Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro Review – Hands-On Video

Here’s my hands-on URSA Mini Pro Review – the newly released ENG / Digital Film / Streaming crossover camera from Blackmagic Design. But what have Blackmagic Design improved?

Blackmagic Design just released a new camera – and to be very honest, in the past, these words caused a lot of excitement and doubt at the same time. On the one hand, Blackmagic really managed to shake up the camera industry by packing a lot of pro features like, for example, raw recording into their earliest cameras. With their raw support, they enabled low budget filmmakers to produce high-end quality previously only available from much more expensive cameras. On the other hand, until not so long ago, Blackmagic upset a lot of people by announcing too many cameras at the same time, not meeting their delivery dates or facing sensor issues with some of their cameras.

(If you are interested in what the footage from the URSA Mini Pro looks like and you want to hear my colleague and friend Johnnie Behiri’s thoughts on the camera after using it, head over to his review!)

Blackmagic Design learned their lessons

I think it is safe to say that Blackmagic Design have now learned from their mistakes. In the past year, they have started to announce products only when they are already available, and have succeeded in stopping any significant leaks about their new products.

The Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K and the new URSA Mini Pro side-by-side.

A Definitive Second Generation Camera

And here it is, the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro. It was only just announced, but was already shipping right after its introduction.

It’s quite clear that this is a definitive second generation camera that offers huge usability improvements over the original URSA Mini 4.6K. Because it is the same sensor and optical performance is expected to be the same or similar, am focusing instead on the hands-on aspects of the camera in this review.

Almost the same, but strikingly different: The URSA Mini Pro can take up to 4 different interchangeable mounts.

Improvements and Differences to the URSA Mini 4.6K

While with the original URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K you had to buy separate EF and PL versions, the PRO offers an interchangeable mount between EF, PL, B4 and Nikon, making this camera adaptable to almost any lens on the market.

When compared side-by-side, the first thing to notice is the same-sized body. The new URSA Mini Pro is around 300 grams heavier according to our measurements, though. It’s not a super light camera, but I actually like it for this form factor, because it’s very evenly balanced and sits nicely on the shoulder.

Weight Differences between the URSA Mini 4.6K (below) and URSA Mini Pro (above).

What’s also new is the greatly reduced start-up time between the two generations of the camera. It was around 10 seconds for the URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K, and it’s now only around 5 seconds – something that makes a difference in everyday shooting scenarios.

Startup time on the URSA Mini 4.6K

Startup time on the URSA Mini Pro

ENG-style New Features Improve Versatility

Logically layout of ENG-style buttons on the URSA Mini Pro.

As you can see, the outside of this new camera has changed significantly. Blackmagic have moved away from functional minimalism to providing many custom buttons for all kinds of functions, much like we have been used to from other cameras for many years now, particularly those in a broadcast-type form factor. This means less digging into menus and faster access to the functionality you constantly require. Immediate access to Iris, ISO, Shutter, White Balance, High Frame Rate recording, Audio settings and customisable buttons makes the URSA Mini Pro a valid ENG camera in addition to its “digital film” applications. There is now an easily-accessible wheel to adjust either the headphone volume or the aperture of the iris. Unfortunately, the audio knobs are still “infinite” and don’t have hard stops, which means that you will always have to look at the screen in order to see where your audio levels are – but the external display makes monitoring audio much easier.

Finally: ND Filters Built-in

In my opinion, one of the biggest shortcomings of the original URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K was the lack of built-in ND filters. This is something that’s essential in the ENG world, and considering that it was designed in this form factor, many people including myself were surprised that NDs were missing. Not any more, though – Blackmagic Design have added three steps of switchable, built-in ND to the URSA Mini Pro, at 2, 4 and 6 stops. It’s a rotating filter wheel just like the ones found on other similarly-sized cameras, such as the Sony FS7. There is just one minor design fault: the filter wheel shows the labels 1-2-3-4, with the filter enabled from setting 2 onwards. in my opinion, Blackmagic should have chosen the word “clear” instead of 1 for the sake of clarity. However, they do provide a printed explanation on the side of the camera for this. The filters work just fine and we couldn’t see any significant colour shift when using them on a quick test outside.

