Working With Blackmagic Technology – Part 1: The New 4.6K Sensor

Marco Solorio Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Reviews 97 Comments

In this new multi-part blog series, Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media, explores some new findings during his experiences with new technologies from Blackmagic Design. What he finds is exciting and may change the industry (again).

WARNING! This blog post contains absolutely NO PREVIEW FOOTAGE due to the fact this body/sensor is a prototype beta unit which precludes me from sharing any footage publicly. If you are open to learning from the experience gained while working with this sensor, please continue reading! Otherwise you are free to stop reading now.

I’ve been very fortunate over the decades, living and working here in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the heart of the Silicon Valley only a very short drive away. Blackmagic Design (who’s main headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia) has their U.S. headquarters in Fremont, California—only 30 minutes from our OneRiver Media facility in Walnut Creek. Convenient!

This has allowed me, on many occasions, to meet with my friends at Blackmagic, and explore some new technology as it’s being rolled out.

Now, I know everyone’s first question is, “is the URSA Mini shipping yet? What about the Micros, are they shipping yet too?”

Unfortunately I don’t have those kinds of answers. But what I do have is firsthand experience with the URSA Mini 4.6K EF and URSA Mini 4.6K PL but more importantly, the new 4.6K sensor itself, which is the basis of the first installment of this blog series.

Dan Marco Chris at Blackmagic Design

Left to right: Dan May (President, Blackmagic Design), Marco Solorio (OneRiver Media), and Chris Cusimano (Camera Partner Relations, Blackmagic Design) overlooking the URSA Mini 4.6K PL.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the testing I’ve done with the new 4.6K sensor (in the URSA Mini) is that the sensor I’m using is literally the same exact sensor that was on the NAB show floor back in April. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s “bad” because this is the first prototype of the 4.6K sensor and no further optimization has been done to the sensor in this early beta camera. But it’s also “good” because the findings I’m going to reveal show that even with this non-optimized prototype sensor, the ability of what this sensor can produce is mind-blowing, even if no further optimization were ever developed.

But before we go there, I’d like to give a quick briefing on the new 4.6K sensor itself. Prior to the 4.6K sensor, Blackmagic has used 3rd party sensors in their cameras, which many camera companies do. It helps save cost in many aspects, which in turn saves us (you and me, the end buyer) cost when buying these cameras. But the 4.6K sensor is the first sensor that Blackmagic designed themselves from the ground up. This is an important factor, as only the top guns have been able to build their own camera sensors exactly to the specifications they want, matched to the internal camera technology they wish to marry it to. And this is where things get very interesting.

Blackmagic building Fremont

Having a facility near the Blackmagic Design main offices is very convenient when testing gear!

Because the sensor I’ve been testing is a prototype, I cannot release any footage or still frames generated from this physical beta sensor. Nonetheless, there’s a great amount of detail I can share that I think will still resonate with DPs, cinematographers, and everyday shooters alike. I know there will be people saying this blog post is pointless without footage to see (and believe me, I share the pain), but knowing that, I felt it was still important to at least share my firsthand experience than sharing nothing at all.

Although the sensor is still being optimized at this very moment, it appears the sensor sits at base 800 ISO for the sweet spot. This is familiar territory with the likes of the ARRI Alexa and the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera, also at base 800 ISO.

From 800 ISO, you can currently go up to 1600 and down to 400 and 200 ISO. Here’s the cool part; at 1600 ISO, there’s very little noise amplification, to the point that 1600 is definitely usable in real world production. Unless Blackmagic changes anything with the finalized shipping sensor, you can be rest assured that 1600 ISO can confidently be used when your shot is lacking exposure. It’s so clean in fact that I’m hoping Blackmagic will add 3200 ISO to the menu option, but only time will tell.

A first with the new 4.6K sensor is the option to manually turn on and turn off global shutter mode. This is pretty cool as it allows the operator to decide if they need the mode activated or not. By turning it off, you gain full dynamic range from the sensor. In recent tests by BMD, it appears that turning the global shutter on or off does not change dynamic range performance. In other words, you’ll gain full dynamic range between both modes. If your shot is more critical to fast movements, simply turning on Global Shutter mode will ensure perfectly vertical images with no trace of skew or jello effect. But basically speaking, the only reason to turn off global shutter modes is to go into higher frame rates, which the camera will do automatically for you when going into said frame rates. The dilemma of trying to decide whether to buy a rolling or global shutter ends with this sensor.

A new welcomed sight with the 4.6K are its various framing modes, from full raster 4608×2592 down to 1920×1080 HD (scaled or cropped), and many flavors in-between, including anamorphic options. Nice!

BMD-4.6K-Sensor-Resolutions.2
As for HFR (High Frame Rate), the 4.6K sensor bodes well at up to 120 FPS on the URSA Major and up to 60 FPS on the URSA Mini. This includes both internal RAW and ProRes flavors at full sensor raster of 4.6K in RAW and UHD in ProRes (it’s not clear at this time if DCI 4K will be the official highest ProRes raster size). And because these cameras are non-burst HFR, you can record for as long as you have storage space for.

The 4.6K sensor is among the largest in its Super35 sized 16×9 class. At a physical dimension of 25.34mm x 14.25mm, it’s larger than the ARRI Alexa 16×9 sensor (23.76 x 13.37), the Sony F65/F55 sensor (24 x 12.7), and the Canon C500/C300 Mk II sensor (24.6 x 13.8). In essence, the sensor fits right within the image circle of Super35. The main point however is that, not only is the 4.6K sensor a true Super35 spec sensor, it’s a fair share larger than the original Blackmagic 4K sensor, which was a little shy of the Super35 spec.

