BMPCC & c-mount lenses

After having my Eclair NPR’s gate modified to Ultra 16mm several years ago, I started looking into affordable lenses that would cover the new, wider frame. Since my NPR has both the Eclair CA-1 and c-mount on a handy turret, I decided c-mount lenses were probably the way to go because they were relatively cheap and fairly abundant. But, I needed ones that could cover the frame without vignetting… if that was even possible. I had shot plenty of film in Standard 16mm and Super 16mm with Arri and PL mount lenses, but Ultra 16mm and the c-mount was new to me at the time.

Ultra 16 frame size = 11.66 mm x 6.15 mm

Super 16mm frame size = 12.52 mm x 7.41 mm

BMPCC sensor size = 12.48 mm x 7.02 mm

I began searching forums, talking to camera techs and anyone with knowledge of lenses in film production. If any of the information I had about a few c-mount lenses that covered Super 16mm(or came close) was correct, I would be in good shape with my Ultra 16mm gate on the NPR.

Back then, I was able to purchase many of these lenses in excellent condition for very little money. The Canon TV-16 lenses were of specific interest to me since I had lots of experience with Canon lenses for video and stills. My opinion had always been that Canon makes pretty glass. So, I invested in a nice set of focal lengths and was very pleased that they all covered the Ultra 16mm frame perfectly. Little did I know that a few years down the road the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and it’s near Super 16mm sensor size would breath new life into these little gems.

I recently received my BMPCC and shot a quick test in RAW with the Canon 13mm f1.5 lens and I must say, I’m seriously impressed. I have tested all of the lenses below on the BMPCC and only one of them vignettes(the Canon 12-120mm zoom)… slightly, at about 15mm in the zoom range. The 13mm is particularly good because it’s very sharp across the entire frame, fast, and provides a nice wide focal length on the BMPCC. I’ll be using this lens a lot.

I hope to find time to post samples from each lens, but for now you can check out my little test with the 13mm above on vimeo. I shot RAW and exposed to the right, pulled in processing with Adobe Camera Raw, color graded using the Osiris VisionX LUT, added a bit of Gorilla Grain 35mm, and cut the piece in Premiere Pro CC.

My c-mount lenses, tested on the BMPCC:

Primes:

• Canon TV-16 10mm f1.8 fixed focus (requires a M4/3 adapter that will allow the mount housing enough clearance to completely screw into the adapter. Otherwise, it becomes a wide macro lens)

• Canon TV-16 13mm f1.5

• YVAR 25mm f1.8

• Canon TV-16 50mm f1.8

Zooms:

• Canon 15-150mm f2.8 (With the lens shimmed slightly for proper focus, performs perfectly. Very sharp. This will be my go to zoom in c-mount!)

• Canon 12-120mm f2.8 Macro Fluorite (Great lens, but vignettes slightly at around 15mm. Has a reputation for being very sharp, but seems a bit soft to me)

 

And a little note: Blackmagic REALLY needs to add audio meters to this camera AND FIX THE TERRIBLE GRID PATTERN that rears it’s ugly head in bright areas of exposure. Otherwise, I’m in love with this little machine and my c-mount lenses!

 

Canon c-mount 13mm f1.5

Canon c-mount 13mm f1.5

7 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Hey there, thanks for the posting. Can you please clarify whether the c-mount lenses you mentioned can be put straight onto the BMPCC or if you need an adapter. I’m having a heckuva time just getting a clear idea of what lenses natively go onto the camera and what needs an adapter. Any info would be appreciated! The video looks great btw.

    • KP says:

      Hi Mike.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The BMPCC has a micro four thirds(M43) lens mount. So you can mount M43 lenses directly to the camera without any adapters. The M43 is probably the most adaptable mount on the planet, meaning you can get an adapter to put almost any lens you want on it – which is awesome. For these c-mount lenses, especially the little primes, you don’t need a very robust or expensive adapter since the lenses are tiny and don’t weigh very much. I have two bigger c-mount zoom lenses that require a support to help relieve any stress on the mount.

      This the adapter I use:

      http://tinyurl.com/n28ug3q

      At $6, quite a bargain and works great.

