Blackmagic 4K URSA Tests Part 2
Part one of this test set you up to understand that the Blackmagic 4k URSA camera does not have a strong OLPF (Optical Low Pass Filter). It is required to use IR filtration with this camera to bring out all of its best attributes. We also learned that the camera only boasts about eleven stops of useable latitude. Now let’s really get in there and see how you will be using it, with low light noise levels, iso, skin tones and slow motion.
Part 2: Going Inside the New
Blackmagic 4K URSA for Cinematic Capture
Noise levels during the Day & Night
First off let’s examine the noise. The noise doesn’t look filmic; it looks like video pixels, square in fact and dancing around in the blacks. Not loving how this camera looks at 200 or 800 ISO, but its Native at 400 ISO looks really good; it looks clean and delivers nice skin tones and looks very natural and filmic, which is a big deal. The camera does NOT look like VIDEO. It looks very filmic, but it requires you to shoot this baby in its sweet spot and this is what these tests will help you educate yourself to do.
Test No. 1 Day Noise
200 ISO was clean but gave me a strange added contrast to the skin. I know I hit this color grade a little too hard here, but I did not like the 200 ISO overall. I could not hold the detail in the clouds like I could with the native ISO 400.
At 400 ISO this camera shines bright. Her skin looks beautiful; it handles the highlights well and retains all sky detail. This was an extreme condition and with some added Kino Flo Celeb 400s we were able to bring her face up to a level that looked balanced and natural to the ambient light. It was an overcast day in San Fernando, which can be very difficult without negative fill, which you see me using on the camera right side of the frame to shape the light on Eli. Then the Celebs are off camera right to help bring up the level on Eli’s face.
At ISO 800 you quickly see the noise come into the image in her dark jacket. It exhibits a square pixel type of noise, which is not like the grain that you get from a RED Dragon, Canon C300 or Canon C500, which feel very round in structure and more like a texture that is very appealing to me, but not with this noise.
Here is the video for the Day ISO Noise test:
Here is our Day ISO test for the Canon C500 vs Arri Alexa:
Test No. 2 Night Noise
I love these tests because you quickly see that even at 1.3 on the lens, 800 ISO is not enough to bring the existing street lights to a level that feel like they would light a scene. I chose to shoot at 2500 ISO at a 2.5 f-stop on Need for Speed because this is where I felt the streets came alive. Working with existing street lights, I was able to illuminate 5.5 miles of night racing without light condors and large Musco moon sources.
At night 400 ISO works but the background suffers without depth and dimension because the light levels on the street are not bright enough. It is an acceptable noise level but not what I would like to work at. I feel what I would do with this camera would be to light at 800 ISO. Expose your scene with this ISO and then when you go to shoot, set the camera at 400 ISO without changing any lights. Later bring it up in post. It seems to feel better doing this, rather than taxing the sensor at 800 ISO and embedding all of that noise into your image.
At 800 ISO the noise is really crawling in the street and sidewalk. Definite noise reduction tools will be required if you are shooting here. Interesting look for a more raw look, very Super 16 feeling.
Here is the video for the Night ISO Noise test:
Test No. 3 Going High Speed
I wanted to see 60FPS and the new 80FPS addition to the URSA at 3:1 compression. What I found was that the slo-mo looked very organic and the motion blur felt very realistic and cinematic.
With Eli running like the T 2000 actress in T3, we take you on a journey of 60FPS and 80FPS.
Here is the video for the 60FPS test:
Here is the video for the 80FPS test:
Test No. 4 Skin Tones and Fill Ratio
I love this test because it really shows how your camera reacts to skin as well as the contrast levels on a face and how far you like to take it. We go from -2 stops down on the fill and go in 1/2 stop increments so that you can see the reduction in the fill on her left side, our camera right side.
I really loved 3.5 stops down on the fill with Eli’s face. It brought out a nice feel and I love the way the skin tones look on this camera. Skin tones really resolve well and have great depth in color. You can really see the 12 BIT nature of this camera. When I shot 12 BIT versus 10 BIT on the C500, there was absolutely no difference other than a huge file to deal with, but with the URSA it really brings out the best in the skin.