Sensor Size Comparison Chart
Next up and possibly most notably, is the introduction of 15 stops of dynamic range with this sensor. This is huge, as not many cameras in the world can claim this wide dynamic range. Although I haven’t had a chance to run the camera through a lighted dynamic range test chart, I did perform various other real world tests that did in fact show off the power of this new sensor’s dynamic range. My testing was happily eye-opening, to say the least. And this is where we get to the meat of this post.

Dynamic-Range-Comparison-Chart.2


The highlight retention is stunningly gorgeous with subtle, silky smooth roll-off that any cinematographer would appreciate.
Clean shadow retention? Gorgeous.
Skin tone rendition? Beautiful.
Overall color fidelity? Immersive and accurate.
Detail? Crisp and clean.

I could go on and on and on. Everything I pointed the lens to with this sensor resulted in images that were nothing short of impressive—at any price point of any camera, let alone a camera starting at a paltry $4995 (or only $1995 for existing URSA owners that will swap out the sensor in either EF mount or PL mount for $2495). If anything stood out the most to me, it was the huge dynamic range, the silky smooth highlight rolloff, and the skin tones. Seriously, this is a f***ing beautiful sensor. I literally pointed the lens into extremely high-output LED light panels next to my subject and not only was there absolutely no sensor overload (where the original 4K sensor suffered), but the transition from the light intensity to the subject matter was unimaginably smooth.

I performed many of these dynamic range tests in tandem with our original URSA 4K to really see how much of a difference the 4.6K compares to the original 4K sensor. In short, there is no comparison. The 4.6K compares so much farther ahead of the 4K that it’s almost an unfair match. It’s kind of like racing a BMW E46 M3 (a mighty powerhouse in its own right) against a McLaren F1 with the BMW V12 engine (sorry, I’m a BMW racing nut).

I’ve shot high fidelity footage with the original Blackmagic 4K sensor (as displayed at the Blackmagic Design booth and Flanders Scientific booth at NAB for the last couple of years), but even as good as the 4K sensor delivers for me personally (and it’s been truly fantastic), the 4.6K sensor steps it up, not just one notch, but many notches in one fell swoop.

Marco Dan Chris at Blackmagic Design

Marco, Dan, and Chris sharing some good times with the new Blackmagic Design URSA Mini.

So here’s the thing—and I’m really putting my neck on the line for saying this—but the new 4.6K is so powerfully advanced that I would pit it up against the likes of the ARRI Alexa and RED Dragon sensors. A very bold statement indeed, but keep in mind that each sensor manufacturer has its own unique character, which can be objective from person to person, just like music or art in a museum. What may seem incredible to me may not be the same for another. With that said, and in the short time I’ve used the new sensor, I do believe the new 4.6K sensor can hold its own against these well established sensors from ARRI and RED. Will it mean I would ever stop using ARRI or RED cameras? No, not at all. As I always say, “different tools for different rules”. What I do want to try and point out however is that the ARRI and RED sensors of the industry are vastly closing in gap as compared to the Blackmagic cameras sporting this new 4.6K sensor. And at a literal fraction of the cost, this 4.6K sensor cannot be ignored.

Now obviously ARRI and RED cameras have various features on each of them that Blackmagic cameras just do not have. But from the standpoint of purely looking at the final results these ARRI/RED sensors can provide compared to what the 4.6K sensor can also provide will be virtually impermeable in the majority of cases. This is especially true when you take into account what happened during the Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout 2012 by Zacuto, when various cameras were pitted against each other and many people veteran industry professionals could not distinguish certain cameras from one another, including myself. The new 4.6K sensor will take that discrepancy (or lack there of) to the Nth degree.

Blackmagic 4.6K Sensor

I know many people ask, “how good is the sensor in low light?” To me, this is always an ambiguous question since the “low light” term itself doesn’t specify an exact rating or measurement of how little light is in each unique shot. Is it a closed room with a single candlelight? Is it a street corner with a single street lamp and a car with its headlights on? Is it a sunset on a beach? Is it no light at all?!! (I joke, but I think some people expect miracles). I’ve shot all of these scenarios (except the no-light scene) with various Blackmagic cameras to great success. With the 4.6K it only gets better. I wouldn’t say the 4.6K sensor is a low light sensor, but its very much sensitive in its own right (better than the original 4K and 2.5K), it’s extremely clean, has wide dynamic range, and shows off fantastic detail. All of these amounts to a sensor I want to shoot with (for the majority of productions I shoot), at least more so than a sensor who’s greatest asset is its low light abilities (for that’ll I’ll use a different tool).

URSA and URSA Mini Duo

Testing both the URSA (with the original 4K sensor) and URSA Mini (4.6K sensor) together proved to reveal valuable insight into how powerful the new 4.6K sensor truly is.

In conclusion, the new 4.6K sensor is unquestionably the real deal. It’s no longer a case of, “the image looks good for a camera that only costs several grand” but rather, “the image looks damn good, period.”

So now what? Well, we patiently wait for the new 4.6K to be delivered. The original plan is that existing URSA owners that pre-ordered the 4.6K Turret in either EF mount or PL mount will get orders fulfilled first (according to Blackmagic Design). However, if there’s enough of a manufacturing push to get these 4.6K sensors built, we may see them coming to the URSA Mini EF/PL and URSA Major EF/PL pre-orders sooner than later, during or shortly after the initial Turret orders. But only time will tell, so until then, shooting what’chya got is better than shooting nothin’ at all!

