I’ve been playing with the BMPCC (Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera) for a few weeks now and have, after much experimentation, finally narrowed the massive selection available for this camera (especially via adapters of various sorts) down to my 5 essential picks. Here they are, in no particular order…
Best General-Purpose Lens: Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
This is one of those lenses that isn’t just good for the BMPCC; it’s awesome for just about any Micro Four Thirds camera. Featuring a focal length equivalent of 24-70mm on a standard MFT camera like the Olympus OM-D EM-1, a fast f/2.8 aperture, and optical image stabilization, this lens lends itself perfectly for BMPCC shooters. Given the Blackmagic’s 3x crop factor, this lens becomes a still-slightly-wide 36-105mm. Moreover, given the fact that the BMPCC has an active MFT mount, the image stabilization works just fine. In short, this is your desert island lens; it’ll work for almost every common scenario you might come across.
Best Compact Lens: Olympus 12mm f/2
You’d think I’d pick one of the pancake lenses available from Panasonic or Olympus, like the 20mm f/1.7 from Panasonic. To be sure, that’s a solid performer, but I chose the 12mm for 2 key reasons.
The first is that it’s still a pretty compact lens and has a nice, fast f/2 aperture with the equivalent of a 36mm equivalent focal length (for BMPCC, that is. It’s 24mm for MFT cameras like the Olympus OM-D series or the Panasonic GH4). The second is that it’s a lens that lends itself a bit better for the BMPCC in terms of focus.
Although the BMPCC does have a basic autofocus feature, most video shooters will find themselves using manual focus to nail things perfectly. The focus ring on the Olympus 12mm f/2 slides back to engage manual focus mode on the lens, revealing a handy distance scale. This also adds one other benefit; the lens gains hard stops at either end of the focus range, something I find very useful when I’m in that mode.
The majority of my test footage for my previous Blackmagic Pocket Camera review was shot on this lens.
Best Lenses for Low Light and Shallow Depth of Field
Say hello to the Nokton family.
With a max aperture of f/0.95, these lenses are available in the equivalent of 31.5mm, 52.5mm, 75mm, and 127.5mm focal lengths for the BMPCC. A fat, generous focusing ring and a manual aperture ring, combined with gorgeous optics, round up what is, without a doubt, the best family of lenses for low light and achieving shallow depth of field for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.
Achieving said shallow depth of field isn’t easy on the BMPCC and is perhaps one of the few drawbacks of this otherwise stellar camera. The sensor is relatively small, which increases your depth of field. In many cases, especially for run-and-gun documentary photographers, this is a good thing; it’s a lot easier to achieve focus on this camera. But for those who are looking for that buttery bokeh, well, you’ll have to work a bit harder.
That’s where these lenses come in. With a max aperture of f/0.95, even with that small sensor, you end up with the relative DoF (depth of field) of an f/2.5 lens with the iris wide open. That’s not an exact number, mind you; there are other factors at play here and the conversion isn’t exact, but it does get you into the ballpark. So, at f/2.5, that 25mm lens makes for a nice interview lens and will allow you to throw a decent part of your background out of focus. You’ll need to play with camera to subject to background distance, but it’ll be easier to achieve with this lens than with any other.
In the video above, there is a single shot, at the 1:05 mark, that was shot with this lens. As you can see, at ISO 800 and the iris wide open, it’s actually slightly overexposed at night time. These are your ideal “candlelight” lenses and when you shoot with them for the very first time you’ll see why.
One caveat, which resulted in me throwing away a lot of the footage I’d initially shot with these lenses: they will focus past infinity, so you need to be careful with that.
What are your favorite lenses for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera? Sound off in the comments below.
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