Smaller Screen, Smart Idea

The screen has shrunk. It’s now 4 inches across, which practically makes much more sense as a built-in screen rather than the 5-inch found in the original URSA Mini. Functions that you don’t constantly need to access have now been moved to the inside of the screen – specifically audio settings like XLR phantom power or playback functions.

URSA Mini 4.6K next to the URSA Mini Pro, both with opened screen

One small downside of the monitor: It still cannot be rotated 180 degrees like on many other cameras, which means you can’t do a “selfie” shoot or have the screen facing the side of your camera. Also, at some angles, it can block the small adjustment wheel that controls the iris. These are all minor issues, though.

Screen size comparison between the two URSA Minis – with the new URSA Mini Pro on the right-hand side.

Optional URSA Mini Viewfinder

If you want to use this camera on the shoulder, I recommend getting the optional URSA Mini viewfinder, which offers a really high quality 1080p image, and has its own focus magnification and peaking controls. Be aware that peaking in the viewfinder also outlines the screen overlays it receives from the camera, which can be a bit distracting.

Intuitive: The Operating System and Menu Structure

The operating system found on the URSA Mini Pro is where Blackmagic demonstrates its knowledge as a company that has a lot of experience in software and interface design. First of all, the touch screen is super responsive, and while I am not a big fan of touch screens on cameras, I can really see this work just fine for most productions because of its speed and sensitivity.

The layout of all the menu items and settings is very logical – this is something that many Japanese camera manufacturers traditionally struggle with. If you have ever looked for a specific function that you don’t need every day on a Sony camera, you know exactly what I am talking about. All that is much easier here – there are virtual touch buttons and sliders that use the available screen real estate effectively, and everything feels very self-explanatory. The only other camera menu as straightforward as this is probably the Arri Alexa, with RED cameras coming in as a close second.

The URSA Mini Pro features an outside display with several brightness settings that shows the most important camera settings even when you have the screen closed. A very convenient feature, they clearly took note from other manufacturers who have built this into their cameras in the past.

New outside display on the URSA Mini Pro.

Recording: Now with SD Cards Next to CFast Cards

Let’s move on to recording. The URSA Mini Pro features two CFast Card slots and now also dual UHS-II SD card slots. That means if you are not recording something data intensive, you can opt to record onto much less expensive SD and UHS-II cards, which are inexpensive, commonly available, and perfect for recording ProRes Ultra HD files or RAW HD files. And yes, the URSA Mini Pro records up to 12-bit CinemaDNG RAW, something that still no other camera in this price range can do. It also records up to ProRes XQ and all other flavours of ProRes.

SD card slots now next to the CFast card slots.

That’s it for the first-look review of the new Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro! Stay tuned for more about this camera from us at cinema5D as we get to know it better.

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Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro İncelemesi | Kiralık Kamera ve Film Ekipmanları | KameraSekiz.comDan MyrickDavid Odellkaleng kalpikoPalmer Woodrow Recent comment authors
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Ben J
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Ben J

Thanks Nino. On their forum, BMD said the preamps are new and pulled from the Video Assist 4K. I’d love to hear your views on input gain – the original 4.6k didn’t have much available. Maybe even some audio tests? Looking forward to the next instalment.

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

Good overview.

Now let’s see some image-quality results at various light levels!

Brent Buntyn
Guest

Looks like a Fisher Price toy

 Adam Richman
Member
Adam Richman

Wish there was some more actual content in this video. Almost 0 information that couldn’t be discerned from the BM website or their own video. Only thing I learned was that the audio controls spin indefinitely and that it boots up faster. Le sigh.

