URSA Mini 4k Test & Review | Coffee with Yuta

I recently made a purchase on the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini camera, after falling in love with the image of the original URSA. I bought it from Videoguys here in Melbourne, Australia. After extensive reading & researching in whether to get the URSA 4.6k or 4k, I decided on the 4k. A large part of this was to do with affordability in the current time, but also one of the stronger features of the URSA Mini 4k – global shutter at 60p. 

For me this feature is crucial as a lot of the time I’m doing things on my own, so its useful to have the option to stabilise my footage without the ‘jello’ effect for example. I also make use of a monopod all the time, and tend to do fake sliding shots on it. This is where you use your whole body weight and move the monopod forwards by leaning, then tilting the head upwards so that it stays level. Sometimes you get wobbly, so being able to straighten the shot is useful too. These are just some examples (also the fact that I shoot at lot of 60p too).

Anyway, onto the test! I went out with my Japanese buddies here in Melbourne. Yuta works at a coffee shop out in South Melbourne called Clement Coffee. If you haven’t been there yet, I highly recommend checking it out! I wanted to experiment with some indoor shots with available natural & indoor lighting. It also had a wonderful colour palette inside the coffee shop, so it had a nice aesthetic too.

I was shooting hand held, to simulate the type of work that I do on a weekly basis. My trusty FS100 is slightly lighter than the URSA, but thats due to the Magnesium build of the URSA I would think. The URSA is light in my hands, but I think the addition of a top handle would be really desirable, as it does strain your wrists after a while of holding the camera from the side grip when on standby. I think I’d be able to shoot a day with it hand held, but it’s going to need to be put down for sure. It’s light, but not as light as a feather.

I shot this coffee scene only on a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens. Didn’t need any more range considering it was quite tight for room in the shop. While shooting this, I did notice the skin-tones have a ‘thickness’ to it, like how Daniel Peter’s described it on Dan Chung’s podcast last week. It’s a breath of fresh air after using Sony cameras for so long. Whilst Sony cameras are really great for certain work, the URSA sensor is just far more superior in it’s colour science. Something I’ve been missing for quite some time!

The screen is really quite handy, however I think I’ll invest in some kind of EVF in the future. When shooting outdoors in full sun light, it was sometimes hard to judge the exposure, especially if you don’t make use of the histogram as an example. So some shots in a later film I will release seemed to be a little over exposed. Nevertheless, for indoor application the screen is perfect. It’s a great size to look at, you can accurately judge focus especially with the great peaking system that is built into the URSA Mini.

DSCF0868

The one thing I noticed, which has been an issue with many Blackmagic Design cameras is the fixed pattern noise. If you download the original file, you will be able to see that in some parts, the dark areas have the presence of the FPN. It’s not as bad as it was in the past, but it’s still there. Hopefully this can be eradicated soon enough through firmware updates, and perhaps on the 4.6k sensor it’ll be gone all together!

I used 2 Lexar 128gb CFAST 2.0 cards, which both had about 10 minutes each of ProRes HQ recording at 3840×2160. I would definitely recommend buying more of these babies if you are thinking of recording for a long period of time. In the battery department, I used a spare Globalmediapro 95w V-lock battery that I had lying around. It worked perfectly fine, and was only down to about 75% after a few hours. I was of course turning the camera on & off in this time, so it will be a different story if it were on constantly. I think it’s important to note that not all V-lock batteries will read a percentage to the camera (like mine). There is a compatibility list on the Blackmagic website somewhere, so if your battery doesn’t read a percentage, it will show 3 bars instead.

Enough of me rambling on anyway, have a watch and see what you think. Will post another test film sometime in the near future!

 

10 Comments

  1. riccardocovino

    There’s a huge problem with yellows popping out from the skins with an awful noise, I hope it’s the color you applied!

    • matsliwinski

      Hey mate, yeah some people have made that comment. I think it’s quite possibly the LUT that I applied, and the slight adjustments added on to it. I am planning on doing another grade and see how it holds up. I do think it’s what I did to it, so not a stress! 🙂

  2. Ben

    Hey, the vid is marked private. Can I get a link?

    • matsliwinski

      Hey Ben!
      Sorry about the private video, I’m just re-uploading a slightly different graded version, as there were some anomalies which were my fault in the initial test! It will be available in about half an hour!

  3. Jeff Kirkland

    Great to see a review from someone local 🙂

    I currently have an FS100 and a couple of GH4s, and I think the Ursa Mini is looking good as a replacement for the Sony in the new year.

    How are you finding it compared to the FS100? I guess the big three issues are low light performance, the “black hole sun” issue and fixed pattern noise.

    Most of my shooting is corporate documentary so while I get to do a lot of lighting, there’s a significant amount of just run and gun shooting for the b-roll.

    And I don’t suppose you’ve had a chance to hook it up to an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun? I’ve got one and I see it as a cost effective alternative to the way too expensive c-fast cards.

    There’s lots of theoretical debate online but how’s it holding up as a working camera in the real world?

    Cheers,
    Jeff K

    • matsliwinski

      Hey Jeff!

      I definitely was in the same boat as you with the FS100, so I know what it feels like. Also use GH4’s for some weddings too.

      It’s definitely a lot nicer than the FS100 in my honest opinion. It has such a superior image, especially when you use some nice glass on it too. Incredibly sharp & the colour science in just unbeatable.

