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Review: Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K

Blackmagic Design's URSA Minis boast a 4.6K and 4K sensors that can deliver dazzling images. Here's a look at how two URSA Mini (both a 4K and a 4.6K model) performed when used in tandem on a recent corporate shoot.

Viewfinder

The URSA Mini’s OLED Viewfinder was an unexpected pleasure for me—I fell in love with it right away. It’s a full-resolution HD viewfinder and an absolute lifesaver. The viewfinder comes standard with BNC and XLR connectors, which means you can use this viewfinder on other cameras as well.

Unfortunately, the menu cannot be seen in the viewfinder, which would be advantageous in outdoor situations and bright conditions. This may not matter, though, because I couldn’t utilize the side handle to manage it.

Production

This was a quick shoot—we went to Florida’s east coast and back in a day and a half. The job was a mix of on-location interviews and b-roll, using drone, Ronin, sliders, and IKAN battery LED lights. We used both URSA Minis and a Sony Alpha a7s II after identifying the matching problem with the 4.6K and 4K sensors.

For the interviews, we used the URSA Mini 4.6K as our first camera and the Sony for our second camera (Figure 3, below), cutting between them with straight cuts for our final film.

Figure 3. Shooting a two-camera interview with the URSA Mini 4.6K and the Sony Alpha a7s II

I found it difficult to film with the URSA Mini in tight locations. This was problematic, because some of our interviews took place in cramped offices. We wanted the URSA Mini camera to have movement throughout the interview, which meant that I needed a larger slider dolly and tripod than my normal small and lightweight Kessler or Manfrotto tripods. We rented a larger slider and tripod, but I still had issues with the weight of the camera sliding too far on either end of the slider run. The weight would sometimes dislodge the ball head, which was frustrating.

After working with the URSA Mini on this shoot, perhaps my biggest complaint is its lack of built-in ND filters. This proved to be an issue time and again. We didn’t have time to use a matte box and filters, because we were filming during our clients’ normal workday. When I wanted a shot with a shallow depth of field, the lack of built-in ND filters meant I had to get creative with shutter and ISO play, which I do not like to do.

The alternative was to use an on-lens Vari-ND filter. Luckily, we had one. Unfortunately, it only fit the Canon 70-200mm lens. For this reason, we started using the Canon 70-200L on the URSA Mini for our interviews (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. The URSA Mini 4.6K with the Canon 70-200L lens

After a couple of setups, we started dialing in our system, and we were able to get all the interviews we needed. The outside interviews were extremely difficult to shoot. I had to use the TFT-LCD for framing since my main interview was a slider shot (Figure 5, below). The TFT-LCD was so inefficient that I couldn’t see the image at all, even with a courtesy shade when we were outside. I was forced to operate the slider while using the viewfinder, which was extremely tricky to accomplish.

Figure 5. Using the TFT-LCD for framing with the URSA Mini 4.6K on a slider shot

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URSA Mini Pro features a massive number of tactile control buttons, switches and dials that make it faster to use, built in optical ND filters, a new interchangeable lens mount, dual CFAST 2.0 and dual SD/UHS-II card recorders