If you’re in New York City on July 22nd, register for the FREE Blackmagic Day where I’ll be presenting, “Blackmagic Camera Experiences & Insights” where I’ll discuss my findings with the new Blackmagic 4.6K sensor and the impact it will bring to the filmmaking community as a whole. I’ll also share my experiences using various Blackmagic cameras for my work on feature film production and how that can translate to all forms of production.


What's Next?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the next installment of this blog series where I look into (literally) the new Blackmagic 1080 HD OLED Electronic Viewfinder.

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About the Author

Marco Solorio

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Marco Solorio is an award-winning feature filmmaker, published author, and international speaker as a 28-year veteran in the industry with many industry awards to his name. As owner of OneRiver Media, he has produced, directed, and lensed content spanning from commercial to feature film works. As a credited thought-leader in the industry, Marco has consulted for the likes of Pixar, Apple, and Google to name a few. Along with published books to his credit, Marco has also been featured in... Read Marco's full bio here.

FCC Disclaimer - Links from this article might go to affiliate links to B&H and/or Amazon (not much different than the ads you see in YouTube ads, but more focused). Visiting these links (or buying products from the links) cost you nothing additional and may in turn help us pay for the cost of hosting these free articles we write. These articles take an enormous amount of time (in most cases, weeks and months) to research, draft, write, edit, rewrite, and shoot custom photography/video for. In no way do these affiliate links cover the cost of all of that, so any help these links can provide is a huge help to us to continue to offer free content to our readers.


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Comments 97

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  1. Thanks a lot, Marco!!! What you say is exactly what I feel about new 4.6K sensor from the first day when I’ve got it’s specification … and, as a New Yorker, I registered for the FREE Blackmagic Day on July 22nd,
    so would you please tell me: Do we will have an option to “Hold new URSA Mini 4.6 K in our hand on this meeting? ”

    I’m NOT asking if we will be able to shoot with it, no..
    …but at list I have the only a reason to go there – is to be able to see how it work and see the image from 4.6K sensor on it’s new OLED viewfinder and LCD-screen!!!

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      Yup, Blackmagic will be bringing an URSA Mini 4.6K that you can mount on your shoulder, peep through the OLED EVF, and bask in the 4.6K sensor beauty. I’m confident it will be an enlightening experience for you! I’ll see you there! Cheers!

  2. Thanks a lot, Marco!!! I will be very happy to meet you there!!!
    I’m thinking to asking Blackmagic team about an option to get a “Kit” for us – people who ordered URSA Mini, Shoulder-Mount Kit, Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder and battery plate – as I did. I don’t want to be in situation, when my pre-order will be “on hold” just because someone with other cameras will get Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder because it’s work fine “with his Sony F5” 🙂

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      I think this will be a question to ask the resellers since Blackmagic does not sell direct and only to the reseller chain. I’m going to assume the likes of B&H will have a full kit/package option. Availability will be another question!

  3. It is highly appreciated that you choose to share as much knowledge as possible on the matter, I know this site/blog has been referred to in more places then a few for good reasons.

    Even if there is no footage to look at it is at least to me comforting to hear your thoughts and inputs!
    Im particularly excited about the “little noise amplification” and how clean it is at 1600 ISO (a big thanks for giving us an insight in that area)

    Do you have any insight in if the shoulder mount can be easily removed? Or is it good old fashion screw attached?

    Keep up the good work!

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      Thank you for the very kind remarks, Tony. Yes, the shoulder kit screws into place. Once in place you have the option to mount it with a quick-release V-lock plate or to screw on something additional (like a different QR plate at the bottom). 15mm rod mounts and ARRI rosettes built in. It’s actually a nice design! Cheers.

  4. Hey Marco, thanks for a great post. When you say…

    “A first with the new 4.6K sensor is the option to manually turn on and turn off global shutter mode. This is pretty cool as it allows the operator to decide if they need the mode activated or not. By turning it off, you gain full dynamic range from the sensor.”

    Does this mean the 15 stops are capable in the rolling mode only and a lesser amount is capable in global?

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      I appreciate the nice comment, Mike. Yes, all global shutter sensors lose about a stop of DR in the process. To my surprise, sensitivity is not lost with the toggle though (something I learned about this sensor at NAB actually). So yes, to obtain full 15 stops you need to be in rolling shutter mode and in any one of the various RAW modes. With GS mode on you’ll be at about 14 stops, which is equal or still more than most cameras. Quite nice!

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  5. Why it have to be like this? … as far as I remember, Global Shutter require direct line to each pixels, and because of it – size of pixel is smaller, ( as part space of sensor used for electric lines ) compare to the same size of sensor with Rolling Shutter. And, as we know the bigger single pixel is – better Dynamic Range will be…
    But because this new 4.6K sensor already have direct lines to each pixel, switching between GS and RS do not change the size of pixels, and DR should be the same…. maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know .. 🙂

  6. Having followed Blackmagic’s specs on their new Ursa Mini Cameras, and especially their new 4.6K sensor, I firmly believe that if there is any justification to use the well worn phrase “Game Changer” it would be for this! Absolutely no doubt. It will force Arri and Red to at least reconsider their cameras lines.
    In three short years Blackmagic’s learning curve has gone verticle, and if they play their cards right – and I’m sure they will – they will dominate!!!
    Marco, thank you very much for your great review!
    George

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  7. Marco, interesting insights.
    If I remember correctly, John Brawley stated on the BMD forum that switching to global shutter has NO impact on dynamic range. The only difference is that you can’t go above 30p with GS on the URSA Mini vs 60p with RS.

