Brief review: Blackmagic Design Ursa Mini 4.6K camera
This camera has a beautiful picture quality, and I’m extremely pleased with it.
The wait has been long, with the camera arriving just a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of when it was announced at NAB 2015, and that year of waiting has been frustrating. The camera has been well worth the wait, however. I’ve had it for about three weeks and have logged around 20-25 hours of filming with it. Here’s my brief response:
Picture Quality: 10/10 Just beautiful color rendition, dynamic range, skin tones, etc…. Love it. I’ve seen forum posts online about magenta casts, but mine has no such issues. I’m not sure if those are due to user error or manufacturing defects, but my camera looks great. It is great to have options to shoot in uncompressed raw, 3:1 compressed raw, 4:! compressed raw, and various versions of the ProRes codec. When shooting in the film color profile, ProRes seems to have the same amount of latitude and dynamic range as the camera has when shooting raw. The main differences that raw brings you include the ability to flawlessly adjust white balance in Resolve (worth its weight in gold in certain situations), and slightly higher picture quality. ISO 1600 is relatively clean, and doesn’t have anywhere near as much noise as ISO 800 on the older 4K sensor. That’s a huge relief for documentary-style shooting or creative situations that involve less light. ISO 800 appears to be the native ISO, and it’s extremely clean and beautiful.
Build Quality and Ergonomics: 8/10 The design and feel are fantastic. The camera is light for its size, and I love the SDI and XLR ports (including phantom power). The screen doesn’t flip around to face the talent (a good option in some limited circumstances), and I wish it did that. There are a few minor little ergonomics that seem strange when compared to Sony, Red and Panasonic cameras, but no major issues that are deal-breakers for me. I love having V-mount batteries on it (you need to purchase the plate separately for $95, and installing it is a little more involved than some might expect, but not bad).
Reliability: 10/10 So far, no problems. I’ll update this post if that changes. CFast cards are working great!
Audio: 8/10 The built-in preamp seems to have a relatively low noise floor. At 100% gain there is a little hiss, but between 70-80% gain the audio is very clean. If you want the highest-quality audio, use an external field recorder that can record at higher bitrates and sample rates, but the Rode NTG2 and Sennheiser ew 100 G3 kit that I have been using work great with this setup, and have worked well for web content and TV rushes.
Frame rates: 7/10 It’s nice to be able to shoot 4.6k/60fps. It’s also awesome to be able to select any frame rate between 1-120, though it can be tedious to hold down the button and watch those numbers scroll through. I love the creative option that the full range offers, though, and am happy it’s there (much like the Red system). The camera can only record 120fps at 1080p in windowed mode, and some of my colleagues have had some trouble finding out how to set that up in the menu system. Once you figure it out, it’s easy enough to understand, but it’s not 100% intuitive to everyone (it took me two minutes of fussing around before I understood how it works; in that aspect it’s not too different from how Red cameras are configured, which helps on set).
Post workflow: 8/10 Resolve is a joy to work with, once you learn it. The 4:1 raw workflow is fantastic, and doesn’t take up much more disk space than some of the ProRes options. What a great way to have both worlds! I do love that the camera shoots straight to ProRes if required.
That’s about all that comes to mind right now! I’ll update this review if anything major comes up. For now, I’m extremely happy to be putting this camera through the paces and discover what it’s worth!
Here’s a brief YouTube playlist of some of my test footage, filmed during the first few days after the camera arrived.