Here is the video for the Fill Ratio test:
Shooting Location:Revolution Cinema Rentals
This is Sajeesh, Cinematographer from India
I am a loyal follower of your blog and love the way you write. Its very informative.
I read URSA Tests. I shot with URSA last month and I had the same problem what you experienced. My card got crashed and I had to re-shoot the entire sequence again. And subsequently my other card also got crashed during another shoot. IS this the problem with the Card or with the camera?
We are further investigating with Blackmagic and they are checking on this issue, but based on what my DIT Derek looked into on the day of, it appeared to be the card we had. What type of card were you using?
one question: In the “graded” pictures from “Test No. 1 Day Noise” the clouds are somethign pink, ar least at my two screens. Is that intetional? Or would you correct this later in the final version?
Beste regards, Uli
That is not intentional but it is what happens when shooting at 200 ISO. Both of the frames you are talking about are at 200 ISO Graded, one has no ND and one has IR ND to try and open up the exposure. We can see that the loss in detail in the highlights (our clouds) goes past white and turns a bit pink at 200 ISO. If you look down at the 400 ISO frames, you will see that the detail is still there, this is why BMD has set this camera to a native of 400 ISO.
many thanks for the explanation.
Best regards, Uli
I’m in a dilemma, I would like to purchase a camera. I’m trying to decide between the URSA EF or C100 Mark 2. What would you suggest based on your using them both? Quality is what I’m looking for and both of these are in the same price range without me buying new glass, and a kit.
It all depends on if you “need” 4K or not. If you can be sufficient with 1080p, I would go with the C100 Mark 2 as it has so many more features built into the camera which will cut a lot of cost, like purchasing ND Filters, etc. But If you do need to go to 4K, the URSA is a great camera to go with at that price point. It has incredible resolution, low noise in it’s sweet spot and feels extremely filmic.
Hi Shane, Lydia & Crew –
First off – thanks for all you do in sharing your knowledge and being such a terrific resource for the rest of us. Keep up the great work!
Like many others, I’m in the market for an *affordable* 4k camera. I’ve looked over all your data on those you’ve reviewed and have a couple of questions: From everything I’ve seen and read, the BM URSA seems to perform best shooting 400 ASA/ISO in a low con setting – that it doesn’t really have a lot of latitude when working in more extreme conditions. Would you agree with that? And second: Is Blackmagic’s 12 bit RAW on the URSA/4k Prod Cam significantly better than working with a 4k solution that records in, say, PR422?
Yes, the 400 ISO is the sweet spot, but you have to hit it near perfect, there isn’t much room for error. To answer your second question, yes. The 12 Bit RAW keeps the color science of the Blackmagic cameras true, where as the ProRes 422 completely destroys it, it takes massive gamma shifts. Even at 3:1 on the URSA it is significantly better than recording in a compressed format. It is the only way to maximize what this sensor has to offer.
I have a c300 and an Ursa. In it’s sweet spot (which is fairly narrow) I prefer the look of the Ursa and if you have a look at the Raw recovery tests at ursacam.com, you can see how useful having RAW really is. Despite the weight, I also prefer the Ursa on the shoulder to my rigged c300, it’s a lot more stable, the c300 is annoyingly tall for its size. The Ursa, I think, totally made out of magnesium alloy also has a nicer, more polished feel and the menu system is really easy. I’ve found some super talent fast pro 128gb cards that are about $70 a piece – they’re not on the recommended list but they work fine in prores and RAW 3:1 if you’re on a budget. Slow motion on the ursa is better than the c300 which is only 50fps at 720.
