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The E1 is a tiny 4K camera that lets you change lenses

Accessing 4K content might still be a hit or miss affair, but the reality is a lot of professionals and semi-professionals are filming at these ultra high resolutions every day. Now, a company called Z is using Kickstarter to deliver a new camera for filmmakers who want cheap 4K capability in a compact form factor. The camera is called the E1, and it's the world's smallest 4K camera that uses interchangeable lenses.

The E1 is about twice as big and heavy as a GoPro, and there is a lot packed into its magnesium housing. It's equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, and uses a Panasonic image sensor and an Ambarella A9 image processor to capture cinema 4K footage (4096 x 2160) at 24 frames per second or UHD video (3840 x 2160) at 30 frames per second. The E1 can also shoot 1080p video at 60 frames per second (the company says 120 frames per second capability is in the works), and it shoots 16 megapixel RAW (DNG) and JPG images.

4K video and 16 megapixel images

The camera's sensitivity maxes out at an ISO of 102,400, and the company claims users can expect good image quality up to 6400 ISO thanks to proprietary noise filtering. 
(Jason Zhang, founder of Z, showed me a video he shot in a night club that was particularly impressive.)

The big draw here, however, is that the E1 uses a Micro Four Thirds sensor. It's bigger than the sensor you'd find in an action camera, but it's smaller than what you find in a DSLR, so the camera is still small and light. It also means customers will be able to pick and choose from a deep well of compatible lenses from companies like Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma.

The weakest part of the E1 is its screen, which has a rough resolution of 320 x 240. (You can, however, use the company's mobile app to view your shot.) Also, the 2,000mAh battery only lasts about 45 minutes when filming in 4K, but it is replaceable. The camera runs a little warm, so it's likely not the best camera to hand hold. Zhang said the magnesium body should keep it from overheating, which can happen from time to time with a camera like a GoPro.

The E1 will eventually retail for $699, and Z is offering bundles with a 14mm f2.5 Panasonic lens on Kickstarter. Zhang has high ambitions for his company — he says it's working on a waterproof housing, planning to upgrade the camera through continual firmware updates, and will run an open developer program around the camera's software.

Z has created something unique with the E1, but longtime players in the Micro Four Thirds space already make reliable, affordable, 4K-capable cameras. How the upstart company handles what is an already successful Kickstarter will be a major factor in whether the camera can make an impact on the market.


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