An Argument for the Z Cam


Jake Ratcliffe TV-Bay Magazine
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Z Cam first dipped their toes into the cinema camera market back at NAB 2018 with the release of the E2 and since then they have proven themselves as one of the go-to camera manufacturers for affordable and unique camera solutions. Their family of cinema cameras has since evolved into a set of 6.

Their entry-level E2C is a Micro Four Thirds camera capable of capturing 4K at up to 30 frames per second. This little camera features a range of specifications that it’s bigger brother the E2 has but has been restricted to keep its price point aggressive. It features ZCam’s simplified streaming capabilities, solid image quality and the ability to record ProRes while using an external USB-C SSD. For entry-level filmmakers or streamers, this could be a compelling option! The E2G is a global shutter 1” version of the E2 but is currently unavailable in Europe.

Sitting in the middle of the pack is the E2. This camera was the first in Z Cam’s E2 line and has now cemented itself as a solid option for people wanting a small modular form factor camera. Striking a balance between performance and price, the camera has been in filmmakers hands for just over a year and has seen some awesome firmware upgrades that has given it some serious specs. It can now record 4K at up to 160fps and features a range of recording formats such as Z Cam’s compressed RAW codec ZRAW, ProRes & H.265. This means no matter your production requirements you can capture the quality you need.

The E2 has a unique feature that sets it apart from the rest of the E2 family, this is the ability to sync multiple E2’s together using the master, slave and individual dip switch on the back and an ethernet splitter. This feature has allowed end-users to create a range of unique rigs to capture imagery. For example, Pinewood based camera rental facility Brownian Motion used 36 E2’s together for a volumetric capture rig.

Lastly, you have their latest three cameras, the E2 Flagships. These new cameras feature a new and slightly bigger body that takes feedback from original E2 users. You can currently choose from 3 different sensors which all come housed in the same small and modular body. The S6, which is a Super 35 6K sensor, the F6 which is a Full Frame 6K sensor & the F8, which is a Full Frame 8K. All three of the cameras feature dual native ISO, both the S6 & F8’s being 400 & 1250 and the F6 being 400 & 2500. The S6 is a great entry point into the flagship series, the sensor performs very well with great colour and dynamic range. However, if you have the extra the F6 is a no brainer. The increased sensor size doesn’t just mean you get the full-frame look, you also get a nicer image with improved dual native sensitivity and high ISO performance. The F8 is there for shooters prioritising resolution above everything else and if you don’t need 8K the F6 is a better choice.

With the nature of their very modular design, the main demographic of this camera is looking to achieve a small compact cine rig similar to that of other modular cine cameras on the market. With that being said, a range of companies has released accessories to get the most out of the camera. There are several cages on the market now from brands such as Tilta, Smallrig, 8Sinn and Zacuto. One thing to be aware of though, when buying these, is that the cages for the E2 will not work with the E2 flagships so make sure the cage you are buying is for the system you need it for.

Camera control is one thing that the E2 needs out of the box. You have a range of buttons on the camera but there are nicer ways of controlling the camera. RVLVR is a new company specialising in accessories for various Z Cam cameras with one of the key products it’s developed being the Clutch. The Clutch is a very nicely built and produced side handle which has been designed to be paired with the E2 cameras. It comes with a cheese plate attached so you can mount it any way you want, alternatively it also comes with an ARRI rosette mount in the box which you can use to easily mount the Clutch directly onto the E2 camera body with the NOC, a slim bracket also made by RVLVR. The Clutch can also be customised with RVLVR’s program that allows you to change the bindings of the various buttons and dials to control whatever you want on the ZCam.

Another key accessory for the E2 series is a monitor and currently, there are two go-to options. The first is the Portkeys BM5 Mark II. The original BM5 was the first monitor on the market to give you control of the Z Cam via the touchscreen of the monitor. The monitor itself is very good and the controls are intuitive. It’s 2200 nit screen is bright and sharp. It’s well built and affordable however an alternative should be just round the corner. Over the past few months, Z Cam has been teasing both camera control & ProRes RAW with Atomos’s Ninja V. This would be an awesome pairing and could offer not only a huge improvement with ProRes RAW but also with camera control using Atomos’s UI design language. This isn't out yet but once released I think the Atomos will be a strong choice for most people unless you need the ultra brightness of the BM5II.

Apart from the E2C which uses Canon LP-E6 batteries, each one of the E2 cameras uses a Sony L series (NP-F) making the cameras very easy and compact to power. Due to the cameras using an ASIC chip instead of the much more power-hungry FPGA the cameras are very power efficient. The E2 doesn’t feature a power output whereas the flagships have a single 2-pin lemo output. So if you are looking to power more accessories like a monitor or focus motor there are a range of power accessories that give you the option to do so and even allow you to use V-Lock batteries.

If you want to learn more about the Z Cam’s you can head over to CVP’s YouTube channel where we have just released an in-depth look at the E2 flagship cameras featuring a physical overview of the camera, menu breakdown, tech spec showcase as well as controlled and creative tests. If you want to get your hands on any of the cameras or accessories mentioned in the article drop an email over to demo@cvp.com and book your demo today!


Tags: iss142 | cvp | cvpgroup | micro four thirds | e2c | zcam | full frame 6k | tilta | smallrig | 8sinn | zacuto | rvlvr | Jake Ratcliffe
Contributing Author Jake Ratcliffe

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