Personal View site logo
GH3 or Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera
  • I'm looking into buying either a GH3 or a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, both of them look great in video but both of them have their problems and quirks. The video from the Black Magic looks better shooting raw and prores. The GH3 can shoot 60P in 1080 which will be useful. The GH3 also has the rotatable OLCD screen. The pocket doesn't have great audio. I can get both for the same price.

  • 18 Replies sorted by
  • ok i will try to be helpful. i owned the gh3 for a year and the pocket for 2 months now. in my opinion they are two different cameras for different jobs. the gh3 is a jack of all trades , its decent at everything , loads of features, quick , easy to use, and very workable in minimal shooting configurations. its footage is good, but it isn't anything like a bmpcc in post. and to be brutally honest its overall image is not in the same league as the pocket. but it is still plenty good for a lot of stuff.

    the bmpcc's image alone is simply superb , for the price there isn't anything that comes remotely close. that said its a different beast you need more cards, more harddrives, a decent rig , wide lenses, good Filtration - ND'S and IR cuts. loads of batterys or a power solution, and an external monitor evf or at the very least a lcd loupe , oh your also going to want a light meter. (plus sound gear to record externally) if you can afford to get all this and its worth it to you then its image will seriously reward you...i only really shoot narrative stuff at 24p for me the image is head and shoulders above the gh3 and i am seriously pleased i made the switch but the bmpcc needs much more time and care to reap the benefits.

    i can go more into specifics if need be but those are my general two cents to give you an idea of how apples to oranges they are.

  • I have had both for a while now and I almost completely switched to the pocket when I got it. If image quality is your number one concern then the pocket is for you. It just has a fantastically cinematic image quality. BUT whenever I do end up shooting with the GH3 again I'm like, "man this LCD screen is nice, wow this one battery and card last all day."

  • Agree w/ jakepowell & grierdill: the Pocket is quirky and more difficult to master, but delivers a much richer image. The GH3 is much more practical and solid as an all-in-one run-and-gun camera.

    Here's a detailed run-down of the practicalities:

    1) sound

    The Pocket either needs external sound recording + sync in post or an external preamp (with a power source of its own). Unlike the GH3 with its a very decent built-in microphone preamp and a quite usable internal microphone, the Pocket's internal mic is only usable as a sync sound reference, and its mic input/preamp is only decently usable as a line input. The most simple sound recording solution for the Pocket is a Zoom H1 or Tascam recorder used as a mic + preamp, with its line out signal connected to the camera's audio in jack. - The Pocket has no audio meters.

    2) infrared pollution

    The Pocket will need IR cut filters in front of the lens in almost all shooting situations since its sensor is sensitive to IR light. Without IR filtration, the image will have a reddish-brownish-purplish cast that can't be removed (and can be seen on many Vimeo/YouTube videos shot with the Pocket). The GH3 doesn't need extra IR filtration.

    3) display

    The display of the Pocket is fixed, and it is ba: bad resolution, bad contrast, bad color rendering. The GH3 has a decent built-in swivel display + a built-in electronic viewfinder. The Pocket has no built-in electronic viewfinder. In order to shoot outdoors in bright daylight, a display loupe (Zacuto or Kinotehnik), an external EVF or a field monitor is indispensable for the Pocket.

    4) lenses

    Operation of electronic Micro Four Thirds lenses is much better on the GH3 (with its wheels for aperture aperture) than on the Pocket (with its arrow keys). With electronic lenses, the Pocket will forget the last focus setting when switched off and back on (often necessary to keep battery consumption reasonable). On top of this, MFT system lenses by Panasonic and Olympus will distort on the Pocket. The GH3, on the other hand, photoshops-out lens distortion in its firmware. The Pocket supports optical stabilization only of Panasonic lenses with a physical O.I.S. switch. The GH3 supports stabilization for all O.I.S. lenses.

    Due to its Super 16mm sensor size, normal (13-17mm) and wide angle (7-12mm) lenses for the Pocket are more difficult to find and more expensive than for the GH3 (20-25 mm normal/10-17mm wide angle). In many cases, using the BMPC Speedbooster + adapted Nikon lenses is a better solution than using native MFT lenses. Whatever solution you choose, lensing the BMPC will likely be more expensive than lensing the GH3.