Johnnie Behiri
Admin

Hi Adam Richman.

As we said and wrote, the sensor is the same so in this review we did not emphasize the visual impact of the camera.

If you have anything specific to ask, please do and we will do our best to answer.

Thank you.

Johnnie

 Adam Richman
Member
Adam Richman

I mean really I just want the sensor to be better, can we make that happen? Higher base ISO, better blacks, less noise.

Hmm. Well, how about SD cards? No 4K at all with them? Only CFAST? 2K max?

Johnnie Behiri
Admin

Hi Adam.

We are on the same page here…

Will double check the SD cards functionality later today and come back to you with an answer. For now, HD only.

Thank you.

Johnnie

 Adam Richman
Member
Adam Richman

Really my disappointment in this article is more a disappointment in the camera itself staying 2 years behind in terms of sensor technology. You guys are doing a fine job.

Ben J
Member
Ben J

I don’t think the sensor technology has been an issue for people. In many conditions, the sensor is producing a stunning image, used alongside high-end cinema cameras on big productions, although I agree that 1600 ISO is limiting compared some other cameras. The main issues have been artefacts from the sensor in certain conditions and ergonomics. The ergonomics have been addressed; now let’s see how stable the image is.

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

HD only? That doesn’t correspond to any reports so far. You’re supposed to be able to record up to UHD ProRes 422 on SD. Is that not true?

So far nobody from BMD will explain why they don’t put the SDs into a RAID configuration for higher-bitrate recording.

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

Hello? STILL nobody knows what you can record to SD cards?

Jamie LeJeune
Member
Jamie LeJeune

Same sensor, but there is different language on BMD’s product page for the pro regarding the image processing that is contrasts with the original Ursa Mini. From the Ursa Mini Pro product page:
“The built in active refrigeration ensures maximum dynamic range and low noise so you get incredibly clean pictures with amazing detail in both the dark shadows and bright highlight areas.”
I think that calls for a test and comparison of the 4.6K image from the original Ursa Mini versus the Ursa Mini Pro.

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

Good point.

Myles Thompson
Member

I guess the challenge with tech news is that forums are always way ahead of the media outlets like c5d – unless the reviewers get their hands on the tools way before generic questions are answered, or have a very specific focus/analysis e.g. ‘audio features’ on the Ursa Pro – which doesn’t appear to be the case here. So why write an article rehashing generic information? To summarise? Hmm. To start a discussion? Sounds good. Problem is – I think the community has moved elsewhere. I think the above article serves as sort of advert so that cinema5d can point… Read more »

Adam Stephens
Guest

Stephens Tom

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

That’s not a comment. Did you have something to say?

Boje Ploeg
Guest

Still no 180 degree rotation?? Other than that: koponnn!

Luuk de Kok
Guest

Ja toch?! lekkor kopon!

 Alex Jenny
Member
Alex Jenny

hi nino. will use it as a eng camera with 2/3´´ lense, but looking for a 4k lense aswell…. which lense is on in this review?

 Terry Thomas
Member
Terry Thomas

How can anyone ever purchase a camera with so many horrid reviews (like on the B & H site?) Or, on rental sites that state that this camera should not be rented for “professional use.” With due respect to those film makers who need income from their reviews, I cannot fathom their concepts like: “Well, the discoloration inherent in the sensor is mostly gone and can easily be corrected in post…” Personally, I don’t want to “correct” f**ked up color in “post.” Lastly, I don’t get why Canon, Sony & Arri have lots of ISO settings. BM’s have “native” ISO… Read more »

Ben J
Member
Ben J

Hi Terry. I know what you mean, but the risk-takers have often been rewarded with easily the best image for the money. Others wait and watch, which isn’t a bad approach with any new tech. Those needing risk free cameras will certainly look elsewhere, but BMD are learning and getting things sorted (as Red did). The consensus from those actually using the UM4.6k is that trouble-free copies can be found, especially later models. So maybe BMD have solved the sensor problem with this version? Let’s see. All cameras have a ‘native’ ISO and digital cinema-style cameras are usually rated around… Read more »

Member

Have you not seen the camera tests on YouTube? For 5K you’ll be rivaling cameras that cost more than 10 times as much.

