Blackmagic Design has come a long way with the URSA cinema camera line. The newest iteration is the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K. It has a bunch of new features not offered on the URSA Mini 4.6K, the previous URSA Mini model. It was just a few years ago, when the full-sized URSA hit the market and Blackmagic Design has been taking notes on what works and what doesn’t. With the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K, you get ND filters, external controls and SD card capture.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K has a Super-35mm CMOS sensor and shoots resolutions up to 4.6K (4,608 x 2,592) at up to 60 frames per second (fps). You can capture either 12-bit CinemaDNG or ProRes up to 444 QT. Along with new external controls, you’ll get built-in two, four and six-stop ND filters and the ability to capture on either CFast 2.0 or SD cards and output via the camera’s 12G-SDI output with timecode and REF input. It has two XLR inputs with phantom power and is available in different lens mounts.
Blackmagic Design now offers three different URSA Mini models: The URSA Mini 4K, the URSA Mini 4.6K and now the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K. Although the sensor is different on the 4K version, these cameras give you more or less features depending on what you spend.
What Else You’ll Need
Blackmagic Design is known for their workflow solutions; their cameras are no different. Before you think of buying any camera, let alone this one, know what accessories you’ll need to make your camera work for your needs.
Things like an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and shoulder mounting solution — or what lens mount you need — will change what kind of money you’re going to spend.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K, depending on your use, will require you to spend a little more money making the camera work for you. First, the camera doesn’t have any type of monitoring outside of its 4-inch touch screen. If you need an EVF or studio viewfinder, Blackmagic Design has you covered, but they aren’t cheap. We reviewed the camera with the optional URSA Viewfinder; it costs 1,500 bucks. If you are in a studio setting and need a tally light or a larger screen, the URSA Studio Viewfinder with a 7-inch screen will do, but it’s 1,800 dollars.
If you plan on shooting more run-and-gun style and need to put the camera on your shoulder, make sure to look at the shoulder kit they offer for 395 dollars. Need a mic mount? You’ll need to shell out another 135 bucks for that.
Its likely you will order the camera with the lens mount you need, but if you need to change it, there are three options. Pick from the PL mount for 245 dollars, the F mount for 375 dollars and lastly, if you need a Mini B4 mount, it will set you back 385 dollars. The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K ships with the EF mount, but if you need a replacement, an EF mount can be purchased for 175 dollars.
Next, because you’ll need to power the camera, you will need a battery plate. Choose from either V-Lock or a Gold Battery plate for 95 bucks each.
Finally, you’ll need a battery. Cine batteries have a huge range in their prices, from as low as 200 bucks all the way up to 1,000 dollars.
Is your head spinning yet? It’s OK, you don’t need it all, but it might make your work better and easier. There is a bit of relief because Blackmagic Design does you a solid and includes the 300 dollar DaVinci Resolve Studio for free.
Outside of the camera, you’ll need to support it. We found ourselves with the first URSA at 16.5 pounds (lbs) and needed a tripod, but tripods with that weight capacity aren’t cheap. This camera weighs less at 5.1lbs, but the battery will weigh between two and three pounds and the lens adds another pound and a half to two pounds. Overall that’s 8.6 to 10 lbs. It would be a mistake to get a camera with the capability of the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K and not have a set of sticks to support it.
All this said, just make sure you configure what you’ll need before you spend any money. It’ll improve what you can get from the tools if they are configured correctly.
We were lucky for this review — we already had the viewfinder and the shoulder mount for our URSA Mini 4K. It’s nice that it’s interchangeable with the new camera. Shooting this camera without a handle makes for an awkward mounting and set-up. Even when we didn’t use the shoulder mount itself, we still left the handle on. Because the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K has so many knobs, buttons and dials for easy manual control without going into the menu, it begs for a handle. We would have liked seeing it included in the base model.
If you don’t shoot with ND filters, you should. The integrated ND filters on the URSA Mini Pro are great. They are easy to access and work with whatever lens you attach to the camera. We’re not sure what Blackmagic was thinking when they labeled the ND controls. They are labeled 1, 2, 3 and 4 but actually select clear, two stops, four stops and six stops of ND. It would make more sense to label the dials Clear, 2, 4 and 6.
We next evaluated the LCD monitor. It’s an inch smaller than on previous URSA Mini models. When comparing the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K to the URSA Mini 4K side by side, the new manual controls and buttons now take up the space left by the smaller monitor. The screen is adequate; however if you have big fingers like this reviewer, you might find yourself selecting something by accident or having to tap a few times to get the menu to respond to what you want it to do. An alternative to using the touch menu is using the menu knob on the front side of the camera.
