Ursa Mini Pro - Some Impressions

Is It Any Good?

If you're a lazy bastard then let me save you some time and tell you that the Ursa Mini Pro is the best camera I have ever used. (As reference I have shot films with the following - Bolex 16mm, Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Canon XL-1, Canon 7D, Canon 5D Mark III, Canon C100, Canon C100 Mark II, GoPro 1, 3, and 4, Panasonic DVX100B, Panasonic GH4, Red Scarlet, some Nikon camera I don't recall, Sony A7s, Sony FS5, and some other shitty cameras too shitty to mention.)

But of course, as you've heard many times - the camera is just a tool. Story is always king. As proof, just know that of all the cameras listed above, I made the most money with my Canon 7D - selling a $4000 film to Amazon Studios for $101,000.

Field Test Feature

I'm currently working as the DP on a no-budget (and boy do I mean no budget) feature film. It's a good opportunity to see what this camera is capable of - hint, it's pretty fucking capable.

This film is so budget, there is no money to rent anything which is forcing me to use all the mixed bag of lighting equipment I own - some LED's by Aperture, a few old fresnel fuse popping 1K's, a Lowel Pro Light, and some practicals with minimal grip equipment (some Matthews Road Rags, a Westcott Scrim Jim 4x4, and homemade flags)

What Do I Like?

  • The dynamic range of this camera is very impressive.
  • The menu system is very easy to navigate - far easier than any other camera system.
  • Boot time is fast for a Blackmagic camera
  • So many great codec options and Raw. I've shot some scenes at Raw 4:1, but the majority of what we are shooting is ProRes HQ in 2K as the director and writer are trying to save money on hard drive costs.
  • Viewfinder is great - maybe a little small but I've had no trouble pulling focus off of it so far.
  • Holds a ton of information in the highlights and shadows - a ton. It's amazing how much you can bring back.
  • Everything I'm shooting with this has such a beautiful filmic look
  • Free full version of Resolve is great
  • Ability to load LUTS is a cool feature a lot of users will like
  • Audio sounds really clean
  • Is actually pretty damn good in low light or at least a lot better than what I was expecting.
  • Dual card slots and SD recording is a nice option
  • Built-In ND's makes this a really good camera for many situations, but still not an all-arounder 

What Don't I Like?

  • There's nothing Mini about this camera. It's pretty big and pretty heavy, but it feels very well built.
  • Moderately power hungry. I have three 93wh batteries in constant rotation to help me make my day. A fourth would probably go along way.
  • Fixed Pattern Noise at ISO 1600 if underexposed - but I found a solution, - don't underexpose! 
  • SDI only - SDI is certainly better than HDMI but I guess I'm annoyed because I only have an HDMI external monitor

Is It Better Than The GH5?

I haven't used the GH5 but fuck yeah it is.

Should You Buy It?

Can you afford it? Can you also afford two 256GB Cfast 2.0 cards and a bunch of V or Gold Mount batteries? Do you do a lot of shoulder mounted work necessitating the purchase of the $1500 viewfinder and $400 shoulder pad/top handle kit?

You could drop easily drop 10G in that case, but you will have a very impressive camera in your hands.

Conclusion

I'm really enjoying using the Ursa Mini Pro and grading footage from it. Feels like a solid investment for anyone who does higher end work, narrative work, or chroma key work. Still not a low light camera - for all my quick and dirty work (and documentary work) I'll still be using my trusty C100 Mark II for those higher ISO's, clean image, and expediency.