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The Z CAM S1 is a four-lens, 360° camera that creates interactive, spherical panoramic videos. It’s available from the camera’s Indiegogo page, but not yet from retail outlets. The camera is impressive, with very clean stitching and output up to 6K. It costs US $2499, not including a few essentials like batteries, SD cards, and stitching software. This is a basic introduction to the camera; I plan to post another article after I’ve had a chance to shoot with this.
Here’s a low-light, 4K clip shot (not by me) with the S1:
The package comes with camera, detachable battery pod (without batteries), lens cap, AC power cable (with international plugs) and (very brief) two page user guide.
You’ll need four of them. Z Cam recommends Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-I cards. The camera has four HDMI output jacks, one for each lens, so theoretically you could shoot without SD cards, by recording video data to a video capture device (not included), though I haven’t tried that.
There are three ways to power the Z CAM S1:
Power the camera with AC cable or battery unit. Insert four SD cards. Hold down the power button until the lights go on. Solid green lights mean that SD cards are installed, but camera is not running. To start camera, hold down button with camera icon; lights should then blink green. Press camera button again to stop recording. If using the camera connected via Ethernet, you can control exposure and other functions with Z Cam Controller software (see below). If operating without Ethernet, the camera will run on auto-everything; there are no physical controls for exposure, frame rate, white balance, etc.
The makers of Z Cam offer a Windows application (Mac version forthcoming) called WonderStitch, which–though not lightning fast–does an excellent job of seamlessly stitching the video from the S1’s (built-in) four cameras. The demo version of WonderStitch is free to use for Z Cam owners, though output is limited to 1080. For 4k 0r 6k output, you’ll need to purchase the full version, which is US $1499, and includes WonderLive, which does on-the-fly stitching for live videocasts.
Autopano Video software from Kolor can also be used for stitching S1 video, but I’m not sure yet if the stitching will be as good as WonderStitch. I did a quick test with Autopano, and the stitching was not great.
Purchasers of the S1 can download Z Cam Controller software, now available for Windows and Mac. A valid camera serial number must be entered to activate the application. When S1 is connected to computer via Ethernet cable, you’ll get a live preview from each of the 4 lenses (unstitched), and can control an array of functions, including exposure, white balance, resolution, and more. Also, this application can be used to update the camera’s firmware.
There is a Z Cam S1 Facebook page, moderated by the makers of the camera, though I’ve seen a handful of questions there remain unanswered. The user guide that comes with the camera is minimal, only covering the very basics. There’s a support page on the Z Cam site, but not much there so far.
I can’t wait to shoot more with this, and to get the full version of WonderSwitch, which enables 6K output. I’ll be posting another article with more information and samples I’ve shot.