Because we typically use an URSA Mini 4K in our productions, the differences between the cameras were easy to spot. The most noticeable and high value offering in the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K is its improved dynamic range over the 4K sensor. Blackmagic claims 15 stops of dynamic range in the 4.6K sensor, and compared to the 12 stops on the 4K sensor, it shows. We set up both the 4K and 4.6K URSA Minis with the same lens, distance from the subject, and exposure. The scene was lit to have one side almost over-exposed and the other side in full darkness.
We shot both cameras in Film mode and recorded in uncompressed CinemaDNG RAW. When comparing the two next to each other, the difference was in the shadows. The URSA Mini 4K had significant fixed pattern noise while the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K did not. We were able to pull detail on the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K from dark shadowed areas without adding significant noise to the picture. The 4K model didn’t fair as well; it just got worse where there was already noise.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K comes with loads of resolution and compression options. Shoot RAW uncompressed, 3:1 and 4:1 compressed or six different flavors of ProRes from 444 XQ to 422 Proxy. Shooting in RAW is fantastic; who doesn’t like lots of control after the fact and loads of color to manipulate? However, RAW isn’t for everyone and here’s why: If you have a workflow that requires a quick turn-around or if you don’t have the resources or ability to grade, it could be a costly choice. In these cases, it’s best to shoot knowing you won’t have the ability to change things. Get proper exposure and white balance, and you’ll have something ready to cut, without all the extra time a RAW workflow requires.
For those who can use RAW in their workflow, consider the following. Do you need proxies for dailies or playback? If you do, the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K will require another external accessory — a recorder. Even when coupled with the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini SSD Recorder for 400 bucks, you will not be able to record proxies simultaneously. Instead, you will have to make them outside of the camera. Since you have the ability to record on SD or CFast 2.0, we would have liked to have the capacity to record proxies onto one, while capturing RAW on the other. Blackmagic does offer two different recorders that will give you the ability to capture ProRes proxies simultaneously. If you only require HD proxies, there is the 5-inch Video Assist for 495 bucks, and if you need 4K, the 7-inch Video Assist 4K is available for 895 dollars.
Being that shooting CinemaDNG uncompressed has a data rate of 4.1 Gbps, you’re not going to capture that on an SD Card, even the one we used with a 2.4 Gbps top write speed. With that said, although the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K will let you start recording in larger formats than can write on a SD card, it quickly fails. With a Lexar 64GB Professional 2000x UHS-II SDXC card, the one that Blackmagic Design uses in marketing collateral for the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K, we tested what you can capture. We were able to capture CinemaDNG Raw 3:1 at 1.44 Gbps and the highest 4.6K ProRes 422 HQ at 880 Mbps. If you’re considering what media to buy, pay attention to this. When testing with a Lexar 128GB Professional 3400X CFast 2.0 card, we had no issues capturing all the way up to uncompressed CinemaDNG.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K gives you loads of workflow options. Shoot at a data rate as high as 4.1 Gbps in uncompressed RAW 4.6K or as little as 176 Mbps in ProRes Proxy 4.6K. Lower the resolution and get lower data rates. One thing to consider though, if you desire to shoot RAW in any resolution outside of 4.6K, you are going to gain a crop related to the resolution you shoot. Blackmagic doesn’t publish the changing crop factor, but it appears to be pixel to pixel reduction with your resolution change. When shooting in HD, there is more than a two times crop factor. If you don’t want to shoot in 4.6K but want RAW, you will want to choose your lenses accordingly.
We must note that when shooting in ProRes, there is no crop in any resolution or compression type unless you put the sensor into windowed mode.
We took the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K into the Videomaker Studio to test its low light performance. There are only five ISO options, so the test was quick. Starting at ISO 200, no noise was seen, and the experience was repeated at ISO 400. Compare that to the URSA Mini 4K, which sees noise at ISO 400. At ISO 800 noise is introduced, but with Red Giant Denoiser III applied in its default setting, the noise could be removed. By ISO 1600 and the noise is unacceptable. The biggest reason for this is how organized the fixed pattern noise is. It screams, “Look at me.”
