by Sebastian Wöber | 19th October 2016
The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K is a truly affordable cinema camera with impressive specs that houses Blackmagic’s newest sensor. When it was announced last year, Blackmagic Design once again won many filmmakers over. Now that the camera has started shipping, there are many positive, but also some negative voices. Let’s take a look at the guts of the 4K vs 4.6K Blackmagic URSA Mini cinema camera in our lab. Comparison: Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K vs 4.6K On the outside these two cameras look identical. Inside the body they probably also share most of the same innards. What really differentiates one from the other is mostly the sensor as far as we can tell. The 4K sensor on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K is the same that was used on the large URSA camera and on the Blackmagic Production Camera. The new 4.6K sensor is 15% larger and similar in size to the ARRI Alexa and Canon C300 mark II sensors. We will focus on testing several aspects of sensor performance and evaluate the image quality. To make this review fair, we will also throw the popular Sony FS7 into the mix as an additional reference camera. A look at the Specs Specs-wise these cameras are virtually identical. Both shoot up to 60fps in 4K. The main difference lies in their maximum resolution and sensor size. The fact that these cameras shoot in all flavours of the Apple ProRes codec, as well cinemaDNG RAW is their big plus. It is, in fact, an aspect where all Blackmagic cameras have an advantage over most other low-cost cinema cameras on the market. Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K Max Resolution: 4K (4000 x 2160) Max Framerate 4K: 60fps Max Framerate HD: 60fps Log Gamma: Film Log Sensor: Aps-C (21.12 x 11.88 mm) Mount: Canon EF or PL Codec Bitrate 4K: up to ProRes 444 XQ – 312.5 MB/s Price: About $3000 Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K Max Resolution: 4.6K (4608 x 2592) Max Framerate 4K: 60fps Max Framerate HD: 120fps (windowed) Log Gamma: Film Log Sensor: Super35 (25.34 x 14.25 mm) Mount: Canon EF or PL Codec Bitrate 4K: up to ProRes 444 XQ – 312.5 MB/s Price: About $5000 Dynamic Range A good dynamic range rating allows us to capture a larger range of shadows and highlights in high-contrast scenes, an important property when it comes to comparing the URSA Mini 4K vs 4.6K and one where a main difference will become apparent. We’re testing with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart. For our dynamic range tests we use the Zeiss 50mm Cp2 macro lens (more on how we test HERE). Our software measured about 12 stops of usable dynamic range on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K (RAW). This is very similar to the rating of the a7S II and C300 mark II. [Update:] How we tested: We measured dynamic range using uncompressed RAW with an ISO of both 800 and 1600. We decoded the files in DaVinci Resolve 12.5 with BMD Film 4.6K Gamma applied. We also tested dynamic range with Apple ProRes 422 HQ and had the same results. Here’s a screenshot of the dynamic range of a few popular cameras compared. In comparison to the URSA Mini 4.6K, our software measured about 8.5 stops of usable dynamic range on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K (RAW). The Sony FS7 reaches 12.5 stops. For each camera there are different reasons why the dynamic range is limited. The Sony FS7 image seems to become unstable in the lower stops due to processing. There is noise reduction which cancels out noise, but it’s also apparent that we quickly loose detail in the darker areas. The URSA Mini 4K simply doesn’t capture as much dynamic range as the other cameras. The URSA Mini 4.6K would have potential for more stops of range, but noise becomes stronger in the dark areas. Unfortunately there is a lot of pattern noise there, more than on the 4K, which makes darker areas of the image less usable. Here is a shot of the darker steps (11, 12, 13 and 14). Step 13 and 14 were not counted as valid range by our software, because there is too much noise. See the same image with raised gamma for better viewing below. Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K – Pattern Noise in Dynamic Range Step 11, 12, 13 and 14. Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K – Pattern Noise with raised Gamma ISO? The Blackmagic URSA Mini cameras are not strong when it comes to low light performance. In comparison, the FS7 has a greater range in terms of ISO. On the URSA Mini 4K there are only three settings: 200, 400, and 800. The URSA Mini 4.6K goes up to ISO 1600. In our tests we found that there is little difference in image quality when comparing all of the ISO speeds available on a single camera. It might seem so at first because the image gets brighter with higher ISOs, but in reality the lower ISO speeds merely cut off the image video range. In other words, the same image only gets coded differently at different ISO speeds, seemingly without any difference in processing whatsoever. That’s why we recommend to use the full video range in ProRes, in order to get the best color gradations. This can be achieved by using ISO 400 or 800 on the URSA Mini 4K and ISO 800 or 1600 on the URSA Mini 4.6K. When exposing your image, though, make sure that you do not underexpose the image, as it will look brighter with the higher ISO setting (800 on 4K and 1600 on 4.6K). If you want the best quality, overexpose your image so you don’t get the noise from the darker areas into your shot, but be careful about highlight clipping. The lower ISO speeds (200 and 400 on the 4.6K) should be avoided. [Update:] In order to get the most range out of our footage, Blackmagic recommends rating the cameras at their native ISO, which is 400 on the 4K, and 800 on the 4.6K, and then processing the RAW files using the latest version of DaVinci Resolve with BMD Film 4K and BMD Film 4.6K Gamma applied to the RAW decode. In RAW mode, ISO can be selected during the decoding process. We found that a setting of ISO 800 gives you the best starting point to grade. Image Quality In terms of image quality, the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K are highly regarded due to their codecs. The following images were taken from URSA Mini RAW files, the Sony FS7 with its native codec and the Fuji XT-2 mirrorless camera with an external recorder: 100% crops (except the 4.6K downscaled to 4K) What we can clearly see here is that the Sony FS7 and Fujifilm X-T2 have a cleaner image when it comes to fine details. The URSA Mini 4.6K and 4K, on the other hand, show a little bit of a moire pattern on fine lines due to aliasing. The resolution of the Sony FS7 UHD image seems similar to that of the URSA 4.6K RAW image downscaled to 4K in terms of how much detail they resolve. When we compare the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K vs 4.6K we see that the URSA Mini 4.6K resolves more detail than the 4K. The same is true when we compare a recording in 4K resolution on the URSA Mini 4.6K, to a 4.6K image on the same camera. But image quality is not a thing that is black and white. Here you can see how the different cameras treat a natural object, as opposed to test chart stars: Contrast on all images above has been adjustedfor a rough match. Interestingly the image coming from the Sony FS7 seem much softer. Add some sharpening to the FS7 image, though, and you will find that the image gets much closer to the way the URSA Mini images look. In conclusion, I would say that the codec of the FS7 is its weakest point, but the image looks cleaner than the one from the URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K. All in all, the URSA Mini 4K and 4.6K have a similar looking image, though the 4K wanders off into a slight green tint while the 4.6K looks more magenta. There is a certain amount of noise in the shadow areas on both cameras, and the image is slightly sharpened in-camera. But the look is very natural and colours are quite neutral. [UPDATE:] Here is a version of only the Sony FS7 image, graded and sharpened to match the URSA Mini processed RAW images above. Here you can see that the detail is very similar, but also how the codec easily falls apart on some portions of the image. The image is more stable and ready to grade on the URSA Mini’s: Sony FS7 image graded and post sharpened to match the URSA Mini 4.6K Rolling Shutter Some cameras, like the Sony a7S II, suffer from a severe rolling shutter effect, a phenomenon also referred to as “jello”. Unfortunately, the rolling shutter that we see on most CMOS sensor cameras is also present on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K and Sony FS7. As we can see, the rolling shutter on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K is identical to the one we found on the Sony FS7. 