    As an owner of the BMCC I have no doubt that BMD will deliver a new fantastic sensor. But there is more to a camera. So I would like to know how good is the audio section of the URSA Mini? Because I really hate the audio part of my BMCC – it is just bad.

    I also hope that BMD will put in more standard features into the firmware like custom WB (which really would help when recording ProRes).

    Robert

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      It may very well be that BMD have further optimized the 4.6K where DR is the same between GS and RS since speaking with the dev team at NAB. I’m all for the DR being the same between the two! I’ve noticed the URSA Major has been great with audio, including the ability to properly perform audio bracketing. I haven’t done extensive testing with the URSA Mini with regard to audio cleanliness but I’m fairly optimistic it’ll share the same performance as the URSA Major since off the bat it has the same audio features (including some new ones relative to the onboard stereo mic, like padding, shelf EQ, etc.).

      1. Hi there Marco,

        Thanks for all the information, it’s truly invaluable! What would you consider the best available option to rig a mic like (Rode NTG-3) to the blackmagic ursa mini/major? Sony and canons have this option out of the box. Thanks!

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          Hello Wander. Thank you for the comment. It’s true that the URSA/Mini don’t have an integrated mic holder that comes with the cameras, but I’ve used various mic clips in the past that bolt on with either 1/4″ or 3/8″ threads. Using the Blackmagic OLED EVF, it has a threaded tap on the top center of it (I can’t recall if it’s 3/8″ or 1/4″) for mounting such a mic holder if needed. Otherwise, you can use the 3/8″ threaded taps where the EVF would otherwise mount to. I’m going to suspect that with the popularity of the Mini that will see even more 3rd party options for mounting shotgun mics and the like. Hang in there! Thanks.

  8. Is there an OLPF in the camera?
    This is what sets true cinema cameras apart from affordable HD ultra crisp monsters. You realise Alexa actually diffuses and softens slightly in its OLPF to get the most pleasing results, among doing many other things.. this gets me on a rant but I am so sick of the race for ultra sharpness. The only place it has is in showing off big screen TV sets in stores. Where’s the feels ???

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      Although not confirmed on what the final shipping version will be from BMD, it appears the 4.6K sensor will not have an OLPF. Yes, I’m firmly aware of Alexa’s OLPF, as well as Red’s options, Sony’s, et al. But realize Alexa isn’t 4K native: higher native resolutions can typically help reduce the need for an OLPF when down-sampling to 4K and especially to 1080. The original BMD 2.5K was fairly prone to moiré but the 4K is typically void of it. The 4.6K will be even better in that regard. But image smoothing versus ultra sharpness is purely a subjective preference and ties to my point in the article in regards to how each camera manufacturer each have their own “character” in the image; where one person may love a softer image, another person may prefer a more detailed and crisp image. Neither is right or wrong, merely an objective preference from person to person.

    2. Most of the typical 4K-ENG cameras get their ultra crispness by using in camera post sharpening. This is totally different from the look you get from the BMD 4K cameras, getting their crispness by not using an OLPF. You could always dial down the BMD 4K image crispness down in post by adding a 0.5-1pixel fast blur.

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  9. How does the new Sensor (and the ‘mini Camera System concept’) compare with this ‘Box Camera’ that shares physical similarities but has a better Sensor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ngf5Mc1JMU&list=PLWa6uO3ZUweAZ-VXnnBsDDsBbz32BLlYf&index=6

    That is but one example, 1000’s of Companies make Video Cameras like that. Many use (just) a Sony Sensor (newest) and some have extremely expensive Sensor (like the same Kodak Sensors used in Space Probes) and some lesser priced Sensors from CMOSIS or Omni).

    From the sounds of it BM would have been able to buy a Sensor from Samsung (the NX1’s Sensor) and ask they enhance the DR; providing a similar Sensor to the one we ‘imagine’ your Article describes.

    It is a tough sell to convince me (everyone) that BM can design a better Image Sensor than Company XYZ (and the others with many millions of Sensors sold already).

    I wish them luck and DO hope their Sensor is far superior to any other (like Samsung’s NX1 is, for it’s category), that is better for everyone (except XYZ, and others).

    Thanks for the early look. When Videos become available you know we want to see wonderful low light videos …

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      The BMD 4.6K sensor and the JAI sensor in that cube are apples and oranges. Actually, apples and a tennis racquets. IOW, the two are for completely different applications with virtually no similarities, not to mention the sensor in the JAI cube is absolutely tiny. DR is maximized only in monochrome mode. HFR is cropped to unusable frame sizes for 1080 use, let alone 4K. For digital cinema use, the BMD 4.6K sensor meets the needs with regards to how BMD designed it: natively high DR, true S35 spec size, 4K+ resolution, continuous HFR at full raster, filmic color science, and so on. If companies can afford to build their own sensors to exactly meet the needs of the camera to which the sensor will be married to, the end result means higher quality imagery. The only reason to use 3rd party sensors is for cost, availability, and lack of internal resources among others. ARRI, RED, etc., have optimal imagery because they have the money, resources, etc. internally. Looks like BMD is able to do that too now while still keeping costs incredibly low. It’s really an amazing movement for us filmmakers!

      1. My point is that Companies who make Cameras such as the one in that Video (or the next one in the Playlist, which does 20MPs @ 30 FPS), allow YOU to choose your own Sensor from all that are available from various Sensor Manufacturers.

        Some of those Sensors cost many times more than BM’s Camera. They do not charge that much for their Sensors just so BM can come up with something that costs less, their Sensors that cost a lot are better. You can

        1. also ask them to put a low cost Sensor in the Box. You can customize your Order.

