The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera series is a popular one for filmmakers. It’s available at a reasonable price for the capability of the technology, but it does require a bit of modification and thought to get the very best out of it.
SD, CFast or external hard drive? Find out how to get the most storage for your money without compromising on speed or size in this article.
How to Choose and Add Storage to the BMPCC
Each of the Pocket Cinema Camera models – 4k, 6k, 6k Pro – have the same storage options:
- 1 x CFast card slot
- 1 x SD UHS-II card slot
- 1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1expansion port for external media
Whichever storage you choose, make sure you check compatibility on the Blackmagic site. For example, we have a Samsung T5 SSD drive — which I’ll talk more about shortly — and it’s one of the most popular methods of storage for the BMPCC, but the newer version, the T7 isn’t compatible. The recommended storage options are different for each camera (4k, 6k, 6k Pro) so it’s worth bearing that in mind.
SD (Secure Digital) and CFast
Though SD cards have come a long way in terms of storage and speed in balance with price over the last decade, they’re not the most cost-effective option when it comes to storing large video files. UHS-II has really bumped up transfer speeds and so you should have no problem writing even high-quality footage to them, but you’re still looking at paying over £100 for a recommended brand with 512GB of storage.
CFast cards tend to write at higher speeds than SD and faster than their predecessors CF cards. They look very similar to CF cards but they’re actually a fraction thicker and have different connections, so a CF card won’t fit in a CFast slot.
CFasts are reliable storage, they fare well in most temperatures and are pretty solid so you’re not likely to accidentally snap or break one like you might an SD. Comparatively though, they’re very expensive. For 512GB as in the SD example above, taking a recommended brand, it’ll set you back around £500, if not more.
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 Expansion Port
The great thing about having the USB-C option is you can pop an external drive into your BMPCC which gives you a lot more flexibility between speed, price and storage space. One of the most popular options – for the BMPCC 4k – is the Samsung T5 SSD (solid state drive). It’s one of Blackmagic’s recommended storage options and when it comes to storage and price you can see why. You can get 1TB for around £100 which is considerably more GBs for your buck than you get with SD and CFast options.
If you choose to go down an SSD route there are a few things to consider on top of which hard drive you pick:
- Data cable: The data cable might be a weak link between a perfectly good hard drive and your camera. The cable that came with our Samsung T5 didn’t work, but upgrading the cable to one with a faster transfer speed meant the hard drive worked fine.
- Physical size: Unlike card storage, the SDD will stick out from your camera so physical size and shape needs to be considered with however you use the camera.
It’s worth digging into that final point a bit more because not everyone will use their BMPCC in the same way, some will have it primarily on a tripod, some handheld, some with a cage, or a gimbal, and so on.
You might need something extra to secure your SSD, like a mount bracket or a universal holder. Attaching this to your camera will be much easier if you’ve got a cage around your Blackmagic. To avoid common problems like breaking the input/output ports, we leave the SSD plugged in all the time. When transferring data off, it’s left on the camera and we plug into the SSD, so that it isn’t being taken off and put back on all the time.
The storage might seem a little vulnerable when it’s bolted on the outside, unlike the cards tucked away in their slots, but as long as you attach it securely it shouldn’t be anymore vulnerable than the other parts of the camera.
Using a Mix of Storage Options
As with many things, you might decide that a mix of storage is right for you. It might be that if you’re using an SSD you, sensibly, have SD/CFast cards as backups. Or for practical reasons you might want to stick to SD/CFs because you use those across other cameras/devices and it makes sense to be able to flip between them rather than buying something separate.
In the camera settings you can tell your PCC which storage option to use if you have more than one plugged in. For example, we have it set to use whichever has the most storage space, which saved us recently when during an interview. The SSD data cable failed, so the camera then flipped to the next available storage which was an internal card.
If you’re looking for the most for your money while not compromising on write speeds, then a solid-state hard drive is a good choice, but remember to buy two good data cables – one as a spare! Also think about how you’ll securely attach that to your current rig. Include a good backup option that will do in a pinch – if you run out of storage or if something fails – like a mid-price BM recommended SD or CFast card, and you’ll be ready to film with confidence.
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