More and more players are jumping into the action camera market. The market is oversaturated with options. But there is no action cam that you can buy today with an interchangeable lens mount. Sure, there’s the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, but it won’t be released for a few weeks and carries a price tag of $995, which without a lens bumps it out of the “action cam” price range. Further with its professional specs, the 13 stops of dynamic range, and raw and ProRes recording abilities it is not for the novice. On the other end of the spectrum, GoPro announced a new smaller unibody camera the “Session”. GoPro’s new camera focuses more on the action and less on the specs. Its 50% smaller, 40% lighter, making it easier and easier to mount and throw in to harms way than ever. But there is no removable battery, no 4k recording, no 1080p 120fps recording, 1600 ISO max, and only a 8mp sensor. At $399 it is still a good value and gives the Hero Silver a run for its money, but the smaller sensor and lack of higher specs since it has a smaller battery and processor produces a poorer image.
Z-Cam is trying to create a camera in-between GoPro’s current offerings and Blackmagic’s Micro Cinema Camera, with the $799 E1 Camera. They have created a working concept of a micro four thirds 4k camera with an interchangeable lens mount. You can mount any micro four thirds lenses to it. The E1 has a 16MP sensor, which is much larger than the Micro Cinema Camera’s small 1080p sensor on the small super 16mm sensor size. The Blackmagic should have the better video image quality since the actual pixels are bigger, but the E1 is able to shoot high res stills.
The sensor of the E1 is built by Panasonic, the company is trying to give Sony a run for the money in the compact 4k sensor space. It is extremely too early to tell if the E1 Camera will be any good. The specs seem great, but even on the Kickstarter page, the Z Camera’s founder, Jason Zhang says that the camera runs very hot. This is worrisome especially when you are mass producing a camera. The companies who make cameras are generally huge corporations that can spend loads of money on the front end to test and manufacture a camera that will be reliable. A Kickstarter campaign with $165k for about 280 units? Not so much. Last quarter, GoPro sold 2.4 million units, over 8,500 times the amount of units pledged for on the E1 Camera’s Kickstarter page. But the E1 camera beat it’s own goal by about $115,000. And is expected to take more orders with 25 days to go. Z-Cam noted that their most challenging issue to over come is aligning the image sensor and the lens mount. This process is extremely technical and requires extremely precise manufacturing otherwise the flange distance will be incorrect and the camera will not be able to focus with the appropriate lenses. Companies like Panasonic, GoPro, Sony, and Blackmagic have built camera for years and have developed a supply chain that can provide reliable manufacturing. If E1 can do this with such a small budget it will be a slap in the face for GoPro and others in this market space, but I am doubtful the camera will come without issues. Z Camera says that cameras will ship in November/December of 2015, but as with most Kickstarter projects I’d expect that to slip into 2016.