          Some of the ‘Box’ Cameras offered are a few boxes that click together, these can be field customized or easily upgraded by the end-user by simply buying a new Section in a few years time.

          Some of these Boxes support TOF and other computational functions. The ability of some of these configurations to capture the highest number of bits in the lowest levels of light, at the highest framerates is unsurpassed. (Note: Capitalized, and period; maybe take a better look when you are not rushed for time).

  10. I assume they regret not putting in ND filters but they surely don’t want to talk about it. Any hints they will do this later on? I was all excited about the mini as being a low budget alternative to the Amira but having to deal with ND’s for different lenses is a HUGE pain in the ass.

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      On our original “Insight Into The URSA Mini” article, there’s currently about 132 comments over there, many of which discuss the lack of internal ND in the Mini. In short, if you rely on internal ND for shooting, then the URSA Mini is probably not for you. I don’t foresee BMD changing the design at this point. Having shot video and film since the 80’s with and without internal ND has never been an issue or slowed me or my crew down, but if given the option, I’d prefer internal ND as well. Not a deal breaker for me though.

  11. Hi Marco,

    I have few questions (thanks for your great article) !

    Where will be release the URSA 4.6K PL Mount, because It’s strange that we don’t have any news, any footages released by BMD…

    Honestly.. Do you think that this sensor can provide the same image quality than an Arri or at least a RED Epic?

    Which lens did you used? PL or EF mount?

    Thank’s

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      Thanks for the nice remark, David. All BMD products are sold through the reseller chain. BMD does not sell direct. You can pre-order the URSA 4.6K PL Turret as well as the URSA 4.6K EF Turret at B&H. I’ve tested both the EF and PL URSA Mini 4.6K models. And yes, I do believe the 4.6K sensor can hold its own with the likes of ARRI Alexa and RED Dragon, at least with the prototype beta sensor I was testing. No way to tell at this point if it’s “better” (not that I personally really care to be honest) but either way, the sensor is incredible in its own right. With BMD still optimizing the sensor, there’s no telling what the final outcome may be. For me however, they could never optimize the sensor from the prototype I was using and I’d be completely happy with it. It’s the real deal.

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      The sensor and the mount are exactly the same in both cameras, so it really comes down to features and physicality for your needs. The URSA Major has more features than the Mini, so for me personally, I’d prefer the Major for cinematography purposes, especially since it weighs and balances the same as an ARRI Alexa.

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  12. I loved this article, and had been contemplating getting the URSA Mini 4.6k already. After reading, I pre-ordered on BH. Now, what concerns me though, is that it’s the month of the expected shipping time and they didn’t have a production sensor or camera on hand? How can this be? Knowing that manufacturing for the masses would have needed to start last month, at the latest. How do they not have a finished camera on hand?

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      Many, if not most companies do not have in-store demo units of new product models on display until the product itself is ready for consumer purchase. I’m not an employee of Blackmagic, but I assume it’s up to each retailer if they want to keep one of their initial stock units to be used as a display models or not. Shipping dates is a question for Blackmagic.

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  13. highly informative reveiw,thank a lot ,but the only down side of ursa major 4.6k is it dont have gyro or gps unlike in mini,any way decided 2 buy ursa major 4.6 k-dr asok,india

  14. sir one more doubt,in the site of B$H they mentioned ursa 4.6 k major have 3840 x2160p global cmos sensor and effective resolution not specified by manufacturer and shooting resolution is 4608 x2592 but 4 ursa mini 4.6 k have 4608 x2592 cmos global sensor and effective resolution is 4608 x2592,why this disparity if both shares same sensor and codec-dr asok,india

  15. Thanks for the update, Marco. Everyone’s been drooling over this thing since April, with not much out there, so I appreciate you sharing your hands-on experience. You manage to provide some great insight even with the limitation of not being able to show image samples. This camera reminds me of what RED was promising back in 2001 (and really never delivered) – I feel the same level of excitement now as I did then.

    I have a usability question you can probably answer without breaking any NDAs. I haven’t used any Blackmagic camera products, but recently spent a week with a Sony FS7. I loved that camera, and absolutely hated the menu layout. It was a bit clunky to use and not intuitive in the least. How are the menus for the URSAs (Minor & Major)?

  16. When I see a chart that pits manufacturer claimed dynamic range my heart sinks and I wonder why bother making that chart, or whether the article loses credibility. The Alexa has proven greater dynamic range than the Red Dragon, and yet Alexa claims 14 stops and Red claims 16, so when there is obviously no adopted reference point for measuring (usable) dynamic range WHAT IS THE POINT OF THESE COMPARISONS, and as the author of this article, are you aware of the meaninglessness of it, or are you just selling Blackmagic cameras??? I suspect it’s the latter.

    It’s strange that at August when the camera is supposedly shipping September, there is still no new footage going around to ramp up anticipation and PRE ORDERS from the people that realise the proof is in the pudding , and not in manufacturer claimed specs.