If you don’t think 4.6K, 12bit, CinemaDNG RAW is not ‘professional quality’ video, then I find it hard to imagine what would suffice.

Ben J
Member
Ben J

I can understand the confusion. Those coming from a cinema perspective are bowled-over by the potential. Those used to an ENG video camera (perhaps like Terry, above?) are left cold. Maybe this camera will bring those two groups together?

Member
Jacob Fenn

The pity to me is still the lack of a simultaneous proxy recording workflow. To have 4 media bays but not be able to record proxies alongside the raw material seems so strange.

Member

This a can agree with. I’m surprised at the lack of proxy. Seems like a firmware update could solve this since the recording bays are now there. (Wouldn’t hurt to have an HDMI out either).

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

It may be a matter of processing power and I/O throughput.

Remember that to create proxies, you have to downscale and compress every frame before writing it to the card. There’s a lot of other work going on in the camera.

We also don’t know what the total throughput of the I/O bus is. It may be fully saturated just recording the single stream.

The continued lack of HDMI is very annoying, however. Even Red has HDMI out, and they determined from camera logs that it’s used quite a bit by their customers.

Member
Jacob Fenn

Good points Palmer. The other thing Red has a major advantage with is built-in WiFi. I was leaning away from Red for awhile, but the size, weight and built-in WiFi of the newer DSMC2 bodies makes it hard to shoot on anything else. After adjusting every camera setting, start stop record, and even pulling focus from your phone it’s just too hard to go back. It’s convenience things like this that make me rent Red for higher budgeted shoots where the production features and post workflow make for a significantly smoother experience. I love that the custom curves I create… Read more »

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

Red’s annoying limitations are the lack of full-resolution ProRes recording (it only goes up to 2K, WTF) and the vastly overpriced media. CFast is bad enough, but Red media is ridiculous and you need a proprietary reader for it as well.

Member

Any Atomos or BM video assist can record video from the SDI out while at the same time, the camera is laying dow RAW to the CF cards, so the simultaneous conversion is already being done. It’s simply a matter of simultaneous recording. I’m no engineer, but it seems doable considering the bandwidth the above two must take.

Member
Jacob Fenn

And with the Atomos (and maybe even the BM assist?) how to keep file and or reel names the same? Again, this works well with Red which actually has a communication bridge with the Atomos where the filename of the proxies matches the camera, but how to reconform in post when your CFast Ursa Mini Pro raw CDNGs only share timecode (at best) with the externally recorded proxies?

Member

You can always do that on ingest on set. Resolve at least lets you easily task that out as you’re cloning drives.

Member
Jacob Fenn

Yes, there are a myriad of ways of creating proxies after the footage is shot. I just really wish it were a step that could happen in-camera rather than reading a CF mag and cloning and creating proxies all at the same time. Would be much more convenient to simply pop in an SD card to a laptop, have drastically reduced copy times, edit the entire thing and not have to touch the original CF card mag again until you’re ready to pull only the raw clips needed for conform. I had a very frightening experience once with copying raw… Read more »

Member

Jacob, Completely hear what you’re saying. My preferred route however, is to still have an off-board recorder that is outside of the CF/camera recording chain. If we can get the Ursa metadata talking to the likes of Atomos and/or BM video assist, I’d rather use one of these options as a “safety” that I know at least I’m getting a 10bit, ProRes HQ “proxy” stream out independently on a fat SSD drive that can last all day long (in the case of Atomos), just in case a CF card bites the dust. Nine times out of ten, I’ve got a… Read more »

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

External recorders are doing a bunch of the work that would have to be done in-camera, so that’s not a valid comparison. The external recorder is doing the work of compressing the frames and writing them to storage.

