Use the Amazing Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder with Any Camera!

October 21st, 2015

The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder is the best affordable EVF I know. Since I first tried it at NAB with the new Blackmagic URSA Mini I’m thinking about how to make it work with other cameras. I figured it out and here is my guide how to use it with any camera like the Sony A7S, GH4, C300, FS7 and others.

Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder with 1080p OLED screen

Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder with 1080p OLED screen

Note that the URSA Viewfinder was specifically designed for the Blackmagic URSA and Blackmagic URSA Mini cameras. Use this guide at your own risk. We only share what we found and what worked for us.

I already discussed all the advantages of the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder in the video. So here’s the list of accessories that I used to make it work. Of course you can use other combinations and parts as per your needs, but here are the essential points:

Essential Points

  • The URSA Viewfinder needs an SDI source. So if your camera outputs SDI you’re probably already half way there. if it doesn’t, you will need an hdmi to SDI converter.
  • The Viewfinder only works with a 1080 progressive signal. Most converters that I tried like this one or this one will NOT work, because they output an interlaced signal with the Sony a7S tested.
  • You will need some way to power the URSA Viewfinder with a 12V female 4-pin XLR.

ursa-viewfinder-a7s-2

Making it Work on a Camera like the Sony a7S

The way I converted the hdmi signal from the Sony a7S to 1080p was to use an Atomos Shogun’s internal 4K –> 1080p downscaling. This way I could record 4K from a Sony a7S while at the same time using the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder.

Of course you can do a setup without the Shogun, but you will have to find a way to get a progressive signal via SDI. I’m waiting for this converter right now to see if it can provide the proper 1080p signal and will update this article very soon.

The advantage of using the Shogun (or Odyssey 7Q+) is also the additional preview image whenever the rig is not on the shoulder, or for assistants. I think the way I finally mounted it on top of the Viewfinder is just the most convenient possibility and it seems it is never in the way. The Shogun will start recording through the a7S rec-trigger function, so no need to touch it at all. Furthermore it will enhance the URSA Viewfinder with all the software features included in the Shogun and I get the best of both worlds.

Parts needed

Powering

  • Lanparte VBP-02 V-Mount Plate – Of course other multi-power battery plates will also work. For my mod you should make sure you get an adaptor cable to power the Shogun. The Lanparte already comes with this cable.
  • Lanparte 4-Pin Female XLR Adaptor – Converts a 12v miniplug (v-mount plate) to 4-pin XLR. You could also get a 12V D-Tap to 4-Pin XLR cable instead.
  • Dummy Battery for Sony a7 cameras – This connects to the red-tip adapter cable which is included in the Lanparte VBP-02 package. This is why the dummy battery needs a male plug at the end.
  • V-Mount Battery – This is the cheapest one I found, maybe not the best. It can be charged with the Lanparte plate which includes an AC adaptor. I have no idea how long it lasts, but I hope someone will do the math on 95WH and tell us in the comments.

Conversion & 4K recording

Rigging

Handheld Rig (optional)
I use and like this, but of course you can use any handheld rig solution.

I usually use the longer 13″ rails on my rigs.

Other Small (HDMI) Cameras

Panasonic GH4
If you want to do this with a Panasonic GH4 you might want to use the Dummy Battery for Panasonic GH3 & GH4 instead of the Sony one.
If you use the DMW-YAGH you will need both the 12V D-Tap to 4-Pin XLR and Lanparte 4-Pin Female XLR cable and of course also an SDI cable to feed the Atomos Shogun. With the SDI you will of course not need the hdmi cable. Also you’d use a lower rail support than the 15mm one recommended above.

Canon
For Canon cameras that use the LP-E6 batteries you’ll need the Dummy Battery for Canon to make it all run from one V-mount battery. This one is for cameras like the 550D, 600D, 650D,…
Also you’d use a mini HDMI cable, not the micro which you use for the a7 & GH4 cameras.

Other Cameras

I will write about using the Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder on the Canon C100 / C300 / C500 & C300 mark II in the following days.