It’s a nice feature having 60 frames per second (fps) in 4.6K. Slowed down to 24 fps, that’s 2.5 times slow motion — a good choice for cinematic slowmo. If you can accept a lower resolution, shoot up to 120 fps in 2K DCI. 120 fps gives you a 5 times slowmo. At 120, an action that took two seconds to capture will play back at 10 seconds. Consider this when choosing your frame rate for slowmo. Not all things look good when slowed down too much.
It’s a nice feature having 60 frames per second (fps) in 4.6K. Slowed down to 24 fps, that’s 2.5 times slow motion — a good choice for cinematic slowmo.
Lastly, we panned the camera first slowly then more quickly when focused on a black pole against a white background. While panning we saw some rolling shutter, but not so much that we’d consider it an issue — not the best choice for a whip pan, but then again, lower your shutter speed and you’ll get more streaks so a bent pole won’t seem strange.
Looking out into the marketplace for cameras like the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K, there are many to choose from. One might look at the Panasonic EVA1 or the Sony FS5 or FS7, but none are a great apples-to-apples comparison. However, there is one camera that is: the Canon C200.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6K and the C200 both have a Super 35 image sensor, shoot on to both SD and CFast 2.0 cards and offer a type of RAW shooting along with another codec. But wait, there’s more — they also both offer ND filters, and they both have external controls for on-the-go shooting. Lastly, when the URSA Viewfinder is included, they both cost the same price. Because they are so similar, we wanted to do more than just compare their stats. We put them side by side to see how they hold up to each other in features and performance. We’re going deep, hold on and let’s get to it.
Starting with dynamic range, there is slightly more dynamic range with the C200. We’re talking almost indistinguishable. When shooting the same lens, exposure and distance from the subject, the highlights in the footage from the URSA were clipped at not even a third of a stop lower than the C200. If dynamic range is your concern, the C200 does have more, but we wouldn’t say it’s enough to base your purchasing decision on alone.
Moving on to looking at their color, we shot the Blackmagic in 12-bit in RAW CinemaDNG and the Canon in 12-Bit Cinema RAW Light. The biggest difference between the footage from the two cameras is the amount of the data it took to capture it. They both have loads of color information, and we saw no benefit with either when it comes to their flexibility in post or our ability to grade the footage. The data rate is the difference. Uncompressed RAW in the Blackmagic records at 4.1 Gbps while with the Canon, Cinema RAW Light records at only 1 Gbps. At less than a quarter the size, Cinema RAW light is much more efficient. However, we must mention that the increased resolution of RAW from the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K means files will inherently be larger.
Top resolution is only one side of the coin. There are needs from other workflows that don’t include RAW. In that situation, ease of use and conformity into the workflow is key. In this case, you have 10-bit Apple ProRes in the Blackmagic against 8-bit M4Vs in the Canon. This leaves a big gap on the Canon when it comes to a non RAW workflow. The URSA doesn’t have a big jump to its next compression type of ProRes 444 XQ, but the Canon jumps way down to 8-bit 4:2:0 M4Vs. One benefit from the 8-bit files is there maximum data rate of 150 Mbps. However the URSA has many flavors of ProRes and can be compressed down to 179 Mbps.
When shooting side by side with the Canon shooting 8-bit 4:2:0 M4Vs and Blackmagic shooting ProRes 4:2:2 Proxy, there wasn’t much difference between the two to the naked eye. In fact, the slightly larger dynamic range played a bigger role in perceived quality than the added color information. The amount of color will make a difference, however, if chromakeying or shooting something with nuanced color, like a sunset.
Moving past the technical specifications, we want to address the usability of each camera in contrast to the other. They have a difference of weight, with the URSA weighing 5.1 pounds and the C200 at 3.2 pounds. A little shy of two pounds doesn’t sound like much, but it would be a noticeable difference after shooting all day.
Next, we want to look at the difference in form factor. This is a subjective thing to consider. Depending on your own anatomy, you might experience something different. When shooting from the shoulder, an EVF is required to shoot with the URSA. Along with that, using the monitor is very cumbersome because it’s very close to the face. The Canon does not have a branded shoulder mount, so it is no competition for the URSA. However, either camera with the right third party accessories will work. The C200 is easy to shoot handheld without a shoulder rig, and because it’s lighter, it’s easier to keep up over time.
Using the menu on any camera can be painful. However, Blackmagic has an intuitive menu that’s easy to read and understand. In contrast, the Canon menu is super deep. It’s great to have lots of options, but along with that comes complexity.
