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Z Camera E1 Mini m43 4K camera for $199 only, cheapest 4K ever
  • 276 Replies sorted by
  • I don't have an exposure chart handy. I shot some awful shaky footage in my living room, though, where the windows are pretty bright and there are some pretty heavy shadows. I don't see a huge difference, but it does look like there's a little bit more detail in the highlights/shadows when recorded over HDMI. In particular, at 0:15 (internal, you can match based on the time on the recorded overlay), the keys have a bit more detail on the external recorder. @jazzroy - please let me know when you've downloaded this so that I can reclaim my precious gigabyte on gdrive. The internal footage should be 4kp30 h.264 and the external should be 1080p60 prores 422.

    Another thing worth noting is that when I went to record that, the E1 randomly decided to start outputting at 720p60 and when I went to the menu and tried to force it to 1080p60 or 1080p30, it would just jump back to 720p60 without saying anything. Reseating the cable didn't work. I had to completely power off the e1 and turn it back on again. Then it quietly went back to 1080p60. If you're planning to record externally, you'll want to keep a close eye on your recorder to make sure that you're getting the signal that you want/expect. For the money, I'd probably just buy a used BMPCC and have reliable 10-bit internal recording.

  • I gave in to the darkside. :) Mine arrives next week.

  • @eatstoomuchjam: I downloaded the files, thanks, but I am not sure of what to do with them: comparing 4k h264 to prores hd gives different results, no doubt about it. how can it give hints to our discerning about 8-10 bit hdmi output?

  • @jazzroy Well, you can compare whether you see more detail in the highlights and shadows (though there could certainly also be differences between the amount of contrast/brightness when recording internally vs outputting to hdmi). You could also bring them into your NLE and try pushing curves on the files pretty hard to see if one breaks down more than the other.

    If you can't discern a difference between 8-bit and 10-bit files of the same scene, then are you absolutely certain that 10-bit matters to you that much?

  • @eatstoomuchjam ; I'm pointing out that the difference between the two files is because of the different codecs. So, the ProRes can have higher detailjust because it's a Prores, even at 8 bit. I didn't say there's no difference between 8 and 10 bits, in fact there's a big one if you make aggressive color, I said that comparing it to a H.264 can't give proof of bit depth.

  • You can see more detail in the keyboard keys because they are not blown out in the prores file and they are blown out in the h.264 file. They are blown out in the internal h.264 file. Similarly, I can see more stuff in the shadows in the prores file. It could be encoder or hdmi output differences or it could be 10-bit. I dunno. I'm more interested in how much dynamic range the footage has (and how much I can push it using curves) than I am interested in how many bits that it has.

    What sort of test would actually help you? You've now been given a 10-bit file from outdoors (from markr041) and two files recorded simultaneously indoors in a scene with some very bright and very dark areas (from me). Along with that and the numerous other clips that have been posted, you should have sufficient data now to determine whether the camera would meet your needs. I'm willing to do one more comparison test of internal vs external for you, but you will need to be specific.

    Otherwise, just order the camera and give it a try for yourself. I think B&H have a fairly reasonable return policy if you find it is insufficient.

  • Hi guys , I have an E1 ver.0.3 but it stops recording after 30 mins. Any thoughts ? thanks

  • Hey guys. Thanks for recording that. I'm on phone at the moment and don't have enough to download it. But some observations.

    The guy who started imagine vision and did did this camera used to head up ambarella's Chinese engineering division for some years. So if anybody would know if you can get the HDMI to output better, he should be over of them.

    Observation two, even pre HDMI 2 they could get HDMI 1.4 etc on gpu cards to take HDMI 2 modes which fit in the lesser data rates by passing the signals HDMI 2 signals on it. So even uhd p60 4:2:0 was doable. So, a good 4kp24/25 mode should fit. It's a matter of how tied down (or hard wired) ambarella or the camera has made HDMI here.

    They were selling a smaller cinema camera in China, the C1 l, which some stockist still advertise for sale. There was to be a C1 R RAW version for $599, which I wanted to buy, but it disappeared. Interesting. The C1 was the externally recordable versions. Which might be why this one was not promoting such, but also might indicate the chip in this can do up to 4kp30 HDMI) the chip and firmware may not be the ultimate limiting factor in the camera though. Who knows what's hardwired inbetween the port and the chip (probably HDMI interface circuitry). However, surely with the absence of c1 and c1r, they should try to reprogram these to fill the gap?

    H264 4k at 60mb/s is not too much, you can expect culling of image levels. 4:2:2 fhd can deliver more image level and different detail from the downscaling accuracy of oversampling per fullhd pixel. But if this is really uncompressed, it does indicate a really excellent choice to be used with BM video assistant, if the can make HDMI stable etc. A lot of people, still prefer fullhd. So, looking for additional broad white and broad black levels, ignoring details for the moment, is worth doing. Or downloading a dynamic range chart and setting it up locked down. You should see additional dynamic range in the broad tiles from extra bits, and maybe more noise.

    But, what is needed is cheap high quality HDMI recording options. Does anybody know any? The VA looks expensive and a screen is not needed for many cameras (unless monitoring). $100 should doable.

    Now that ProRes raw is available, I wonder if ambarella might do some chip with it. They supply to camera companies and technology to the professional market (which is hidden often in manufacturers chips).

  • I've already deleted the files since the other guy said he got them, sorry.

    If you don't have an external recorder already and your goal is to get good-quality 1080p 10-bit prores, you should just buy a used BMPCC. I just looked on ebay to see what they're selling for - found one in "good" condition which comes with a cage and is only $500. It can do 10-bit prores or 13-bit raw internally to an SD card. It's an excellent camera except for maybe the battery life and screen (and even if the battery life is poor, at least spare batteries are cheap and tiny).

