Panasonic S1H vs Z CAM E2-F6: Which is the Better Investment for Video?

Two full frame cameras that shoot 6K, and both offer RAW:

  1. Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H)
  2. Z CAM E2-F6 (B&H)

In this article let’s put them head to head to see which is truly the better investment for full frame.

Important: Both cameras haven’t been released to the public yet so most of this comparison is based on available specs and information.

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Comparison of sensors and video features

Here’s how the camera sensors compare:

CameraResolutionISO RangeSensor Size
Z CAM E2-F66244×4168400-125,00037.09 x 24.75 mm
Panasonic S1H5952×3968640-51,20036 x 24 mm
CameraNative ISO
Z CAM E2-F6400 and 2500
Panasonic S1H640 and 4000

The S1H on paper seems to have the better low light performance. The maximum ISO range is not always a good indicator of low light performance. On the other hand, the E2-F6 has a slightly larger sensor.

What about frame rates?

CameraMax fps at 4KSensor CropMax fps at 1080p
Z CAM E2-F6120 fps (2.4:1), otherwise 72 fpsN/A120 fps
Panasonic S1H60 fps24.5 x 16.38 (1.45x crop)180 fps

We don’t know what the crop is in 4K, though with 6K you get the full sensor size.

As far as slow motion at 1080p is concerned, you get up to 180 fps with the S1H. It depends on your workflow at the end of the day, but the E2-F6 has an advantage here.

Next, the codecs and color information:

CameraBest codec InternallyColor Information
Z CAM E2-F6H.264/H.265 IPB | ZRAW^10:bit 4:2:0 | RAW^
Panasonic S1HH.264/H.265 ALL-I10:bit 4:2:2*

*At 6K you only get 10-bit 4:2:0.

^We don’t know yet what flavor of ZRAW we’ll get. However, ZRAW is partially debayered RAW.

Finally, what you get with HDMI externally:

CameraBest external resolution and fpsColor Information
Z CAM E2-F64096 x 2160 @ 60fps10:bit 4:2:2
Panasonic S1H4096 x 2160 @ 60fps / 5.9K @ 30fps10-bit 4:2:2/RAW*

*Atomos have announced a RAW update coming to the Panasonic S1H. We don’t know at this point whether it will be free or cost money (like the Nikon Z6), but they have confirmed it’s Prores RAW HQ.

In order to get this, you’ll need the Atomos Ninja V recorder.

Regarding audio features, both have okay-ish audio.

Usability, focus and exposure aids, and ergonomics

The little things make all the difference:

  • Weight and ergonomics
  • Viewfinder and monitor
  • Focus and Exposure tools

Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:

CameraErgonomics
Z CAM E2-F6Fully modular. It needs a top handle but otherwise has mounting points on the body.
Panasonic S1HIt has a fan and it is audible, grip is painful, not the most pleasurable to hold. This is a heavy camera.

The Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) is definitely DSLR territory. Pair it with a large lens and it will be tough to handhold for long periods.

Thankfully it has IBIS. That’s a huge feature.

CameraEVFMonitorHDMI
Z CAM E2-F6NoNoType A
Panasonic S1HYesTouch, Full tilt and swivelType A

With the Z CAM E2-F6, you need a monitor to control the unit, like a PORTKEYS BM5-Z 5.2″. That adds to the cost and weight of the rig. That’s not all:

CameraFocus AidsContinuous AutofocusExposure
Z CAM E2-F6NoNoMeter
Panasonic S1HPeaking, ZoomYesHistogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras

It’s quite clear in the usability front the Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) is ready to shoot. And it has continuous autofocus for gimbal and drone work.

However, it’s not all roses.

Bottom line? Ergonomics-wise, you can’t beat the S1H. Period.

Batteries and media cards

CameraDual card slotsPrice per GB^
Z CAM E2-F6No, but you can record to an SSD$1.8/GB
Panasonic S1HYes, SDXC$1.8/GB

^Both cameras can record to SSDs. The price is based on a Sandisk Extreme Pro SSD 240 GB.

This isn’t really an apples to apples comparison. The Z CAM E2-F6 (B&H) uses CFast 2.0 cards, and you need to write to CFast 2.0 for ZRAW. Prores RAW HQ has a data rate of 200-300 MB/s, but that’s for 4K 60p as published by Apple. We don’t know what the data rate for 5.9K 30p will be.

On the other hand, the S1H uses SDXC cards.

All the features in the world are useless if you have to hire a donkey to carry your batteries:

CameraBattery lifeCost one one battery*Cost of 6 hours of operation
Z CAM E2-F6100 minutes#$60$216
Panasonic S1H60 minutes^$88$528

#Just an assumption based on the E2. The battery is huge though.

^Actual recordable time, from Panasonic’s official specs for 4K 60 fps MP4.

*As of this writing. Original batteries for the S1H, and Watson for the F6 from B&H.

The E2-F6 is definitely better when it comes to power solutions. But what about workflow?

Workflow

This is one major area of concern for Z CAM, if you’re shooting with ZRAW. Currently, no NLE supports it.

You need a program called ZRAW VideoSuite to convert ZRAW to one of these three:

  • DNxHR
  • H.265
  • Uncompressed YUV

You cannot color grade ZRAW directly, unless you are happy with the tools inside VideoSuite. To make matters worse, the ZRAW VideoSuite is currently only available for Windows.

These are dealbreakers to a professional RAW workflow, in my opinion.

On the other hand, Prores RAW is supported on the following NLEs:

  1. Adobe Premiere Pro
  2. Avid Media Composer
  3. FCP X

Which is cheaper to own?

Let’s just add up the costs:

CameraPanasonic S1HZ CAM E2-F6
Camera body$3,998$4,995
Media and Accessories*N/AN/A
Batteries$528$216
Monitor/Recorder$695$499
Total$5,221$5,710

*We can’t say for sure unless the data rates for both are revealed, as well as the compression options. Remember, we might have to include some more accessories, but they are generally equal to both cameras.

There’s a price difference of $489 between the S1H and E2-F6. The big question you’ll be having is: Is that worth it?

Verdict

First, a recap:

FeatureWinner
Sensor and ISOTie
Video featuresPanasonic S1H
Codecs and ColorPanasonic S1H
MediaTie
ErgonomicsPanasonic S1H
Ports and MonitoringTie
PowerE2-F6

Before we take our final decision, we’ll let the cameras tell us what they offer that the others don’t:

CameraUSPMajor Cons
Z CAM E2-F6Internal ZRAW, modular camera, 120 fps in 4K 2.4:1.No support for ZRAW in any NLE.
Panasonic S1HInternal 10-bit 4:2:2, 6K, Tilt+Swivel LCD, Autofocus and IBIS.No internal RAW, Potential fan noise.

The Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) clearly has the best tools and is more equipped for all kinds of production work:

  • Tilt+ Flip screen
  • Great Viewfinder and LCD, large OLED panel on top
  • True anamorphic mode and full frame
  • All the important exposure tools
  • Autofocus in video
  • 400 Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 codec which can be graded
  • Great stills camera
  • Prores RAW coming in February 2020.
  • 180 fps in 1080p
  • Panasonic’s amazing color science
  • 14+ stops (V-Log)
  • Dual Native ISO
  • Weather-sealed
  • Worldwide sales and support
  • Native lenses as well as third-party lenses via the L-alliance

As far as I’m concerned, the Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) is the best camera and investment for professional filmmakers.

What do you think?

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3 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the comparison. To me it comes down to the raw formats. The S1H is likely to be 10 bit log raw (like the EVA1) whereas the Z Cam is rumoured as 14 bit. Still we’ll find out.