The touch screen of the URSA makes menu navigation easy. The Canon has a joystick on the screen and a joystick on the grip. The URSA’s menu is easier to use, however you get many more controls on the C200.
The URSA has a larger top resolution at 4.6K over DCI 4K on the C200. Additionally, the top frame rate of 120 fps on the URSA is available at a higher resolution at 2K over the 120 fps in HD available on the C200.
Both cameras offer internal ND filters. They are accessed on a knob on the URSA and up and down buttons on the C200. Both have a 2, 4 and 6 stop ND, however the C200 expands to offer 8 and 10 stops of ND, as well.
The C200 has both an EVF and LCD monitor while the URSA has only a LCD monitor. Like we said before, this can be remedied by getting the URSA Viewfinder for 1,500 dollars. We prefer the monitor on the C200, although we wish it was touchscreen like the URSA.
Battery cost will also be an important consideration. The C200’s batteries cost 270 bucks, Cine batteries for the URSA cost between 200 and 1,000 dollars. We don’t know if we’d roll the dice on a cheap cine battery, so it’s likely the URSA battery will cost more than the C200 battery.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
Upon testing, we found the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K to be a great camera. It offers loads of features with a very reasonable price tag.
While it’s not a category leader, it gives great value to the user. Overall, the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K is a solid cinema camera, but don’t get caught without a budget for accessories.
- Dynamic Range
- ND Filters
- Menu operation
- Event Videographers
- Indie filmmakers
- Corporate filmmakers
Sensor Size: 25.34 x 14.25 mm (Super-35)
Lens Mount: Active Canon EF (interchangeable)
Effective Resolution: 4608 x 2592
Dynamic Range: 15 stops
Shooting Resolutions: 4608 x 2592, 4608 x 1920 (4.6K 2.4:1), 4096 x 2304 (4K 16:9), 4096 x 2160 (4K DCI), 3840 x 2160 (Ultra HD), 3072 x 2560 (3K Anamorphic), 2048 x 1152 (2K 16:9), 2048 x 1080 (2K DCI), 1920 x 1080
Frame Rates: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60 fps
Display Dimensions: 4" diagonal
Screen Type: LCD capacitive touchscreen
Media Card Slots: 2 x CFast 2.0, 2 x SD UHS-II
4608 x 2592
- Uncompressed CinemaDNG Raw – 513MB/s
- CinemaDNG Raw 3:1 – 180 MB/s
- CinemaDNG Raw 4:1 – 135 MB/s
3840 x 2160:
- Apple ProRes 444 XQ – 312.5 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 444 – 165 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 422 HQ – 110 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 422 – 73.6 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 422 LT – 51 MB/s
- Apple ProRes Proxy – 22.4 MB/s
1920 x 1080:
- Apple ProRes 444 XQ – 62.5 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 444 – 41.25 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 422 HQ – 27.5 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 422 – 18.4 MB/s
- Apple ProRes 422 LT – 12.75 MB/s
- Apple ProRes Proxy – 5.6 MB/s
Input: 1 x BNC, HD/3G/6G/12G-SDI
Output: 2 x BNC, HD/3G/6G/12G-SDI (clean output and monitor output)
Reference: Tri-Sync/Black Burst/Timecode
Analog Audio Inputs: 2 x XLR (mic/line/AES, phantom power output)
Audio Output: 1 x 3.5mm headphone (TRRS connection supports in-line microphone)
Remote Control: 2 x 2.5mm LANC (controls record start/stop, electronic iris, and electronic focus)
USB: 1 x USB Type C for software updates
SDI Compliance: SMPTE 292M, SMPTE 424 Level B, Draft SMPTE 2081-1, Draft SMPTE 2082-1
SDI Audio Sampling: 48 kHz and 24-bit
Microphone: 2 x Built-in cardioid microphones for stereo recording with -10dB pad and low-cut filter
Speaker: Integrated mono (enabled in playback when headphones are not used)
- Mac OS X 10.11 or newer
- Windows 8.1 or newer
Power Connectors Inputs: 1 x 4-pin XLR input for external power supply or battery, 1 x 12-pin molex connector on rear battery plate
Outputs: 1 x 12V output using 4-pin XLR for powering external accessories such as EVF, 1 x 12V regulated output from rear molex 12-way connector
Battery Plate Support: Mounting holes for V-mount and Gold mount battery plates
Weight: 5.1 lb / 2.3 kg
Chris Monlux has used almost every camera released over the last two years. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.