      It’s definitely not a low light camera, but if you assess how often you would shoot in low light, then you will be able to see whether it’s worth getting or not. If you do shoot with lots of low light, it’s worth getting lighting equipment to give some pop for your image. Easiest way of fixing your low noise issues I suppose. The black hole issue is non-existent, and the fixed pattern noise is a hit & miss. Some units have it really badly, others don’t have it as bad. It is there though if you don’t expose well.

      I haven’t hooked it up to an external monitor yet, I have some projects early next year where I may be using a recorder, so will see. The c-fast cards are expensive, however it will come down in price in time. Currently I’ve just settled with shooting in a lower bit-rate (for longer days where I’m solo), and making sure my exposure is correct etc to compensate, especially if I’m shooting a wedding on the Ursa mini.

      I’ve shot some tests, wedding’s and I’m doing corporate work on it early next year. So far it’s been a dream to work with. It is no low-light warrior, but I think it’s honestly making me better at what I do, as it’s forcing me to really make use of lighting in every situation. Before I relied heavily on the FS100’s low light sensitivity, but it doesn’t’ always produce the best images when you do that.

      If you have any other questions, let me know 🙂

      • Jeff Kirkland

        Thanks Mat, I appreciate the info.

        Most of my work is corporate and almost always lit in some way shape or form, so it’s looking good for the Ursa right now.

        It’ll come down to how well it works with my Shogun. I’m reliably told that Black Magic Design and Atomos aren’t on speaking terms and that Atomos will only grudgingly (if at all) provide support for any Black Magic camera issue – so fingers crossed….

        And by the time I figure that out, it’s be time for NAB and we’ll all be waiting for the Ursa Mini 2 🙂

        Thanks again for the advice.

        Cheers
        Jeff K

  4. Thanks very much for putting up this video. Like you I also shot on the FS100 for a while and while it was good in low light I strongly disliked the colour. Same with the A7s. I have an Ursa Mini 4K and an Ursa Mini 4.6K due to arrive shortly (here’s hoping!) My third camera for wide locked off shots will be the BMPCC, which I adore.

    Like you I shoot a mixture of stuff including corporate, events and weddings. I always light (even when I was running 2 A7S and the FS100), so it really doesn’t bother me about this not being a “low light camera”. If you think about it, we are at our best when we are controlling the light. That’s really at the heart of being a cinematographer.

    My question is about file sizes. As you now long events like weddings means big time storage considerations. Have you found yourself shooting in HD Prores LT to save space? I only ordered two of the 128gig cards to share between the two cameras until the prices fall on CFast 2.0 cards. Does the HD Prores LT (if you are using it) look good or do you find it is too much of a compromise? Prores HQ at 4K sure does eat up space quickly! If one were to shoot in that format all day on two cameras you would need TB’s worth of cards…that would cost a fortune at the current prices!

    Any thoughts can share on this?

    Thanks and I enjoyed the video. Nice camera work!

    • matsliwinski

      Hey DC Brandon!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. This camera is definitely a hot topic hey?
      I completely understand where you’re coming from, and had the same issues. I just decided to take the plunge and discover for myself, as there was no information online really relating to this stuff.

      I’ve recently been shooting HD ProRes HQ on the Ursa Mini 4k, which gives me about 1hour 20mins. I’ve found that shooting this with the groom preparation & bride preparation is definitely a good trade off compared to the UHD resolution. Because its also a controlled space, you can move in and out to get your shot, get as close as you need. So the added bonus of cropping in doesn’t really mean anything in such a tight spaced area.

      I do shoot in UHD ProRes LT for the ceremony however. Most ceremonies go for about 30 minutes here in Australia, and that’s about as long as I get on a single 128gb card. I just make sure the exposure is set right so I don’t have to play too much around with it in post. The quality is still darn good, and if you are delivering in HD (which most people still are for weddings) then it’s no problem at all. I use this resolution so I can hide cuts or crop in for a zoom if I’m having to be a bit further away than I want.

      The photoshoot, I move between UHD & HD. I stay in ProRes HQ as this is a place that I might want to be more creative with in the grade for example. You are able to get into position and get close & personal, so once again you don’t need UHD if you are only delivering in HD.

      I think the key is to just keep backing up your cards in between each part of the day. So after moving between locations I make sure to rotate my cards, and let one backup. Then I swap them for the next, and the next etc.

      My last wedding ended up being about 320gb, moving between HD & UHD depending on the situation. I only used 2 cards.

      Hope this gives you some information & clarity. Remember, this is all with HD delivery as the end product 🙂

  5. Thanks very much for sharing your experience with the file sizes and shooting at different resolutions. It’s dawned on my that another hidden cost of my move from to the Ursa Minis will be backup storage requirements. Doing 20-30 shoots in a year will likely necessitate about 20TB in backup. My current set up is 6 TB of backup so that will have to increase.

    It sounds like your moving between UHD and HD is a very common sense approach given your reasons and for delivering in HD at the moment. It will likely be another year or two before clients actually demand UHD delivery. Still hasn’t happened yet, has it?!

    As a follow up question, do you notice a big dip in quality when switching back and forth between Prores LT and Prores HQ? I can definitely see myself using HQ for beauty shots but for longer stuff like events, speeches etc, it might be better to use LT as long as I can get some light on the subject. Do you figure it would be jarring to the viewer?

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