Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K

Is the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K all it’s cracked up to be? Trying to source a sub £10,000 Cinema Camera set-up to bolt on to existing equipment is frankly a tiresome process and well worth a review of its own… Which you will find right HERE.  At Lee Blanchflower Limited, we’ve been shooting Commercial Video Production for a few years, primarily on DSLR and occasionally collaborating with a Sony FS5 on some slightly more cinematic productions. f you’re not careful you can haemorrhage money on equipment that you’ll never use again and reviews are all very well providing they’re genuine and the reviewers aren’t getting tasty kickbacks to promote the products, which we all know happens all too often these days. Recently, we made an exciting decision to ditch our current DSLR  and Atomos Ninja Flame and really up our game with the purchase of a new 35mm Cinema Camera.

Footage Shot with Sony FS5

The Funeral from Blanc Creative on Vimeo.

There’s a huge range of products available on the market from the ridiculously cheap through to professional production company Equipment that is way out of the budget range for the likes of a small Limited Company. So we decided to look at a few options that could work starting with the Blackmagicc URSA Mini Pro 4.6K. On paper, it looks awesome and took us by surprise not only from the perspective of the redesigned body, compact-ish nature and as a complete shooting system that can deliver 4.6K footage. It really stood out as an authorised Netflix Camera and at a fraction of the price of other competitors, we wanted to know more about what makes the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K such a potentially desirable piece of film equipment, and warts and all downside.

 

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K

I have to say that the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K has evolved since the original beast of the full sized Ursa Cinema Camera hit the market. At the NAB Show in April 2014, Blackmagic Design announced the URSA digital movie camera, which was the first movie camera to be user-upgradeable for additional equipment with the swappable sensor and a strong selling point as a ‘future proof’ camera. Fast forward three years to March 2017 and The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro, the most recent variant of the URSA camera. The superhero little brother resembles virtually no cosmetic likeness to the original Ursa Cinema Camera. The Mini Pro features a new internal neutral density wheel, which is a brilliant addition. It offers shoulder-accessible controls, and a much more discreet 4″ touchscreen but only comes in 4.6K. The camera can record onto SSD and SD Card, That’s not a bad thing though is it? Stepping up from the lower 4K version of the Ursa mini and offering 120 Frames per second recording in 2K mode, The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K will cover the needs of most commercial video shoots, that clients request.

The Mini Pro is a full on ‘Professional digital film camera’ but strictly speaking, only if it’s being used in decent light conditions. The first downside is that actually… it’s role is actually far far better in the studio, where decent lighting is available and traditional broadcast camera springs more to mind! It’s a two for one deal suitable for news gathering and Cinematic productions, but only if your cinema isn’t a naturally lit, low light production.

 

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K – The Sensor

The Mini Pro has a fairly decent  Super-35mm CMOS sensor. As we’ve already mentioned, it shoots up to 4.6K resolution with a really good 4,608 x 2,592 at up to 60fps. From a perspective of image quality, the URSA Mini Pro bangs out a stunning resolution and dynamic range, that goes way above traditional picture film. With 4608 x 2592 pixels, the image is considerably greater than that of full DCI 4K, opening up a fair range of possibilities. possibilities, with its 15 stops of dynamic range. Gone of the days of crying into your lens every time you shot a scene in brilliant sunshine and manually fitting ND Filters. The camera has what’s known as an active refrigeration system. In layperson terms, it strips out as much noise as possible for the dynamic range and §get incredibly clean pictures with amazing detail in both the dark shadows and bright highlight areas. You can also choose the lower cost URSA Mini 4K model with 12 stops of dynamic range when you don’t need the performance and are on a tighter budget. The Mini Pro Sgoot the following formats

4608 x 2592

  • Uncompressed CinemaDNG Raw – 513MB/s
  • CinemaDNG Raw 3:1 – 180 MB/s
  • CinemaDNG Raw 4:1 – 135 MB/s

3840 x 2160:

  • Apple ProRes 444 XQ – 312.5 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 444 – 165 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 422 HQ – 110 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 422 – 73.6 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 422 LT – 51 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes Proxy – 22.4 MB/s