11ms is an OK rating when it comes to rolling shutter. On most mirrorless cameras the effect is more severe. The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K however gets the best rating, as it has a global shutter sensor that does not suffer from the rolling shutter effect at all. RAW vs ProRes When comparing the codecs on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K vs 4.6K we found that ProRes generally gives us exceptional results. RAW is a very nice option and should in theory extends bit depth of your files to give you finer gradations. We did not test this. Dynamic range is not increased when using RAW, however. [Update:] We have compared gradations on a RAW and ProRes file and we can confirm that RAW increases the bit depth. So if you want the best filmic look for heavy color grading, we recommend to use the RAW option on this camera. Conclusion It was truly interesting to take a closer look at the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K in comparison to the URSA Mini 4K camera. We saw that the dynamic range of the URSA Mini 4.6K is similar to the FS7. It is a vast improvement over the URSA Mini 4K, which really lacked behind on this point. On the other hand, the URSA Mini 4K has a global shutter sensor and thus doesn’t suffer from rolling shutter effect at all. In terms of image quality, the URSA Mini 4.6K delivers a really nice image with balanced colors and a natural look. The URSA Mini 4K clearly comes from the same family of sensors, but has a slight green tint. There is slight aliasing on both the 4K and 4.6K when we compare it to the FS7, though, and noise kicks in quickly if you are not careful. Both cameras are no lowlight wonders, but there is an improvement on the 4.6K. [UPDATE:] Also, the 4.6K can shoot up to 120fps in windowed HD. The most striking argument for the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K is clearly its dynamic range. It also has a sensor 20% larger in size and an extra of 0.6K in resolution, which most will deem marginal in a world of 4K, UHD or HD delivery. If dynamic range is important to you, then the URSA Mini 4K probably does not have what you want. But besides this point, both these cameras are very similar. In our opinion, for those shooting in studios, there is no good reason to upgrade to the 4.6K at this time. Everyone else will probably welcome the extra filmic quality the URSA Mini 4.6K can achieve. Would I consider shooting on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K? Absolutely yes. With its high bit depth and natural looking image it will deliver high quality 4K with a high codec quality. There are other good and comparable cameras, but when it comes to film aesthetics and if you put quality control issues aside, then there is not much that will take you this far at the low pricepoint of the 4.6K. What is your experience with the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K vs 4.6K? Let us know your opinion in the comments.Read more
by Sebastian Wöber | 10th October 2016
Two weeks ago we were impressed when the new ultra-compact DJI Mavic Pro was announced. As a drone enthusiast of course I had to get my hands on this new tech and compare it to the DJI Phantom 4 and Inspire 1. Here is our DJI Mavic Pro review where we look at image quality in particular. If you are interested in our free DJI Mavic Pro LUTs, you can download those here. DJI Mavic Pro Review – Image Quality Several early Mavic Pro review videos currently circle the web, where testers claim that the Mavic Pro image is much softer than previous drone generations. In light of the already limited 4K quality of drones like the Phantom 4 or Inspire 1, this claim made little sense, so we set out to get our hands on our own early DJI Mavic Pro review sample to check and here is our observation. DJI Mavic Pro Camera It seems like most reviewers out there were not aware that the DJI Mavic has a built-in “tap autofocus” system, like the Zenmuse X5 and Zenmuse X5R cameras for DJI Osmo and DJI Inspire 1. If you forget to autofocus, your image will eventually be out of focus. And if you compare this out of focus image to other drone footage, of course it will be softer. So after a tap autofocus and after aligning the image of the DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Phantom 4 and DJI Inspire 1 (Zenmuse X3) I concluded that the image of all three cameras is very similar in quality. 600% crops of 4K images For HD productions the image quality of the DJI Mavic is acceptable. If you use a LUT, like our free cinema5D instaLUT for Mavic, or any other grading process, it is possible to get a nice image from the DJI Mavic Pro, just like I showed you in my Mastering Drone Footage series. On the other hand, the image of all these drones is far inferior to other cameras or the DJI Inspire 1 RAW for that matter. (Check out our detailed comparison here: LINK) Unfortunately the data rate on the DJI Mavic is still 60 Mbps, just like on the Phantom 4 and Inspire 1 and for anyone who is a bit more serious about filmmaking 60 Mbps is hardly enough. Again, for HD productions the image will be mostly fine, but if you aim