    Panasonic's expensive 12-35mm/2.8 zoom is the only optically stabilized lens that covers modest wide angle and normal focal lengths on the Pocket. On the GH3, the cheap 14-42mm kit zoom covers more wide angle and is stabilized, too.

    5) stabilization

    Due to its light weight and small size, the Pocket can't be used for shake-free point-and-shoot video. The GH3, however, has more mass and better grip. Since the Pocket will require more additional equipment (such as mic+ preamp & loupe) on top of this, it will eventually necessitate the use of a cage and/or rig.

    6) handling

    The Pocket's shooting parameters (ISO, shutter, WB) can only be set in the camera's highly unergonomic menu. Shooters who frequently switch frame rates, shutter speeds and white balance (on the Pocket: when recording ProRes) will find this extremely clumsy on the Pocket. The GH3, all the while, offers excellent quick access ergonomics for all of these parameters.

    When shooting ProRes on the Pocket, one has to cope with the great limitation of only a small number of preset Kelvin values for white balance, with no fine tuning or green/magenta adjustment. The GH3 offers extremely user-friendly and flexible WB settings, and fine-grained color shift adjustments on top of that.

    Focussing is harder on the Pocket than on the GH3 because its sensor's native 1080p resolution results in a small magnifying factor when using the electronic zoom focus aid. But the Pocket does have (excellent) focus peaking, the GH3 doesn't. Still, the Pocket requires its user to manually reactivate focus peaking each time it has been switched off and on again.

    7) exposure

    The GH3 is quite easy to expose since it follows the general standard of photo and video cameras (that expose to 18% neutral grey). In "film" log-Prores or when recording raw, the Pocket has a completely different exposure principle of maxing out exposure for every shot ("expose to the right"/ETTR principle) even if this means that 18% neutral grey will be overexposed. This requires more work in postproduction since almost every single recorded clip needs exposure correction in post.

    Correct exposure of middle tones (skin tones, for example) can therefore be quite tricky with the Pocket. Without extra monitoring on field monitors/EVFs that provide scopes, false color or histograms, one cannot be sure whether those might be underexposed in a high contrast scene, and thus become noisy when lifting gamma in post. The GH3, on the other hand, has a conventional exposure meter plus a live histogram that makes correct exposure for the camera easier to judge.

    8) sensitivity

    The GH3 may have the edge over the Pocket in low light. The Pocket's native ISO is lower than the alleged 800 because of the aforementioned ETTR principle, and under realistic conditions boils down to 400. Unlike the GH3, the camera's sensor doesn't have analog gain, so higher ISOs can only be reached by pushing gain in post - which results in a noisier image than with analog gain. On top of that, the Pocket's sensor does not perform well in "dirty light" conditions, including fluorescent bulbs. Best results are achieved at 4500-5600 Kelvin.

    Under low light conditions (for example shooting concerts or in clubs with available light), the Pocket only properly exposes with f0.95-f1.4 lenses, or with f1.4/f2.0 lenses combined with the Speedbooster; still, one will often be forced to shoot with 360 degree shutter in those conditions. Conversely, the GH3 is friendlier under bright light since it can go down to 200 ISO.

    9) complexity of postproduction

    The GH3 delivers images that are usable or "done" (precooked) out of the box. It doesn't need color grading/postproduction. The Pocket is designed to deliver unprocessed images that are only usable after color grading in postproduction. The GH3 is an all-in-one camera whose automatisms (debayering, sharpening, noise reduction, geometric lens correction) can't be manually controlled, the Pocket really is just a sensor with a lens mount and SD card slot that outsources all image corrections to be done to postproduction.

    This is the major conceptual difference between the two cameras. It's the same difference as between a Canon C300 (all-in-one, precooked pictures, mostly used by documentary filmmakers) and a Red camera (raw pictures, mostly used for movies, advertising and music videos that involve a lot of postproduction).

    10) power & storage consumption

    The GH3 runs several hours on one battery charge, the Pocket ca. 20 minutes. It is possible to extend the Pocket's running time through external batteries - but that increases complexity of the camera setup/rigging.

    On a 64 GB card, the GH3 can record hours of video, the Pocket a maximum of 20 mins. raw video or 40 mins. ProRes. For recording raw, the expensive Sandisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s card is the only supported and working card that can be used in the Pocket, the GH3 accepts any class 6 or class 10 card.

