Blackmagic URSA – Sanity Check

It took less than 10 minutes after the official NAB announcement, and release of the specs, of the new URSA Mini, that the first guys complained about the lack of a ND filter wheel. And right after that, those infamous petitions kept popping up, regarding  2,5K ProRes, higher frame rates in the Pocket, auto WB, LUTs, noise reduction, andwhatnot.  Petitions – seriousley? Like in: Blackmagic is owning you something, and you can force them into it with a “petition”, on the internet? Time for a sanity check.


Okay, Blackmagic not only gave us an amazing 2.5k and Pocket cameras, that records frigging uncompressed raw internally, on cheap non proprietary media – something no other camera could do back than, and still can not do today, but only 3 years later they came up with a lightweight body and an amazing sensor, that sports up to 15 stops of DR, slowmo, switchable global/rolling shutter for an – almost bizarre – low pricepoint, and the first thing people say,

“Yeah, wish it has a filterwheel though, so I don’t need to buy a mattebox and filters, cause that slows me down. And when do we finally get 60fps on the Pocket, cause I know it’s just a few lines of code. I feel abandoned by BM if I don’t get my 60fps – gotta make a petition”

Will those guys ever be happy with something Blackmagic is putting on the table?

I never heard anybody whining on the lack of a ND filter wheel in the REDs or Alexas, let alone film cameras.
No offense, but if ND-wheel, auto WB, LUTs, noise reduction etc. is so important for you, and you really think you need all this, then a cinema camera may not be the right tool for you.

End of rant – sorry had to get this off my chest first.

Bang for the Buck

Actually it’s nothing but amazing, what you get for your money. With the new 4,6K sensor,  Blackmagic offers something, you not gonna find on any other camera – a SWITCHABLE global/rolling shutter sensor. Did I mention that the sensor is switchable? This is huge, and something I wanted for a long time. And you can get that in a camera that starts at a pricepoint of just below 5000 bucks, or with a $2000 sensor upgrade for your URSA. And no, you don’t have to send the camera to Australia, and you don’t have to pay a shitload for shipping and insurance – you can DIY it at your kitchen table in a few minutes.

Now look what Sony, Canon or Red offer for this. $5000 don’t even buy you the Red Mini-Mag Package, let alone a massive  sensor upgrade.

There are not many cameras out there, that can do up to 15 stops on Super35mm 4.6K – and they usually start at $20000 (non of them is G/R switchable though) – and folks whine about a “missing” filterwheel?  And we are talking about a real 16:9 sensor, which is great for the Super 35mm image circle, so the crop factor is 1.42 instead of 1.6ish, at the typical APS-C imager.

Since the resolution is 4.6k, you oversampling and that means a very clean and detailed image, when debayered to 4k/UHD (and 2k/HD of course). Oh – and yes, with this sensor, you can kiss the black sun spot good bye.

But it’s not only the sheer specs. The color science is mind blowing. Even at the highly compressed demo clip on Blakmagics website, you can see, what that sensor is capable of.  Heck I would want that sensor for the color science alone, even if it would be just 2.5k.

Take away:

If I can get the money together (especially the money for the CF cards on top of it), I definitely buy an URSA with the new sensor. Why not a Mini you ask? The Mini is really nice and all, and a great camera for the money, but with the URSA you get so much more of everything. Especially the ability of changeable sensors/mounts, the bigger monitor, a second monitor and buttons on the dumb side, higher frame rates andwhatnot. Definitely better suits my sort of work.

How about the Micro?

Not top of my list, since I already have a Pocket, but if I get a drone, that would be my choice. The Pocket  totally replaced me GoPro already as a car mount/crash cam (sorry BM), and it is perfect on the Nebula gimbal, that I gonna get for a doc soon (stealing shots in more or less stealth mode). But on a drone, the Micro would be the better camera, especially since gimbals for the Pocket are rare, to non existant on the affordable quadcopters, an idiot can fly.


9 thoughts on “Blackmagic URSA – Sanity Check

  1. Well said, Frank. Well said. Though I am on the list for the Ursa Mini. 🙂

    I had the 2.5K BMCC for a year and loved much about it — shooting in the UK, continental Europe and Africa with it. Sold it and went 4K with the GH4 (and added an Atomos Shogun in December) and had the HDMI port fail/break a week before I had to be at NAB with the rig — and Panasonic Canada wanted 4-5 weeks to repair the GH4. Cutting mp4 footage is not as fast as ProRes and I suffered through getting stuff done at the show. (I did pull my BMPCC out for certain things and still love it.) Love the Shogun, but will prefer BNC connections to it, rather than mini HDMI.


  2. And all this progress by BMD is only possible down to customers feedbacks. Some companies actually pay for ideas and users are giving them for free to Blackmagic. Online petitions shows how enthusiastic people are in helping Blackmagic improve and they have indeed helped which BMD have admitted and encourage, so do us all a favour and give customers the creditin their demand however unreasonable you might think they are. If BMD does not think it is possible they will not implement it so quite the berating.

  3. I always enjoy Frank’s comments, and I think he’s spot on with this one. Makes me re-think though the choice between the Mini and the big URSA….it looks like a pretty heavy beast if you’re not on a tripod…but a wonderful camera…I’m a big fan of BlackMagicDesign, a company that actually does care about people who don’t have 100K to spend on equipment. Red made an interesting choice in that regard…

    • Personally, I don’t care about the weight, and I don’t think it’s such a big deal ether. The fullsize URSA is in the same ballpark as an Alexa or Digibeta.

