Jaws drop, Earth stops spinning. Blackmagic's astonishing new 4K modular camera

Written by Simon Wyndham

Blackmagic DesignThere's one more screen too...

As a company Blackmagic Design certainly likes putting the cat amongst the pigeons and NAB 2014 is no exception. Prepare to meet the URSA, the world’s first user upgradable 4K digital film camera.

Following the release of its Production Camera and after having just announced a Studio Camera as well, Blackmagic went and announced the URSA — a camera that, if it is released on time and with a solid firmware, will be many a camera ops wet dream!

The URSA bucks the trend of all its previous cameras and follows a similar form to the Arri Amira. It features a number of defacto standard features that we would expect these days; a 4K S35 sized sensor, Raw and ProRes recording, SDI-out and such like. However what makes the URSA stand out is that Blackmagic has clearly flat-out listened to what camera people want.

Not only have they designed it as a fully shoulder mountable device, but they have imbued it with the sorts of features one would expect on a camera costing much, much more. For a start there is not only one LCD display, there are three. Thwacking great big ones at that. On the operator side of the camera there is a gigantic flip out 10" LCD for framing shots. Right next to it on the camera body is a 5" display showing histograms, audio waveforms, timecode, and all your recording settings. On the other side of the camera is a mirror of this 5" display, but with the addition of audio levels for sound ops to easily see.

The URSA also features balanced XLR audio inputs with 48v phantom power, timecode in and out, Reference In, 12v in via a 4-pin XLR, IDX and Gold Mount battery mount options, an integrated top handle…In other words this is a camera that could be used for ENG as well as indie filmmaking and documentary work.

The good news doesn't stop there. The URSA is capable of recording 4k at up to 60 frames per second. This with a global shutter sensor. While this doesn't reach the heady heights of the high framerate recording of the Sony F5, it will be good enough for many people. Yet there is one more surprise in store, and it is quite a big one given recent articles on RedShark. The sensor on the URSA is integrated into the lens mount, and this is user removable. In other words the sensor on the URSA is user upgradeable as new technology comes along.

This also means that Blackmagic can offer a number of different models, including a B4 lens mount option with an integrated ND wheel.

Now, the previous BM cameras have had the odd glitch on release, and the slowness of firmware updates for usable features have been a point of issue for many users. If they can sort out these issues for the URSA then I can see this camera selling like hotcakes. It ticks a lot of boxes.

Oh yes, the price. Sitting in your chairs? $5,995 for the EF mount version. See you in the queue!

 

Tags: Production

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