    11) real quirks

    The GH3 is largely quirk free. Both cameras produce moiré, the Pocket much more so than the GH3. The GH3 can produce aliasing, the Pocket doesn't. The Pocket can produce extreme moiré when recording raw and combined with a very sharp lens.

    On the Pocket, a square pattern of the sensor's wiring can be visible on the recorded image under certain circumstances.

    The GH3 has defect pixel mapping, and dead pixels are less visible because the camera downsamples its resolution from 16 MP native to 2 MP 1080p-Video. With the Pocket, hot pixels and dead pixels become visible, especially when boosting gain - and can only be mapped out/retouched in software postproduction.

    (All that said, I much prefer the Pocket to the GH3, for the sole reason of its better/richer image.)

  • @tedbrah

    Choose your camera as you choose tool. Choose one that suite your specific tasks.

    Big amount of people sold out BMPC as GH4 become available, for example. Their main reason - image is cool, but workflow and limitations are troubling. You need skills, storage and understanding limitations.

  • If you plan to strictly do narrative type projects, get the bmpcc. For multi use, gh3 all the way. BMPCC is a chef knife, gh3 is a swiss army knife. Three things I feel you must have with a bmpcc are cage (for two mounting points), loop (lcd is awful), and light meter (zebras alone aren't enough). ymmv.

  • as stated by everyone, assess your needs. i have both and use both for specific tasks as mentioned above.

  • Definitely with Vitaliy here. I'm one of those who has a BMPCC but even when I love the image, I'm thinking of saving for a GH4 since it seems to be more adequate to my specific tasks.

  • Totally agree with everyone above. What I would suggest is buying the GH3 first, then saving up for the BMPCC, and have both. Right now I'm using the BMPCC and GH4 as compliments to each other. They fill each others void.

  • I have a hacked GH2 , Gh3, Gh4 and bmpcc. If I were taking cameras on a travel vacation/documentary, all four of them plus a few Lenses could fit in my Photography day pack! First choice if space and weight were of concern would be the GH4. The black magic certainly takes more time and skill to color grade. I agree totally with what brianl & arronchicago wrote.

  • Well I just finished a 9 hour wedding shoot yesterday and on the gh3 I used a 32 and 16gb card and one battery for the whole day. My gh2 used 3 batteries and 4 sd cards. So the BMPCC would use even more than that I assume.

  • @tylerknight

    It is right approach you use. From business perspective for weddings (except elite ones) and fast documentary projects BM cameras are waste of money and time.

  • Oh for sure! I think every camera has their own purpose and place in the industry. It's great to see everyone pick their weapon and use their skills to showcase the work.

  • Hi I have a BMPCC and love it.. :-) Still getting used to the image and how to maxmise it. The IR point I have noticed and will buy ASAP. I have a Canon 650D which I have had for a while and have decided to sell aswell as my Mac Mini to buy a GH3. The main reason is for slow motion shots. I only shoot Music Videos.

    My question is this.. Does slow motion from the GH3 and BMPCC footage edit together OK? Is there a noticeable difference?

    Thanks in advance Mat

  • I have both and i've no doubt...gh3 is better choice.

  • Better choice for what? I have both too. If you're doing run n gun video style shooting or need ok slow mo then GH3 is the way to go, but if you are going for cinematic style then the bmpcc is the choice hands down.

  • @Trumpetman cinematic style? like this, for example?


    GH3 is more versatile camera than BMPCC, for each kind of use (i don't think tedbrah will make only short films)..

    Last but not least the battery charge, GH3 practically eternal life, for the Pocket you must have at least 5 batteries, for any kind of work (recording to ProRes, the RAW is even worse)...

  • I love my GH3 and my GH2 and Gh1 before. I wouldn't hesitate to use it for cinematic projects if I did not have the BMPCC and I use them both in combination at times, but the GH3 doesn't emulate the traditional film look like pocket cam does mostly because of the dynamic range difference. The examples you provided are gorgeous, showing most of all that it is who's behind the camera that really counts. There are plenty of examples showing the pocket cam's ability as well, but I'm not going to get into a pissing match trying to convince you. For me the GH3 is better for run n gun video style shooting in comparison to bmpcc which is more cinematic.

  • @Trumpetman Sure. But the bmpcc is only (or almost) "cinematic camera". Great quality, no doubt. GH3 (or gh2, or gh4) is perfect bit ' for all uses. I think this