We will of course try this on more cameras, but looks like it’s gonna work on most if you follow the rules pointed out earlier. If you figure out on which cameras it works or doesn’t and which accessories are needed please share it in the comments.

The Blackmagic URSA Viewfinder costs $1495 and is shipping now.

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Cristian
Cristian
Guest
February 8th, 2019

Sebastian, will the newer Inferno fit the profile here ?

 Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss
Member
November 7th, 2015

This is not a sales pitch by me or Zacuto in any way, it’s a critic on what I consider bad journalism in not presenting correct facts enabling individuals who use your blog as a trusted learning device to make a proper decision. You mention that the camera only works with a P signal, it actually only works with with cameras outputting 1080 60p—and thats’ not what filmmakers want to view unless shooting sports or news! Most want frame rates in the 24 or 25 range. Of the few cameras I had sitting on my prep counter, it didn’t work with the C300 because that only outputs 1080i at 60 and you can’t convert i to p, Kinemax which does output 1080 60p but it just didn’t work, and of course none of the DSLR’s or mirrorless because of SDI. Those were the only cameras we had in-house. We are not sure why it doesn’t work with some cameras but we believe it has something to do with SDI levels A&B but we are not sure. Later that day an Fs7 came in and it did work with that camera in 1080 60p after 20 minutes of playing with it and SDI level set to B. Now I’m speaking of using the viewfinder without having to buy a Shogun or converter box as well as batteries and a charger which most other EVF companies include. It didn’t work in 1080 23.98p, 23.98PsF, 24p, 24PsF, 25p, 25PsF, 29.97Psf, 30fps, 50i, 50p, 59.94i, 60i, which most proper EVF’s on the market do straight out of the box. In other words, ready to go. Furthermore, many cameras do not allow you to record in one format and view out the SDI in another without have to buy a converter or recorder. So in reality you need a recorder or convertor to use this EVF with most cameras making the effective cost of what Seb says “It Is affordable” “for $1,500, that is a very good viewfinder for this price point”. Or is it?

REAL Price
How much does this viewfinder really cost. In the configuration Seb created the EVF is $3,617 with one battery and a charger which is an apples to apples comparison to most on the market—granted you did it with a shogun recorder but most cameras including the one in your test record in 4K. But in doing so you’ve created the most expensive EVF on the market by far and with very limited features. Then adding the additional 13 items needed to create your rig brings your grand total is $5,757.89 B&H priced to create a camera specific non balanced rig. It looked front heavy. Our universal rig and Gratical HD is $1500 less then then what you’ve presented here and the rig will work with every camera on the market. Our competitors can do the same thing for similar prices. Maybe I missed the point of the article and sorry if I did but I thought the point here was to show how you can take a relatively inexpensive camera specific OLED EVF and jury-rig it to work as a low cost solution. Was that not the point of the article? I would rather you had shown how to rig a Bomb, Arri or Sony EVF because they are much more ergonomic for rig building. The shape of this EVF and it’s huge footprint of mounting bracketry makes it almost impossible to work with other cameras and get it in the right position to create a balanced rig or any rig at all. I’m assuming you expect to take this EVF from camera to camera now and into the future. Even the way you show it here makes it incredibly uncomfortable and unbalanced (the shogun, camera/lens cage and EVF are all in front of your shoulder and your head is way to the left–not to mention the rig is incredibly top heavy the way you have the shoulder pad underneath a baseplate, cage and riser plate it looks like. The bottom of your camera to the bottom of your shoulder needs to be less then an inch otherwise you will get rocking back and forth as you pan (and I see that happening to you)–but I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Now don’t get me wrong, this EVF is a very elegant solution for the BlackMagic URSA camera as it was designed. Another thing you failed to mention is how long it took you to build that device. I’m assuming a really long time since you used a time lapse. Not sure about you but time on a film set is money and I need to be quick. In this video https://vimeo.com/115828767 I slowing show how to build an entire fs7 rig in 24 seconds (no time lapse) again I’m sure may competitors can do the same.

