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Blackmagic URSA - a $6k 4K professional cinema camera with interchangeable sensor


Andrew Reid

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Blackmagic are launching not none, not one but TWO new cameras at NAB 2014. One as you can see packs quite a punch with a quite revolutionary design. The aim of the URSA is to take all the accessories you'd normally rig onto a Blackmagic Cinema Camera and integrate them. That is a sensible idea. However the execution looks to have produced a 7.5KG monster. There's even an HDMI version of the URSA which has no sensor block or lens mount but a cradle on the front for any camera with HDMI output, such as the tiny Sony A7R. That would give you a full frame 4K URSA recording to CFast cards.

However the URSA is aimed at a large crew, large scale productions and in doing so completely turns its back on Blackmagic's existing indie filmmaking user base.

To make matters worse Blackmagic show no sign of any significant firmware update for the 3 existing cameras at NAB, which is what people REALLY wanted them to announce.

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Geeze, lay off it a bit. Everyone's rather polarized here. We haven't seen jack squat out of most of these cameras, GH4 and A7s included.    1. Just because the GH4 does 4K and is a lightweight Mirr

Looks like Blackmagic brought these guys aboard...    

spec wise it ticks all the boxes super 35mm size sensor 4k and global shutter in a usable body form like an Alexa - what more do you want Blackmagic have listened to all the feedback off their othe

I bet the upgrades are coming. It would go against the mentality of BMD to leave 2 years of cameras behind with no upgrade at all. Existing customers would hate them for that, and prospect would also see it that way (I would, at least) and go with companies like Sony, seeing how they maintain the F5/F55 serie up-to-date. 

 

If they're not released in a couple of days, I think they will at least be announced and released later.

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I love my BM Pocket and thanks to it's size I use it every day! I'm no professional but a proud amateur and I have to agree with the sentiment of this article, I wouldn't buy another Black Magic camera until they start looking after their userbase. Card space left should have been included the moment it was bought to their attention, and if, at this point they are unwilling to write the patch themselves, open the source code up to the community, we'll do it!

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I agree with the article... I got one of the first BMPCC - it's able to produce great images but the camera is really only 65% done, the firmware only is barely functional... so many simple things could have been done in terms of button assignments and menu structure.    Based on forum posts the've continued this pattern of neglect and pattern of strange ergonomics with their other camera products.   I am skeptical that the URSA will ever be a finished product before the URSA 2 is announced.   When I see audio levels and when the useless playback buttons on my BMPCC can change something important like ISO or Shutter angle I'll  begin to revise my opinion.   Oh yeah - will we be able to format our media on this camera or will that be forgotten too ? 

 

Not so sure about the 10" flip screen either, it's a solution to a problem I was not having.   

 

Matt Uhry

www.mattuhry.com

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That's a fair assessment Andrew. I see a few clouds on the horizon for BlackMagic cameras too. I'm currently using a BMCC 2.5k eagerly awaiting the low-end sound roll off issue fix and the blackhole suns. I'd quite happily pay for an upgraded 2.5k with VU, scopes, but I just want this existing product fixing.

 

If I were a studio. Would I trust their brand with the journey I've been on? Quite simply no.

 

I honestly don't think updates are coming soon. If they were, surely they would have been released pre-NAB, like the day before. You're not going to have firmware updates in your back pocket and then release them after you've just isolated and pissed off your entire existing customer base are you?

 

What I will say though, and it's totally subjective, but I still haven't found an image out of a camera that matches the RAW output of the 5D3 and the BMCC/BMPCC, or the 422 out of the blackmagics either. The only thing that's come close is the Intra hacked GH2 for me. All the rest are just compressed to death.

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Blackmagic has been mostly a production company, providing gear for broadcast people for a long time (way before any camera or buying other companies to provide a complete worflow). You can't blame them too much for providing to their original user base.

See they even bought Cintel for their film scanner, sold now at $30K.

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Blackmagic are the James Dyson of the TV world and Grant Petty will always try to stretch the field in new ways. Some ideas will work and some won't. A bit like a clothes designer who puts the extreme stuff on the catwalk and then tones it down for the high street, the stuff that earns money for the company is the boring digital glue shoved inside cages with fans. Why not have a headline act too?

 

NAB wouldn't be the same without BM coming up with something that makes people blog, comment and discuss - that's good for everyone. The likelyhood of seeing the URSA in full production in the next 12 months is pretty low given the company's record, but I bet every bit of talent in the company has been fully employed in the last two months getting the prototype ready for NAB - now they can concentrate on the firmware. Please (from a Production Camera owner).

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I wouldn't move to the GH4 or the A7s.  The GH4 looks like video.  There is nothing in the price range that looks like the BMCC 2.5k...NOTHING.  The faults drive me up a wall but the image is unmatched.  It's funny to read so much belly aching coming from people who ostensibly have shot on lesser cams image wise (start from dvx all the way up to the 5dIII), and just as many work arounds and growing pains.  Straight comedy.

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"However the URSA is aimed at a large crew, large scale productions and in doing so completely turns its back on Blackmagic’s existing indie filmmaking user base."

 

Wow, you really do come out with some absolute rubbish. You do realise the makers of your current flavour of the month, the GH4, also produce high end products?

 

I just fired up my BMPCC, guess what, it still works. It still shoots 13 stops of DR, it is still a beautiful 1080p image, it will still be capable of making an amazing indie film and it costs £650. Yea, the firmware could be a bit fancier.... The day is still young.

 

If they completely fix the firmware, next month, will they still have turned their back on you?

