April 3, 2017
REVIEW

REVIEW: Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro

The New Face of the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro
With the URSA Mini Pro, Blackmagic has finally graduated from being a minimalist sensor-in-a-box to a full-fledged professional camera.

Complete with all the bells and whistles that professionals need, the URSA Mini Pro is the most exciting camera announcement from the Australian company to date. It's got the high image quality of the original URSA Mini, with several serious improvements, which I'll outline in this review. Here's everything important to know about the new camera at a glance:

  • ND Filters (2/4/6 stops)
  • Physical knobs for all the important features
  • Improved audio preamps
  • Outward-facing status display
  • Reduced boot time
  • LCD is one inch smaller (4" vs 5")
  • Weighs slightly more than the original (5.10 lbs)
  • Shipping now

ND filters

The addition of ND filters signifies the arrival of a professional camera more than anything else. These built-in filters give the Pro a huge boost over the original Ursa Mini. As you progress in cinematography, you will inevitably ditch the rotation polarizer variable-NDs because the color shift is just too overbearing. However, Matteboxes and filters are huge investments. ND filters have put the Canon C300 at an advantage over many other cameras for a long time. 

Blackmagic URSA Mini ND Filters
Level 3 on ND indicates 6 stops of density.

Shooting three projects with the URSA Mini Pro over two weeks, I found the filters to be very consistent. I assume Blackmagic only chose to include three levels of density because, once you get into eight stops or above, color aberration is inevitable, and the company probably didn't want any more bad press about color shifts after their magenta sensor debacle. Still, six stops of ND is great for most situations—even direct sun—and this feature has already proven useful to me a few times in the field. I can't speak highly enough about Blackmagic's decision to include these filters.

ISO, Shutter Speed, White Balance Knobs on URSA Mini Pro
ISO, Shutter Speed & White Balance Knobs

Buttons, real buttons!

Blackmagic has always relied heavily on touchscreen menu structures for quick access to features. The URSA brought more buttons, but the company didn't really figure out how to do it right until this URSA Mini Pro. Yes, cinematographers need buttons on the exterior of the camera. I've shot extensively with every Blackmagic camera over the years and I'm really happy that these are finally here.

A covering on the On/Off switch would be a welcome addition for preventing accidental power-downs.

There are now tiny metal toggle switches for on/off, ISO, Iris, and White Balance. The location of the on/off switch is out-of-the-way enough to worry seriously about turning it off by accident, but the possibility is definitely there. I would like to see some kind of small covering over the on/off switch in future iterations.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro: Sound Devices Quality Pre-amps?

New audio pre-amps: actually usable for single system audio?

There haven't been any published specs on the audio preamps (why don't camera companies make these specs available?), but Tor from Blackmagic compares the new preamps in the URSA Mini Pro to those of Sound Devices. As it wasn't really a highlighted part of any of Blackmagic's press around the camera, something seems fishy about that claim. Upon testing them, I did find them to be quite pleasing, but I'd like to see some published specs on their pre-amps or a deeper technical test from an audio professional.

Update: Curtis Judd's review on the URSA Mini Pro Pre-Amps can be found here.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro Status Display

Status display

Taking a cue from other professional cameras with user-facing status displays, this new feature on the URSA Mini Pro helps you keep track of all of your settings in one place without having to open the LCD. In terms of making small changes that just help speed everything else up, this handy display is icing on the cake. I ended up glancing at this display often, as I prefer a clean image with no display text when I'm shooting with an EVF. Great addition.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro SD UHS-II Switcher
Record to UHS-II SD cards with a flick of a switch.

SD media

One of the biggest things holding cinematographers back from switching to an URSA system in the past was the extreme expense of cards. Now users have the option of recording to cheaper UHS-II SD cards with a dual slot. Though I haven't personally tried it, it's clear that Blackmagic is listening, wants to bring costs down and wants to provide shooters with as many media options as possible.

A 5-second boot time is great for saving battery

While you shouldn't really have to worry about battery life in most situations where you're near power, battery conservation is hugely important for remote shootes. I'm always trying to get the most out of my batteries by powering down the camera whenever possible. Quicker boot time means I don't have to worry about missing some action when I'm in conservation mode.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro New Features

Overview

Blackmagic had a great camera with the URSA Mini and have only made it better in this iteration. You get the same exact image with a lot more functionality. Check the Blackmagic site for full tech specs. Shipping now for $5,995, I think that for the image quality, features and price, this camera can't really be beat, and I foresee myself recommending it as an option on a lot of upcoming productions.      