1920 x 1080:

  • Apple ProRes 444 XQ – 62.5 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 444 – 41.25 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 422 HQ – 27.5 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 422 – 18.4 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes 422 LT – 12.75 MB/s
  • Apple ProRes Proxy – 5.6 MB/s

Storage Media

The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K either records in 12-bit CinemaDNG or in ProRes up to 444 QT. The camera records onto either super expensive CFast 2.0 or more realistically priced media, the faithful  SD cards. There’s something I just don’t trust about C-FAst which stems from years of corrupted CF Cards while shooting Still Photography. I think that I have developed a phobia of anything that resembles a CF Card. The SD slots won’t actually record full 4.6K footage, but if you want to downscale and shoot purely pro-res on some projects, then the SD cards work perfectly fine. Footage will auto transfer from one card to the next once they are full. Shooting 4.6K DNG RAW requires, you’re going to eat over  30GB a minute so you’re talking heavy numbers at 2000GB an hour. Even shooting  ProRes 422 HQ at 30p in 4K is going to take around 350GB for an hour of shooting.

For me personally, adding a high capacity SSD recorder to your camera for longer shoot times! The backplate adapter allows you to record directly onto Mini SSD which is a real bonus, especially already being in possession of inexpensive 2.5 inch SSD media from using the Atomos Ninja Flame. It connects with a 6G-SDI data link. It’s pretty seamless because it’s all sorted in-camera so unlike the Atomos recorders, where you have to physically control the camera from the recorder screen. This makes a lot of sense and also allows for the SSD’s to be attached using a Multi Dock system to a computer. What the URSA Mini Pro does have on its side is the ability to records up to 12-bit CinemaDNG RAW, something that virtually no other camera in this price spectrum can achieve.

ND Filters

The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K finally took the missing link from its predecessor and added some built-in ND filters. TheMini Pro 4.6K now has three built-in ND Filters that work like may other cinema cameras, switching on a rotator wheel inside the camera body. This is not like the digital Filters found on the Sony FS5 which in my opinion, just seem much more versatile and less clunky.  Filters are set at at 2, 4 and 6 stops. The ND Filters aren’t explained as you expect, but are numberered instaead with 1,2,3,4. This is an annoying niggle but doesn’t impact on functionality.

Lens Mounts

There are basically three options depending on your glass and preference and lenses that you already own. There’a premium for going for the F or PL Mounts, but with PL, you will obviously have a super secure lens with a mount that wraps around the lens. As a Canon EF user, we’ve simply come to terms with the fact that no matter how tight you think your lens is mounted, there will always (and I mean always) have some movement when shooting with EF lenses. The tradeoff is that your EF lenses are far cheaper and you may be very well put off shelling out the same price on a PL lens as you have your camera body. This is, after all, a blog about a sub £10,000 set-up.

 

Batteries

The Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6k camera doesn’t come with a battery and there is no internal battery. The URSA Mini Pro uses a standard 4 pin broadcast power connector that is compatible with most 12V – 30V power supplies. It offers options for on location or mobile shooting you can add a battery plate for using third party batteries from companies such as IDX, Anton Bauer and more. I’m always a little bit disappointed when you buy a piece of technology and instantly have to purchase additional kit before you can actually turn it on, however, this means you’re able to utilise your existing bank of batteries, reducing at least some of the need to spend more money if you already use a battery system that you are comfortable with.

Power Connectors Inputs: 1 x 4-pin XLR input for external power supply / 12-pin molex connector on battery plate. Mounting holes present for V-mount / Gold
Weight: 2.3 kg

 

 

It really depends on primary usage. If you’re planning to regularly shoulder mount the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6Kyou may want to consider the option of mounting two batteries on the backend to help balance the camera if you use heavier lenses and a matte box for example. There are some that allow you to piggyback two batteries when you need more power or more weight. More power is nice compared to adding a deadweight since it will allow you to double your runtime. So that might be a factor in which battery you choose. Usually one tries to minimize weight on your shoulder, but if you need it to maintain a proper balance, adding weight will lighten the load on your arms trying to hold a poorly balanced rig. The bad balance will leave your arms aching in a few minutes. Good balance is essential.

