It was just over six months ago that the team at Not Half Bad Productions decided it was time to take our videos up a step and invest in a new camera. After some positive experiences with the URSA Mini 4K, we placed our preorder for the URSA Mini 4.6K and then the wait began. Don’t worry it wasn’t too long until we had it in our hands. We called the camera ‘Gunn’ after director James Gunn, best known for Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Super”. Not to mention the terminological association between cameras and guns.
Bang for your buck?
At around AUD $7000 for just the camera body, the URSA Mini 4.6K is by no means a cheap camera but in the world of cinema cameras is definitely on the lower end. By the time you get the accessories you need (v-lock plate, v-lock batteries, C-Fast cards and maybe some new lenses like we did plus a battery charger and something to carry it all in) the cost does seem to jump up but not as much as when you buy the shoulder kit and the EVF kit to go with it as well. After buying all of the bits and pieces including a new case for the gear, we were looking at around $15,000 then a new set of lenses and a tripod it was over $20,000 – around the same price as a Canon C500. Did we also mention that like all Blackmagic cameras that DiVinci Resolve Studio is included!
We got the camera the day after the 4.0 Beta was released and with our previous experiences using the URSA Mini 4K means that we were able to see the improvements that it brought with it. While the Beta was less than stable at the times, the official release has been nothing less than fantastic. The new 4.0 firmware utilises the most out of the flip out LCD touch screen that seem somewhat ignored with the previous OS – you would have to go through menus to change the settings then check your footage was okay – now you can make changes on the touch screen and see your footage change immediately.
One inclusion I wish the URSA Mini range had would be port coverings for the SDI and CFast Slots. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed that they were not included but yet the XLR ports on the top of the camera were. This may seem like a minor thing but dust getting into a unit can lead to issues.
I couldn’t imagine using the URSA Mini without the shoulder mount. Not only does it come with a top handle but as the name suggests it comes with a mount for the shoulder. I would definitely recommend getting a VCT-14 tripod adapter for it to go from sticks to handheld in a snap. There are a few alternatives out there from CAME-TV (which is an exact replica) and Zacuto who have their own “Recoil Rigs”. Tom Antos also covered a video looking at the LanParte rig for the URSA Mini Range.
The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder is a very impressive add-on for the camera especially if you shoot outside during the day. The picture on the EVF screen looks as good if not better than one on the camera with its Full HD OLED screen. It allows for the same HUD as the flip out LCD on the camera as well as options like histogram, zebras and focus assist. Again Zacuto has its alternative “Gratical” range.
Let’s talk footage.
As the man who usually does the editing and colour grading for Not Half Bad, I was very pleased to have so much information to work with. Previously we had been using the Canon 5D MKIII (forever here known as ‘Ole Reliable’) The camera’s 15 stops of dynamic range was an obvious and welcomed difference. Gone were the days of an overexposed sky and the era of multiple exposures with blue sky was entered. At times this camera had done such a great job of capturing information that it looked like I have spent hours in After Effects to mask, key and create the skies.
Below are some videos that I have done for the City of Melbourne that really show off the URSA Mini’s abilities in high contrast and low lighting situations
EDIT: Shortly after writing this review, Blackmagic released their URSA Mini Pro which in terms of design and features has “fixed” some of the issues I had with the 4.6K. For example, the unit can now be turned on without having to open the LCD screen and it has in-built ND filters – not to mention more controls and accessible knobs has improved its design. Still no covers for most of the ports though…
Overall, the URSA Mini 4.6K is an amazing camera. Blackmagic continues to do an incredible job bridge the gap between amateurs and professionals. It’s simple yet smart interface allows for anyone with a camera background to be able to operate it. For its price, there are only a handful of cameras that can go near its picture quality but those 15 stops of dynamic range blow it out of the water as a mid priced cinecamera. With Canon’s latest range of cameras missing a few marks and Sony’s camera being wonderful but just out the budget, the URSA Mini range will continue to be a camera to watch.