The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder is the best affordable EVF I know. Since I first tried it at NAB with the new Blackmagic URSA Mini I’m thinking about how to make it work with other cameras. I figured it out and here is my guide how to use it with any camera like the Sony A7S, GH4, C300, FS7 and others.
Note that the URSA Viewfinder was specifically designed for the Blackmagic URSA and Blackmagic URSA Mini cameras. Use this guide at your own risk. We only share what we found and what worked for us.
I already discussed all the advantages of the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder in the video. So here’s the list of accessories that I used to make it work. Of course you can use other combinations and parts as per your needs, but here are the essential points:
- The URSA Viewfinder needs an SDI source. So if your camera outputs SDI you’re probably already half way there. if it doesn’t, you will need an hdmi to SDI converter.
- The Viewfinder only works with a 1080 progressive signal. Most converters that I tried like this one or this one will NOT work, because they output an interlaced signal with the Sony a7S tested.
- You will need some way to power the URSA Viewfinder with a 12V female 4-pin XLR.
Making it Work on a Camera like the Sony a7S
The way I converted the hdmi signal from the Sony a7S to 1080p was to use an Atomos Shogun’s internal 4K –> 1080p downscaling. This way I could record 4K from a Sony a7S while at the same time using the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder.
Of course you can do a setup without the Shogun, but you will have to find a way to get a progressive signal via SDI. I’m waiting for this converter right now to see if it can provide the proper 1080p signal and will update this article very soon.
The advantage of using the Shogun (or Odyssey 7Q+) is also the additional preview image whenever the rig is not on the shoulder, or for assistants. I think the way I finally mounted it on top of the Viewfinder is just the most convenient possibility and it seems it is never in the way. The Shogun will start recording through the a7S rec-trigger function, so no need to touch it at all. Furthermore it will enhance the URSA Viewfinder with all the software features included in the Shogun and I get the best of both worlds.
- Lanparte VBP-02 V-Mount Plate – Of course other multi-power battery plates will also work. For my mod you should make sure you get an adaptor cable to power the Shogun. The Lanparte already comes with this cable.
- Lanparte 4-Pin Female XLR Adaptor – Converts a 12v miniplug (v-mount plate) to 4-pin XLR. You could also get a 12V D-Tap to 4-Pin XLR cable instead.
- Dummy Battery for Sony a7 cameras – This connects to the red-tip adapter cable which is included in the Lanparte VBP-02 package. This is why the dummy battery needs a male plug at the end.
- V-Mount Battery – This is the cheapest one I found, maybe not the best. It can be charged with the Lanparte plate which includes an AC adaptor. I have no idea how long it lasts, but I hope someone will do the math on 95WH and tell us in the comments.
Conversion & 4K recording
- Atomos Shogun (Barebones) – This also works (tested) with an Odyssey 7Q+
- Good affordable SSD – if you want to record stuff.
- Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable – to connect the a7S to the Shogun.
- SDI is connected directly from the URSA Viewfinder to the Shogun. If you need a longer cable get an SDI extension (not needed for my mod).
- Varavon a7S Cage – You need a good way to mount the Viewfinder. Of all the cages we tested, this was the one that provided the right threads. If you want to make it work with a different cage you have to experiment.
- Cold Shoe with 3/8″ screw + Cold Shoe Mount OR 1/4″ to 3/8″ Adapter – This mounts on top of the Viewfinder to give you a cold shoe space there OR a 1/4″ screw. I did the cold shoe version.
- Mini Ball Head – goes on the 1/4″ to mount the Shogun on top.
- Cable Ties – to arrange the cables.
- 1/4-20″ 1-inch (25mm) screws – Two of those screws will attach the Viewfinder to the cage.
- large nylon washers for 1/4″ screws – Get some nylon washers so that the Viewfinder sits nicely and the Viewfinder isn’t damaged. Get an allen-key for those as well.
Handheld Rig (optional)
I use and like this, but of course you can use any handheld rig solution.
I usually use the longer 13″ rails on my rigs.
Other Small (HDMI) Cameras
If you want to do this with a Panasonic GH4 you might want to use the Dummy Battery for Panasonic GH3 & GH4 instead of the Sony one.
If you use the DMW-YAGH you will need both the 12V D-Tap to 4-Pin XLR and Lanparte 4-Pin Female XLR cable and of course also an SDI cable to feed the Atomos Shogun. With the SDI you will of course not need the hdmi cable. Also you’d use a lower rail support than the 15mm one recommended above.
For Canon cameras that use the LP-E6 batteries you’ll need the Dummy Battery for Canon to make it all run from one V-mount battery. This one is for cameras like the 550D, 600D, 650D,…
Also you’d use a mini HDMI cable, not the micro which you use for the a7 & GH4 cameras.
We will of course try this on more cameras, but looks like it’s gonna work on most if you follow the rules pointed out earlier. If you figure out on which cameras it works or doesn’t and which accessories are needed please share it in the comments.
The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder costs $1495 and is shipping now.