I’ve been using a pair of RODE videomic pro since 2012. They’ve been great for sync sound and interview audio over the years and always make it into my camera bag. After almost 4 years of use, I finally managed to break the cradle off while chasing actress into a car.
I, didn’t really have a lot of time to do anything about it, so I simply switched over to my backup videomic pro and finished up the shoot. The broken mic ended up at the bottom of my camera bag for a few months and was pretty much forgotten about until I finally had time to clean up.
A lot of companies arbitrarily stamp packaging with random claims of a “Lifetime” warranty, but trying to contact them for an RMA number or customer service can be tough or even impossible in many cases. It is pretty refreshing when you contact a company and get a good response.
This was the first time I’ve managed to break a RODE product and the first time I’d attempted to use their customer support for a broken mic. While the broken cradle was caused by regular use and abuse, I logged into RODE’s customer support page, typed in my serial number as well as a quick message about my problem, and sent it in. The response came back within a day.
We’d be happy to send you out a replacement VMP coldshoe assembly with our compliments.
My experience with RODE’s customer support was easily one of the smoothest I’ve ever had. I would have gladly paid for the replacement bits, yet without prompting they were kind enough to simply send it out.
It’s easy to rant when you’ve had a bad experience with a company, but sometimes we forget to mention it when they do a great job. So thanks RODE, I will continue to carry my videomic pro with me far into the future.
The weather is nice in Seattle, it might be time to step away from the computer and enjoy the afternoon while Thanksgiving dinner finishes up.
For those of you who own the Z-cam E1 camera or are interested in buying one, Z-cam has just released version .21 of the camera’s firmware. You can download it via the Z-cam app. I had a lot of complaints about the first iteration of the Z-cam E1, but with this update Z-cam is finally starting to make progress on this little camera.
The original .16 firmware, had numerous focusing issues and would lock up the camera when some lenses were installed. Auto focus was out of the question for many lenses, and even things like O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) and fly by wire manual focusing was an issue on some of my Olympus and Panasonic glass.
With firmware version .21, the Z-cam team has made some strides. Auto focus has been fixed on every M43 AF capable lens I own, and the O.I.S. seems to be working well on my Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 lens. Image quality has improved noticeably with the update and if Z-cam continues with the improvements, the E1 might even give the Blackmagic Micro a run for its money.
I’ve tested every AF capable lens in my collection and here’s the list of current working lenses on the Z-cam E1 camera.
- Olympus 7-14mm f2.8
- Panasonic 7-14mm f4
- Olympus 12-40mm f2.8
- Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 O.I.S.
- Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 (also works with Olympus 1.4x adapter)
- Panasonic 14-140mm f3.5-5.6
- Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6
I’ll try to keep the list above up to date as more lenses are tested. I think that the Z-cam E1 could really be a decent option for a tiny 4k gopro replacement. They just need to keep the price under something like the Panasonic G7 and continue to improve the firmware. At the kickstarter price, it’s a pretty good value, but at the estimated street price of $699, unless you really need the form factor, you may as well buy a Panasonic G7 body for $600.
I picked up the Tascam DR 70D a few months ago to replace my Tascam DR 60D. The DR 60D has been a great unit over the last few years and still does a decent job, but the attractive size of the new DR 70D tempted me into an upgrade.
There are a number of good upgrades to the Tascam DR 70D over the original. With the DR 70D you get individual volume controls for every channel, XLR channels for every input, a 3.5mm stereo input option for channels one and two and a better overall control layout. Menus are virtually unchanged and recording mode labels in the menu system are still as confusing as the original.
Audio quality in the Tascam DR 70D is pretty comparable if not identical to the Tascam DR 60D. Each channel features the same 64db of gain available in the DR60D, and the noise floor seems to be about the same so don’t expect much change in that department.
While the Tascam DR 70D is thinner and provides a lot of upgrades to its older brother, there are still some problems with build quality. This is actually one of the more frustrating aspects of the DR 70D design. Tascam lulls you into a false sense of security with the what appears to be a metal 1/4 20 tripod mount. While the mount is metal, it’s cheap cast pot metal. This is something that’s supposed to support a full DSLR camera and lens , yet it snapped off on me after only a few uses.
While I under understand that a device at this price point isn’t going to be as durable as a $1000+ Sound devices unit, it should be able to withstand normal use. After all, every picture you see of the Tascam DR 70D shows it under a camera, yet mine managed to break under the weight of a 5d mark III and Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 lens. While that’s a somewhat heavy combination, it shouldn’t be enough to send your camera crashing to the ground.