higher or would like to crop into an image the quality could be better. Considering the small size and intelligent sensor technology built into the Mavic (read all about Mavic’s high tech here), this drone is still an impressive piece of technology that will be very useful on any smaller documentary style production where weight and size is an issue. DJI Mavic Pro Review – Pro’s & Con’s Here is my summary of pro’s and con’s for the DJI Mavic Pro: PRO’s ultra-compact and lightweight ergonomic and foldable remote 27 minute flight time stability, easy to fly intelligent flight modes and sensors 4K image comparable to Phantom 4 & Inspire 1 65 km / h, fast speed CON’s Same low bitrate as previous drones Low dynamic range as previous drones Vertical angle of camera is limited Tap Autofocus is a source for errors In conclusion this is the best compact drone money can buy right now. If you want higher quality get a DJI Inspire 1 RAW. Otherwise, the DJI Mavic Pro is highly recommended. If you are interested in our free DJI Mavic Pro LUTs, you can download those here. We hope you liked our DJI Mavic Pro Review and comparison to Phantom 4 and Inspire 1. If you have any thoughts on the matter let us know in the comments. Song by: Art-List.ioRead more
by Sebastian Wöber | 7th March 2016
The Sony Alpha a6300 is a new pocket-sized mirrorless camera that has some serious video potential on a budget. Johnnie reviewed the camera a few days ago and earlier today Nino published a lowlight test video. We’re currently looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the camera in our test lab and have decided to compare the Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II. For less than $1,000, we definitely weren’t sure what to expect from this camera. For the price range, decent 4K recording and an acceptable low light performance would have been great. However, numerous reviewers—ourselves included—have actually found that the Sony a6300 is performing brilliantly; in fact, it plays in the realm of cameras like the a7S II! Comparison: Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II Of course, no camera is without its flaws. That’s why we decided it is time to take a look at what the tradeoffs are when choosing to use the a6300, in an attempt to get an idea of just how good it is. For that, we needed a comparison point. Time for an exclusive a6300 vs. Sony a7S II article! Dynamic Range An often overlooked and a difficult attribute to quantify, I’ve decided to start by looking at the dynamic ranges at play in the a6300 vs. Sony a7S II debate. More often than not, we find that this is where many camera sensors fail to amaze—after all, a good dynamic range rating allows us to capture more shadows and highlights in hgh-contrast scenes. We’re testing with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart (more on how we test HERE). Our software measured about 11 stops on the Sony a6300, compared to about 12 stops on the Sony a7S II. Above you can observe the two shots subjectively. 11 stops is a good rating for a camera. Most professional cinema cameras nowadays get between 10-13 stops in our tests. Additionally, we see that the two cameras have very different noise characteristics. The Sony a6300 was shot at iso 800 (native) and there a stronger base noise than on the very clean A7S II. In this a6300 vs. Sony a7S II test, it is apparent just how clean the A7s II is, giving it the edge over the a6300. [Update:] However, the noise at base ISO on the Sony a6300 is no reason for concern. You should simply know, that you have less room for pushing the dark areas during grading. Another point to note is that, unlike the A7S II, the Sony a6300 has no difference in dynamic range between S-log2 and S-log3. However, the a6300 uses an 8-bit codec so we’d recommend avoiding S-log3 altogether; use S-log2. Lowlight and Noise Before we go any further, I have top say that we were very impressed during this stage of the test. So far, the a7S II is the camera which has shown the best low light capabilities of any camera that we have tested—and the Sony a6300 gets surprisingly close! The shots below are 100% crops from a dark area in our subjective test chart. We can see that both cameras retain detail at high ISOs. While the Sony a6300 is a bit grainy and has some minimal noise reduction artefacts, there is actually very little noise in the traditional sense—especially when the price is taken into consideration! Left: Sony a6300 Slog 2 | Right: Sony a7S II Slog 3 It seems as though there is intense noise reduction going on in the Sony a6300. Maybe this is how they managed to get such good lowlight results with this camera, even