By David Hurd
I have already tested two of Blackmagic’s cameras, and I found both of them to be a great value for the money. This left me with great expectations for the Ursa Mini 4.6K camera.
The Ursa Mini 4.6K feels like a very solid, well-built camera. I spent 15 years on broadcast sports trucks, and this camera has that rock-solid feel to it, and for only a fraction of the price.
This camera has had some software updates since it was first released. The magenta cast issues with the sensor, which required additional color correction in the first run of cameras is gone, and everything looks great in the camera that I’ve been testing. Even without a global shutter, the rolling shutter on the camera looks great compared to DSLRs and delivers a usable shutter and smooth motion when I tweaked it in FCPX.
David with the Ursa Mini.
I used the flip-out screen outdoors in fairly bright sunlight in a park with some tree cover, and it worked fine for framing and focus. Since you need the screen to control the camera settings, you might want to consider a sun hood if you are in extremely bright locations. This will make the screen non-collapsible, but you really do need to see what you’re doing.
Blackmagic sent me the Ursa Mini 4.6K, EVF (Electric View Finder), along with the follow focus and shoulder pad kits. I used my set of Rokinon prime lenses and my Petroff matte box, rods and follow focus. The Ursa Mini 4.6K, with its solid magnesium body, is manageable for even us older guys. I like the weight and the feel of the camera without the matte box and follow focus for extended hand-held shoots. If I’m using a tripod or a slider, it’s nice to have a matte box and follow focus.
There’s really a lot of stuff going on with this little camera. The shoulder mount works better on tripods with small camera plates. My Miller plate digs into my shoulder a bit, but it’s easy to fix by simply unscrewing my tripod plate while doing handheld.
The rotatable side handle is really nicely done, and it’s easy to adjust it to fit your body. If you’re used to making your own rig, with parts hanging everywhere, the side handle and shoulder pad will give you a welcome feeling of tight control. It also has iris control and LANC control for stop/start.
On the backside of the LCD screen there are several handy controls. In addition to Record, Iris, Focus, and Playback controls, there are two programmable function buttons. These come in very handy and are easy to reach when the LCD screen is closed and you’re using the viewfinder.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the Ursa Mini 4.6K is a compact wonder. It’s small, yet easy to adjust for comfortable viewing. The HD display not only looks great but has a zoom and programmable function buttons on the top the unit, which come in very handy. I like to use the zoom and the peak buttons to check focus with my left hand, while my right hand is on the handle grip. It’s really easy to do without looking.
With my old BMD MFT Cinema camera, a T1.5 Rokinon lens and a Meta-bones speed adapter, I could practically shoot in the dark at 1600 ISO. The Ursa Mini 4.6K is not a great low-light camera; its native 800 ISO can be pushed to 1600 without too much noise in the image, but it really likes stop or two of light.
The Ursa Mini 4.6K has two XLR inputs mounted directly behind the handle on the top of the camera. These two channels of audio can use the onboard mics for scratch audio, or you can plug a microphone into the XLRs.
The nice thing about this camera is that it has phantom power to power your shotgun mics. I recorded a violin performance outdoors with a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic plugged right into the camera. I used a blimp and dead cat to control the wind noise, and ended up with amazing audio. This camera has the best audio of any BMD camera that I’ve tested.
The controls for the audio levels are under the LCD monitor panel, which makes it kind of hard to adjust when you’re using the viewfinder and the LCD panel is closed, but since the menu, power buttons and media slots are under there as well, you get used to it.
So let’s talk a bit about media. Since my other two Blackmagic cameras use SSD media, I have a HighPoint Rocketstor 5212 Thunderbolt drive dock already installed on my Mac.
After doing some research, I decided to use the 256GB Lexar 3500x CFast cards and their Workflow CR2 Thunderbolt/USB3.0 CFast card reader. They are very reliable cards with a good reputation, which is everything when you’re talking data storage. The upside to these cards is that they are located safely inside the camera and are very small in size. The downside is how often you would have to change them when shooting full-blown 4.6K footage.
I shoot a lot of 4K ProRes HQ footage, which doesn’t create too large of a file; one 256GB card will record about 26 minutes of footage. If you have a DIT on set, it’s no problem, but if you’re a one-man band, you will need a bunch of cards. I’m sure the cards will continue to come down in price over time, making them more attractive cost wise.
There is another solution however, and it’s called the Atoch C2S. It mounts on a short arm and has two slots for SSDs. It has two short cables, which plug into your two CFast slots, and a power cable, which plugs into the base of your battery mount at the back of your camera.
The Ursa Mini 4.6K is as solid as a rock, and it really feels like a serious camera. There is a lot of information available on the LCD monitor, and the touchscreen feature let’s you change settings via touch rather than scrolling through a menu. It’s an outstanding value for the money.
David Hurd is a 40-year industry veteran. He owns David Hurd Productions in Tampa, Florida.