Having said all that, the c300 is my workhorse camera. I’ve been in rainforest, deserts, down the grand canyon, up mountains and it’s never skipped a beat. Its totally reliable and predictable in any situation. I don’t have to worry about weird sensor issues of fpn and banding cropping up in low light and I can use almost any iso. The cards are dirt cheap and even though the design is a mess, it can be stripped down to fit on lightweight car mounts, sliders, minijibs, glide cams or gimbals making it a bit more versatile. The 8 bit colour and compression is the only reason now that Im looking for something to tide me over till NAB. If the URSA could deliver the results at all isos, it might do as I really like the camera but the current sensor does have issues and 12 stops of dr isn’t quite good enough.
An additional, inadvertent lesson from this test is seeing how different the model looks depending on which side she’s lit from. Her face really changes when it’s lit from camera left in the night exteriors.
Yes, you are 100% correct Michael. This is something I go into great detail when I prep for commercials and movies. I went into this detail extensively in our light study on the Illumination Experience Tour workshop.
I am a big fan for you,and I have a question want to ask you,if only can choose one camera in ursa,c300,red one ,fs7,which should be the best choice,because I am a student and have not too much
money ,this is the first time I buy a film camera.
XiaoFeng Cheng from China
If I were a student, I would be looking at either the C100 or C100 Mark II. All of the features that this camera has built into it – internal NDs, onboard microphone, XLR audio inputs, CanonLog control, you really are able to have a complete camera system for around $5,000. The C100 Mark II hasn’t come out yet, but it should be out in a few weeks.
Hello Mr. Shane,
I wanted to thank you for this type of work and knowledge you share, No DP ever made what you have made so far. Thank you !
I am wondering if you will make tests for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K, an altitude Test and its sweet spot ? or you find it more like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5 ? or it is more close to the URSA 4K?
one dout ,which is better ,ursa or aja cion-dr aoks
I love your work and value your tests very much. I am in the market to upgrade and was put off by the weight and fixed pattern noise issues of the Ursa/BMPC Sensor. I have about 16-20k range to spend max and was considering the Aja CION. I would love to see a similar test or review on the CION because as of now AJA has very little out there in terms of footage and real world tests. Well even reviews from DP’s seem to be strangely absent. I was considering waiting until after the NAB show to purchase anything but I wanted your opinion on the CION vs the URSA. The slightly lower native ISO is a concern of mine and DR as well. I am suspicious that they are the same sensor being being calibrated differently. Anyway I was just wondering if you had any intention to test out the CION and do a similar review.
Thank you so much for these test… it’s difficult to get a real world critique from an actual DP and I really appreciate your approach.
Thanks so much for the kind words and support. I haven’t tested the AJA CION just yet, but it is an interesting camera on the market. From the articles and videos that I have seen, like this one from Cinema5d earlier today (http://www.cinema5d.com/aja-cion-review-all-about-the-aja-camera/) I am not sold on the AJA CION in comparison to the URSA. From what Sebastian at Cinema5d points out, the AJA CION does feel similar to the URSA but at a more expensive price point. The URSA has about 11.5 stops of usable dynamic range, but I am not a fan of how the camera rolls off in the highlights. You have to get the URSA exposed just right to nail that camera, and the reviews I have seen of the AJA CION feel about the same. Sebastian points out that in his test there is just a little over 8 stops of usable dynamic range, which is scary. haha!
I would continue to wait until after NAB, as we already know that RED will be announcing it’s new WEAPON sensor and I am sure there will be other announcements by other camera companies that will affect the market. You may be able to find a discounted RED Scarlett, Canon C500, etc after NAB depending on where you look. Depending on what you already own and what you intent on shooting, I personally would look at the RED Scarlett, C300 and C500 to see if any of those meet your needs. An area that I am really appreciating from RED is when they release new equipment, they’re giving people the option to upgrade at a different price, versus just expecting you to flat out purchase a new camera. The Canon’s are still a great platform as well, I’m curious to see if they do anything at NAB, there are lots of rumors around the internet, it would be nice to see Canon step it’s game to the next level too.
Thank you so much for these test… it’s difficult to get a real world critique from an actual DP and I really appreciate your approach.