      • My shooting style favors the mini, so I’m getting a mini… it’s about the same weight as my Arca-Swiss. Suitable, therefore, for the sort of mountaineering that I’m into and also for backpacking and for scripted film on a gimbal.

        The rest I agree with you on. It’s comical how many people complain about what BMD is giving us for the price they’re asking. Anyone who’s in dire need of ND filters should probably look at an actual ENG camera. I’m happy to put some NDs on the lens, especially at the price point we’re looking at with BMD.

        And while I’m awaiting the Mini, I’ll continue making movies with what I have now. Those cameras still work, and still have 13 stops of dynamic range!

  4. The problem is with this self-entitled generation of freeloaders we are breeding. This new generation that wants everything for free and want to pay for nothing. These people are probably the same who are content creators but also are illegal downloaders and people who use cracked software for paid work.

    For any real professional experienced enough to have used a full sized shoulder camera and to remember the price of what was considered pro gear just a few years back, this Ursa Mini looks like science fiction. It’s too good to be true. But it is true. How can you still find something to complain in a camera that is basically being given away? Only if you are a spoiled self-entitled brat!

    This is the main problem with Blackmagic. While I admire what they are doing, the hard reality is that they are making things just too accessible that any brat can afford and the brats have now started complaining that it’s not good enough. I’m so glad I’m not in a position to have to compete with the brats for work. I’m happy I’m able tow work with clients that can tell the difference between a pro and somebody who owns a camera. Those who think just because they bought a camera it makes them professional and then they spend all their time on forums complaining because they have no pro work to occupy their time. Because you know, they are working on that feature which will make them the next Spielberg. The landscape has become ridiculous.

  5. Great company great cameras cheap at the price and feature rich. If you can’t see this you have not been around long enough to matter. Maybe daddy will spring for an Amira or Alexa but that doesn’t have a filter wheel either.
    Something for then vidiots to ponder applying a filter after the lense is not the same as applying it before the lense. Light is energy and too much of it will create distortions in the lense no matter how good it is. Control the light before the lense and you will get better results.
    BMD rocks

  6. I think this article makes a good point, but as several posters have mentioned… BM gets free customer feedback through all of this. They are paying attention.

    As for the filter wheel. Well, it would be a nice thing to have. BM is marketing the mini as a run and gun capable camera… but… it is missing a basic piece of a run and gun kit (the filters onboard). All small cameras, in the form of something like a C300, EX3, etc., have this built in for a reason. Running fast isn’t always possible with a mattebox and filters. So, anything that speeds the process up can be very helpful in the real world.

    I’d prefer the camera to include the feature, I understand why it was excluded, and cost is certainly low for the camera. Personally, I would pay more for the added filters. I use them frequently on all of my broadcast cameras except the 5Dm3… but the 5D isn’t great for run and gun at all.

    That said, this article has sparked a very condescending tone, which is unfortunate, I think. I am frustrated by the flood of inexperience in the business, but I don’t dwell on it… instead I try and focus on my skills and what I can do for myself. Happy shooting everyone.

    Now, why doesn’t that micro version have a shoulder mount attached to it?

    That’s a joke, fyi.

  7. For the record, I’m on the list for the Mini (tho thinking about the big Ursa given your comments).

    Thanks for injecting some reason into this squawk fest. And thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom. I’ve learned a lot from your blog and your work.

    Internal ND vs matte box is a false choice. There are other ways to skin that cat.

    I’ve owned BMCCs for two years and have (after a lot of T&E) developed a rig that works for run and gun. No, it’s not as fast as an ENG rig and never will be. But it gets the job done and the results (from the still-beautiful BMCC 2.5k sensor, black sun and all) beat the crap out of anything in its price range.

    Solution to ND is simple — get some step-up rings so that all of your lenses have the same filter size. Then get as many variable NDs as you think you need. I have two Tiffen variable NDs to cover four lenses. Most of the time when I’m running I’m shooting with a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 coupled to a Metabones Speedbooster anyway, so that one stays on the rig with the ND attached. Problem solved. I keep the second ND on my Zeiss 35mm f/2 in case I want to get tighter. I have some Canon glass that I carry around but rarely use (the 24-105 f4L when I need a mid-zoom and the 10-22 f/4 for tight spaces). The two Zeiss lenses give me 35mm equiv 34mm – 46mm – 56mm -77mm depending on whether or not I leave the Speedbooster in the stack.

    If you’re shooting at an angle where the sun is raking the front element of the ND there is flare, but you’d have that using an internal ND too unless you add a matte box. So, no disadvantage there.

    Add some rails, a shoulder pad, Cineroid EVF and the Switronix BMCC battery and you’re good to go. A Tascam DR60 and shotgun can be snapped on for sound.

    Got the idea to mount the camera BELOW the rails from your rig, Frank, and it’s a great solution. I have a cheeseplate and a quick mount on top of the BMCC, so I can snap it into or out of the rig. The Cineroid is likewise on a quick mount above the rails. I also have a couple of carabiners for safety clips connecting the camera neckstrap lugs to the rails should the quick mount fail (or, more likely, I fail to ensure the thumb lever and safety are snug). I find that having the BMCC at chest level means I get a lot of shade on the rear screen and can actually use it for settings and playback (and sometimes framing) just by leaning the camera away from my body. I can also screw a monopod in next to the right handgrip, and I can tuck that into my belt or drop it all the way to the ground to get more stability when needed.

    Thanks again for the sanity check and the excellent advice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s