In a world of unfair comparisons you would have to imagine putting a $2,000 Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K against the $60,000 ARRI ALEXA Mini would be among the most ridiculous. These are strange times we live in, however, and it means that this comparison is going to be a lot more interesting than it seems at first glance.
Put together by the guys at Film Jams, including Christian Cashmir as the host with the help of YouTuber and filmmaker Matteo Bertoli, this comparison shows us when it comes to raw quality it’s not always as simple as just getting the most expensive camera.
Let’s get the ground rules for this test sorted out. Here are the settings that will be used for each camera:
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens on Both Cameras
- ARRI ALEXA Mini: 4K ProRes 4444 XQ at ISO 800
- BMPCC6K: 6K BRAW 3:1 at ISO 400
- BMPCC6K Footage Downscaled to 4K
Shooting in the middle of the day with a good amount of detail in the background reveals that you can get a very good image out of very affordable cameras.I will say that it seems like the ALEXA pulls out just a hair more detail in the shadows, but even full screen with the 4K stream it is tough to see.
Getting into a dynamic range test is intriguing. In terms of advertised dynamic range the ARRI ALEXA wins 14 stops to the BMPCC6K’s 13. Also, the ALEXA Mini’s larger pixels should back up this estimate. In a real world situation like they demonstrated by shooting outside you can see the cameras are actually quite similar.
With YouTube compression it’s hard to tell where you may be losing detail, which says a lot about what quality you actually need depending on your end goals. Also, you can see some of the color casts each camera provides, but they appear easy enough to match up in the second round of testing.
When it comes to slow motion, I would argue the Blackmagic ekes out a bit more sharpness here, likely due to the simple fact that it is recording in a higher resolution. It’s still close, and this test doesn’t reveal how close the cameras can get when put through some post processing.
Going into the low-light tests reveals some differences. By my eye the ALEXA manages to hang on to shadow detail a little better, but the Blackmagic has a much better handle on noise. Even at the same sensitivities the BMPCC6K is noticeable cleaner at ISO 1250 and above. However, ARRI may be collecting a bit more detail with that extra noise but the Blackmagic has extremely clean imagery, likely benefitting by downsampling.
This part reveals a major difference in the design of the cameras. The ARRI ALEXA Mini leaves a lot untouched to be determined by the filmmakers while the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K aims to deliver as good an image as possible so that the filmmaker can get something looking great very quickly.
The saturation test is another area where I think the ALEXA pulls off a win. The heavy red and purple colors will strain any digital sensor. Here the ALEXA holds on to quite a bit while the Pocket Camera looks like it loses a little in the details faster.
Finally, they put the Pocket Camera up against the ALEXA Mini in a skin tone and bokeh test with the Leica R 50mm f/2 Lens. I think ARRI’s decisions here result in a more pleasing image for shooting people. But the differences are so marginal that you could choose either without any regrets.
Footage alone will never tell the whole story. These especially aren’t even close to lab tests which will reveal minute differences, so keep that in mind. Even with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K providing footage surprisingly close you have to consider the different rigging and I/O of the camera as well as the simple recording formats. The ALEXA Mini will remain a choice camera for professionals for plenty of reasons that may not matter that much to the everyday shooter.
Were you at all surprised by these results? I for one am happy to see that affordable camera options are providing more people with access to professional-level image quality.
[source: Film Jams]
- Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (B&H, Amazon)
- ARRI ALEXA Mini (B&H)
- Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EF (B&H, Amazon)
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