Sales Pitch
The only sales pitch I would like to make is I would like you, Seb, to really take a look at the resolution of the BMEVF vs. the 720p Gratical. There is no difference. The eye is not able to resolve resolutions above 720p on an image that’s less then 2 inches. i.e. look at a billboard 5 feet away and it has golfball sized dots, view it 200 feet away and you don’t see any dots. The display on the BMEVF as well as every other display on the market is 16×9 which means all of the display information and scopes are overlaid on the video, that’s something that Zacuto will never do. We use a 4:3 display that is 1280×1024 so we have a full 720p video image with no overlay. This gives you a large area underneath for real sized scopes, audio meters, and TC and all other information. When you have all of this information it doesn’t allow you to see things that might pop in the shot top/bottom or corners and it’s just not as enjoyable an experience to view the image when not clean with nothing on it. Sebastian, it would be great to get your comments on quality and usability of the waveform or histogram on the BMEVF. After all, these are not just focusing devices we need our exposure tools, LUTS, and I can go on and on that are just not there. I get the idea that the story was just about if you could do it, not the viability, practicality or price of actually doing it–but that sends an incorrect message.

I expect more from u guys, people are reading your blog for solid information. I saw a tweet today from G-Technology that re-tweeted your article “How to use Blackmagic’s URSA’s viewfinder with any camera.”, and linking to your blog post. That’s not really true. I only got it to work by itself with the Fs7 in 1080 60p. You used an Ax where a butter knife was needed. My attempt here was not as a sales tool Zacuto, hell any of my competitors products are better then this solution and I’d rather you bought theirs then this–at least it would be a proper solution. People look to you to decide what to buy we need you to promote accurate costings while at the same time proper balance and the ability to move this between cameras now and into the future without having to buy a lot of additional gear, where for way less money you can get a proper solution.

Steve Weiss
Producer, Director, Product Designer, Zacuto

 Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss
Member
November 7th, 2015
Reply to  Steve Weiss

Whoops, correction: You mention that the BMEVF only works with a P signal, it actually only works with cameras outputting 1080 60p—and thats’ not what filmmakers want to view unless shooting sports or news! Most want frame rates in the 24 or 25 range.

Paul Jones
Paul Jones
Guest
January 17th, 2016
Reply to  Steve Weiss

I am looking for an EVF solution to use on a few cameras. Thanks for your input Steve.

I have a sony a7r mii and the viewfinder is very pixelated. not nearly sharp enough to accurately focus with- I need to zoom in often. Peaking doesn’t work with my faster lenses well as they are quite fast so they aren’t super sharp- and you need a sharp contrasty image for peaking to work.

I can’t quite understand you saying you can’t see pixels when at 1280×720 (the main viewing area you use) as the sony a7r mii has well over twice the volume of pixels (2,300,000) over the 1280×720 (921600) for the Zacuto evf. Even the Blackmagic EVF hasn’t got as high res as the sony but it is twice the res of the Zacuto option.
I say the more res the better- especially these days with 4k cameras and fast/sharp lenses. I come from a still background where unsharp images aren’t at all acceptable- so I would like the highest res EVF I can find, and the Blackmagic, even with its work arounds is looking more promising- if it can work. It is great having Sebastian test and come up with these solutions as it is the only decent one I can see available for what I need.

cheers Paul

 Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss
Member
January 17th, 2016
Reply to  Paul Jones