Your Comment

26 Comments

By far the most impressive camera at this level and at this price range, and it has PL and EF mount;-)

April 3, 2017 at 2:02PM

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Joseph Bennetts
Owner of BlackWind productions/Editor/DP/Diretor
118

They still need to conquer lowlight, but BlackMagic continues to press their competitors on what price point a cinema camera should be at. Despite all their stumbles, issues and mistakes, they have kept moving forward. The Ursa Mini Pro along with the FS7 and the GH5, have all begun to close the gap between the most expensive cinema cameras in the world and the cheapest. Arri still holds a firm lead with image quality, skin tones and highlight rolloff and Red has their 8k thing, but man, the list of reasons for productions to use a $50k-$60k cinema camera is getting slimmer and slimmer. We're about to have a pretty level playing field on our hands here, which is something many of us have been waiting for our entire lives.

April 3, 2017 at 2:10PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
344

We recently picked one of these up for our company and I was pleasantly surprised at the low light performance. Shot an event last night at 800 and 1600 ISO a bit underexposed and it's clean. No FPN and really no grain at all. Surprisingly noise free image. This was on 1080 Pro Res 422 as well, not even HQ. I actually have to add grain plates to soften and give the image some texture. Seems like some people are getting faulty sensors or not grading/shooting correctly.

I also wouldn't put a GH5 in the same category as a cinema camera as it's a small sensor and a DSLR . The standard for cinema now is super 35mm and bigger. Despite the GH4 also being 10 bit and 4k, the colors, dynamic range and low light capabilities are lacking compared to actual cinema cameras. Still a viable tool in the right hands though as is an A7s 1/II.

April 4, 2017 at 3:09AM, Edited April 4, 3:09AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
179

Can anyone confirm if Blackmagic has officially resolved its magenta vignetting issues for this Ursa Mini Pro--the sensor issue which appeared in the initial release of the Ursa Mini. I purchased an Ursa Mini after they had supposedly fixed the problem, but mine had the issue very prominently. I had to fight to return the camera. I love the image quality of Blackmagic cameras and especially that of the Ursa Mini sensor (aside from the magenta issue, obviously), but now I'm a bit gun shy with their products.

April 3, 2017 at 3:17PM

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Adam Hildebrand
President/Owner Faithful Bull Productions, Inc.
162

I'm not surprised you had the issue. People talk about the magenta issue as if it were a thing of the past, but it's still an issue with shooting with smaller apertures than f/5.6. Even this article talks about it like it's a thing of the past, but I don't think it is. I also had the original 4.6k and am also now gun shy with spending any real money with them (would buy a new pocket cam in a flash though).

If Blackmagic fixed the issue, I'd love to see a link to where they actually say they've resolved it. This is one that I'd love to be wrong about...

April 3, 2017 at 4:13PM

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Fahnon Bennett
Director/DP
156

I agree. I've accepted the shortcomings and quirks of their other cameras. But it would help general customer trust if they simply cleared the air about the whole issue.
The magenta issue was one of those things that they never really seemed to have admitted being a real issue. (But maybe I missed the press release.) They always blamed the lenses. Maybe I'm unaware of other camera companies having these issues, but I'd like to be shown where other cameras that have had this type of color issue based on which lenses and aperture a customer is using. I could pop any one of my lenses on any other camera I've ever owned (even other BM cameras) and would not have color issues.
When speaking with BM, it was almost like they were telling me, "The camera is fine; it's your lenses that you're choosing and the settings you're shooting. That's what's at fault." If that's the case, they ought to release a warning, and offer a list of suitable lighting situations and compatible lenses--just like they do the SD and C-Fast cards; and they ought to put an official disclaimer: "Camera works well in the following lighting situations with the following lenses. Otherwise we recommend that this camera is not for you." They actually told me, "Looks like this camera is not a good fit for you and your gear. Sorry." Incredible.
I had to repeatedly point out to them that their warranty states that they guarantee that their products will be free of defects; if they have defects BM is legally obligated to provide a refund or a replacement. Standard warranty law demands it, and their own warranty expressly promises that. And there was no way they could say this was anything but a defect. Nobody at BM was saying, "Yes! We finally got that blobby magenta artifact we've been going for and which has been missing from the market all these years!" . . . anyway, it's frustrating thinking about it. Glad I was able to wrestle a refund from them.

April 4, 2017 at 11:11AM

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Adam Hildebrand
President/Owner Faithful Bull Productions, Inc.
162

They have resolved the magenta issue, both in a software as well as a manufacturing fix. There was an issue with early sensors.

Right now I'm in pre-production on a test between the pro and the older 4k. I can tell you one thing. Black Magic cameras look outstanding on paper. But their production is far from what they have on paper. Our 4k isn't usable due to the sensor flashing at ISO 400 and above. We need to send it in, or source another one for our test.

April 3, 2017 at 11:09PM, Edited April 3, 11:10PM

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Thomas Koch
Director/DoP
169

The lack of simultaneous proxy recording still holds me back. I'm really hoping for a firmware update, even if if proxy and online need to go to the same CFast due to the physical toggle switch.

Better low light, smaller size, and WiFi remote control are all on the nitpicking list for me, but the proxy thing involves workflow which means it affects every shoot.