Alejandro Rivera
Guest

Magenta cast?

Member
Jacob Fenn

comment image

Member
T F

^ A+ comment here ^

cinema5D
Guest

We didn’t focus on sensor tests in this review. But after a quick look, we think it’s still there – it’s the same sensor after all.

Clayton Burkhart
Member

Hi guys,
The real issue remains whether or not there are magenta and FPN issues. No point in added functionality if there are still image issues. Can you look into this again ? It really is the crucial point to check on.

Cheers,
Clayton

Jamie LeJeune
Member
Jamie LeJeune

Thank you for this review. Do have any plans to redo sensor tests on the 4.6k? Your original tests were completed before the crosshatch problem was addressed by the black balance function addressed in firmware 4.2 I’m curious to see whether the update improves the dynamic range score on your objective tests.

Member
T F

The next generation of BMD cameras (after this current one) will be the ones to seriously consider for replacing cameras like the FS7 or even RED. Each step they take is a huge improvement, but the sensor is still not quite there if you compare it to anyone else, in my subjective opinion. Canon, Sony, Panasonic, RED – they all have their own subtle “look” but they are all producing pleasant and useable images straight onto your cards. I have colored a few projects shot on the URSA and URSA Mini. BMD footage needs some serious finessing in post to… Read more »

Member

I have to respectfully disagree. The Ursa is well within the tolerances of the ‘average’ DP to overcome, much of which is purely subjective. I shot an entire feature film on a BM pocket camera which sold to A&E for seven figures and no one was the wiser. I’ve got established DP’s thinking we shot on an Alexa. Good lighting, composition and a decent colorist will make any one of these rigs shine. Sure, there are subtle differences, but if you can’t make lossless RAW at 12bit colorspace with 15 stops of latitude work for you, then I can’t imagine… Read more »

Member
T F

I think we actually agree! I was referring more to the “untouched” image. You’re totally right, 12bit RAW is all the information you’d need to make the picture whatever you want, assuming it was shot and lit well. Even 10bit RAW with 15 stops of range is more than enough for most cases. I have an FS7, and am pretty amazed at what you can get out of a 10bit image that is fairly compressed compared to RAW. I must say, having also owned a BM pocket cam, I think it’s their best camera, and has great looking footage straight… Read more »

Member

Love the BMPCC! Outside of some moire issues if you’re not careful, it’s amazing sensor. Of course, you have to kit it out to be practical on set, but still, you can’t beat the image-to-cost ratio.

 David Odell
Member
David Odell

I hade a colleague who did scientific tests on BMD products, and found out that different baches from the factory could mean different results while using. This was very evident when testing there monitor products. So I don’t give BMD the highest of credibility, but would they have evolved there sensor then one can accept other problems.

Thanks for the article!

Clayton Burkhart
Member

The problem at BM is quality control. John Brawley states and shows work which is artifact free. On the other hand I have seen countless people with major sensor issues, some having to replace the camera several times. Also, in the grading suite I have corrected several projects shot on BM and frequently encounter cross hatching on even well exposed images. So it all depends on the camera you get.

Member

I’m aware of the early model 4K issues with sensor noise, which were later addressed. So far the 4.6Ks I’ve seen have been performing well, but I may just be one of the ‘lucky ones’, (Remember the early growing pains of the RED?). Nevertheless, it’s a lot of camera for the money and I’ll stick to my story that most ‘experts’ are hard-pressed to tell the difference on screen between a $5K Ursa and a $75K Alexa. If you’ve got the budget, then yeah, rent the Ferrari. But personally speaking, I’d rather own the Mustang.

 Masses Masterson
Member
Masses Masterson

there = their ?

