URSA Mini Pro 12K Shoot Out: Does Resolution Make A Difference?

We compare the URSA Mini Pro 12K, Canon R5, and Canon C500 MK II. 

When Blackmagic Design introduced the URSA Mini Pro 12K, it led some to ask the question, "Why 12K?" It echoed a similar sentiment when RED went 8K with Monstro/Helium, and when Panavision followed with the DXL 2, which uses the Monstro sensor. 

Generally, higher resolution provides less noise in an image. It's also better for visual effects workflows or when you want to punch in without losing image quality if your final deliverable is at a lower resolution. On top of that, finer details can be captured, there's better bit depth color support, and it's really good for large displays.

But naturally, resolution isn't everything.

Image quality depends on the characteristics of the sensor and how the photosites of the sensor capture light and turn it into the pixels we see on screen. You can have a camera shoot 16K and the images can be absolutely terrible. It's why we are seeing more mirrorless cameras like the Sony a7S III start to refine the photosites of the sensor, or Canon introducing its version of dual gain output (DGO), which was first pioneered by ARRI. They're ultimately trying to improve image quality. 

That's why when Blackmagic unveiled the URSA Mini Pro 12K, a lot of the attention turned to the sensor of the camera, which the company said it started developing over three years ago. Creators wanted to know how the image quality stacks up to the sensors of today. Blackmagic started to provide review units and I, along with the guys over at Epic Light Media, who shot their own test, took it for a test drive to see the difference between it, the Canon EOS R5, and the Canon C500 MK II. 

For the comparison test, we paired each camera with the same lens and identical settings, except for when shooting 4K HQ with the R5, as there is no RAW option. Our findings are what you might expect when it comes to resolution, though... there were others that surprised us. Check it out. 

The one caveat is that you're watching on YouTube, a site known for its compression issues. It makes you wonder how the quality of the images would translate to a larger screen. Since the URSA Mini Pro 12K is aimed at higher-end productions, this only tells part of the story. 

But what do you think? Let us know below.      

Your Comment

14 Comments

One thing I haven't seen mentioned much regarding the 12K is that it has a 4:3 resolution of 7680 x 6408. So, I'm wondering if this might be an easy option for a "budget filmmaker" wanting to do 2x anamorphic for 8K. 14 stops of latitude isn't ideal, but totally workable. Just brainstorming here. Has anyone tried this yet?

October 15, 2020 at 10:05AM

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Chris Toll
Production Manager / Producer / DP
162

The quality of the cameras isn't really an issue anymore. It's more the usability. Data size, practicability, and form factor.

October 15, 2020 at 10:55AM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
791

A few things about the Ursa 12k: you need very sharp lenses to resolve that 12k resolution. Very few of these lenses actually exist. The Sigma 40mm is one of these, and it should have been the one tested, simply because it's one that it's known to be sharp at f/2 already, and it's easily available.

Also, a lot of filmmakers don't know that on a super35 size sensor and 12k res, you reach diffraction at f/4 already. At 8k, it's f/5.6. So you need a lens that it's super sharp between f/2 and f/4. Hence my recommendation for the Sigma 40mm to do these tests and not random lenses, or even expensive cinema lenses that might, or might not be able to resolve the 12k resolution.

Now, regarding how things looked, the Canon colors looked way more filmic (matte and muted, as it's supposed to be for celluloid film). The Ursa had IR issues (again!), moire issues, and its colors looked exactly as if from a Sony sensor. I know that BMD said that they "designed" the sensor, but this looks like a Sony sensor to me color response-wise.

October 15, 2020 at 2:45PM

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Eugenia Loli
Filmmaker, illustrator, collage artist
683

Actually I'm pretty sure this is a Canon sensor, isn't it? From what I recall, its resolution is identical to what a Super 35 cutout of Canon's 120MP APS-H sensor would be.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a Sony sensor.

October 18, 2020 at 9:03PM

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Matt Williams
Director of Photography
287

I love Blackmagic, but they do need to fix their issues with aliasing, moire and IR pollution. I am confident that the noise issue they have currently with their 12k footage will be fixed. Hands down though, the colors that thing produces blows Canon out of the water, the full RGB sensor is incredible. When they get the bugs ironed out, I will absolutely be using this on productions.

October 15, 2020 at 3:29PM

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McSaint
Director, Cinematographer, Editor and Colorist
106

Unfortunately, the issue of moire and aliasing will never be fixed on Blackmagic cameras. That would require the use of an OLPF which Blackmagic will not put in their cameras in order to keep the cost down. They cannot produce OLPF's cheaply like Canon and Sony so they leave them out. This is why Blackmagic cameras are not used on bigger productions. If they added an OLPF, the cost advantage would disappear.