Paul,
I’m not sure that the EVF on the A7r mii is 720p? Although it doesn’t matter, what makes it so it has a higher resolving power and that you can see the pixels is not that it’s 720×1280, that’s irrelevant. It’s the dot pitch. Your viewfinder has 2.3M pixels, the Gratical has 5.4M pixels with a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. The BM is a mystery because to date they don’t publish any specs on it’s dot pitch or contrast ranges. It only works with very few cameras. It’s awkward and bulky in shape and hard to get in a handheld position unless using their camera and when you add up all of the bits that Sebastian recommends it’s twice the cost of the Gratical unless you happen to own all of those parts. Test this: can you see the difference between a 4k video and a 1080p or even 720p video when you go on youtube and watch it on your phone in the vertical mode where the image is small (approximately the size of the image size in EVF’s. Absolutely no resolution difference because of many factors. There is a point where your eye reaches is maximum resolving range to the size of the image and magnification and my tests show that it’s in the 930×760. The differences come in the dot pitch which is where you can either see pixels or not. With both the BM and the Gratical (and I think the Gratical is sharper) you don’t see pixels but the Gratical is cheaper when you add everything you need, it works with every camera, has a ton more features, LUTS, loop outs, takes an HDMI the your camera puts out, has infinitely better glass and the only EVF EVER to include fog protection that has been tested going from the freezer immediately to a hot humid day with no fogging whatsoever. Every EVF will fog without fog protection and I don’t know why other companies don’t do it. The only company ever to try it was Panavision with an electric heater.

 Jones Paul
Jones Paul
Member
January 17th, 2016
Reply to  Steve Weiss

Hi Steve,

thanks for the reply. I don’t quite understand how your screen can have 5.4m pixels when it is only 720×1280? Have I done my maths right? I only count 921600 pixels. Or do you have a higher res screen (I am only talking the image area- not the extra area that you put the data on) but only feed 720 to that?

Cheers Paul

 Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss
Member
January 18th, 2016
Reply to  Jones Paul

Paul,
Yes, the entire display is 5.4M pixels so:
720×1280 = 3.83M pixels
304×1280 = 1.56M pixels
But what good is the picture if you have all of your scopes and camera information overlayed on the image, you can’t see the whole image. With the Gratical you have the ability to have three scopes simultaneously, wave, vector and histogram all below the image. audio meters, record light, false color scale, all text for features on or off, Time code all below the frame. This way you can study your video image clean with nothing on it. You don’t need 9 pieces of extra equipment to use it, it works with every camera and every format. The BM viewfinder is probably a good choice for the BM camera because it’s made for that.

I think you need to experience the Gratical. Why don’t you let me send you a Gratical to demo and you can try it out, write about it and tell others what you think. These things need to be experienced. According to Sebastian, the BM only works with a few cameras and you have to have a recorder to make it work, and your rig then is juggling a lot of parts. The Gratical has tons of features goes from camera to camera to future cameras. Here are it’s specs:

Display0.61″ / 15.1 mm
Frame Rates
23.98p
23.98PsF
24p
24PsF
25p
25PsF
29.97PsF
50i
50p
59.94i
60i
60p
ResolutionFull Display: 1280 x 1024
HD: 1280 x 720
Contrast Ratio10,000:1
Refresh Rate50/60 Hz
Color DepthRGB: 24-bit
Luminance120 to 250 nit
Pixel Density2687.21 PPI
Color16.7 million colors

Connections
Input
HDMI: 1 x HDMI
SDI: 1 x BNC

Output
HDMI: 1 x HDMI
SDI: 1 x BNC

8 programmable function buttons
Display calibration
HDMI & SDI in and out and cross conversion
Test pattern color bars and Macbeth
battery level indicator
Peaking
Red Line Peaking
False Color
Zebras
1×1 zoom
TimeCode drop and free-run
Audio Meters
Anamorphic
Frame store and overlay for continuity
Frame Lines
DSLR scaling

 Jones Paul
Jones Paul
Member
January 18th, 2016
Reply to  Steve Weiss

Thanks for the info steve. And thanks for the offer to try the EVF… but I am in New Zealand, so not so practical…
But I will go down to the local gear shop and have a look at your EVF in detail. I just cant see how I can get both EVF’s side by side for a comparison however.

cheers Paul

 Dennis Sørensen
Member
March 10th, 2017
Reply to  Steve Weiss

Hi Steve.

I know this is an old post, but your math is not correct..

1024*1280 = is 1.3M pixels and as Paul Jones point out it really only is 0.9M pixels for the VIDEO area.

You write:

“Yes, the entire display is 5.4M pixels so:
720×1280 = 3.83M pixels
304×1280 = 1.56M pixels”

Were you smoking some of the green stuff, while doing these calculations :D

720×1280 = 9.2M pixels
304*1280 = 0,4M pixels

= 1.3M pixels

I don’t know how you would ever get to 5.4MP?

