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Z-CAM: Affordable Cinema Cameras You Might Not Know About

Let’s take an in-depth look at the Z-CAM lineup for a better understanding on the capability — and affordability — each camera delivers.

News in the cinema camera market moves fast these days. Canon, Panasonic, Sony, and Blackmagic offer remarkable image quality for cameras around $2,000. These companies have taken to fierce competition for budget filmmakers. However, there’s a new player vying for your attention and looking to be added to your kit — Z CAM.

Since 2015, Shenzhen-based Z CAM has been developing competitive options for video pros to contend with big name manufacturers. Z CAM has several cameras with a few different form factors.

Z CAM E2_official sample footage from Z CAM on Vimeo.


The Z CAM Lineup

Z-CAM: Affordable Cinema Cameras You Might Not Know About — Z CAM

With an MFT lens and sensor configuration, the Z CAM is a definite game changer. Image via Z CAM.

Z CAM’s cinema cameras come in six flavors with varying specs and features. The E2 line has an MFT lens and sensor configuration, and the flagship line has Super 35 or full frame sensors with EF or PL lens mounts.

These cameras boast 11-16 stops of dynamic range, raw and log options, internal ProRes recording, 10-bit and 12-bit color, and up to 8K resolution.

Let’s explore…


The Flagship Line

Z-CAM: Affordable Cinema Cameras You Might Not Know About — Z CAM E2-F8

Z CAM’s specs for the flagship line are impressive. Image via Z CAM.

Z CAM’s lineup of premium cameras consist of the E2-F8, E2-F6, and the E2-S6. Here are some of the specs for the flagship line:

  • Full-frame and Super 35 sensors
  • Dual Native ISO
  • Raw and ProRes recording
  • EF or PL mounts
  • CFAST cards for internal recording
  • Powered by Sony NP-F batteries
  • 500 MBps for h.265 and lower; 1.2 GBps for ZRAW
  • Rec.709, Z-Log2, FLAT, and HLG LUTs for monitoring and recording

The cameras measure about 100mm (four inches) cubed, but the PL version is slightly bigger than the EF variant. On the left side of the camera are four buttons you can customize to control any of the camera’s settings.

The top of the camera has the record button and a small LCD screen for navigating menus and for a low-res preview of the frame, but an external monitor or viewfinder is essential to use the camera.

E2-F8

The E2-F8 is Z CAM’s highest priced camera at $5,995.

  • Full-frame sensor
  • 14 stops of dynamic range
  • 8K at 30fps; 4K up to 60fps
  • Dual Native ISO of 400/1250
  • Up to 12-bit color in ZRAW

Overall, the F8 is a great camera for any filmmaker who needs to shoot in 8K. Other than resolution, the other cameras in the flagship line offer a bit more functionality than the F8.

E2-F6

The E2-F6 is $4,995 and equipped with a full-frame sensor.

  • 6K up to 60fps; 4K up to 120fps
  • Dual native ISO of 400/2500
  • 15 stops of dynamic range
  • Up to 12-bit color in ZRAW

If lack of 8K isn’t a deal-breaker, the F6 gives a little more bang for the buck than the F8. The 4K at 120fps, an extra stop of dynamic range and more resolution options, are big pluses for this entry in the line.

E2-S6

The last entry in Z CAM’s flagship line is the E2-S6. It’s just $2,995 and boasts many of the same features as the F6.

  • Super 35 sensor
  • 14 stops of dynamic range
  • Up to 60fps in 6K; 100fps in 4K
  • Up to 12-bit color depth
  • Low noise record modes in 4K

The S6 is in a pretty good spot with the other cameras of the flagship line. It has similar specs as the F6 and F8, with the only trade-off being the smaller sensor size. This isn’t a big hit to the camera — many filmmakers prefer Super 35 sensors to full-frame equivalents.

One interesting addition is the low noise record options in 4K. These modes can clean up the noise in low light shots quite a bit and can make shooting at higher ISOs more viable.

Z CAM has some great tools for filmmakers in their flagship lineup. Let’s take a look at the options in the E2 series of cameras.


The E2 Line

Z-CAM: Affordable Cinema Cameras You Might Not Know About — Z CAM E2G

The assignable buttons are on the front, right side of the camera, instead of the left. Image via Z CAM.

Z CAM’s E2 line consists of the E2, E2C, and E2G. The cameras have a lot in common with those in the flagship line. The biggest difference between the models is the sensors in the E2 series. The E2 cameras use MFT and one inch sensors, as opposed to the larger formats in the flagship line.

  • CFAST and SDXC for internal recording
  • Partial DeBayer of ZRAW
  • ProRes up to 422HQ
  • Rec.709, Z-Log2, Flat, and HLG LUTs
  • Powered by Sony NP-F batteries

The layout varies slightly from the flagship line, with the assignable buttons being on the front, right side of the camera, instead of the left side.

The E2 cameras are a bit smaller than the flagship line — at about 90mm cubed (3.5 inches) — and weigh in at 757 grams (1.6 lbs).

E2G

The E2G is the high-end of the E2 line at $2,499.

  • 1 inch global shutter
  • 12 stops of dynamic range
  • 30fps in 4K; 120fps in HD

The global shutter makes this a nice addition to Z CAM’s lineup, but only being a one inch sensor limits usefulness quite a bit.

E2

The E2 is priced at $1,999 and features an MFT sensor and lens mount.

  • 13-16 stops of dynamic range
  • Up to 160 fps in 4K and 240 in HD
  • Dual Native ISO of 500/2500 (250/1250 in WDR)

The E2 is a pretty great camera for the price. With ProRes and ZRAW recording up to 160fps, this camera is a challenger when compared to some of the similarly-priced Panasonic and Blackmagic cameras, based on features alone.

E2C

The E2C is Z CAM’s low-cost camera. Priced at just $799, this little camera has a lot of power.

  • MFT sensor and lens mount
  • 11.5 stops of dynamic range
  • Up to 30fps in 4K; 60 in HD
  • 10-bit color

One of the big differences between the E2 and E2C is that the E2C uses SDXC cards instead of CFAST used on the other models. It also lacks the partial DeBayer ZRAW found in the other cameras.

Overall, there are some limitations, but the E2C still offers a lot for its low price.


Z CAM Overview

Z CAM is a welcome contender to the low-cost cinema camera game. Their lineup brings a lot of essential features to filmmakers, showing attention to details that easily get glossed over.

I think the best options in the lineup for most video professionals are the E2-S6 and the E2. The E2-S6 has a nice Super 35 sensor, 100fps in 4K, 6K at essential frame rates, nice dynamic range, and full ZRAW functionality for under $3000.

The E2 brings a pretty great assortment of frame rates, ZRAW, up to 16 stops of dynamic range, MFT mount, and ProRes for under $2000.

While all the cameras that Z CAM produces will require a decent set of accessories to become fully usable, the prices are pretty low for the rather extensive features included.

If you’re interested in any of the cameras Z CAM offers, you can be certain that they all produce high quality images, with a lot of flexibility in post.


Top image via Z Cam.

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