Blackmagic is Finally Shipping the URSA Mini 4.6K & Micro Cinema Cameras, But Without Global Shutter
The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K looks like it's finally shipping — as is the Micro Cinema Camera — but neither will come with global shutter, as originally planned.
Hundreds have been shipped out worldwide, so we should see them in many people's hands very shortly (and if we can, we'll also try to get our hands on one to see how it compares to the previous models).
The reason for the extended delay is simple and complex at once. As CEO Grant Petty explains in the video below, trying to get the URSA Mini 4.6K and Micro Cinema Camera to do both global shutter and rolling shutter wasn't working as well as they had hoped, and wasn't giving them ideal performance. Thus, they've made these models rolling shutter-only (at least for the foreseeable future) to get them out into the world:
The company also released this short film shot by DP John Brawley on the URSA Mini 4.6K, followed by a "making of" video (you can download both of these videos in 4K/UHD, as well as sample RAW footage, from the Blackmagic site here):
URSA Mini Short
URSA Mini Making Of
Here's more from Blackmagic's press release:
For the past 6 months, Blackmagic Design engineers have been working extremely had to resolve the issues. As the performance of the global shutter is not up to the high quality level that Blackmagic Design strives to give it’s customers, Blackmagic Design have decided to ship both of the cameras without the global shutter feature.
The prime reason for this decision is that over the last few months, professional cinematographers and DOP’s who have been beta testing the cameras on all types of different projects have reported incredible results. Their feedback is that the cameras should not be delayed for this feature as the main benefits of the cameras are the wide dynamic range, and that this dynamic range is only available when running without global shutter. The beta testers working in high end digital film and television production are urgently wanting to use cameras such as URSA Mini 4.6K to obtain the advantage of the 15 stops of wide dynamic range and high frame rate capabilities of the rolling shutter.
With the release of URSA Mini 4.6K, customers will be able to choose between two very different models of URSA Mini. Originally URSA Mini 4K was intended to be the entry level model and the URSA Mini 4.6K to be the higher end model with more features. However, now these two cameras are targeted for different kinds of work as customers can choose between URSA Mini 4K if they want global shutter for fast action sports and URSA Mini 4.6K if they want wide dynamic range for high end digital film work.
So, what's the difference between using a global shutter or rolling shutter? Most cameras we work with today have rolling shutters, which make the image skew and wobble when it's panned back and forth too quickly. A global shutter has no skew, and cameras like the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, original URSA 4K and URSA Mini 4K, Sony F55, and Digital Bolex all have these kinds of sensors (or at least are released only with a global shutter mode).
To a certain extent, a global shutter can affect the performance of the sensor, which can come at the cost of decreased dynamic range and sensitivity. This is what we saw when Blackmagic went from the Cinema Camera 2.5K to the Production Camera 4K. Though resolution went up, dynamic range and sensitivity went down. Different companies have managed to work with these constraints in different ways, but in general, rolling shutter tends to provide better overall image performance.
The interesting thing about their newest implementation was that the URSA Mini 4.6K and Micro Cinema Camera were originally planned to be switchable between global and rolling, right in the menu. If you're shooting fast-moving objects, bouncing around in a car, or running after someone, global shutter can be preferable. But for many shooting situations, rolling shutter isn't a problem, and some cameras have faster read-out speeds than others, which means that the rolling shutter is less pronounced. Smaller cameras tend to have it worse than larger cinema cameras with more processing.
Blackmagic essentially wanted to give us the best of both worlds, but it hasn't worked out the way they had hoped. If you need global shutter, Blackmagic makes a number of larger models that utilize the same 4K sensor, which is slightly limited in dynamic range and sensitivity (around 12 stops and cleanish 400 ISO vs 15 and 800 for the 4.6K). This 4K sensor has also suffered from a number of image issues that have been corrected to an extent, but can still rear their head.
Here are more clips of the 4.6K:
Specs for the 4.6K are pretty much the same as when we first covered the camera at NAB. It's still capable of RAW and compressed RAW at 4608 x 2592 up to 60p, as well as UHD 3840 x 2160 up to ProRes 422 HQ, and 1920 x 1080 up to 120fps in a cropped window mode. The camera does feature the newer CFast 2.0 cards that Blackmagic adopted with the original URSA, as these are necessary for high-res recording (they've also started to come down in price). As for packages, the camera still comes in both $5,000 EF and $5,500 PL mount versions (which both have a built-in 5" 1080p screen), and you can add the new 1080p OLED viewfinder and shoulder mount package for another $2,000 or so combined. Adding in cards and batteries, you can put together a pretty complete shooting package for under $10,000 total.
Micro Cinema Camera
The $1,000 Micro Cinema Camera has also not really changed since NAB, except for the fact that it will be rolling shutter only, just like the 4.6K camera. This camera features a Micro 4/3 mount, SD card slot, and Canon LP-E6 battery slot, and can record 1080p up to 60fps, including RAW and ProRes formats. While it uses a similar Super 16mm sensor as the Pocket Cinema Camera, the big difference between the two is that the Micro Cinema Camera does not have a screen, as it is designed to be as small as possible. They expect this to be a drone camera, as well as a replacement for GoPros in certain instances. You can connect an external monitor with an HDMI cable in order to see what your image looks like and change settings. When a monitor is mounted, it can be operated just like any other camera.
You can see a clip shot with this camera here (though footage should look very similar to the Pocket):
Both cameras are technically shipping, but depending on backorders, we'll see how quickly they hit critical mass; with such intense hype, the backlog may be pretty big. I'm sure Blackmagic will be looking to ship as many before NAB as they can — especially as they're always cooking up something new.