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Why Z CAM Flagship owners should buy the eND Module
Back in January, B&H listed the Z CAM eND Module for the flagship line of cameras from the company as available for preorder for $399…
Back in January, B&H listed the Z CAM eND Module for the flagship line of cameras from the company as available for preorder for $399. Available for the Z CAM S6, F6, F8, and M4, this module slips into the slot in front of the sensor and enables an electronically variable neutral density of 1.7 stops up to 6.7 stops much like the internal electronic ND of the Sony FX9.
Frustrated by the limitations of front-mounted variable circular ND filters and unaware of the coming pandemic, I ordered it along with the Z CAM HDMI 2.0 cable to be used with the Z CAM S6.
While the HDMI cable has yet to come, the eND arrived in early March. I immediately installed the module, with some finagling, and quickly forgot that I had placed it in the camera — taking it with me and using it on jobs that did not need an ND. I found myself compensating for the minimum 1.7 stops of exposure adjustment with extra light during interviews or when capturing b-roll. Only when moving to higher frame rates did I realize the eND was something I would have to swap it for the clear module, and swap it I did.
I have now had the eND installed for 4 months and have used it on more than a dozen shoots. As I am writing this, I see the module as an integral component, something that all owners should consider as part of the purchase cost of a camera in the flagship series.
Unlike front-mounted variable ND filters, this eND module communicates with the camera to maintain white balance and color when adjusting exposure. Further, the internal installation removes the concerns about flare or dust that would be had with a front-mounted ND and opens up the possibility of placing a creative filter on a lightweight matte box like the one from Tilta, which would not easy to do with a single-filter system.
The eND also minimizes, if not completely removes, the noticeable effects of polarization. When tilting a front-mounted variable ND filter more than 45 degrees, computer monitors black out and car windows become invisible. With the eND from Z CAM, visible light polarization does not occur no matter the strength of the exposure adjustment. Flip the camera upside down or roll it onto its side. In either scenario, there is no change in the light from monitors or glare from car windows.
How the eND achieves this is likely by passing circularly polarized light through to the camera, which then corrects for discoloration that this kind of polarization causes. This is not a standard linear or circular polarizer from Tiffen.
At $399, this eND offers the performance of a $600+ set of 4x4 neutral density filters, but locks you in to Z CAM and to this specific camera line. Will the company maintain compatibility for this product in future lines?
If the answer is yes, then the durability of the eND is a concern. So far, I am already seeing signs of wear and tear that worry me.
The first, and most widely discussed, issue with the eND is the scuff marks present on either side of the module. These marks are created by the ultra tight fit between the module and module holder on the camera. Nothing actually touches the glass on the module when going about installing or removing it, but the tightness of its fit generates thoughts of muscling open a ketchup bottle with enough force to spew its contents across the table and cap into the ceiling. To accidentally hurl the eND, that is.
Another concern is that the eND has gained a few spots on its glass surface. These spots do not show up in any way on the recorded image no matter the level of exposure adjustment or frame size. I tested with a flashlight up through 6K open gate and saw nothing that could have come from the spots. I reached out to Kinson with photos of these spots. He replied, saying, “This is normal, nothing to worry about.”
At present, I am split on how to feel about the spots on the eND. On one side, the CEO says it is a non issue. On the other, there are spots on glass that is supposed to be clear. If you have the eND and have noticed spots, where do they appear? What do you think could be the cause?
The Z CAM eND Module, despite concerns about its durability, is a great addition to the flagship line of cameras. If I were purchasing the camera again, I would consider it part of the price of owning the camera.