7 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Blackmagic’s URSA Mini Pro 4.6k Camera
Blackmagic Design has created the Swiss Army knife of cameras, and here are the definitive reasons why you should be using it.
Cover image via Blackmagic Design.
Think of the URSA Mini Pro 4.6k as the popular kid at school. It will fit into nearly any production situation, whether it’s documentary, breaking news, feature film, or even multicam broadcast scenarios. While this versatile camera comes with a ton of great features, I’m going to focus on seven in particular that make the URSA an intriguing option for any production.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6k camera is rocking a Super 35mm CMOS sensor, offering users a plethora of recording options. The camera uses Cinema DNG Raw and Apple ProRes compressed codecs, and each codec has a variety of flavors. Supported codecs include the following:
- Cinema DNG RAW Lossless
- Cinema DNG RAW 3:1
- Cinema DNG RAW 4:1
- ProRes XQ QuickTime
- ProRes 444 QuickTime
- ProRes HQ QuickTime
- ProRes 422 QuickTime
- ProRes LT QuickTime
- ProRes Proxy QuickTime
You can record RAW with a compatible CFast card, and you can even choose to record across two cards at the same time. Frame rate is dependent on the resolution, and you can achieve a maximum of 60fps recording in 4.6k Lossless Raw. If you want to shoot at 120fps you’ll need to switch to 2k window sensor mode.
2. Dynamic Range
There are two different dynamic range settings for this camera: Film and Video. The Film option gives you 15 stops of dynamic range, which provides an insane amount of play when you’re performing a color grade. This workflow is especially nice if you edit and grade with Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software.
The Video setting is similar to the Rec 709 color standard for high definition. So if you’re doing any run-and-gun work that you need to edit and get out quickly, this option is great. If you’re shooting in raw with this camera, however, you only have the Film setting available.
This camera is very versatile. There is a plethora of accessories you can get, both from Blackmagic and from other companies, so you can customize the rig to function in any environment. These accessories include interchangeable lens mounts, professional viewfinders, media recorders, and microphone and shoulder mount kits. Check out a full list of accessories certified by Blackmagic here.
I’m currently using a run-and-gun setup — I have Blackmagic’s viewfinder and shoulder mount kit. This is a perfect rig if you’re a documentarian or news shooter. I also have the optional V-mount battery plate, allowing me to use industry-standard batteries. To power the URSA, I’m using Duo C-98 batteries from IDX. To record, I’m using a custom match pack from Angelbird. This kit is designed specifically for the URSA Mini Pro 4.6k and includes two CFast and two SD media cards. Angelbird also makes a CFast dual card reader so you can quickly and easily copy footage over to an external drive.
The reason this camera has so many accessories is due to the number of connections on the unit. On the rear of the camera, you’ll find four mounting points and a Molex connector behind a small cover for attaching battery plates. Both the top and the bottom of the camera have ¼ inch mounting ports, allowing you to hook up accessories such as the shoulder base plate or the top handle.
This camera is broadcast-ready with 12G-SDI in and out ports, as well as a Reference and Timecode In port. You’ll also find a 12V+ power input and a headphone jack on the back of the body. There are two LANC ports for using remote controls, which supports record start/stop, as well as iris and focus control on compatible EF lenses. Two XLR ports are hidden underneath a rubber cover at the back end of the top.
On the right side of the camera, you have a rosette-style mount for the side handle. There’s a 3G-SDI output for downconverted 1080HD output, as well +12V 4 pin XLR connector. I’m using both of these to power the optional viewfinder. This also powers the optional URSA studio viewfinder. Just below, you’ll see the 2.5mm LANC connector for the mini side handle.
5. External Controls
Again, shooting in a lot of run-and-gun scenarios will make you really appreciate quick access to controls. This camera has everything you need right on the body. Once you get your format setup, you shouldn’t need to go back in the menu while you’re shooting.
You have really high-quality built-in ND filters, all of the camera controls and audio knobs, as well as function buttons. You can even instantly switch to high frame rate mode with the click of a button. Quickly turn on peaking, zebras, and other readouts, and view important information directly on the exterior panel. The panel is easily visible in bright sunlight, and you can quickly adjust the brightness.
6. Touchscreen Menu
Speaking of the menu, this is one of my favorite features of this camera. The URSA Mini Pro 4.6k has a 4” flip out LCD touchscreen panel. The screen doesn’t flip all the way around, but I doubt you’re buying this camera to vlog. The internal menu is incredibly simple and intuitive, visible even in very bright conditions.
There are six different pages for the menu, all of which are extremely simple to navigate — again with an intuitive layout. Navigate between record, monitor, audio, setup, presets, and LUT pages. You’ll never get lost in this menu like you can with many other camera models. Change any of the camera settings on the panel simply by clicking on them. Double-click on the screen to zoom in then click on the media cards to see more information — and even format the cards.
7. Color Space
If you’re using green screens and keying things out in your videos, color space is a very important feature. I used to do a lot of chroma key work as an editor, and often I was working with footage captured with 420 color subsampling. It can be hard to get a clean key with this type of footage because you have less color information with which to work.
The URSA Mini Pro 4.6k can obviously shoot Raw Lossless, but it can also capture in a lot of flavors of ProRes, including Prores 444 and 422. Pulling a key from this kind of footage is quite simple. Those edges will look a lot nicer, and you won’t have to struggle with it like you would with 420 footage.
So I only talked about seven features here that I especially like, but this camera has a ton of other great features. These include Bluetooth capability, control presets, LUTS, high frame rate, and time-lapse modes — along with a handful of other features. Oh yeah, and when you buy this camera, you get a free copy of DaVinci Resolve.
The key takeaway with the URSA Mini Pro 4.6k is versatility. This camera is a workhorse. I used to work for a TV station where we did basically a little bit of everything. We worked in a studio, we did a lot of ENG field work, short-form documentary style stuff, and large-scale multicam events where we had switchers and production trucks. This camera would fit into any of those environments, no problem at all.
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