October 15, 2020 at 7:51PM, Edited October 15, 7:51PM

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Really, this is a myth. Both OLPFs and IR filters are cheap to produce. In fact I don't see why an OLPF's function can't be reproduced digitally during demosaicing. Cannon, Sony and Alexas produce moire same as every camera. The only thing that varies is the size of the detail. That said, I too was shocked by Epic Light's footage. It seems that 12K "interacts" with very small patterns such as a cotton shirt's fabric. This could be a fatal flaw for 12K.

October 16, 2020 at 12:00AM, Edited October 16, 12:04AM

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"Generally, higher resolution provides less noise in an image"
That is a new finding, this statement is generally not true. Is PR involved here?

October 15, 2020 at 11:57PM

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It can produce the *appearance* of less noise due to downsampling, but on the pixel level, the higher resolution will be noisier.

There's a lot more to it than that (sensor architecture and design, pixel pitch, etc.) but in general that's not a totally wrong statement.

October 18, 2020 at 8:53PM

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Matt Williams
Director of Photography
287

15A Đại lộ Bình Dương, Vĩnh Phú, Thuận An, Bình Dương, Vietnam

October 16, 2020 at 1:11AM

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Cho Thuê Xe Nâng
Cho thuê xe nâng Bình Dương , Đồng Nai , HCM
88

Chúng tôi xin gửi tới quý khách hàng tại Nha Trang ✅ Bảng báo giá thông cống nghẹt năm 2020 tại Nha Trang ✅ Cam kết thi công Sạch sẽ ✅ Triệt để ✅ Uy tín

October 17, 2020 at 4:13AM

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Thông Cống Nghẹt Nha Trang
[Bảng Giá] - Thông Cống Nghẹt Tại Nha Trang ✔️ Chỉ từ 1OOK
81

Thanks to you and Epic Light for your time and trouble in doing the tests (and having to brave those super luxurious digs in Scottsdale at Holiday Rental. Sarcasm).

First, you assumed that Epic Light's "tests" that going from 18:1 to Q0 compression had zero impact on image quality, so you went with 12:1. Probably not the best methodology to start a rigorous "A/B" test to take someone else's word with no data to back it up.

Second, stating the obvious, all of us are viewing your results through YouTube's compression and gamma tweaking, combined with (my guess) that none of us are viewing on calibrated monitors in a gray room environment.

Third, fair that you point out moiré & aliasing with the 12K. This is something that you could/should drill down on ... in a positive way, such as what one could do to ameliorate moiré & aliasing in the 12K or ANY camera. Would you have seen moiré at Q0, for example ? Or 18:1 ?

Most important: Stay healthy .. didn't see many masks or much social distancing in your BTS clips. Many different eye balls up against those EVFs.

October 17, 2020 at 7:30AM

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Serge Polevitzky
HPC System Architect
5

Really not a fan of all these videos comparing sharpness. Sharpness, sharpness, sharpness. Look, I'm a photographer and filmmaker, and I'm *extremely* demanding when it comes to my photographic lenses and how well they resolve fine structural details across the frame, but video is a different kettle of fish. Comparing sharpness of cinema cameras is just silly, imo.

The advantage of these 6k/8k/12k sensors has nothing to do with sharpness. The Ursa 12K essentially allows you to punch in to a super 16 equivalent and *still* retain 4K resolution. It gives you a multitude of possible focal lengths (EFFECTIVE focal length, I should say), the ability to reframe/zoom/etc etc.

To me, those have always been the advantages of >4K cinema cameras. Not sharpness. No one watches a movie or a short film or a commercial and says "wow, look how sharp it is" - if anything, it's widely considered a negative.

It's even sillier when 99.99% of people don't have screens to even view these at full res.

I'd rather see more videos focused solely on color, DR, highlight rolloff, how it handles under/overexposure, etc. etc.

October 18, 2020 at 9:00PM

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Matt Williams
Director of Photography
287

The moire on the URSA on the subject's clothes cannot be blamed on the sensor or even the resolution. It is a function of the thread count or weave pattern on the shirt. Change the resolution or the shirt and the moire will disappear. Moire is caused when two (or more) different but similar patterns are overlaid on each other. In this case the 12k resolution of the URSA is beating or being interfered with by the weave of the shirt, probably because they are close to each other when the frequency of the resolution is a close multiple of the weave thread count. For example if the thread count is 300 per inch it could form a moire pattern when overlaid with the 12,000 pixel per inch resolution of the sensor.

October 22, 2020 at 12:51PM, Edited October 22, 12:51PM

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