As technology advances making more things possible at a lower price it also allows new companies to enter industries that were previously in the hands of a few big companies. It’s no different when it comes to the film industry. Large studio films are challenged by small production companies and big camera manufacturers are upstaged by new and innovative camera makers. Smaller companies can make manufacturing changes faster, while at the same time have a more intimate relationship with their customers.
ZCam is one such company. The CEO of the company is personally answering questions on Facebook groups and listening to customer requests. This means the cameras they release are constantly improving along with the firmware updates.
The first time I dipped my toe into the Zcam line of products was with their E2 camera. That model has a M43 sensor and can shoot 4K video at up 160 frames per second.
You can check out my review of the ZCam E2 HERE.
Although I loved the E2 camera it did have a few negatives that I hoped the guys at ZCam would fix. I am glad to see that most of the things I had issues with on the ZCam E2 have been addressed with the release of the F6 model.
Things like the annoying memory card doors have been improved and can now be easily opened and closed. Navigating through the menu system and changing settings with those rubber buttons is also a thing of the past, thanks to the new materials. The buttons no longer stick and always react when pressed. The body of the camera itself is solidly built out of aluminum. The result is a small and light camera that weighs around 1 kilo or 2.4 pounds. It is slightly bigger than the E2 camera but still perfectly designed for mounting it on drones, cranes or gimbals. If you want to use it for prolonged handheld use you should probably put a cage on it and a side handle. I recommend the one from SmallRig.
➡Get the ZCam E2 F6 here:
Amazon Canada https://amzn.to/2YwmyN7
Amazon UK https://amzn.to/3e37htC
Some of the other great things about this camera is the fact that for the first time in a sub $4000 dollar camera we can shoot high quality full frame video with resolutions up to 6K. Now even if you love that full frame look but not the big file sizes associated with 6K video, you can also shoot full frame video that is downscaled to 4K or 1080p HD without cropping in. On top of that you can shoot open-gate which when combined with the interchangeable PL lens mount, makes this camera a perfect pro tool for anamorphic video.
Another amazing thing about this camera aside from the full frame 6K sensor is just how much of a dynamic range this sensor can capture. It’s advertised as 15 stops of dynamic range and even though I didn’t put this to the test on a test chart, I can honestly say that this camera handles dramatic dynamic range scenes with ease. It produces lots of details in the shadows while retaining those crucial highlights. The flat log image that comes out of this camera is easy to grade. It just simply produces beautiful colors and details that look very filmic.
– Full frame sensor that can capture video up to 6K resolution
– Canon EF lens mount that is interchangeable with optional M, MFT, and PL mounts
– Sturdy twist locking Canon EF lens mount
– It’s small
– 15 Stops of Dynamic Range
– Beautiful colors that are easy to grade
– Small and light at 2.4 lb / 1090 g
– 6K at up to 60 fps and 4K at up to 120fps
– Dual native ISOs at 400 and 2500
– USB-C connection which allows recording to external SSD’s
– It uses the Sony NP’s Batteries
– Records Apple ProRes and H.265
– Lack of a better raw recording format that can be edited natively
– No monitor
This camera even has a dual naive ISO at 400 and 2500 which makes it a great tool for capturing low light scenes.
On the back there are plenty of connections that allow camera control and video streaming through the ethernet connection. It can output 4K 10bit video through the HDMI 2.0 port. Camera can even connect to an iOS device through WiFi to control the camera and to monitor the shots wirelessly. There are also power in and out ports. A LANC control connection and 5-pin LEMO port for dual channel XLR microphones.
For recording options you have Apple ProRes and H.265 which both capture 10 bits of color. Now just a word of caution. When recording in Apple ProRes some of the higher frame rates are not available so you will have to switch to H.265. While the H.265 codec is very efficient at compressing a lot of data into a small file size, it is not the best codec for editing. Most of my laptops and even some of my higher end desktop machines can’t handle the 6K files in that format that the camera produces. So if you are going to use that codec I would advise that you convert all those files to ProRes or another easy to edit format once you off load the footage to your computer. The camera can also record 12 bit video in the proprietary Z-Raw codec but is not very user friendly. Those files can’t (as of right now) be natively edited in any video editing application. So they will also need to be converted to a different codec. I think it’s too much of a hassle to work with Z-Raw for not much added benefit.
So if you were wondering what are the things I don’t like about the ZCam E2 F6, I would say the RAW codec is the main one and another small thing is the lack of a monitor. Of course not every cinema camera comes with an included monitor. Also there are great options for portable on camera monitors to choose from so it’s not a problem. I just wanted to make people aware who consider buying this great camera that the monitor, battery and recording media are a definite added expense. I personally like to use the Portkeys touch screen monitor with the ZCam E2 F6 because it allows me to switch the camera settings much faster thanks to it’s built in touch screen and camera control cable. That monitor also has great monitoring tools and it’s very bright.
Here are some of the accessories I use with my ZCam E2 F6 camera:
➡Small Rig Cage for ZCam E2 F6
Amazon Canada https://amzn.to/2UEdkNS
Amazon Germany https://amzn.to/3dYkggc
Amazon UK https://amzn.to/37sgnh0
➡SmallRig Side Handle with SSD Mount
Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2SK1aR8
Amazon France https://amzn.to/2YbzB9z
➡Portkeys BM5 Touch Screen Monitor
Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2FITARc
Amazon Germany https://amzn.to/35KihXZ
➡PolarPro Matte Box
So in conclusion what do I think of the ZCam E2 F6 camera? If you want a video camera that can capture pro quality video in high bit rates and small form factor but with a beautiful full frame sensor, without spending a fortune, then forget about the Red Cameras, Arri Alexas, Sony or even Canons. The ZCam is a perfect companion to my other favorite cameras from BlackMagic. In fact if ZCam can address the RAW recording format or simply adopt the BRaw codec then I might just drop my Blackmagic cameras for the exciting new lineup of cameras from ZCam.