Blackmagic Design Talks About B4 Mount URSA Mini – More Significant than it Seems?

Blackmagic Design announced several small updates at IBC. The B4 mount URSA Mini is one update that could be quite significant. Check out our elaborate talk with Simon Westland.

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Blackmagic Design URSA Mini with their new B4 Mount Adapter and an ENG Lens

The B4 Mount is a standard used in broadcast to support ENG lenses on ENG cameras. What is interesting about Blackmagic’s approach with the B4 Mount URSA Mini, is that they built a $295 “adapter” that fits on the Blackmagic URSA Mini PL and powers the lens and connects the electronics via a cable.

You might say: “Oh well, it’s just an adapter”, but hold that thought, there is actually more to it. This “adapter” actually replaces the PL mount as in that you will have to screw it into the camera body.

Furthermore your ENG lens will vignette on that super35mm sensor, so they built a lens element into the adapter that will blow up the image to match the camera’s sensor. It seems like this will only work in HD crop mode though.

The benefit here clearly is that you can get an ENG lens that is unmatched in terms of ergonomics by anything available in the normal “large sensor” lens market. You have a lens that retains the focus throughout the range, has a built in handle and smooth zoom motor, very convenient for action handheld style shooting or broadcast work.

A 4.6K large sensor image with B4 lens ergonomics?

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Blackmagic Design Ursa Mini B4 Mount Adapter

Well there are some possible pitfalls here.

[UPDATE]: It seems as though the B4 adapter will only work with the camera’s HD windowed mode. It is unclear in the press release that only states “The Blackmagic URSA Mini B4 Mount is designed to replace the existing PL lens mount on Blackmagic URSA Mini PL, turning it into a B4 camera for HD.”

Our writer Richard Lackey has hands-on experience with this kind of lenses and raises another good point to think about when it comes to B4 lens quality and the idea to use them in a 4K environment:
“One main consideration in this setup is that most B4 lenses are not designed for and wouldn’t be sharp enough for adequate 4K performance, especially the older ones that many people may buy used. So using HD B4 lenses really only makes sense for HD output, any limit in resolving power of these lenses would be further compounded with the optical enlarger in the adaptor, so the optics in any case would never be capable of producing a good 4K image.”

In their press release Blackmagic Design addresses the quality point saying “The B4 mount also features spherical aberration correction so customers can use their lenses wide open with no blooming effect.”

Another point to mention is that when you optically blow up an image designed for a 2/3 inch sensor you will use light, meaning the lens will becomes slower (less light sensitive).

It remains to be seen how the B4 Mount URSA Mini will fare in a real life shooting environment. We will certainly keep our eyes on this one and test it as soon as we can.

A deal breaker that I should mention is of course that these lenses are very expensive, priced north of anything the camera body and accessories will cost. For people, especially broadcasters who already own B4 lenses the B4 Mount URSA Mini could be a significant announcement.

The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K is starting to be delivered, while we’re still waiting for the release of the URSA Mini 4.6K that is scheduled for the end of October (LINK)

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Kevin Luiz Reply
Kevin Luiz October 6, 2015

Nino, great post! Something to add to this is B4 lenses are journalistic in nature. While the Ursa and Ursa mini offer variant flavors of compression, in the fast turn around world of news gathering the compression would be inadequate for many work stations or 1:1 satellite transfer / FTP. A lot of companies use antiquated technologies as we know based on HD workflow. I experienced this first hand shooting 4K for Swiss TV, then it was brought to my attention of the piping issues, downgraded to HD 100mbs and still had problems getting it through. In short, I’m not sure I totally grasp BMD’s move here since many B4 lenses won’t resolve the image properly, and their codecs are unmanageable for the workflow it is inferring. Thoughts?

Nino Leitner Reply
Nino Leitner October 6, 2015

I agree … a lot of TV stations haven’t even adopted HD yet, so the trajectory of 4K is questionable …

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 7, 2015

I suppose it was worth the extra cost of developing the adapter for them. They might just snatch a small niche market and they seem to be in the process of learning how this whole “camera” thing works and come up with new ideas and products very quickly. Let’s see what’s next.

Jabbar Kallarackal Reply
Jabbar Kallarackal October 7, 2015

I am a proud follower of Cinema 5d. Before you talking big about Blackmagic products kindly check them its working as per the specification they bluffing always. All their products they launch infant stage and we get all the specification after many months. I bought an URSA 6 months back and from the beginning it stop working after few hours of work. It gets hot and get switched off. 3 times they replaced the camera with new ones but the last one also didnt work. Now camera is with them and they saying they are sending another replacement soon. i am fighting with them to refund my money. But they saying they cant. They sell craps by saying big big features. Kindly check before you talk or promote their product

Reply
Johnnie Behiri October 7, 2015

Hi Jabbar Kallarackal.