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      Contrary to your assumptive accusation, I am not an employee of Blackmagic, nor am I a reseller of any of their products. I own OneRiver Media, which is a production and post-production facility, serving clients throughout the world. In other words, I am an end-user (for about 24 years running now) and have owned and operated various cameras from just about every camera manufacturer out there. I’m very well aware of the fact that manufacturer DR rates vary in comparison to real-world DR rates, but unfortunately, even real-world DR comparisons by people have their own set of scrutinies, based on how DR tests are performed and on which measurement devices and tools. For the most part, I feel most seasoned DPs and cinematographers are well aware of this as well. It is clearly stated in the graphic that the DR rates are manufacturer ratings. I’d also wager the vast majority of shooters know that true DR is based on personal use and only partially observable on released (compressed) footage… even that is subjective, based on how the footage is debayered and graded, all the while never knowing the true amount of available DR that was originally in the source footage in comparison to the 8-bit, 4:2:0, H.264 delivered YouTube/Vimeo output that is then viewed. As to your other comment, and personally speaking, I’d rather wait an extra month on an sensor (and anything else in the camera) that is optimized to it fullest potential. My business does not rely on the latest and greatest tech to acquire and sustain clients. But I only speak for myself. If you read the article in its entirely, you’d quickly realize that I am basing nothing of my findings through their claimed DR range, but rather what I’m seeing through the lens in first hand experience. This sensor is the real deal. But as clearly stated in the article, that is a subjective proposition, as is any sensor on the market. If you can wait for Blackmagic to release footage and/or the camera, great. If not, then it’s probably in your best interest to look at other cameras that will better suit your needs.

  17. Hey Marco,

    I really have always appreciated your taking the time to do these reviews, the tests and talk about them. There’s one question I didn’t ask at NAB and I meant to do so. For me there are two features that are missing from the URSA mini which for me would destroy virtually all of the competition. 1. Built in ND filters. It would be great to know what the cost difference would be to have put them in there. For me this would take out the FS7, The C300 Mark 2 (both need external RAW recorders) not to mention their price points. I understand RED doesn’t have them, but at least they put ND in their Motion Mounts. Arri put them in the Alexa Mini and the Amira. The F55 has them. The C100 has them. To me there was a time when having them was a luxury, but these days it’s such a valuable must.
    2. 120 FPS in 1080P for the URSA mini. My biggest complaint for the sub $15k camera world out there is this feature has taken a long time to come to market. It’s in the FS7(180FPS) and I get it Sony’s Research Department has a lot of $$$ to play with, but if they add these two things to the camera, good bye competition. Having to set up a Matte Box every time I take the camera out would be a huge pain (as it has been on the other Blackmagic cameras for me personally.

    Other than that, they’re well on their way and looking forward to see what the future holds.

    P.S. – also hoping they get the color science on all their cameras to match these. That way I can use the micro cameras as C cameras and have them match. I don’t need them to be 4.6k. just match in their color science and skin tones.
    Cheers

  18. Update: I just read in another article somewhere that the URSA Mini will do up to 160fps in 1080p. if that’s the case that is excellent news. Maybe it’s because all I ever heard was 60 P everywhere but that’s probably just referring to the 4.6 K .

    Cheers

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      I’m not sure where you read the 4.6K sensor will do 160 FPS windowed, but that info is unfortunately incorrect (for now). When the 4.6K Mini was announced at NAB, the first release notes did (incorrectly) say 160 FPS windowed, but was quickly changed to the proper 120 FPS spec shortly thereafter. Unfortunately some news outlets reporting the initial 160 FPS spec never bothered to update their info to the corrected 120 FPS rating. As much as me and everyone else would love 160 FPS, it appears the maximum rate is 120 FPS. IMO that’s still a great rate with the quality you’re obtaining, but to each their own. If you specifically want HFR, then the URSA 4.6K provides continuous 120 FPS 4.6K (and resolutions below) and continuous 240 FPS windowed 1080 HD.

      The topic of lacking internal ND’s have been beaten to death. In a nutshell, if your prime shooting style absolutely requires you to shoot with internal NDs, then the Mini is not the camera for you. Plain and simple. In the 3 decades I’ve been shooting cameras with and without internal NDs, not having internal NDs has ever posed a serious problem for me or slowing down my crew, but again, to each their own. Use the tool that works best for your particular shooting requirements. I love using internal NDs, but the powerful feature set (and the incredible IQ of the 4.6K sensor) of the Mini/URSA wins it hands down beyond the desire of an internal ND wheel for me personally… to each their own.

      1. I saw it on texasmediasystems.com. I understand what you’re saying about ND. I’m just wondering how much more it would’ve been to add them. Ever since leaving behind constantly matte boxing every time I shoot something it’s been a delight to have them. This camera is still top of my list. Thanks for the info on 120fps

  19. Excellent post Marco! I’m also eagerly awaiting the release of the cam. I was curious about the sensor placement on the cam? I’m wondering if I could use an Angenieux DP Rouge lens on this cam. The rear of the lens is pretty big and certain cameras cant fit it like the C300. I can’t find anything online about the sensor setup.

    Thanks!

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      Thanks for the kind remark, David! I wish I could give you a 100% confirmation on this combo working, but I cannot since I don’t have immediate access to the Rouge. However with that said, when comparing the physical structure surrounding the sensor of the C300/C500 and URSA Mini 4.6K PL, there is MUCH more space surrounding the 4.6K sensor than does the C300/C500. On that notion alone, I’d firmly wager the Rouge’s deep/wide optical back would fit the URSA/Mini 4.6K PL without modification, but again, without physically mounting the two together at this time, I cannot say this with 100% certainty. Cheers!

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  20. yah,its evident from the ibc 2015 and speech of grant pretty,he is not mentionig on 4.6 k sensor ursa major which awaited to my sony scl pk6 lens kit,iam disappointed and looking for sony f5-dr asok,india

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      I apologize, but I’m not completely certain I understand your comment. It has been publicly noted form Blackmagic at IBC that the 4.6K sensor is still being optimized. However long the wait, it will be worth it, as this sensor performs in a realm with sensors costing magnitudes more. But like anything, shoot with what you have (or can get). If that means the F5, then so be it! Cheers.

