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.”


  1. You forgot crop factor. That was the deal killer for me on the BM. It's approx 3X. E2C is about 2.3X

    1. You're right - that was a big downside for the old Pocket Cinema and Micro Cinema cameras. I'll go back and add that in.