Hot Takes: BMD and Fuji Are the Only Camera Innovators in 2021
We asked some of our writers which camera companies excite them—accessories, investments, and the company’s future—and they didn’t hold back.
My particular brand of camera manufacturer tribalism is a fickle and constantly evolving beast. The only thing I know for sure is that the aspects I latch onto with a camera brand are completely intangible. It comes down to “Does it feel right?”—the image, not the camera. All I truly care about is that when I look at the image I’m capturing, it looks and feels the way I hoped it would.
There are two companies who consistently make cameras that hit the nail on the head with these intangibles. Blackmagic and Fujifilm are my two favorite camera companies by a mile right now (at least in the under 40K market). Blackmagic has always listened to its customers, and made updates and peripherals where necessary. They’ve also made the best RAW codec in existence (in my humble opinion), and continue to move the industry forward in useful and meaningful ways. Most importantly to me, their cameras provide the best overall image at that price point, and well beyond.
In Fujifilm’s case, they really just have some of my favorite color science in the game right now, particularly in terms of getting close to what film looks like, which of course, is what a lot of us are after. It’s the most organically cinematic color science to my eye. But again, really the truth is, I just like the way it looks. Sometimes, that’s enough.
Todd recently published his review of the URSA 12K—The Perfect VFX Camera.
Okay, I should start by saying this post was meant to start a discussion. Yes, Canon and Sony are still making incredible cameras and I’m actually lusting after one right now. I just might make the jump over to Canon, but we’ll get to that in a second.
I have only been using Blackmagic Design Cameras for the past year and half, and I’m about to snag a Fuji X100V for personal photography use because the camera looks truly fun to use (the lens and “film” recipes are the major selling point). Also, someday I dream of being able to use one of the Fuji medium format cameras. Before BMD, I used the Sony Alpha series for event work and small news pack-type of work. But, for consumer-level cameras, it seems as if Fuji and BMD are listening to their clientele in a real way, based on the products they’re subsequently releasing—missing features and hopeful spec requests actually seeming to be met with the next release. Just look at the improvements from the BMPCC 6K to the BMPCC 6K Pro.
What truly matters is everything I’m currently working on and the scale of the projects. Whether it’s personal or freelance, the BMD image, no matter the lens or codec you’re shooting (combined with Resolve’s approachable grading workflow), lends to a phenomenon where I actually feel more in control of the image and, dare I say it, have fun while shooting. Just like Todd said, it’s about how you feel when you look at the image.
Yes, there are certainly shortcomings—like the need for a modular cage with additions like an external monitor and the absolute requirement for a gimbal or tripod, as there’s no stabilization whatsoever—but honestly, I don’t do much handheld work anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Also, I would need an external monitor regardless of the camera, so if the image makes me happy, then why fret over the form factor. Again, this is just my experience. I know several Canon, Sony, ZCAM shooters who produce incredible work, and I’ve had the Canon C70 pulled up on a B&H tab for the past two weeks, as I think that it might fit my current needs for the work I’m doing.
Here’s a video I made for my personal channel, shot on the BMPCC 6K:
So, when I say Fuji and BMD are the only ones making cool cameras, I mean they’re the only companies making cameras I get excited about.
Towards the end of 2020, I needed a new camera for a documentary film and a separate YouTube channel I was starting. The doc was shooting on a Canon C300 and we needed something smaller for tight spaces, run-and-gun, and a camera that was more gimbal-friendly. Given it was during the pandemic, money was tighter than usual, so I looked at both new and used cameras.
Through all of my research, all my choices really narrowed down to the Fujifilm XT-series and the BMPCC cameras. They were better-suited to my needs in both budget and video quality. While having a Sony alpha series would have been amazing, I just couldn’t drop that kind of cash in the middle of the pandemic. In the end, it was between the X-T3 and BMPCC 4K. After crunching numbers and realizing I’d need a new EF lens adapter too, it made more sense to go with the BMPCC 6K since it had an EF mount and we were using Canon glass on the C300. Obviously, months after my purchase, the 6K Pro came out. Classic Blackmagic, always releasing something new after you purchase something from them.
Alright, let me interject with some Canon love. Yes, it’s hard to dismiss the seismic shift Blackmagic has caused with their innovative cameras, superb color science, and handsome price (you can read more about my impressions with the 6K and watch my test reel below).
But, I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re the only company making cool cameras. I think there’s one area that Blackmagic Design doesn’t hit home (at least for me), and that’s the design of the cameras—ironically. I wouldn’t say they’re highly ergonomic. The Pocket series mirrors the design of a DSLR with the sizable protruding grip but, unlike a DSLR, the Pocket cameras are slightly wider, offsetting the center balance point even further. As a result, trying to balance the Pocket cameras on a gimbal is a prolonged nightmare.
Additionally, we really haven’t seen a detour from the initial URSA design since the first iteration of the URSA line. Yes, they’ve become smaller and lighter, but not by a hefty amount. Again, I love the image the cameras produce, and I love the company’s ethos. But, as a solo shooter, as soon as you start to rig up an URSA—whether that’s a 4.6K Mini or a 12K—they become extremely heavy. And, this is where I think Canon has filled that gap and can also be crowned as “cool camera” makers. From the C70 to the C300 III, the camera form factor is small enough to accommodate several shooting styles. As the C1/2/3/500 series is modular, you can build the cameras up to a more extensive and efficient ENG setup, if needed. You can build up with the URSA line, but you can’t strip it to be ultra-light.
I have a gut feeling that Blackmagic’s next camera will bridge this gap. Whether it’s a box design like the KOMODO and ZCAM or more compact like the C300 series, I think they’ll offer a camera within this middle ground that houses the best of Blackmagic, but more form-friendly.
Well, what do you think? Which camera manufacturer are you loyal to? Let us know!
For more on camera gear and accessories, check out these articles:
- The 10 Best Digital Video Cameras for Filmmaking in 2021
- The Best Lavalier Microphones for Video Production
- Forget What You Heard About Canon’s M50 — It’s a Good Camera
- A Quick Guide to Steadicams
- High-Speed Cameras for Indie Filmmakers in 2021
Cover image via Am I A Filmmaker?