In the realm of cinema cameras, there are quite a few contenders that have entered the market. One of the most unexpected was the Z CAM E2. Why unexpected, though? The Chinese manufacturer was unknown to most filmmakers but has been around the block just since 2015 when they launched the Z Cam E1 – a minuscule sub-$1K MFT camera.
Furthermore, the few that were familiar with the brand did not expect such a comeback as a full-fledged cine camera that aspires to gain popularity in the indie production world. And it’s got game too, or at least it seems so from the early reviews we’ve seen. The guys at LensProToGo had the chance to fiddle around with the E2C model and do some exposure recovery tests. Below you can see the results.
First of all let’s introduce the camera: the Z CAM E2C is an MFT mount camera with a 17,56 x 13.11 mm sensor meaning it’s in the range of Micro 4/3 format with a grand total of 18.86MP. It closes in a little shorter than the APS-C size thus having a slightly higher crop factor.
The body is quite small but very sturdy. Тhe whole chassis is made of aluminum alloy, granting a sense of sturdiness even though it feels quite light at 668g (without a lens attached). Resolution is up to 4K DCI and frame rate tops at 30fps (29.97) in H.265. If you’re not ready for next-gen codecs, you can settle for H.264 but at a bit-depth cost: the encoded file will be 8-bit only instead of 10-bit.
Getting a baseline, let’s start off with the candlelit scene shooting at ISO 800. Other than being suggestive, this shot gives away immediately the performance of the camera in low light, and it introduces us to the Low Noise function. It’s a recording format that the manufacturer claims can improve the overall low-light performance of the camera.
And, in fact, we can say that there’s truth to that. The image is indeed cleaner but loses a little bit of dynamic range. That could be a price you’re willing to pay in some extreme situations. In this freeze frame with boosted exposure, the difference becomes extremely noticeable.
Moving to the ISO test, you have a wide range of possibilities here: the range goes from ISO 800 up to ISO 25,600. The results are pretty decent, beyond what expected for such a small camera.
The progression keeps clean and usable up until the ISO 10,000 when the noise patterns start to come in alongside a tint in the image that moves first toward the greens and finally in the last steps toward the magenta side.
This strong color cast, however, will be easily manageable when grading the final image: the digital noise pattern will be more of a problem, but luckily it kicks in at higher ISO only.
The recovery tests, on the other hand, yield even more impressive results. When overexposing the image, it seems that the camera can handle easily up to 2 stops of overexposure.
Going up to 4 stops, we still get a very good performance, but the image starts to lose detail in the brighter parts. Anything beyond that level is pointless and not acceptable for professional use.
The progression with underexposing stays the same. At step one, though, we already see a green tint emerging. The crispiness fades away at 2 stops, probably due to the noise reduction, and from there on it gets worse.
The conclusion seems to be that the Z CAM E2C sensor handles much better brighter scenes than darker ones, so keep that in mind if you land on this camera as a production choice.
Z Cam E2C Highlights
- Micro 4/3 Sensor (17.56 x 13.11mm)
- Internal 4K UHD at 30fps, Full HD at up to 59.94 fps;
- 11.5 stops of dynamic range (Z-Log2)
- MOV/MP4 using H.265 for 10-bit recording/ H.264 8-bit recording/ ProRes support via firmware update;
- Rec.709, Z-Log2, FLAT, and HLG color profiles
- 24-bit 48 kHz AAC or PCM
- SDXC Class 10 Card Support
- Video output through HDMI 2.0 is supported
- Size: 91.2 x 89.1 x 83.9 mm (3.59 x 3.51 x 3.3″)
- Weight: 668 g (1.47 lb)
- Price: $799
That was one of the latest iterations in the Z CAM lineup. The brand is making a name for itself as we speak, and this camera is a positive mark with no doubt. Are you thinking of adding it to your wishlist? Let us know in the comments below.
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