Also.. i would recommend going with PPI (Pixels pr. inch) rather than dot pitch as there aren’t any “dots” in a pixel display. Dots are what a printer uses (it makes small dots to form a whatever you print) or old CRT monitors.

Lastly.. you sound very much like an uneducated sales person when you say that your gradical has “infinitely better glass” than the BMD VF.. It’s something a child would say :-) Not very technical and for that, i lose a bit of respect for you (i think you make great stuff, don’t get me wrong).

John Brawley
John Brawley
Guest
March 7th, 2016
Reply to  Steve Weiss

Steve, it wasn’t just Panavision. Arri have had electrically heated viewfinders for a while.

Aaton actually had an electrostatic viewfinder system that was very clever, and electrically charged the optics. It used far less power than simply heating the viewfinder surrounds.

JB

 marek mysicka
marek mysicka
Member
July 8th, 2017
Reply to  Steve Weiss

Hello Steve.

Just want to point out few things about your product which nobody seems to be bothered about. The amount of colour shift and optical distortion anytime you slightly change the angle looking into the viewfinder is unbearable and was the main reason why I did’t choose it at the end.
You guys talk so much about your products.. how perfect they are and how your main interest is to serve cameraman with best tools possible and than allow this to happen.. Naaah.. thank you very much.. .. you almost got me as I was so close to buying first of the zacuto products.

p.s. great pitch thought.. but be completely honest as well.. ;)

Member
November 6th, 2015

mAh = Wh × 1000 / V
95Wh × 1000 / 0V = 95,000mAh-Total
95Wh × 1000 / 7.5V = 12,666mAh-sony a7s = 12 hours approximate
95Wh × 1000 / 12V = 7,916mAh-Shogun = 8 Hours approximate

Approximate of 2-3 days before the battery dies.

Member
November 7th, 2015

Welcome Sebastian. Well, if the viewfinder use 12V or 7.5V it will add up from the consumption of the battery. But still, 95,000mAH is big or huge battery life to finish. My approximate could more than 3 days. To sum up the consumption even with viewfinder…. 12,666mAH+7916mAH+7,916mAH more or less(viewfinder) = Total of 28,500mAH Divide these number to 95,000mAH = 3 Days + 4 hours. Per day shooting 10-12 Hours… well that’s a lot of shooting…. The most important part is no worries to run-out of battery which is the most number one problem of a Photographer or Videographer. Thanks.

Member
October 26th, 2015

Would this work on my RED Epic? It has AUX Power Out (provided I use the right adapter) and I can output 1080p via SDI…

Member
October 25th, 2015

Hello There,
dear Sebastian and fellow readers here. 2 Questions:

1) Does anybod know if the Canon 5D Mark III would output a suitable 1080p Signal – I know how to put it into that mode but I never checked what comes out to an external screen.

2) does the viewfinder add such useful helps like focus aid (this red rims that show in-focus parts of the picture)

Thank You

Member
October 23rd, 2015

So…. Zacuto gratical or this one FS7? Is saw this one on IBC and I agree its image is great. But can I attach it steady and professional on my FS7?

Yoyi P
Yoyi P
Guest
October 23rd, 2015

Wow! Isn’t more intelligent (and easier) to sell the A7s/Gh4 and buy the Ursa Mini !!??

David Cain
Member
October 22nd, 2015

Thanks for the post Sebastian. At first I thought you were joking about “a few accessories”. That is without question a Frankenrig.

