Action cams are all the rage these days, aren’t they? Ever since GoPro took the mini action cam market by storm, everywhere you look, you see people with little cameras strapped to their head while off snorkeling on vacation or skateboarding around town. Since I’m a part of a group of Mustang enthusiasts, more often than not you’ll see a GoPro mounted on the dash of a car, ready to capture our latest high-revving shenanigans.
Obviously, GoPro is not the only option out there, so today I bring you a look at the Adorama Z Camera E1, touted as the world’s smallest 4K ultra high def action cam with an interchangeable lens system. Right off the bat, it’s already a mouthful. While something like the GoPro or the Sony action cam makes its name on convenience, the Z Camera E1 already is listed as having way too many options for the average casual user. Perhaps then, the Z Camera E1 is not targeting your casual family vacation user, but rather the camera power user. In that case, this product makes sense, as you can use a wide variety of interchangeable lenses, something that actually increases the overall unit’s size to something that no longer qualifies it as an action cam, but gives it a huge amount of diversity.
The camera body itself was already bigger than its competitors, but add a separate lens to the equation, and you now have something that closer to the size of a small point and shoot than something that you might be thinking about strapping to your head (which I don’t believe the E1 can do). In fact, as far as mounting options go, I’m not seeing too much versatility at all in terms of being able to use it as an actual action cam. A small port on the bottom allows you to screw it onto a tripod or a stabilizer, but other than that, even the website doesn’t give you anymore options for mounting. What if I want to mount it to my car dash to record the next Mustang cruise I take part in? As of now, I’m not seeing any car mounts. It’s mind boggling to think that is marketed as an action camera does not have the capabilities that make it an “action camera.”
Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong. Honestly, at $699.00 for just the camera body (lenses range anywhere from a cheapo $180 to well over $2,000), I wouldn’t even want to put this camera through any adventures. Even if it were mountable to a helmet, I certainly wouldn’t strap a $1,000 minimum setup to my head and go mountain biking or anything like that. Perhaps the phrase “action camera” should be taken lightly, and we should actually think of this Z Camera E1 as simply a really, really small DSLR.
If that’s route you choose to take, then the E1 actually performs quite admirably. I love my Canon Rebel, but that thing can get bulky when I’m out and about. Combine a fairly sizeable camera body with one 18-55mm lens, a 70-300mm zoom lens, a hood, a bunch of filters, a tripod, a wide angle attachment, and a bunch of other stuff, and I find myself toting around a pretty huge load whenever I want to take pictures of something. With something as powerful and compact at the E1, I can get pictures just as good as I can with my full DSLR setup with only a fraction of the stuff to carry around. This is especially useful when I’ve got the entire family in tow at the zoo or something.
Performance-wise, even though the E1 doesn’t give me as many options as my full DSLR does, it still does an admirable job and is more than a worthy second choice for photos. I am by no means a professional photographer; in fact, I only recently started taking an interest in photography, and only to make my car and family pictures look nicer than something taken on my phone. I like crisp, sharp images, but I also understand that I can do a lot of stuff in post-processing, thereby somewhat negating the need to carrying around something like a full DSLR. In instances like this, the E1 is the perfect compromise.
Quality-wise, it’s hard to compete with what you’re getting with the E1. 4K video in 24fps is available, or you can go with 3840×2160 at 30fps, or my resolution/fps of choice, 1080p at 60fps. Video quality is very clear, however I would have preferred more stability correction built-in. It’s not difficult to correct the jittery and shaky quality of the videos in post, but it just goes to show that the E1 once again doesn’t really qualify in the “action cam” sense. I’ve had a chance to try out Sony’s action cam, and it does a great of keeping the video stable (even better than GoPro does, if I’m honest).
One feature I’m incredibly pleased with is the E1’s quality in low light conditions. I tend to go to a lot of car meets at night, so having the E1’s 3D noise filter does a great job in removing ghosting and blurring due to jitter. It’s not perfect, but I performs in low light a lot better than my Canon T1I, and I don’t need to bust out the tripod for night shots that look halfway decent. This is one situation that I am in quite often where I absolutely appreciate the performance and portability of the E1 versus my Canon T1i DSLR. Like I mentioned earlier, as long as I’m not taking any pictures for my portfolio or a client, the E1 can do just fine in lieu of a DSLR.
One feature that Adorama lists for the E1 is the ability to control the camera via a mobile app. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find the app in the Play Store, so I suspect it must be iOS only at the moment. It would be great to have been able to test this feature out, but maybe another time. Hopefully an Android app will be released soon. Via the app, you can have full control of the camera with the ability to start/stop filming and take photos, in addition to downloading photos and videos directly to your phone via the E1’s built-in wifi. Pretty nifty stuff.
As I wrap up this review, I still find myself having trouble figuring out exactly who this camera is marketed towards. Is it actually marketed toward action cam aficionados? I don’t think so since the thought of a mountain biker with this massive thing strapped to his/her head or bike just seems impossible. For that price and the fact that you need a separate lens, I can’t see this working well as an action cam at all. What about as a traditional camera/DSLR replacement? I can’t see that being the target audience either because a photographer with a DSLR setup would be missing way too many features that the E1 just doesn’t offer. What about the person who just wants a point and shoot for parties and road trips and such? Not for $700 (sans lens). So I have to ask myself….why is this here?