Monitor

There’s no Monitor with the Mini Pro apart from a 4 inch so that’s another expensive addition but you’re going to struggle without a decent monitor. It makes so much difference to your shots. The Blackmagic Video Assist is an affordable option particularly if a 4K screen doesn’t warrant you spending double the money. It adds professional monitoring and high-quality recording to any camera. Its large 5” full resolution HD screen ensures perfect focus and framing, while touchscreen functionality allows settings, histogram, audio meters, timecode display and more. The professional ProRes and DNxHD recorder uses high-speed SD cards (not included) and saves files compatible with modern NLE software. SDI and HDMI inputs mean you can connect to any video camera or DSLR, and there are two slots for dual LP-E6 batteries (not included). Also available in a 7″ version with HD and Ultra HD recording which in my mind is worth the extra. Having been used to shooting with Atomos 7 inch screens, which I personally love, you will notice a difference downgrading to a 5inch cheaper screen.

 

Blackmagic Video Assist

  • 5” full resolution HD touchscreen monitor
  • Add professional monitoring and high quality recording to any camera
  • SDI and HDMI inputs
  • Ensures perfect focus and framing
  • Professional ProRes and DNxHD recorder
  • 1 x UHS-1 SD slot (card not included)
  • Takes dual LP-E6 batteries (not included)

 

Workflow

Finally, we’re going to take a quick gander at workflow options. The CinemaDNG uncompressed has a data rate of 4.1 Gbps so you will need to opt for CFast Cards as opposed to SD Cards. Shooting higher spec on the SD will not be a good move and you’re asking for trouble. This crazes me. CFast Cards running at £300+ for a 256GB capable of holding only 30 minutes of footage is ridiculous. There are rumours across the whole of the web at the moment, that CFast is actually on their way out of the market. People simply aren’t using them. Why.. Because of the cost! The CFast cards can perform data transfers at a speed of about 600 MB/s… Agreed.  This makes them ideal for 4K… Agreed.  But RAW recording into an SSD is a far far better option (in my opinion)

For those who can use RAW in their workflow process, you’re going to struggle to playback your daily rushes because you can’t record proxies at the same time.. Even though there’s an SD CArd slot onboard as well as CFast slots. You might think about buying the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini SSD Recorder but it’s not going to help you. You can record Prores (NOT RAW, which is what we are talking about here) but this means you’ll have to purchase the Video Assist we spoke of above in this thread.

60fps 4.6K does look amazing at 24fps but and you can shoot at 120fps in 2K DCI however if slo-mo is your thing, then the FS5 4K into an inferno is an awesome option.

Overall Opinion of The Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K

For a camera that packs some awesome technology, it does seem to show more high-frequency artefacts and moiré than expected in one of the latest models of camera. Combined with a lack of (OLPF) an optical low pass filter (OLPF) in the Ursa Mini Pro which users should be aware of. In reality, this just means that operators need to be aware of potentially high detailed scenes where big patterns, stripey fabrics, and heavy checkered patterning could cause problems. It goes hand in hand with my earlier comments that the camera that low light shooting needs to be filled with some form of lighting. The Ursa has actually been hailed as a Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro – The world’s first digital film camera with professional broadcast camera features and controls!

Indie shooters working on limited productions may very well struggle and the low light capabilities are the underlying factor for my own working style. The fact that Blackmagic builds specific studio monitors as an addition to the unit kind of re-enforces my own views that the system is definitely geared more to studio/broadcast / good light scenarios. (Along with the fact that it’s really too heavy to mount on a Ronin MX, this also is a downside for myself.)  The other factors are lack of accessories. There’s no mic mount on this unit so you’re going to have to shell out on this.Cameras always look great on paper but with the cost of cine equipment being about 10 times that of still photography, nothing you buy is likely to be inexpensive. For many cinematographers, the Ursa will be a great product and packs a heck of a lot for the price.

To find a full list of Stockists and for full spec and accessories, visit the Blackmagic website.

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