 Terry Thomas
Member
Terry Thomas

There are lots and lots of comments: Here is my 4 cents (2 +2): Agreed about owning the Mustang, not renting the Rolls…. but at least 1 reviewer on the B & H site stated that BM, REFUSED to take the camera back or fix it. Thus, he was stuck with a malfuncting $5k brick. Last time I looked, B & H’s sale site said the camera was “NON-returnable.” How can a company even exist with potential users screaming at it for malfeasance?? This is scary. Unlike some, I cannot afford a $5k boat anchor….that needs at least another $3-5k… Read more »

Palmer Woodrow
Member
Palmer Woodrow

Last time I looked, B & H’s sale site said the camera was ‘NON-returnable.'”

Oh really? Where does it say that: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1322801-REG/blackmagic_design_ursa_mini_pro_4_6k.html

 Robert Gamperl
Member

First, the video is declared as a hands on video and I can’t understand how people complain about “no deeper look into the camera and picture quality”. Second, I searched many forums and user experience, they all say the magenta issue is gone with the 4.6K version. I am really interested in this camera, but I never used a BMD camera before, because of bad usability and missing ND’s. The videos I saw, have such nice colors (I know they had good “color graders”) and the overall picture looks so natural and good. A comment here said, only with 12-bit… Read more »

Member

I’ve had very good results with the BM cameras. All cameras have their pros and cons, so knowing ahead of time what they are will maximize your results. My use is primarily for feature cinema, so we’re always lighting most everything we shoot anyway, so super low light performance isn’t as big an issue verses say, latitude and skin tone. And the reality is, although having these incredibly high ISOs is nice for the ‘run and gunner’, composition and lighting is still an essential part of story-telling in this area. So, even though you can shoot in a pitch black… Read more »

 Robert Gamperl
Member

Thanks for your reply.
Helped me a lot.

 Robert Gamperl
Member

Do you have some videos to watch, shot with the BMD 4.6k?
I think a lot people own this camera, but I don’t really find much videos on the web. I like the videos on the BMD website, but I don’t know, how much they edited this videos.

Member

Here’s some nice, natural lighting stuff:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDQs5sOKbCQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Z1dZhWquA

Here’s a good example of a more ‘cinematic look’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDQs5sOKbCQ

Member
Nathan Lee Bush

Bravo! Love this company and its aggressive innovation. I also really appreciate their focus on aesthetics. They cameras look great both hardware and software. Amazing what they can accomplish with a fraction of the budget and resources of the mainstays. I’ll stick with my FS7 for now, but I’m watching you, BM. If you can improve your low light performance, you have an apples to apples comparison with Sony.

PiDicus Rex
Member

This is really beginning to look like what they should always have released in the first place with the Ursa range. All the major items they screwed up – the type (and expense) of the media, size of the screen(s) and power usage, lack of controls on the smart side of the body, audio metering where the operator can see it, external physical controls, and a design that shows they’re listening to feedback from operators. The ergonomics still don’t look quite as perfect as an ENG camera or the Cion, but significantly improved over previous versions. It’ll be interesting to… Read more »

 Martijn Schroevers
Member
Martijn Schroevers

In the wake of this release it looks like Blackmagic is clearing the Ursa maxi stock. At B&H you can opt for a combo of both mini and 4K PL maxi for a mere $6.490 so effectively you get the legacy giant Ursa 4K for just $500!

 kaleng kalpiko
Member
kaleng kalpiko

Hey nino, would you mind to check dynamic range of this camera? is it true its 15 stop dynamic range? thank you

 David Odell
Member
David Odell

Of course it’s not true! More like 13.x (even if that is possible?). No camera manufacturer with a camera lower than 30 000 €, writes the correct dynamic range of there selling toy.

 Dan Myrick
Member
Dan Myrick

I remember not too long ago when those $50K + cameras were bragging about 13 stops of latitude.

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[…] professional work (see instead my colleague and friend Nino Leitner’s Hands-On Video Review HERE), but I would like to highlight this as a significant moment. In my opinion, from this point […]