and we’ll see loads of short films, corporate spots, and maybe the occasional feature shot on them.

The Canon EOS R is anyone’s guess… I can see some die-hard Canon fans giving it a chance, and perhaps like many of Canon’s other cameras, it will exceed expectations. But still, with all the competition in the market right now, I don’t imagine anyone running away from Sony or Panasonic for an EOS R.

The XT3 on the other hand, is another story. While people generally seem happy with their Sony A7 cameras or Lumix GH cameras, Fuji may be offering enough to convince some filmmakers to jump ship. Those switching from Sony will go from bad color science to the best, and anyone making the jump from Panasonic can also enjoy that same gorgeous image quality while benefitting from the larger Super 35mm sensor.

So of the 3 cameras, the Pocket Cam and XT3 are clearly the most exciting to me, and the XT3 is perhaps most likely to be disruptive to the stronghold Panasonic and Sony have had on the mirrorless market.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

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About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

39 Comments

  • Hampus Lager
    September 24, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    I’m switching to Fuji for several reasons: Color and their kaizen philosophy mainly, but also because they’re not only give me this but also good AF for docu and the odd push in on a steadicam/gimbal with a decent codec!

    Canon gave us DPAF in rubbish “1080p” or heavily cropped UHD, Sony gave us their amazing AF but got weird colors that can’t stand heavy pushing in post. That along with horrible ergonomics and other issues such as battery and overheating and bad QC. Panasonic is very video centric and have good colors and codec but shitty AF.

    I’ve been waiting so long for this, to have all these features at a price I can afford as no budget single shooter. And then Fuji give us the small but wonderful things, like the option to make the fly by wire-focus LINEAR for repeatable manual focus with the gorgeous Fuji lenses!

    Hopefully they will add BM RAW if the processor can handle it, but 10-bit H265 is not bad! If BM release it for others to use then the kaizen may very well strike once again!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 4:58 am

      So great to hear, Hampus. Let me know how you like it!

      Reply
  • Greg Greenhaw
    September 24, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    I would have the ignored the new canon and included the nikon z6 instead, clearly a better camera then the canon

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 4:59 am

      I agree it’s a better camera… Canon seems to still be getting lots of attention though, surprisingly! Will aim to do a writeup on the Z6 in the future too.

      Reply
  • Marty B
    September 25, 2018 at 6:18 am

    Exactly my thoughts, been shooting a lot of the XT-2 & H1 and was part of a team that made content for the H1 release, they really are incredible cameras. For this form factor and purpose, I really prefer the H line. Its a camera I almost want to hand off on certain shoots to other people and also be a bit more run and gun with. But the footage and photos have consistenly impressed me. That being said, I’ve preordered the pocket 4K for its more filmic motion and look (subject to testing) and thats a camera I’m building up into a semi-permanent rig with follow focus, V-locks, monitors etc. its replacing the Raven I’ve been hiring for shoots that need specific codecs and workflow.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:05 am

      Awesome, Marty. The pocket is an amazing choice – especially for those like yourself who use it like a more traditional cine cam. Hope you enjoy!

      Reply
  • Jesse Brauning
    September 25, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    I think the Panasonic S1 is going to rule the roost.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:05 am

      It will definitely shake things up in the market!

      Reply
  • Steve
    September 25, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    I’m at a crossroads – I’m developing a documentary and really want a cinematic look.
    I have 3 fuji lenses and an X-T2
    Do I jump to Black Magic Pocket 4k or stick with the system I have?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:06 am

      I would choose based on functionality. Which is optimal for your shooting environment?

      Reply
  • Tom
    September 26, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Well, lets see what the new Lumix S1 and Lumix SR1 are made of!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:07 am

      I can not wait.

      Reply
      • Carlos d
        August 30, 2019 at 5:40 am

        I’m tired of having to focus and want to pay more attention to creative shots and performance.
        I think I’m going to give the Fuji a shot.

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          November 22, 2019 at 8:45 pm

          Awesome – let me know how it goes.

          Reply
  • Dan
    September 27, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    I bought the Fujifilm X-T3 , coming from a Canon background (1DxmkII-5Dmk4-5Dmk3-5Dmk2), and I can say that the Fuji is awesome in every detail, size, color, F-log, H-265, price… The only thing I still didn’t get used to is the EVF.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:08 am

      Cool to hear, Dan! EVF definitely takes some getting used to, but will be helpful in some situations!

      Reply
  • Dwight
    September 27, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    clearly bm and xt3 are the top choices in the market since Sony hasn’t released anything yet. I’m about to get one of these bodies but I have a question that no one seems to have tested these camera bodies on. Like how does fujifilm look with adapted lenses from canon, Zeiss or cp2 primes. If someone has an answer. Do tell.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:09 am

      I’m getting some PL lenses soon and will adapt them to the Fuji to test this out.

      Reply
      • Dustin
        January 17, 2019 at 3:32 pm

        Hey Noam, I’d be interested in the PL to X mount adapter you end up using for this. I’m looking at options myself. Thanks!

        Reply
        • Noam Kroll
          March 5, 2019 at 4:59 pm

          Hey Dustin – I haven’t used that adapter myself, but will certainly keep you posted if/when I do.

          Reply
  • Talia
    September 28, 2018 at 4:04 am

    Would love to hear your thoughts about the Nikon Zs. I believe the D850 is highly praised on the video image quality, so same should be true to the Zs. And they have IBIS, a great autofocus as it seems from some footage online. Also the 24-70/4 as ZERO focus breathing. Absolutely zero, and so should the primes.