      Hope this helps answer your questions!

  2. Pat says:

    hi Kevin
    I was wondering if u can give me bunch of pointers: We are gearing up for a feature doc shoot and are thinking of going with Bmpcc for the A-cam. I was wondering what u think be the best:
    1. Handheld rig set up
    2. feed-in Battery source

    and how do u feel about you setup in the field (Advantage points and drawbacks) and if u can post bunch of more pics of your setup.
    Regard and Thank

    • KP says:

      Hi Pat.

      My opinion is that you can make any camera system work for just about any situation – I’ve done it. Obviously some systems are going to be better for specific challenges than others. It really comes down to what you have available and what you need to do. Is the BMPCC ideal for a run and gun documentary style of shooting? I would say no, not ideal. But can it work? Absolutely. I wouldn’t obsess too much over gear. Use what you have available to it’s fullest. Improvise. Be creative. But there are a few basic things I would say are necessary to get the BMPCC up to snuff.

      • Cage with a top handle
      • Iris rods
      • Shoulder pad/counterweight
      • Handles/Grips
      • External audio recorder
      • External battery system

      The cage with a top handle does a few things. It protects your tiny, fragile little camera. It allows for mounting stuff on your rig. And it gives you something to hold onto when carrying, resting, pulling on and off a tripod and generally handling your rig. It’s too bad that so many cameras these days consider ergonomics an afterthought. I used to lug around a heavy sony betacam back in the day. It was a beast. But it was like butter when it was on your shoulder. With the BMPCC it’s essential to make your rig bigger and heavier for any serious work. You don’t have to go crazy and you certainly don’t want to completely eliminate the awesomeness of a small, lightweight rig this camera offers. Use your judgement for what feels right to you.

      Use iris rods from the back of your rig for a shoulder pad/counterweight. Balance on your shoulder is key.

      Iris rods with hand grips on the front will make your handheld work much easier. I love two forward grips.

      An external audio recorder like the H4n(or similar) is absolutely necessary. The BMPCC audio is completely unacceptable. You have no meters onboard to monitor levels and the internal signal is unpredictable using both line and mic levels. Bad audio kills even the most beautiful video.

      As for external batteries, you definitely need them and there are more than a few options out there. I carry several extra EN-EL20 batteries as well as a Bescor battery belt. The great thing about the BMPCC is that it operates on a 12-20volt DC system. My Eclair 16mm film camera runs all day using a 12volt battery belt and the BMPCC does too. There’s no big mystery here as many would have you believe. Plug it in and go. I use a custom made XLR adapter to go from the battery belt to the BMPCC power input. Easy as pie.

      Here’s some great info on making your own power cable:

      http://cheesycam.com/diy-blackmagic-pocket-cinema-camera-battery-cable/

      Here’s a quick photo of the rig that I used on a shoot today. With some basic pieces, it can change according to my needs. Sorry it’s not the best shot – I’m a bit exhausted from carrying gear around all day.

      I hope this answers some of your questions!

  3. marcoliverhofer@gmail.com says:

    Can you specify a little what you used to shim the Canon 15-150mm to make it focus better ?
    Thanks.

    • KP says:

      I cut two “rings” from an old thin film plastic filter and placed them on the threaded barrel of the lens before attaching it the adapter. I needed a quick fix solution and this works really well. The spacing may vary from lens to lens so you will need to experiment a bit to get the correct thickness of your homemade spacers. You could use any VERY thin plastic material. It’s got to be VERY thin. You only have to move the lens out from the adapter the smallest amount. Half a millimeter or so at most.

      I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet, but I have every intention of ordering a set or two of these 0.25mm brass c-mount spacers and trying them to shim the 15-150mm lens.

      I’m working on several custom projects for my BMPCC rig at the moment and will be adding some tutorials and information in the Laboratory section. I’ve been asked about shimming this lens a few times so I’ll make sure to add a more detailed description of the process and photos asap.

      Hope this helps you out!

      • marcoliverhofer@gmail.com says:

        Thanks Kevin.

        That was quite extensive and really helpful. Will play around with what I can find. The brass spacers seem to be a pretty good idea.

What do you think?