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      Nice to see URSA Mini 4K footage out there. Keep in mind this captured footage is basically from the same sensor as the Production Camera 4K and the URSA 4K. The 4K V2 sensor adds more frame-rates, but that’s about it. No added dynamic range and the like… the upcoming 4.6K sensor will be the answer to that. And well worth the wait!

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  21. I suspect there are others besides me, who are struggling to find professional quality, reasonably priced, compatible cine lenses which will unquestionably take full advantage of the 4.6K sensor dimensions shown above.

    Schneider Optics “Xenon FF-Prime Lenses – Key Features” says: “Covers Full Frame sensors 36 x 24 mm”. The next line says: “Designed for 4K res.” Your excellent chart indicates the Blackmagic URSA 4.6 Super 35 sensor dimensions are 25.34 x 14.25 mm. Would I be correct to conclude that definitely means the Xenon FF-Prime Lenses take full advantage of the URSA 4.6 Sensor?

    The reason I ask is the fact that Schneider says the lenses were “Designed for 4k res”. It seems like they meant the lens only covers 4K 16:9 (4096 x 2304) or DCI 4K (4096 x 2160). But, maybe they were just unaware of the URSA 4.6 Super 35 – 4.6K (4608 x 2592) when they listed the Key Features.

    Since the lenses are $3995.00 each, the full set of seven (18mm, 25mm,35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, and 135mm) would probably cost around $28k. I would appreciate it if you would give me your expert opinion whether they are a perfectly compatible match for the URSA 4.6K Super 35 sensor based on the “Covers Full Frame sensors 36 x 24 mm” statement Schneider provided in the first line of their Key Features. (the PDF file in the description)

    Also, are the more expensive Schneider Cine-Xenar III compatible with the 4.6K sensor? There doesn’t seem to be any definitive or unambiguous answer on any websites I have found after days of research.

    I am very grateful for all the information and comments provided here. Obviously, I am not a technical genius, I am just the guy who always pays for the equipment. Any additional advice concerning lenses would be appreciated. I don’t know what I don’t know.

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      Hey there, Dan. The Schneider FF lenses (and any FF lenses for that matter) will in fact work just fine with the 4.6K sensor of the URSA and URSA Mini. Keep in mind that the term 4K is not relative to sensor size in any way. You can even have 4K on a small S16 sized sensor (like the new Blackmagic Micro Production Camera 4K). What you really have to look at is the sensor size itself (which you have done) and yes, the S35 sensor size of the 4.6K sensor will easily fit (with room to spare) on a FF lens’ image circle. If anything, the term “4K” for lens branding is mostly directed at resolving power and the ability to clearly (and sharply) resolve the optics to the high density of 4K sensor and above. But again, not relative to sensor size itself. You’ll be just fine with a set of Xenons on the 4.6K sensor… with an incredible image to boot! Great lenses!!!

  22. what about sony scl pk6 lens for ursa 4.6k camera,what about its resolving power,only 4k or more than 4k,plse give me answer,is its optics better than schneider xenar lens?is cooky optics used in sony cinealta lens?-dr asok

  23. Great post, I loved the comparison as well! I am now contemplating wether to purchase the Ursa Mini with the 4K sensor or the 4.6K sensor. I have come to the conclusion that the dynamic range on the 4K is it’s biggest downfall and the only way I could realistically shoot with it is if I shot RAW all the time. Unfortunately, a fair bit of the time I will not have the capicity/ resources to do this so I am planning on saying goodbye to my bank account and purchasing the 4.6K. Now onto my question – How would you describe the dynamic range on the 4.6K sensor in both ProRes and RAW? How does it compare to other cameras you’ve used?

    I completely understand if you can’t provide answers or insights, but they would be much appreciated!

    Matt

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      Thanks for the comment and glad the post helped you out! Hmmmm, tough to say how big the DR difference is between RAW and PR, namely because I was on a prototype. Not sure I can answer that fairly, especially since I didn’t shoot DR charts and only standard charts and real-world shots. I will say though the the DR is noticeably high. Far above than I was expecting. Especially the transition between super highlight blow out to dark shadows… was just really smooth (and surprising). As compared to other cameras, the 4.6K blows everything away I’ve personally used in the sub-$10k market and seems to live closer in nature to the quality realm of ARRI and RED Dragon. Bold statement indeed, but the sensor is that good, IMO.

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  24. Hey Marco!

    Thanks for the great article. Curious about two things that have dogged some of the Black Magic Cameras; fixed pattern noise issues and moire. Your thoughts/observations?

    Cheers,

    Mercies

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      Hi Mercies! With the prototype 4.6K sensor, nothing popped out to me in terms of FPN. The sensor seemed even cleaner than the original 2.5K sensor. Moiré was nonexistent. But keep in mind that as resolutions increase (as such with the 4.6K sensor) the resolving power when scaled down to UHD and 1080HD cleans up an abnormalities like that. It’s very rare that I get moiré with the original 4K sensor, so I imagine it’ll be even more rare with the 4.6K sensor. All in all the sensor I tested was very clean. Again, the performance was far beyond any of my original expectations. I just hope it carries through to the finalized sensor release!

  25. most of site r praising in favor of ursa mini! so i doubt of black majic design is also going in that direction?but i prefer and love ursa major 4.6k,what ur opnion sir,r they stopping ursa major 4.6k-dr asok

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      There’s only a few that have tested the DR between both modes (on the prototype sensor) and for whatever reason, the results haven’t penetrated the BMD ecosystem, including BMD reps. My assumption to this is that they are not releasing any official findings until the shipping version of the sensor is finally released. There are some (including higher ups) that didn’t even know these tests were even performed. I think the dust will settle once the shipping version is out.

