Is this camera company the first casualty of the US-China trade war?

Is this camera company the first casualty of the US-China trade war?
(Image credit: Z Cam)

Chinese camera manufacturer Z Cam could be the first casualty of the ongoing US-China trade war, with reports of a "huge train-wreck" taking place as the company struggles for survival. 

You may not have heard of Z Cam, but it is a remarkable "little engine that could" in a camera industry dominated by giants. The manufacturer's line of versatile cinema cameras, built around everything from Micro Four Thirds mounts and sensors to Canon EF and Super35 versions, are well regarded among cinematographers for their adaptability.

• Read more: Best cinema cameras

However, the company's future may well be in jeopardy as a direct consequence of the tightening trade restrictions imposed by the United States on Chinese entities. That's according to a report by Personal View (by way of 43 Rumors), which paints a very bleak picture.

"Huge train-wreck seems to be happening with little amazing Z-CAM team," says the report. "All E2 cinema cameras are based on main LSI chip made by HiSilicon (Hi3559A V100 and may be few more models). For reference - HiSilicon is chip design branch of big Huawei corporation. Hisilicon designes [sic] all the main LSI (called Kirin) for Huawei smarphones [sic].

"Right now Huawei is on the first front lines of China-US trade war, with US promising to leave only burning ashes from smartphone market leader. Since last US punch it is more correct to say now that they designed/made such chips and can't do it anymore. US put extreme sanctions on Hisilicone specifically - now they can't use any contract manufacturers (as 100% of them use US intellectual property, equipment or software) and can't keep even be using US software to design chips themselves."

In case you haven't heard, the US has recently increased its restrictions on trade with China specific. It has closed a well-exploited loophole, meaning that semiconductor suppliers anywhere in the world using American equipment or software cannot supply to Huawei – a move that, according to analysts like Edison Lee, "puts Huawei’s survival at risk."

Likewise, it jeopardizes companies such as Z Cam that rely on parts provided by Huawei. While these restrictions wouldn't directly affect cameras that have already been made, an inability to produce key components would have a significant impact on its ability to service products – thus making warranties worthless. 

"Such way Z-CAM cameras suddenly won't have their heart available for company, and this also concerns any already made, sold or awaiting to be sold camera, as servicing issues and lack of parts can prevent company from keeping their warranty obligations. On small market of semi-pro and professional cinema cameras this alone is making your product unacceptable for any serious production.

Company now tries to hide this information from potential buyers, cleaning it instantly from the Facebook group and trying to prevent its leak to camera related press. It will be real tragedy if we'll have such interesting company (that had been able to withstand very hard climate) will be going out of business as collateral damage in the US-China trade war."

Read more: 

The best cinema cameras: stepping up to full scale filmmaking
The best 4K camera for filmmaking for photographers, vloggers, pros
The best camera for video: how to choose the best camera for filming

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.