Anyone know how many AES channels are supported?

With the Canon 5D3 now shooting 4k raw I'm more easily distracted ;)

April 3, 2017 at 3:35PM

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This is considered a "cinema camera" though and weighs just as much as all the others in it's category. Arri Alexa Mini, RED, F55, etc. all 5lbs, body only. This isn't a DSLR. The low light also isn't bad at all and pretty much matches a RED Dragon sensor but actually cleaner. Proxy recording only takes up even more space on the card. Just shoot in a codec you need. It has every flavor and you can even shoot in 4.6k in HQ or whatever pro res you'd like. 99% of the time you won't need lossless raw and the 4:1 is amazing and just as efficient as recording in pro res HQ. You get about 35 min on a 256gb card.

April 4, 2017 at 3:16AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
179

The 5D 3 is NOT shooting 4K raw. Look at the stated resolutions of the highly bug-riddled Magic Lantern release. Nobody with any sense would depend on this.

The simultaneous proxy recording may be a physical impossibility because of processing and I/O throughput restrictions. The record proxies, the camera has to downscale and compress every frame, in addition to writing it over the I/O bus along with the original frame.

BM's biggest problem is the noise levels in the shadows. It's just not acceptable at this point.

April 8, 2017 at 5:04PM, Edited April 8, 5:04PM

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David Gurney
DP
1422

Regarding the audio quality on this new unit, it sounds like its been improved, Curtis Judd just tested it and you can review that here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkwdLxF9u2I

April 3, 2017 at 4:25PM

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Ron Marvin
Director of Photography
144

Thanks for sharing! Definitely wanted this info.

April 3, 2017 at 5:29PM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

love it. Still can we record to SSD ?

April 3, 2017 at 10:58PM

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Vu Pham
Film Maker
1

There is an optional dock coming that will be offered later in the year. It will sit between the rear of the camera body and the battery plate. You can see it in the recent "Press Conference - URSA Mini Pro and DaVinci Resolve Panels" video on BM's home page or here on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTLygpd6JZs

At time index: 57:15

This and the forthcoming Nikon lens mount have piqued my interest and I'm considering purchasing the new Ursa. Considering the exorbitant cost of Cfast cards the dock will offer a much more cost effective solution.

April 4, 2017 at 2:22AM, Edited April 4, 2:23AM

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Ron Marvin
Director of Photography
144

I really like this camera! In ideal lighting situations, the image of the Ursa Mini Pro can compete with any other camera on the market. I would probably use a different camera if I'm shooting in low light situations but other than that, this camera is hard to beat. It isn't perfect, but what camera is?

Here's a little short film that I shot last week on the Ursa Mini Pro. https://vimeo.com/211041965

April 4, 2017 at 8:48AM

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Terrell Lamont
Director, Director of Photography
239

I like the image quality of your short film. It seems ursa mini can delivers a good footage.

April 4, 2017 at 3:26PM, Edited April 4, 3:26PM

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Thanks for taking a look at it! It's a good camera...

April 4, 2017 at 9:03PM

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Terrell Lamont
Director, Director of Photography
239

I can't find the highest FPS when shooting 4K RAW, any idea Terrell? Is it 60 or does it max out at 30?

April 5, 2017 at 11:03AM

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60fps

April 6, 2017 at 2:15PM

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Proof the camera is good enough for me, thanks. Unfortunately, and not your fault Terrell, I cannot stream Vimeo (U-verse 12Mbps) due to choppy audio, which distracts. Lastly, lens?

April 7, 2017 at 8:22AM, Edited April 7, 8:24AM

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No OLPF means this camera, like all BM products, will automatically add 5-10 years of age to the skin of all your actors.

No thanks.

April 4, 2017 at 10:07AM

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Robert Ruffo
Director/DP
367

Oof really? Can you give me an example of how bad this would be? and why not use a filter?

April 5, 2017 at 11:02AM

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Just seen several examples of an intrusive flare coming off of the ND's, particularly ND4 and ND6, which is very discouraging. It's such a shame how amazing Blackmagic cameras could be, but that in practical terms there are always issues.

Here's an example: https://vimeo.com/210824226

April 4, 2017 at 1:14PM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
601

Yesterday I was an assistant to this camera. Woww... It was simply woww...
Really amazing camera.
Need to put my hands on her very soon.

Thanks for this article.
I need to find out more about her.

April 5, 2017 at 3:21AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
718

Thank you kindly for taking the time to write this review. I am looking to add a 4K system to my existing C300 and am considering the URSA Mini Pro instead of a C300 Mark II for financial reasons.

April 6, 2017 at 6:30PM

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This is not a review. There's no examination of picture quality whatsoever. Saying "it's the same as the earlier one" isn't legitimate. Someone reported that there's new cooling functionality in the new camera; but even without that, new electronics can bring new noise.

April 8, 2017 at 5:06PM

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David Gurney
DP
1422