I have owned both the Blackmagic pocket cinema camera 4K and the Arri Amira for over a year now. I have been using the pocket 4K as a B camera to the Amira, and have found they work well together.
While I could talk about differences in physical size or ergonomics of shooting in regards to these cameras, I wanted to focus more on image quality as it is a far more important factor to me as a filmmaker. Obviously, these cameras are priced in incredibly different markets, and a lot of people do think the difference is minimal, but we must also remember that the Pocket 4K was released almost 4 years after the Amira, and has a true 4K sensor.
While the Pocket 4K claims to have around 13 stops of dynamic range, the Amira is looking at more like 14 stops, For me, the major difference between these cameras in relation to dynamic range is in the camera’s highlight roll off. The Arri sensor seems to have a more organic roll off in the overexposed areas then the Pocket 4k, but this is to be expected on a camera which is far more expensive. For me, highlight roll off is essential in making a camera look more organic, and similar to the cinematic film stocks we are used to. While roll off can be added through grading in post, it is never the same as the way the Amira rolls off the highlights.
I shot this wedding last year with an Amira for the opening scenes, and the Pocket 4K for the ceremony scenes. While the lenses and setup was different on the cameras, I used a Black Satin 1 filter on the Pocket 4K in order to soften the image and match it more towards the Amira. The Black Satin 1 filter naturally helps with rolling off the highlights, and brought the look far closer to the Amira in its pastel quality. Overall, I was impressed by the 4K’s image, and found it definitely effective, particularly when shooting in 100FPS.
One of the main differences is the Pocket 4K’s micro 4 thirds sensor in comparison to the Amira’s Super 35 Sensor. Even with a speed booster, the Pocket 4K isn’t the same in terms of depth of field as the Amira.
In terms of colour rendition, I have found the Pocket 4K doesn’t quite handle skin tones in the same organic way as the Amira’s sensor. While the Pocket can look quite good if all of the setting are correctly setup. It takes a few stages in colour grading to make the skin tones far more naturalistic. The Amira, seems to have a far more natural rendering of colour, and it just takes the standard rec709 LUT to make the colours look amazing.
When it comes to colour, I found that the older, 4.6k sensor is more organic than the Pocket 4K, but this is to be expected from cameras at a different price point. When it comes to lowlight, despite the 4.6K’s dual ISO, I have found the cameras abilities quite similar. The Amira sensor has so much flexibility in its codec, that grading up from lowlight is still manageable, whereas the pocket always requires some thoughtful grading in an underexposed setting. That being said, I wouldn’t consider either a lowlight winner, but certainly not terrible either.
After using both cameras for so long, I still am always blown away when I shoot with the Amira. The way it handles colour and exposure is so organic and easy, it makes shooting so rewarding. It’s the small things that matter to me, and I do believe that the Pocket 4K is a camera worth investing in, since it can hold up against other high cameras.