 

My guess..... You are a little angry that they have dared to make something that doesn't interest you.

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Thats a very futuristic looking camera, but it scares the hell out me! Looks like it could set off bombs!

 

I was hoping they would release a new camera, between the size of the Pocket and BMCC with all the ergonomic errors and features fixed. 

 

That said, the original cameras image alone is worth the money. Its fine that Blackmagic have released this camera, thats what camera companies do. 

 

I have eyes for Kinefinity though... 

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While I don't really plan to switch my BMPCC to a Panasonic or Sony, I could not agree more with this one:

"All Blackmagic needed to do this year at NAB was to finally start reinforcing the hard work they’d already started – to satisfy their existing users with firmware updates and and evolutionary improvements to the existing fleet of 3 cameras. Fix the bugs and add features. Instead they have seemingly completely switched focus with 2 completely different cameras aimed at a completely different market."

It is really sad to read a lenghty newsletter from Blackmagic with no sign of bugfixes for their older cameras.

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Thats a very futuristic looking camera, but it scares the hell out me! Looks like it could set off bombs!

 

I was hoping they would release a new camera, between the size of the Pocket and BMCC with all the ergonomic errors and features fixed. 

 

That said, the original cameras image alone is worth the money. Its fine that Blackmagic have released this camera, thats what camera companies do. 

 

I have eyes for Kinefinity though... 

 

agree, When not shooting with it the prop department can use it as a high-tech looking time bomb detonation device. 

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I completely agree that the firmware on their Cinema line is in desperate need of an update.

 

The being said, it would be way too soon for a hardware update. I think coming out with a new version of any of their previous cameras right now would alienate their existing userbase even more. Even though they were announced over a year ago, the pocket and 4k cameras have barely been available for half that time.

 

They already have their cinema line for independent filmmakers. This year they're focusing on cameras for higher end and studio productions. A different market, but one that they are already "in bed" with.

 

Honestly I don't see these new cameras making much money. But I also don't think the situation is as dire as you predict.

 

 

An interesting bit of info I saw while looking at the specs for the Studio cameras. The HD one seems to be the same same sensor as the pocket camera (12.48mm x 7.02mm sensor size). The 4k variant for later this year has a sensor size of 13mmx7.35mm.

 

Right now I don't think it's possible to have a record a 4k image with the same detail and color depth as the pocket camera for the same size and price. But I can definitely see that sensor being used in a 4k pocket camera next year.

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Blackmagic are not camera makers, and from this recent hail-mary, its clear that they still don't know what they are doing in the camera department. I agree that what they should have been doing was working with the industries more thoroughly, and improving their existing products before launching new ones. If they never get it right, (mostly firmware) then the new products are equally doomed if not more so.  They should have hired software engineers to get these cameras to become what the potential for them was, instead of using those resources to come up with these products. I know they are trying to appeal to everyone, and then therefore get a market hold, but its just weird.

 

I think they lost their original user base, I doubt these products will get them the base they want, and I think they will go back to what they were actually good at, which was producing recorders and converters and all the bits and pieces you'd rig to other people's cameras, and use in post. 

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Wow, 7,5 kg is ridiculous. BMD sure don't fail to surprise me with their weird and unpractical designs. And what's up with URSA? Did they watch After Earth and thought that was a good name or something? 

 

What I will say though, and it's totally subjective, but I still haven't found an image out of a camera that matches the RAW output of the 5D3 and the BMCC/BMPCC, or the 422 out of the blackmagics either. The only thing that's come close is the Intra hacked GH2 for me. All the rest are just compressed to death.

 

The GH2 is in no way comparable with 5D Raw, sorry but it just isn't. 5D/KineRaw are quite a match for each other though.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

The same 4K sensor in the production camera? Disappointing if true. HATE the sensitivities of that sensor. But anyhow I can just put my preferred for low-light 5D sensor on it! :D 
post-33816-0-49147000-1396894394_thumb.j

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"However the URSA is aimed at a large crew, large scale productions and in doing so completely turns its back on Blackmagic’s existing indie filmmaking user base."

 

Wow, you really do come out with some absolute rubbish. You do realise the makers of your current flavour of the month, the GH4, also produce high end products?

 

I think what he is saying is Panasonic actually finishes their low end products before pushing out newer high end products.

 

 


 Yea, the firmware could be a bit fancier....

 

It's not about having "fancier" firmware.  It is about having working firmware.  The BMPCC doesn't even have basic functions that lowly $300 DSLRs have.  The autofocus is worthless.

 

 

 

If they completely fix the firmware, next month, will they still have turned their back on you?

 

 

 

Let's talk about things that are actually going to happen vs fantasy.

 

Honestly I've said it since I saw the first BMPCC review that Black Magic puts out beta cameras.  And I said they couldn't compete with the big boys.  The reason being is while the GH4 costs 60-70% more it is a $4k FINISHED product.  If Black Magic ever decided to put out FINISHED products the costs would go up substantially.  Tossing an off the shelf sensor into a box and slapping an LCD screen on it is something anyone can do.  Refining that concept into a tight final product is what will drive your costs up.  And all along I stated that quoting the $1,000 price for a BMPCC was pure rubbish.  To actually deliver a FINISHED BMPCC would cost substantially more.  So the "savings" with a BMPCC is you pay less... and get less.

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I would buy a Pocket Cinema Camera if they updated firmware so you could format cards in camera. I don't think that's ever going to happen, though, so I will spend my money with Panasonic and/or whoever else looks like they give a shit about the market they chose to enter.

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