This piece of low grade cast metal and a bit of plastic are all that keeps your camera gear in place. It’s unfortunate that Tascam decided to go cheap on this portion of the DR 70D, This problem ends up being a black spot on what would other wise be a great little field recorder.
I’ve been using Sandisk micro SDXC cards for a few years now and despite the claims of quality I’ve often had dropouts. Normally it doesn’t start causing a problem until I get a good 20 or 30 minutes of footage on a card, but lately it’s been getting worse. Now that I’m starting to put the Z-cam E1 through testing, I figured it might be time to pick up some more reliable cards.
After doing a little bit of looking around, I came across these 64GB PNY cards. I haven’t taken a look at the price of Micro SDXC cards in 6 or 7 months and the $28 price tag was surprising. I asked around and it turns out a number people I know were actually using these cards with positive results across the board. With that in mind I figured I may as well pick one up for testing.
Crystal Disk Mark tests were extremely respectable for such an affordable card. Read speeds are hitting higher than advertised and write speeds are keeping up with more expensive Lexar x1000 cards of the same size (and double the price).
I’ve been using the 64GB PNY card in both the Z-cam E1 and the Hero 4 black edition of that last few days for a number of shoots. No drop outs so far, if it makes it through another few weeks of shooting, I might pick up a couple more. I’m still blown away by the $28 price tag.
Over the last few years, SSD drives have advanced in leaps and bounds. We’ve gone from $300 for a 120GB glitchy Sandforce based SSD to 1TB SSD’s that saturate SATA bandwidth and now to the Samsung released the M.2 950 pro which is arguably the fastest consumer drive yet to hit the market.
At a price of $349, the 950 pro can handle sequential read speeds of up to 2.5GB/s and sequential writes of up to 1.5GB/s. Those speeds are more than double any standard SATA SSD and slightly better than Intel’s 750 drives in both price and performance.
On the downside, you’re going to need an M.2 slot that supports 2280 drives, if you don’t have that you could always fuss around with one of these adapter. If you’ve built a new system in the last few years, you might already have what you need. My mid tier Gigabyte LGA z97 board for example has a single PCIe m.2 slot that might soon have one of these installed.
When I look at a drive like this, I start to wonder what I would do with the speed. While it’s easy to arbitrarily say “give me more power”. I should probably take a closer look at what the bottlenecks are in my system before I start adding yet another SSD to the mix.
I often complain about kickstarter projects, over the years I’ve had bad luck with ruffly two out of every 3 campaigns I’ve contributed to. However I do still occasionally put my money down on things that look extremely interesting and the Z-cam E1 camera looked good. The promise of the kickstarter campaign was a Gopro sized 4k capable M43 camera with the same sensor as the Panasonic GH4. At the time, this was the only camera of it’s type that actually had a release date. Since then, we’ve had announcements for cameras like the DJI X5 and Blackmagic Micro studio, but the Z-cam E1 camera is still basically the first to market in this category.
Build quality is a mixed bag. The E1 is made out of metal and feels nice and solid, but the fit and finish falls into the prototype category. Buttons are spongy, protective flaps for usb ports fall off easily and the flange fits some lenses overly tight and others loosely.
The battery compartment on the E1 requires a custom battery. While Z-cam is kind enough to include two batteries with the E1, you currently can not buy extra batteries and the only way to charge batteries is via the camera body. So you basically need to charge up both of your batteries, shoot until you run out of juice, and then charge again. If you would like to shoot longer, you’ll need a USB power pack and one of these barrel adapters.
On the bright side, we get a mini HDMI port instead of a micro HDMI port. The barrel plug supports 5 volts at 2 amps which leaves open a lot of power supply options. The wifi app works as good or better then the Gopro’s offering and the on screen controls are easy enough to figure out.
Shooting with the E1 isn’t bad but, the firmware is still pretty rough. The quality of the 4k image recorded (above) running firmware version .16 (earliest version) is what I would describe as cellphone camera quality. Down scaled to 1080p, the image is a bit better then a gopro, depending on the lens you choose. At the kickstarter price I paid, I would say it’s still pretty decent, but with full fledged cameras like the Panasonic G7 capable of shooting 4k at a price of under $600, a camera like this is still a pretty hard sell.
I’ll continue to shoot with the E1 for a few more weeks before I decide whether it’ll be put on ebay or stay in my normal camera collection. Right now, i’m not very impressed with image quality, the lack of things like audio level meters, poor implementation of Z-log, and poor focus support for Olympus lenses make this a questionable purchase. Hopefully we’ll see major improvements in the E1 camera when future firmware updates are released. I’ll continue to test, and post more results as spend more time with the E1. As of right now, i’m lukewarm on the camera.