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One Year with the Ursa Mini Pro

I have owned my Ursa Mini Pro for just over a year now and I feel that I have really put it through its paces to write a brief follow up.

THE GOOD

Using the Ursa Mini Pro on shoots has been great, I haven’t found myself feeling restricted or weighed down by the camera. Having built-in ND filters and all of the functions accessible on the outside have allowed me to work quickly and efficiently. Coming from an FS7, operation felt very familiar and I purposely built my rig up so it could function like an FS7.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the image you get from the Ursa is a pleasure to colour grade. I haven’t come across any issues with it; no magenta tint or fixed pattern noise at ISO 800 or below, and now thanks to a firmware update (which I talk about below) ISO 1600 is pretty clean and useable too!

I have been using Transcend 256GB and Angelbird 256GB CFast cards, they have been working great and I haven’t encountered any problems. I have also been using the Transcend CFast card reader and Sandisk CFast card reader - I find the SanDisk reader to be slightly faster at transferring files.

The menu is still probably one of the best I’ve seen on any camera - it is simple and easy to navigate, I don’t find myself spending ages scrolling through trying to find the settings that I need. Every camera manufacturer could take notes from it.

For audio, I originally found the preamps in the Ursa to be pretty quiet. However a solution I found was to purchase a Fethead; a preamp that goes in between your microphone and XLR cable and boosts the signal going into the camera (by about 27dB). I found that by doing this I could lower the levels in the camera quite significantly because of the stronger signal, and the quality of the sound has been much improved.

FIRMWARE UPDATES

In this last year, Blackmagic have released a couple of pretty exciting firmware updates, which introduced BRAW and increased the maximum ISO to 3200; making 1600 a lot cleaner! These two updates alone have made it a very worthy investment for the price I paid.

BRAW (Blackmagic Raw) is a new way to shoot raw with the camera; offering different compression types ranging from 12:1 to 3:1 in constant bit rate mode and Q0 to Q5 in constant quality mode. Shooting in any of these modes still gives you all of the flexibility that raw offers, but allows you to compress the file sizes. Introducing this now makes shooting in raw much more user friendly and is something cinematographers can realistically utilise for their projects now. I applaud Blackmagic for the work they have done on this!

Blackmagic also introduced a new colour profile in the camera called “Extended Video”, which fits perfectly in between the Log and Rec709 profiles. I actually really like this colour profile and have used it on a couple of shoots. I find the Rec709 profile to be pretty harsh, especially with whites / highlights, but the Extended Video profile seems to have solved this issue by giving users a Rec709 image with a bit more dynamic range and less contrast, resulting in a very pleasing image.

Ursa Mini Pro w/  SmallHD 502  and Zeiss CP2 35mm

Ursa Mini Pro w/ SmallHD 502 and Zeiss CP2 35mm

THE NOT SO GOOD

- I had to send the camera in for repair once, when I noticed that the LCD screen was beginning to wobble on its hinges. However, Blackmagic got it sorted and sent it back to me pretty quickly.

- I wish the audio dials had hard stops. When I’m shooting vox pops or interviews from the shoulder, I either have to have the Ursa LCD screen open (which isn’t comfortable) so I can see what percentage the audio levels are at, or just play it by ear. Not a huge issue but I personally would prefer to see how much I’ve increased or decreased the audio by, rather than just listening.

- One thing I still don’t particularly like is how big the file sizes can be, shooting ProRes natively can be great for editing, but it can be hassle when a transfer is going to take 30-45 minutes at the end of a shoot. I can also easily shoot 500GB-1TB per shoot, depending on resolution and flavour of ProRes. It has on the very rare occasion led to backing up one card, then formatting that same card whilst still on the shoot. Now since it usually gets backed up to two places it isn’t a huge issue, but I’m not a fan of having to delete the original files whilst still filming. The workaround for this has simply been confirming with the client before the shoot what resolution they would like to shoot in and advise them on whether they need to bring a couple of hard drives with them.

VERDICT

Overall, I still love working with this camera and don’t plan on making any upgrades or switches soon. It still feels like a very versatile camera, that really can shoot anything and everything!


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