    I have had many Fujis, X100, X-T1, X-T10, X-Pro2, X-T2… tried the X-H1… and finally got tired of the very short battery life on the latest iterations, the slower rendering of files in Lightroom (because of X-Trans?), and finally the humongous RAW files. The X-T3 is the same: Uncompressed @26MP RAW files are as big as the Nikon 43MP ones. Hard drives have come cheaper, but still.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:10 am

      Thanks for sharing this, Talia. I will definitely share some thoughts on the Nikon soon as well… Just want to have a chance to shoot with it first as I hope to do a more thorough review.

      Reply
  • Felipe
    September 30, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    I am considering strongly buying this camera just because of what you refer to ‘incredible color science’. I am not much of a DoP as I am more a director and storyteller looking to shoot my own ‘cinematic’ docs and brand films. I am worried about using this camera for documentary work though, due to weight when setting up a rig, audio etc. Doesn’t seem like the run and gun camera, but I just can’t handle the beautiful image it produce. Any advice on what to do?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:16 am

      Hi Felipe! I would try to great a run and gun package for the camera. Get a cage and whatever accessories you need. Keep them light and use a light lens. That will let you keep the camera built at all times so you can use it ENG style… Just my 2 cents!

      Reply
  • Juanjo Domínguez
    October 2, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Well, I am a user of XT2 and BMPCC since its inception and now I can have the BMPCC4K or the XT3 (they will pay me for a job I did). I’m hesitant. Sometimes I think the PCC4K will be the best due to the prores and BRAW, but then I think I have the objectives for my XT2 (they are so good) and that the recording option 4: 2: 2 of 10 bits (using an external recorder) it will do almost the same as PCC4K. I’m waiting for a comparison between both cameras, but I suspect that any of them will be a good choice. Any clues?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:18 am

      Hi Juanjo – I would choose your camera based on functionality (in addition to image quality). Which will serve your needs and your style of shooting best from a practical standpoint?

      Reply
  • Jacob Martin
    October 4, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Hey Noam. I just got the XT3 and am completely blown away. There are some incredible in camera features that are on the GH5, BUT… After you shoot with the XT3 you realize very quickly that most of the in camera features of the GH5 you don’t really use (once you have a style you get used to shooting with). The COLORS have blown me away. And shooting in Flog and converting to Eterna as a base grade is the easiest and most accurate work flow for starting a grade I have ever seen. Shooting with this FUJI has been a blast and for the first time in a while, I actually don’t have to convince myself to go shoot or create (I look forward to it).

    Would love to hear more of your take on the XT3 when you have a chance.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:20 am

      That’s amazing to hear, Jacob. So glad you’re enjoying the camera. I’ll definitely aim to do a follow on the XT3 in the near future.

      Reply
  • Geoffrey Bassett
    October 15, 2018 at 1:05 am

    As Greg stated, why leave out the Z7/Z6, it seems to be a fantastic image with none of the negatives of the new Canon. It definitely at least deserves to be part of the discussion.

    I will admit, if the XT-3 had IBIS It would have nearly everything I want in the camera. I am leaning toward the Z6 because it’s Full Frame 4K, IBIS, and is not Sony color.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:26 am

      I’ll definitely be covering it in it’s own article soon.

      Reply
  • Martial Lebeau
    October 18, 2018 at 2:18 am

    I Noam,

    Thank you for this great Blog post but I think it would be most interesting to compare BlackMagic to the Xt3 in term of workflow and usability producing a vlog or a commercial for instance.

    How would you cope with the short battery life, codecs available (especially if working on a pc with Prores for BMC4K) and 30 min limitation for the Xt3.. Factoring all of this which would be the best option ??

    Thank you very much !!!

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:31 am

      Great questions – I’ll aim to cover this in a future post!

      Reply
  • sir Franz Pagot AIC OMRI
    November 27, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Nice artcle Noam.. I have used all of them and more, especially the BMPCC, Canon and Fuji as hard to position “c” cameras in features, such as inside cars, on motorbikes, skydiving, inside water tank, high up on a corner of the ceiling… you get the picture.
    The BMPCC footage still blends in nicely with ALEXA and the EPIC (if set correctly) as main (A cam) shots while the Canon still not quite unless very short insert or during an action scene with lots going on (dust, flares etc).
    The Fuji blew me away during recent tests, the colour space is awesome and the AF is truly magic. I guess horses for courses… and yet my money is still on the BMPCC though, the image is truly superb and is the smallest of the lot. I occasionally post results on my instagram and twitter if of any help.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      January 16, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing this here, Franz.

      Reply
  • Sean
    February 24, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Anyone know that the battery life is like for shooting video on the X-T3? The horror stories about the BMPCC4K eating throw batteries like potato chips and not giving enough warning when they’re low have kind of put me off considering one as an upgrade for my aging T3i.

    Reply
  • Albo
    April 20, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    Seem’s to me that the Panasonic GH5 is still quite interesting.

    Reply
  • Alex Crocker
    June 15, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    I am jumping from the GH5, but I am not sure what to get, because I want a camera that can do C4K at 60 for sweet slow motion.

    The BMPCC4K looks intriguing because of its low price and the IQ, but I am worried about the reliability and battery life, as well as glitches.

    The GH5s looks nice, with better colors and all, but I am worried about the 8 bit footage at the 60fps options in the 4k and UHD settings.

    The XT3 looks nice, but I do worry about the lens ecosystem and how much it will cost me to sell my MFT gear and go APS-C.

    I am really not sure what to get and any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      August 22, 2019 at 1:26 am

      I’m a little late to respond now, but have you looked at the new Blackmagic Pocket 6K? It will do 50p at 6K or 60p at 5K.

      Reply

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