New Gear for the New Year: What You Need to Know About the URSA Mini

Published on in Equipment / Tech Reviews

By Alicia East, CrewCloud    

It’s super lightweight. It’s dynamic. But is Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini 4.6K worth the price tag at almost $5,000?

We asked one of our CrewCloud video service providers to give us the scoop. Peter Doris of Nexus Digital Media spilled on his experience, his challenges, and what it took to get the camera from the box to its first shoot.

Overall experience with the URSA Mini

So what is Peter’s overall impression of the URSA Mini? “Brilliant.”

He was always blown away by the image on the URSA. But at over 16 pounds, it’s not a camera you want to run and gun with. The URSA Mini still packs an amazing image (its 15 stops of dynamic range means it captures an intense range of color and detail) at a drastically reduced weight. At only 5 pounds, it’s relatively easy to carry for a long period of time. Peter has found that it sits on the shoulder, the weight reassigns itself properly, and the included side handle makes it feel very ergonomic.

“It’s like coming home to the old broadcast cameras,” Peter said. 

The biggest challenge of working with the URSA Mini

While the URSA Mini is easy to use in a number of ways, it harkens back to film cameras in the way it functions in low light. While it can work in such environments, you have to understand how far you can push it and plan ahead. 

We’ve gotten spoiled by cameras that adjust easily to low light, Peter explained. The URSA Mini forces you to really look at the aesthetics again. Peter advised bringing in extra lights and utilizing available natural light in darker situations. Paying attention to proper lighting isn’t always convenient, but it’s good discipline and the final result really pays off. 

While recounting an experience filming in an old Napoleonic tower that was dark inside but had a lot of light coming in from the outside, Peter noted that in such an extreme condition, exposing as near to the middle range as possible helped balance some of the lighting challenges in post.

While Peter doesn’t advise using raw footage all the time (the file size is HUGE), it can be extremely helpful for one-shot deals that you have to get right the first time and can’t light properly up front. Plan ahead, expose your image properly, and be grateful that the URSA Mini’s 12 bit raw log image allows for extra latitude in post.

The light weight of the URSA Mini makes carrying it on your shoulder much less stressful when compared to some other modern cameras.

So how much setup is required to get the URSA Mini ready to shoot? 

Peter had a relatively easy time with the lenses, batteries, mounts, and rods he already owned because of the URSA Mini’s industry standard V-Mount and EF connections. This bodes well for upgrading the camera as well as selling it in the future without a major loss in value.

While Peter did have some existing equipment that translated well, he needed a litany of other gear to make things worked the way he wanted. He considers the viewfinder and shoulder mount system an essential investment. And, despite the name, Peter noted that the Mini is still bulky, so a good dolly and stabilizing system are helpful, too. 

Every time you invest in a camera, you have to know that it’s NEVER just the camera. Be sure to budget for the extra items it will take to actually make the experience what you want it to be. 

So, what’s the bottom line? Overall, Peter feels the URSA Mini is worth it, calling it “a good long-term investment.”

That’s a wrap! 

About CrewCloud

CrewCloud puts a world of video service providers at your fingertips. In just a few clicks you can search, chat with, and book vetted crews local to your shoot—all on your own schedule. Crews are paid in 30 days so they're always ready for their next gig. Our crew coordinators are on call around the clock if you ever need live assistance. Visit thecrewcloud.com, call us at 303-526-4900, or shoot us an email at hello@thecrewcloud.com.

About Nexus Digital Media

Nexus Digital Media is a UK-based digital media creation company specializing in online and offline video production as well as animation, design, and innovative media delivery methods. Sign up for CrewCloud to book Nexus Digital Media for your next shoot.           

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