Price drop! The dramatic fall of a Blackmagic cinema camera, a harbinger of a struggling industry?
Blackmagic Design has been making affordable gear for independent filmmakers since it introduced the much-loved Cinema Camera (BMCC) in 2012. A pocket version soon followed, before the Australian company with a solid history in the manufacture of audiovisual products. and broadcast professionals do. jump on the resolution train. 4K became the norm, even before the release of a 6K camera in the form of the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K.
And then came… 12K.
Yes, Blackmagic was the first, as far as I know at least in terms of a consumer product, to release a camera capable of shooting at 12K resolution. 12K! Did we need it? I’m not so sure. But the industry seems to be looking for a resolution – at least that makes good marketing copy. And Blackmagic had beaten Sony, Canon, Panasonic and even the original 4K resolution innovator in RED Digital Cinema. The right to brag indeed.
But the 12K camera, known as the URSA Mini Pro 12K, had a price tag: $ 9,995.
For those who needed to be able to enter or capture as much detail as possible, this might have seemed good value for money. However, the market seems to have spoken as Blackmagic this week lowered the price by 40%.
According to Newsshooter, you can now buy a 12K for just $ 5,995.
Remember that this is a camera released only in 2020, so it has been on the market for a little over a year.
Considering the chip shortage when the price of most tech products goes up, this one is a bit of a headache.
Here are some quick thoughts.
The market for independent cinema cameras under $ 10,000 is extremely competitive
Want to shoot a short film, documentary or maybe even an independent story for the film festival circuit?
You can always hire. But with so many options under $ 10,000, buying is still an attractive option; especially if you plan to use the camera body for multiple projects over multiple years. In this case, the purchase could make more economic sense.
Either way, as Newsshooter points out at the end of the article announcing the drop in prices, there is heavy competition in this segment, including offerings from Canon, Sony and RED – all companies with more notoriety. wide and stronger than Blackmagic when it comes to television and the film industry. Many of these are / were cheaper than the URSA Mini Pro 12K. For example, you can buy a Canon EOS C70 for $ 5,499 or a Sony FX6 for $ 5,998. Of course, both of these models only shoot in 4K, but for most video projects this turned out to be absolutely more than enough.
And then you have the relatively new RED Komodo, a 6K Redcode shooting camera with the new Canon RF mount with an attractive price tag of $ 5,996 – a real bargain compared to RED’s pricey standards.
So I think in the context of competition Blackmagic is probably struggling to move a lot of 12K bodies for a lot more money. It may also demonstrate that the market places less emphasis on high resolution and instead favors things like better usability, higher frame rates, and businesses with better name recognition (and better reliability).
For most video shooters, including independent filmmakers, and those who create music videos and fashion films among this group, I would be hard pressed to pass up the RED Komodo and its well-established RAW Redcode workflow and high performance.
At the macro level, the cinema camera market is contracting
As the interchangeable lens (DSLR and mirrorless) camera body market slowly succumbs to the ever-changing smartphone camera, I think we are also seeing the cinema camera market shrinking in overall size.
So it’s not just a Blackmagic issue. On the contrary, the camera market is changing. And there’s a lot of short-term pain for many gamers we’ve come to appreciate over the years, including companies like Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and RED.
Most of the reports on the camera market are behind (expensive) payment walls, so I am not aware of this information. From what I can glean from occasional reports from Japan or various analysts, however, we have seen declining sales and growth over the past few years. Not much of a surprise. Apple is devoting a fortune to R&D and marketing to develop the film skills of its iPhone. I think CEO Tim Cook has managed to establish it as a viable option on some productions to date.
A recent report (again behind a pay wall) predicts that the global camera accessories market will slow to a CAGR of 5% over the next four years. Just a data point, of course, but one that reveals less demand in an adjacent category.
Then there is the pandemic …
To make matters worse, of course we are living under COVID. As Hollywood, Netflix, Amazon, and HBO, among others, continue to release content, I think things got more difficult later.
Weddings have been repeatedly postponed. And that’s a huge segment for camera makers.
Small independent film projects have also been delayed or canceled entirely.
While shooting at the best of times is already difficult for most of us, adding the cost of security measures due to the pandemic and bolstering the sets with additional measures means one thing: higher costs. Also, when everything takes longer, budgets have to increase. This phenomenon, in my opinion, at least temporarily compensates for small productions. Only well-healed studios can weather the storm so to speak.
Where to go next?
A Blackmagic price drop is just a data point. Yes. Still, put it next to a string of events over the past two or three years and it’s not hard to see that the cinema camera market is in the throes of a shake-up. Camera performance that cost tens of thousands of dollars can be had for much less. Plus, there’s almost no sacrifice in terms of features or performance. The trap ? I don’t think there is one. Technology is improving and sensors are giving us everything we need – creativity and execution are really the hurdles of our time.
With this I predict consolidation.
At the end of the day, the pie isn’t big enough for all players to survive in the long run.
Another prediction and trend likely to continue, and which takes off orthogonally to the spectacular fall in Blackmagic prices: we will in fact see the continuation of the establishment’s move upmarket (Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon).
Hence: full format.
Why all high frame models these days? Because there is a perceived value among buyers that the full frame is better than the Super 35. This is wrong in my opinion – or, at best, misinterpreted. But the marketers did a good job selling the full frame fantasy. So they can charge more, because full frame sensors are bigger and more worthy of the lust. Granted, this is a smart move, as it puts camera makers in the price chain, away from the theatrical smartphone that encroaches on around $ 1,200 and its computer photography jujitsu.
Another thought of farewell.
Could we see creative, out-of-the-box licensing agreements emerge?
Companies like Apple and RED could potentially license their technology to others. Or maybe, one way or another, Canon and Sony could in turn allow Apple to embed an iPhone as a “brain” in a camera body. This way, you will get the best software features that iPhone brings together with the proven body of a mirrorless camera, with its interchangeable lens options, long battery life and flexible storage options. A bit of a wild scenario, I agree. Same idiot. But something must be given so that the market ends up completely branching off: cinema smartphone at the entry level, and a dedicated cinema camera (Arri, RED) at the top of the range.
As the industry returns after the pandemic, I know this: We are very much spoiled. High performance cinema cameras have never been so affordable. Now it’s up to us to go out and run.
Ah: one last thing.
Remember the saying “go with your camera, hug your goals”? Something to keep in mind. You could burn yourself out on resale as technology evolves rapidly.