I am a twenty year old DP from the St. Louis area, and I have found your site and reviews very informative and probably the most professional site for information in the area of film.
I will be within the next 3 months be the DP for my 3 feature film and I am building my personal camera package for the film.
Originally, the producer was pushing for the F55 for the “A” cam, however….
I find myself leaning towards the URSA Mini 4.6K.
As for lenses, I am running with the Cooke Primes set or, the Schneider Cine-Xenar III Cinema Lens Set.
When it comes to the new sensor…. IR filtration is a question in my mind, with the experience I’ve gotten with the sensor in the 4K Production Camera and the URSA,
Do you think we should prepare ourselves for the same result in the new sensor?
Yes, I would prepare yourself to battle against IR pollution with the URSA Mini. I have yet to test it and see it in person, but based on how Blackmagic has made their cameras in the past, I would prepare for it. It’s the inherent nature of most digital cameras, whether it’s a RED Dragon, a Sony F55, almost all of them have some amount of IR pollution. It’s best to test for it prior to your shooting. Do a test just like I do, get the camera, and get Straight ND filters and see where the IR Pollution comes in. Put a model in frame and have them wear a solid color, black usually works for me and you can see where the color of that black shirt drifts as IR Pollution comes in.
The Blackmagic 4K Production Camera is quite the interesting camera to say the least, the one thing I have found however is finding the lens that best exploits the sensor.
I am a firm believer in the statement,
“The mind is the processor and developer of ideas, but it’s how you look at the situation, that truly defines the outcome.”
Lenses are so important for creating the look and feel for a film…
What is your opinion of this, and what would be your suggestion?
I always come here to your site sir. For knowledge and awareness. I have been working with low dlsr camera. I specialize on music videos solely. I need your advice on which cam to buy between the ursa and c100. Thanks sir
C100 MK II will be the camera for you. Clean hi ISO noise range. Great overall performance. Amazing color space and out of the box it looks incredible. The URSA mini will have more latitude but very difficult to color correct and balance.
First off, thanks for opening your brain to us every month. Having worked with another ASC-caliber dp, it’s nice to see how you guys think….
This is a great series of tests, and represents our feelings on this camera as well. We used it on a green screen project and a night exterior shoot. We found the skin tones looked great, but the ‘sensor’ noise was fixed and not filmic at all. Though we did LOVE the slomo.
A quick question for you about your tests. Are all your tests at the highest quality the cameras offer? The reason I ask is we have had aliasing issues with the Ursa and BMCC. We were shooting on ZE lenses for one, and dslr lense (sigma) for the other. For one instance we were shooting 422HQ on the Ursa. The other was 422HQ on the BMCC. While I have done tests to try to replicate the issue, I can’t. We even recreated the exact setup (same clothes, lighting, etc) in the studio and couldn’t make it happen.
Any thoughts or feedback would be most appreciated.
Reading through quite some time after this review, as a friend has recently picked up an Ursa and it’s one of our options for a feature film in 2017.
I’ve used the BMD Pocket, CC and PC 4K, and the Aja Cion – the BMPC4K, Ursa and Cion all all reputed to use the same sensor.
I’m curious to find out, on that Global Shutter sensor in the Ursa, did you find any odd ‘fixed pattern noise’ at the higher ISO’s in low light?
In my experience there is a strong square or crosshatch pattern to the noise on the BMD’s, and an odd banding to the noise in the Cion – brighter sections left a noise band across the frame.
A lot of the upcoming project has night time shoots – I’m leaning towards the Cion (of which I’m unashamedly a fan) with a focal reducer on a custom made E-mount plate and my set of classic fast Pentax SMC Primes, all chasing a look that will avoid that ‘shot on Red’ of so many films out there,..
I’d love to know you thoughts, especially if you’ve seen anything using the latest firmware, and not the early firmware used in the Cinema5D test.
After a few years what would be your thoughts on these cameras now. I can get the c300 mark 1 for about 2,000 dollars and the c100 mark ii for 3. Do they still hold up? What’s your thoughts?