though the super35mm sensor used is much smaller than the Sony a7S II full-frame sensor and should be much more noisy. When we look at a moving image, the noise reminds me of the results of temporal noise reduction, which can be found in software like DaVinci Resolve. This algorithm calculates the difference in noise between adjacent frames. I’m not saying this is what’s happening here, but lowlight images show a kind of unnaturally slow moving noise, which might be an issue for some. Overall the lowlight behaviour is really impressive on this camera. It gets close to the performance of the Sony a7S II, though at ISO 25600 the Sony a7S II clearly retains more detail than the Sony a6300. Keep in mind that due to the sensor size you can use a Metabones Speed Booster and a full-frame lens with the Sony a6300 and win another stop in lowlight. This is what Nino did during his Sony a6300 lowlight test. Image Quality Here is a blown up shot of a tube test chart. On this chart fine lines get closer and closer together. This way we can see when aliasing kicks in or, in other words, when detail can no longer be correctly resolved on the vertical axis. What we see is that the Sony a6300 resolves similar fine detail as the Sony a7S II. The Sony FS7 obviously produces a cleaner image in terms of aliasing but that is to be expected. Codec Compression Artefacts on the Sony a7S II What we also noticed in this chart, however, is that the codec compression on the Sony a6300 is much better than on the Sony a7S II which eventually leads to a much cleaner image on the a6300 (look at the number “25” above). The Sony a7S II image falls apart and doesn’t resolve contrast details very well. Images like the one above look mushy and clouded due to some problem in the compression algorithm of the camera. The Sony a6300 doesn’t have this problem and is the winner in the a6300 vs. Sony a7S II comparison in this regard. One thing to note though is that there is a slight in-camera sharpening on the Sony a6300 even though “detail” was set all the way to the lowest number and there is a slight magenta tint in all shots. Rolling Shutter As mentioned in our initial review, unfortunately the rolling shutter effect (also referred to as “jello”) is quite terrible on the Sony a6300. In fact, with a readout speed of about 34 milliseconds from top to bottom, it is the most severe rolling shutter we have ever measured on a camera! Even worse than the Samsung NX1’s 30ms. In comparison, the Sony a7S II has about 25 milliseconds and the Sony FS7 has 14. Less is better. HD Images and Slow Motion 100% crop | Image Resolution in Full HD Sadly, this is another point where the Sony a6300 fails. The camera can shoot in full HD resolution, but the image is very soft and dirty in terms of aliasing. The Sony a7S II is much closer to the quality of the original a7S. The Sony a6300 can shoot slow motion up to 120fps in full HD. A crop of about 80% of the sensor is used in this mode. Unfortunately, the quality is almost identical to the one observed in HD mode at normal recording speeds—and in both modes, low light performance isn’t great. Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II Conclusion All in all, the Sony a6300 is a truly surprising camera. Who would have thought that a budget camera would perform so well when compared to the quality of the highly recommended Sony A7S II? When we compare the Sony a6300 vs. Sony a7S II, we see that the latter has slightly better quality in terms of dynamic range and low light capabilities, but the Sony a6300 certainly excels when it comes to fine image details and sharpness. Only the rolling shutter of this camera is below expectations and the HD quality is, for all intents and purposes, not recommended which makes the camera less suited for broadcast use. Overall, we’d say: Stay away from this camera if you are looking for a good HD mode and if you do lots of fast handheld shots, as the rolling shutter may become too apparent. Besides those two points, if you are looking for a camera that shoots great 4K with a quality that matches the Sony a7S II, at a much lower price-point and the form-factor of a small pocket camera, then the a6300 is a great pick. In combination with a Metabones Speed Booster, this is probably the best affordable 4K camera on the market right now—highly recommended! [UPDATE:] Note that we have not tested NTSC 30p mode. Other testers report that in 30p the camera will crop the image and give you more noise and worse lowlight performance, but better rolling shutter. If you require 30p we recommend you test the camera before you buy.Read more
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