    Otherwise, you could get a Z-Cam E1 for $200ish and a used Hyperdeck Shuttle for about $200. You'll end up with a bigger/less portable/clunkier rig which may sometimes randomly reduce quality to 720p without telling you.

    If you want to shoot 4k, that's a different story. The bmpcc just can't do it.

  • Well being an 'enhancement' site I thought making something better of this might suite people better. You certainly can out do the BMPC in ways with the right setup. But if 4K can happen, it leaves the PC behind.

  • It won't happen - even if there were a way to do it (and there most likely is not), the small company who makes this camera has claimed that they are going to ship a new camera in July, but yet they are still changing the design (they just moved the slot and are talking on the facebook group about adding xlr). Given that the company is very small, they are almost certainly allocating as much of their staff as possible to the new camera. They have said that more e1 firmware updates are coming, but I would be shocked if they happened before the new camera came out.

    As far as a hack for the e1, I'm sort of surprised that nobody has started one yet... but I'd expect it to be more in the vein of changing bitrates than changing how HDMI works (similar to the hacks for the Yi action cameras)

    Anyway, the z-cam folks are actually pretty active on facebook in the groups for their cameras these days. Have you tried asking them about the feasibility of changing their HDMI output?

  • Wrote to one of them.

    When I write to people, the quality of their answer affects if I write to them again, or buy their product, or recommend their product, or recommend against it.

    The E1 uses an early 4k chipset, I don't see you getting much out of it. Definitely.not as much as the yi 4k+ does.

    Nothing you have said, short of possible physical impossibility, is a reason it can't be done. If it is possible, it is likely a simple firmware update. But there could even be licensed obligations preventing it. So, let them bring it on, and we'll see if it's in there.

  • "Physical impossibility" (e.g. "the hdmi chip is not made for that") is a very real likelihood. You keep downplaying it like this small company put a high-end chip into their very cheap camera and then intentionally hamstrung the output.

    Whatever - I'm done with this conversation. Good luck with your windmill jousting.

  • Z CAM E1 - NAB To Be or Not To Be!

    1. Shakespeare - To Be or Not to Be
    2. US Army motto - Be All You can Be
    3. Z Cam CEO on the E1 - "It is what it is" ( see PV NAB interview with Z-Cam at 3:30 )
    4. Person who can't afford RED Dragon, Kinefinity MAVO, BMPCC4K - The E1 should be what it isn't! NOW :)

    P.S. On a related note, Detroit Auto Show Keynote by Elon Musk : How to turn your Honda Civic into a Electric Lambourghini!

  • If you don't have an external recorder already and your goal is to get good-quality 1080p 10-bit prores, you should just buy a used BMPCC. I just looked on ebay to see what they're selling for - found one in "good" condition which comes with a cage and is only $500. It can do 10-bit prores or 13-bit raw internally to an SD card. It's an excellent camera except for maybe the battery life and screen (and even if the battery life is poor, at least spare batteries are cheap and tiny).

    And if you wait for the BMPCC4K that will only push down prices of original BMPCC on ebay even lower!

  • @eatstoomuchjam. Why be so glum? Do you have any proof, and without investigation you can't conclude. It doesn't need a high end hdmi chip to output 4kp50 4:2:0, only that a 1.3/4 circuit can be setup to do so (as done before). They can and have even been programmed to pass RAW bayer data. Again, this is a hack forum isn't it. Do people say that a camera isn't meant to be hacked, therefore don't try? The point is not wherever or not an E1 can, the point is to find out if it can be improved.

    Tilting at windmills is a term that can be applied to those with no proof who insist they know negatively. Unless such a person is prepared to prove something is actually impossible, is there any point denying the possibility. It isn't scientific.

  • @mei Check back in in 6-12 months and let us know how your attempts to get the z-cam people to change the firmware or to get somebody else to hack the camera are going for you. If you have an e1 capable of outputting any sort of 4k from its HDMI port, I will gladly apologize.

  • There's been some confusion - I think that some people from here (maybe Mark?) were saying that the E1 uses the same sensor as the GH4. It doesn't - just one with similar specs.

  • Question for other E1 users: On the E1 When taking pictures, I am not able to see my exposure "live update" before I hit the shutter. Is there something I need to enable to be able to do that? I kept getting crappy shots yesterday because the exposure being shown on the screen is really good, but my settings were way off and I couldn't tell until after i took the shot.


  • I can find no option on my camera for that either. If you have the camera in Av/Tv mode and use Auto ISO, in my experience, they look pretty much the same, at least. You may want to request the feature on one of their facebook groups - they actually seem to pay some attention there and they've mentioned another firmware upgrade coming in the future (though I'd imagine that's mostly on hold since most of their engineers are probably focused on the E2)

  • This is a new recent review of the Z Cam E1, and he is quite positive about it:

  • @IronFilm

    And he should be.

  • @eatstoomuchjam Thanks for the reply. What do you mean by Av/Tv mode? ///where can you find that?

    Are just calling the general 'picture' mode Av/Tv mode?

  • @orey10m I just checked on my z-cam. Sorry, my mistake. I can't seem to find the option in video mode so I must have been remembering in photo mode. "Av" is common shorthand for "Aperture Priority Mode" and "Tv" is common shorthand for "Shutter Priority Mode."

    You can find them by switching the camera to photo mode and going to the settings (as well as "Program mode" which will set both for you. For video, it may be necessary to use an external meter or record a little bit and check playback (annoying, but as long as your light isn't substantially changing, a one-time pain per shoot).