I feel like you could reduce the footprint and setup to maintain the DSLR’s size and still have something that fulfills your pro requirements. For starters, the SmallHD 502 specs seem to accommodate the progressive output to the EVF. This from their website:

Output Signal Types/Formats (HD-SDI)

RGB/YCC 4:2:2 and 4:4:4,1080i60,1080i59.94,1080i50, 1080p30, 1080p25, 1080p24, 1080p23.98, 1080pSF23.98, 1080pSF24, 1080pSF25 , 1080pSF29.97, 720p60, 720p59.94, 720p50

Obviously the 502 would be lighter and more compact. Plus SmallHD has a new pan/tilt friction mount that can be adjusted with one hand and attached to the BM EVF with a hot shoe adapter—similar to what you did in the video. Now how to power the EVF without getting into a V-mount battery system…

Member
October 22nd, 2015

No thanks……

Francesco Bollorino
Member
October 22nd, 2015

To be claera my solution differ only in the feed of video signal: it runs from BMPCC to CINEROID EVF with an HDMI cable and then from CINEROID to Samurai Blade with an SDI cable.
My aim was to recond my video files on Blade and to use the viewfinder as converter and as VF of course
I repeat my solution is cheaper but equal

Francesco Bollorino
Member
October 22nd, 2015

I have made THE SAME using CINEROID EFV OLED and Samurai Balde for my BMPCC rig setup.
Nice solution more affordable but equal as result

j lev
j lev
Guest
October 22nd, 2015

please let us know if that new converter works to get a p sdi signal, imagine this hook up with a blackmagic micro cinema camera!

Phil Dean
Guest
October 22nd, 2015

Overpriced. Needs to be around $500

The Dude
Member
October 21st, 2015

Would this also work with the videos devices pix-e5?

Member
October 21st, 2015

Hei Martin,

nice workaround! I think this is usefull for rather Ursa owners or Shogun (or similar) owners.
Other then that, just get an Gratical or Small HD.

My Issue:

– This EVF comes with not Overlays like the Gratical Eye, which is just 150$ more
– I have had a look at the Gratical and smallHD. To me the sharpest out of all 3 is the Gratical
– Even though the gratical has a lower Resolution. Steve from Zacuto told me, that they had a 1080p prototype and you couldnt tell the difference.

– The Gratical in Combination with the Axis is just amazig, with your setup you cant even look straight, it seems you turn your head 45° to the left.

– If you realy like the BMD Viewfinder more than the Gratical OK.

Other than that, Gratical! :D

Member
October 21st, 2015

Hi Sebastian,

fair enough. If all the necessary attachments are worth it, then you must be convinced.
I recently decided to go for the gratical and so far it was one of the best investments :D

I think in the next Years we will see more and more people using EVFs as the Prices are so low for real good ones.

Martijn Schroevers
Martijn Schroevers
Guest
October 21st, 2015

Thanks for the post Sebastian. I tried the same thing with the A7R ll, Zacuto gratical, Varavon cage, Mic, battery and shoulder rig. Only to find that it all adds up in weight and volume to a point that I think a FS5 or even FS7 in a lighter and better solution for handheld work. To me the advantage of a DSLR style camera is that it’s small and light and stealty. Unfortunately you lose all that when you add these ingredients…

Rule Willing
Rule Willing
Guest
October 21st, 2015

i would love to have it in FS7, could you give some instructions for that one too?

Member
October 21st, 2015
Reply to  Rule Willing

Same here :)

Member
October 22nd, 2015

I think every FS7 owner will pay attention to that one….

Member
October 21st, 2015

How does this compare to the gratical?ive seen some used for $2500 ish…

Malcolm
Member
October 21st, 2015

Interesting stuff. If 4K recording isn’t a necessity the SmallHD 501 should be a good replacement for the Shogun to cross-convert HDMI to SDI with a multitude of handy features including customising the output with different tools.

Member
October 21st, 2015

What about the display latency on the viewfinder after the video conversion in the Shogun? Do you experience some lag, maybe few images?

Alexander Vanderploeg
Alexander Vanderploeg
Guest
October 21st, 2015

View finders coming back in vogue, thanks god. I realise it has always been a price barrier thing but the worst part of the DSLR revolution is a generation of shooters who think they can focus and shoot better with a monitor. A good EVF is worth its weight in gold.

 Yves Soglo
Yves Soglo
Member
October 21st, 2015

Thanks for the post Sebastian. Seems like a lot of stuff simply for a high quality viewfinder but worth it if the viewfinder is that good.

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