An URSA Mini 4.6K vs Arri Alexa comparison may seem like a stretch, but Blackmagic’s new 4.6K sensor raises the bar for everyone in performance and price.

I love disruptive technology, and my favourite manufacturers are the most disruptive ones. They are also the most innovative, able to change the game for everyone with a single, often unexpected product announcement.

URSA 4.6K / URSA Mini 4.6K Change The Game

Arri has been king for a long time now, and few have come along with any real competition for the top spot. RED Digital Cinema are right there, but as with Alexa and Alexa Mini it all comes with a premium price tag.

Not too long ago it was RED Digital Cinema that was behind the first major tectonic shift in the cost of the tools of professional cinematography. RED has led the revolution so to speak against the elite, self-protective establishment, more or less “inventing” the 35mm digital cinema camera as we know it. With the RED One, Epic, Scarlet, and now Weapon, Raven and Helium, more creatives than ever before can afford and access film like 35mm imagery. RED brought down barriers for many, but not everyone.

Could it be time for another tectonic shift?

Can it be argued that Arri and RED have become the new establishment, the new barrier to an even wider and ever growing young generation of creatives looking for access to the same tools?

I believe now… if they get it right, Blackmagic Design is poised to lead a new wave of the digital cinema revolution.

I believe (and it is just opinion at this stage) that the performance gap between a $6,995 URSA 4.6K or $4,995 URSA Mini (featuring the new 4.6K 15-stop sensor) and a $40,000 RED Epic or $60,000 Alexa will no longer justify the vast difference in cost.

In fact, Blackmagic Design’s first camera, the 2.5K Cinema Camera set all this in motion two years ago.

It has long been said and acknowledged that the 2.5K Cinema Camera has the best image of any Blackmagic camera that has shipped to date. It has a lovely flat organic look, great color when graded and decent exposure latitude.

It’s also been said that this camera has a somewhat “Alexa” quality to the image. I’ve shot with both, graded both and I agree.

The same thing is being said of the image from Blackmagic’s new 4.6K, 15 stop sensor.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Arri and RED, I love the Alexa, and both of these companies are disruptive and innovating in leaps and bounds, just look at the 8K VistaVision full RED Weapon, 8K RED Helium, and the Alexa 65. That’s all cutting edge technology and worth every penny.

However, I think the Blackmagic URSA and URSA Mini 4.6K may finally bring premium imaging to everyone.

Another good read for more information on why this sensor looks so promising is this article by Noam Kroll – Why Highlight Rolloff Matters As Much As Dynamic Range & Which Affordable Cinema Camera Does It Best

URSA 4.6K / URSA Mini 4.6K Specs Look Good

I’ll leave you with an interesting comparison of specs, not that it means anything without real images. This story is far from over, and I am sure as more 4.6K Blackmagic cameras get into the hands of hungry shooters, we’ll start to see how good the images really are.

Arri Alexa / XT / XT Plus Blackmagic URSA 4.6K
Sensor 35 format CMOS sensor with Bayer pattern color filter array super 35 format CMOS sensor with Bayer pattern color filter array
Sensor Size 28.17mm x 18.33mm 25.34mm x 14.25mm
Sensor Aspect Ratio 4:3 16:9
Open Gate Resolution 3414 x 2198 4608 x 2592
Resolution (16:9 Modes)
RAW 2880 x 1620 4608 x 2592
HD 2880 x 1620 down sampled to 1920 x 1080 4608 x 2592 down sampled to 1920 x 1080
2K 2868 x 1612 down sampled to 2048 x 1152 4608 x 2592 down sampled to 2048 x 1152
3.2K 3168 x 1778
4K N/A 4608 x 2592 down sampled to 4096 x 2304
Frame Rates
ProRes HD 0.75 – 120fps not yet specified
ProRes 2K 0.75 – 60fps not yet specified
ProRes 3.2K 0.75 – 30fps not yet specified
DNxHD HD 0.75 – 120fps not yet specified
RAW 0.75 – 120fps 1 – 120fps
Exposure Latitude (Dynamic Range) 14+ stops 15 stops
Native Exposure Index (Base Sensitivity) EI 800 EI 800
Exposure Index Range EI 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 EI 200, 400, 800, 1600
White Balance Presets for 3200 (tungsten), 4300 (fluorescent), 5600 (daylight) and 7000 (daylight cool). Automatic calculation or manual white balance for 2000 to 11000 Kelvin, adjustable in 100 K steps Presets for 3200 (tungsten), 4300 (fluorescent), 5600 (daylight) and 7000 (daylight cool). Manual white balance for 2500 to 8000 Kelvin, adjustable in 500 K steps

4 Comments

  1. do you have some photos of new blackmagic camera

  2. Robert Matthews

    I agree, these new players are certainly making it hard to justify spending an extra $30-50,000 on RED Epic or Alexa/Amira. I am absolutely torn right now between three new cameras and I have no idea which one to go for. In price order:
    1) Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6k – $5,000
    2) Kinefinity Kinemax 6k – $9,000
    3) RED Scarlett Dragon – $20,000 approx.
    Which would you choose and why?

  3. Cameras have always evolved. There was a time when it was Sony f900, Thompson Viper, Sony f23 and F35 (much larger price tag when you included their HDCam SR decks to record.

    Alexa turned $250,000 packages into something well under $100,000. Red came along and tried to cut that in half by claiming it was only $17,500 – their cameras have only matured into excellent systems a couple of years ago.

    Black Magic has made some cool cameras here but their form factor leaves much to be desired – hence the Mini by NAB.

    Also, Arri has the Amira which does output UHD 3840×2160 and is less $ than the Alexa in the chart above – so we need to pick the right camera to make the comparison.

    All this to say the BM cameras are cool and quite inexpensive, but you’re getting what you pay for instead of “technological disruption” that we’ve seen before.

    Remember with Alexa it wasn’t just the fantastic sensor, but coupled with in-camera ProRes and later DnxHD possible. Meaning it worked in existing Post Production structures – something that was quite a hurdle for the previous disruptor, Red One.

    I look forward to BM being truly disruptive and not merely aiming its ship for a race to the bottom (what type of pro cameras & service & color science do we get when they’re under $5000? Under $4000? And so on.

  4. Justifying a Red over the Blackmagic is easy. Take a look at saving 500 hours of footage and there is your answer. It’s all in the Codec and build with these babies.

    If the Blackmagic Ursa mini works, it would be the first real camera they put out. Personally I dont believe the Ursa mini is a game changer

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