  26. Thanks for the response Marco! Also curious how far you may have tried pushing the 1600 footage in post, and if you can elaborate a little more on the mini’s High FPS; I’ve heard that its a sensor cropped image?

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      Glad to help, Mercies. It’s hard to quantifiably say exactly how hard the footage can be pushed at 1600 without showing examples, but to say the least, the 1600 ISO exposure was very usable and much better than 1600 on the original 2.5K sensor. Keep in mind that I was also on a prototype sensor, so subtle things may change slightly on the shipping optimized sensor, so whatever findings I had may be moot upon final release. Regardless, I was very pleased and felt the footage looked very much usable to the point of hoping BMD will add 3200 ISO to the menu.

  27. Hi Marco,
    just a simple question but I don’t know if you could answer me.
    What about the power consuption, more and less. weird question? 🙂
    You wonder if I ask this…just because I’m Movi operator and I would to know if I could power the Ursa with a Lipo Freefly batteries.
    would be a very easy and light for every gimbal operator to avoid Vlock and more shape size..
    Since I powered the Alexa mini with a Lipo I guess It’s not a problem with Ursa. But I should to know the power at approx.
    of course the time with lipo would be more short but the lipo are very cheap and I have several.

    Good review and I hope to see a short, I’m very frustrated for the time. 🙂
    Ciao

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      Hi Andrea. The URSA Mini consumes the same amount of draw as the big URSA. I was surprised by this information, but was given it first hand from the actual URSA developers from Australia. Both the URSA Mini and URSA have a 4-pin XLR input for DC power input, so you’ll be fine powering it from whatever standard camera battery source you want. Fortunately, you are not required to use a V-mount plate source to power the camera.

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      Hi Eduardo. Yes, I started watching some of the new footage last night. It looks great! The early testing I did with the camera had the initial prototype 4.6K sensor, so there will be no released footage from that testing (thank you for asking though!). However, even though the color science is being tweaked here and there by BMD, I’m seeing a general similarity in the amount of depth and latitude this sensor provides. In short, this sensor will deliver in all regards once it’s finally released. As painful as it is, the long wait will be worth it. This sensor is the real deal!

  28. Hey Marco,

    It seems great. I have high hopes for them. Here’s another one https://vimeo.com/146814797
    Do you know if Blackmagic is looking to do the whole “buy the body once” and keep upgrading over time? This is the best color science I’ve seen out of them yet. I know that I’ve said this before and I would highly recommend this for their future. If you get any information about an upcoming camera I know that I’ve said this before and I would highly recommend this for their future. If you get any information about an upcoming camera (insider only) tell them leave it that way don’t become like Sony and come up with a new camera every year. Let this one brea tell them leave it that way don’t become like Sony and come up with a new camera every year. Let this one breathe life. And if there is a new camera on the horizon keep it to yourselves including the beta testers. Then when it’s ready make the announcement with a commercial and at the end say “shipping tomorrow.”

    As for me I’m looking to use this for feature and commercial work. What matte box do you recommend? I’m used to having built in NDs so haven’t invested in anything yet.

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      As mentioned above, the Sony PL prime lenses are great with the URSA PL mount options. As compared to Zeiss Ultra Primes, that’s a decision only you can make by testing both out. The Zeiss has a different look and feel and one of the industry favorites.

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        The Zeiss lenses are one of the industry standards. DP’s just prefer the feel, look, and mechanics of it. The Sony lenses are nice and very competitive in their pricing, but if anyone had the option between the two, it would typically be the Zeiss set. Especially the super speeds. But use whatever works best for you based on your own decisions and personal preference.

  29. Hey Marco,

    I’ve seen that the Alexa uses a dual-gain readout and apparently so does the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera. It’s been said that this greatly aids in dynamic range and color depth as well, to some degree. Can give me, without being too technical (if at all possible given the subject), the difference of dual-gain readout and some of its benefits over traditional sensors?

    Also, do you know if the new 4.6k URSA uses dual-gain readout sensor technology as well? I’ve seen some recent 4.6k footage (this in particular https://vimeo.com/148429958) that looks very rich in color and more filmic than a lot of other footage and was wondering if dual-gain possibly had anything to do with this particular sensor?

    Thanks!

  30. Sir on ursa major once monitor is flip out ,dop can’t see the lens,do they have any plans to make a small better monitor on the ursa major,also can a single person be able to operate the ursa major,also any plans to modify the ursa major in coming nab?-asok

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      I highly doubt they’ll make a smaller screen for the big URSA. We’ve highly enjoyed the benefits of such a high screen size built into the camera. You can always tether out to a smaller LCD screen or EVF if you feel the 10″ screen is in the way. We’ve never had a problem with it and enjoy it in both single-person operation and multi-person operation.

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      The camera itself is rated up to 1600 ISO in-camera (with a base of 800) but in early testing I found 3200 in post is usable. From a cinematic perspective when scenes are lit, it’s not entirely limiting, figuring traditional film was/is considered high speed using anything above 400, while in the process, introduced heavy grain. Even the ARRI Alexa tops out at 3200 (also base 800). To add, I’ve had excellent results in RAW to achieve low-light output, even in the original BMCC. If high ISO is your main priority in your workflow, I’d suggest the Sony A7s/r options.

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  31. Suppose if I buy Ursa 4K pl mount now,can it be able to upgrade to4.6K or upcoming turret in near future? Or should I buy Ursa mini4.6K now?is Ursa 4K pl mount available in V2 sensor?iam preferring big Ursa than mini as it is having more features and arri alexa look-Ashish

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