Monday, August 26, 2019

Best cinema camera below $1000 - Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera or Z-CAM E2C?

Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera (left) vs. Z-CAM E2C (right)

With the buzz around the recent releases of new Super 35 6K and Micro 4/3 4K cameras from Blackmagic Design and Z-CAM, the less expensive cameras in their product lines have gone relatively unnoticed.

But for filmmakers who can't afford a sub-$3000 6K camera such as the $2495 BMPCC 6K or the $2995 Z-CAM E2 S6 - or even a sub-$2000 4K camera such as the $1295 BMPCC4K or the $1995 Z-CAM E2 - a 10-bit or higher cinema camera below $1000 is a big deal.

Well, there are now two cameras in this price range that can shoot ProRes and/or RAW - the $995 Blackmagic Design Micro Cinema Camera and the new $799 Z-CAM E2C.

Each camera has advantages and disadvantages, so deciding which one to choose for your project will depend on which feature-set you need.

Here are the high level specs for the two cameras, with pros and cons:

  • 1080/60p
  • 12.48mm x 7.02mm (Super 16) sensor
  • Canon LP-E6 battery
  • 13 advertised stops of dynamic range (DR)
  • CinemaDNG RAW and ProRes
  • PWM & S-Bus external control
  • USB 2.0 Mini B data connection
  • 82.3mm x 66.0mm x 69.6mm (W x H x D)
  • Weighs 300.5 grams
Pros: CinemaDNG RAW, 13 stops of DR, readily available.
Cons: Limited to 1080p resolution, small sensor with 3X crop factor, external monitor required, no wireless or streaming, listed at $995 (but starting to see discounts).

  • 4K/30p and 1080/60p
  • 17.56mm x 13.11mm (Micro 4/3) sensor
  • Canon LP-E6 battery
  • 11.5 advertised stops of DR with Z-Log2
  • 10-bit h.265 (Z CAM is working on getting it ProRes certified)
  • Wi-fi & Ethernet external control and streaming
  • USB 3.0 data connection
  • 91.2mm x 83.9mm x 89.1mm (W x H x D)
  • Weighs 668 grams
Pros: 4K, larger sensor with ~2x crop factor, free iOS app for control and preview from iPhone, wireless control & streaming, $799 price.
Cons: DR with LOG no better than a hybrid still/video mirrorless camera, still a pre-order item as of this post, but starting to appear in the wild. (UPDATE: now widely available)

I didn't mention it as a pro or con - but the BMMCC is somewhat smaller and weighs half as much.

The headline differences between the two cameras, of course, are that the Z-CAM records to 4K, while the Blackmagic is limited to 1080p - and that the BMMCC records to RAW, while the E2C is limited to 10-bit h.265. (UPDATE: the E2C can now record ZRAW to inexpensive SSD drives such as the Samsung T5).

In my view, 4K 12-bit ZRAW from the E2C looks pretty darned good:

...but so does 1080p RAW from the BMMCC:


So it really boils down to two questions - 1) which is most important to you - the E2C's 4K resolution or the Micro Cinema Camera's dynamic range? - and 2) how much camera can you afford?

I can't answer those questions for you - but I can say that the new Z-CAM E2C is a very impressive camera for the price - and low budget filmmakers never had it so good.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. This costs you nothing extra. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”