Let me try and help by bringing your story to the right people at BM. Would you mind summarising your experience and send it to us soon?

Regarding a refund. BM does not sale their cameras directly so it will be useful if you mention whom you bought the camera from. We will not be able to help you with a refund but fellow cameramen/women will know where you got the camera from and choose how to deal with this shop.

Thanks!

Johnnie

David Peterson Reply
David Peterson October 7, 2015

Not going to believe a guy who has so blatantly lied about Blackmagic Design before! We can safely ignore what you’re be saying now about the URSA and your claimed “troubles” with it.

https://vimeo.com/128880166

What I do know: Blackmagic Design is amazing and creating a mini revolution in what they’re bringing out! Long may they continue.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri October 7, 2015

David…

Thanks for letting me know. After checking from your link backward, all I can say, very disturbing!

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Dominic DeSantis October 7, 2015

Any Idea if this adaptor will work with the URSA PL camera. It seems that if the screws are a different spec that it will not. It also seems that they are only chatting about it working with the URSA Mini.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber October 7, 2015

Yes indeed, I also only found info on the URSA Mini regarding this adapter. If it’s not in the press release it’s probably not gonna work.

Reply
Kamto W October 10, 2015

Bit off topic but it would great to get some update regarding the Video Assist. If you are you going to talk to them again soon it would great to have some news about it. I have pre-ordered with CVP months back. And since then it’s been silence from BM.

I really really want to have my hands on it soon! Thanks in advance.

Scott Eason Reply
Scott Eason October 13, 2015

I’m just happy it has the 12-pin connector to power a servo lens and record trigger. I had suggested this to BMD when I found out they dropped their plans for 2/3″ chip and B4 mount. If the adapter isn’t all that, there are at least a few option out there – though only the $6000 Sony FZ adapter will communicate with the lens. For someone like me who has some nice B4 glass, I just can’t stand the idea of giving up the ergonomics that make sports and news doable. So until someone reveals the world’s first 4K+ ENG camera with the dynamic range and depth of field of a Super 35 chip, I will just make due something cobbled together (even if my HD glass isn’t 4K perfect).

Reply
Anthony Burokas November 16, 2015

I started mounting B4 lenses to M43 (large sensor) cameras back in 2011 and published my first article on it in 2012.

http://www.streamingmedia.com/Producer/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/Adapting-Servo-Zoom-Lenses-for-Smooth-Zooming-DSLR-Production-Part-1-80668.aspx

I’ve since upgraded my lenses and my camera and I regularly shoot 4K with my GH4 with B4 lenses. I have numerous videos on my YouTube tech channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/iebacom?sub_confirmation=1

I’m testing my B4 lenses on the JVC LS300, in 4K, with its Super35mm sensor.

I’m SUPER excited about the B4 URSA Mini, but I hope BMD rethink their “windowed” HD-only mode. Let the user make the choice. Because when you use the doubler on a B4 lens, it covers S35. It covers M43. It works. Then, you can downscale the 4K to HD and you end up with higher resolution HD than you would get if you only sample a smaller HD window of the sensor.

I started the B4 on M43 group on Facebook and now, with nearly 2000 members worldwide, it’s clear this is a product with a good market. And it will certainly grow as the B4 URSA Mini looks to be the first large sensor camera with native B4 power, lens communication, rec-start/stop support and more. Not to mention the B4 adapter is just a few hundred- as opposed to Sony’s $5,000 adapter for their F55.

If this works as advertised, this camera looks to be a huge shift in large format acquisition.

 Rodrigo Santos Reply
Rodrigo Santos May 25, 2016

Thinking about the customer repair centre, I would never buy this brand anymore, but I like black magic a lot. The Black magic designs doesn’t help much filmmakers on the field comparing to cine cameras 10 years ago. I believe everyone is coping Red somehow or there is not much real designers available on the market. To be honest It might be the DSLR movement, I don’t know? who has a clue on this subject?

 Rodrigo Santos Reply
Rodrigo Santos May 25, 2016

Sorry I missed the point here! it’s deffinatelly the best product they ever had, with the possibility of using B4 2/3 lenses!!!!