EZDok Camera (EZCA) Review

It bears noting that every time I sit down to write this review, I find some reason to put it off. The most common reason is that I’m having some issue with EZCA that I want to iron out—something I’m sure I just don’t understand, because it just can’t be the way this add-on works. First, I read the manual again. Then I go to the forums. Eventually, the answer always seems to be yes, that’s how it is, just live with it. If that sounds like an auspicious start to a review, let me add this: I love this add-on. L-O-V-E it. But as usual, love is complicated.

There are very few add-ons that I would consider essential to enjoying the flight sim experience. A good yoke, rudder pedals, and my TrackIR spring to mind. Without them, flying would be so diminished as to be barely worth the effort. And while EZCA doesn’t quite ascend to this level for me, it’s pretty damn close. I think that’s why I keep sticking with it through various frustrations; there’s so much raw potential to ratchet up the realism.

What is it?

First off, a quick intro to what this thing does. Essentially, it’s a replacement for the built-in FSX camera system. Every view you normally use, VC, exterior, fly-by, tower, can be re-created in EZCA. In addition, if you’re a TrackIR user like me, you have to remove FSX’s native ability to control your TIR unit and turn it over to EZCA instead. From then on out, the add-on calls the shots — quite literally. This is both EZCA’s greatest strength, and its biggest shortcoming.

What it Does Well

Handing over control of the views allows EZCA to introduce my absolute favorite feature: camera effects. The effects are what makes EZCA a must-have in my book. When dialed-in properly, camera effects do an incredible job of simulating real-world bumps, shudders, and the effect of gravity on the pilot during maneuvers. Ever since learning to fly for real, one of my chief complaints about FS is that aircraft seem to move through the air as if on rails. In the real world, the atmosphere is like a living thing, always shifting and changing, pushing and pulling against the airframe. Finally, with EZCA’s effects, the sim feels like this as well. It’s a difficult thing to write about, but easy to show. Here are some examples:

The effects are divided into three categories. RND (Random) movements are auto-generated, and are used to simulate things like ground bumps during taxi, and slight dips and rises during flight. DHM (Dynamic Head Movements) simulate the effects of specific actions on the human body, such as the bouncing that accompanies turbulence. These effects are driven by specific weather and physics events. CR (Camera Resonance) movements simulate camera jolt caused by events such as a hard landing. Make a soft touchdown, and the camera doesn’t move much – clap the wheels down hard, and things really get bouncy.

Each of these effects categories have multiple options for changing how they appear in-sim, which can be configured on a specific camera basis. For example, the shake of a touchdown will be less pronounced in a large, heavy jet than in a 172. You can configure the cameras to reflect that, which is pretty nifty.

Room for Improvement

Now for the negative. This flexibility comes at the cost of complexity. Working with EZCA is wonky, to put it mildly. Each plane you fly has to have its own cameras installed and configured, and while the add-on installs cameras for all the default planes, you’re on your own as far as add-on aircraft go. Unless I miss my mark, most of us spend almost all our time in add-on planes, which means a fair bit of configuration. The easiest way to add cameras is to export one of the default planes’ versions, switch to an add-on, and import the settings. As an annoying side note, importing a camera only sets its position; you have then import its effects separately. I hear this will change in an upcoming version, so hopefully that won’t be a setback for long.

Fortunately, custom cameras are easy to tweak once they’ve been imported. Just choose the camera, use EZCA’s key commands to move the view back and forth, forward or backward, and up or down, then click the edit camera key twice. From then on out, the camera assumes the new position and orientation.

This brings me to another annoyance: hot keys. Maybe it’s just my setup, but EZCA seems very hot-key intensive. I see why it needs to have keys for all its various movements and options, but the way the interface is set up, you also need to have a key or joystick button (or both) assignment for each individual view as well. I already had so many keys assigned to my various FSX commands that I had a hard time finding any available for quick use with EZCA. As a last resort, I pulled an old Belkin Nostromo game pad out of my closet and put it to use as an EZCA-only controller. That seems to be working fairly well. Using EZCA makes it obvious why the MS developers decided to have view cycling keys rather than a separate key for each view; otherwise there are just too dang many of them! Again, in fairness, the EZCA devs have said they’re adding camera cycling into an upcoming build, so that’s another problem that will probably fix itself.

Mostly, I fly from the VC. Because of that, my main focus when initially setting up EZCA was getting the VC views right. There are two other classes of view, however: external and world cameras. The external views are much like FS’s built-in options, with the addition of being able to modify the position, angle, and distance. World cameras are rooted to a specific spot on the globe, a feature that could really come in handy for video makers. However, world cameras also have significant restrictions that the developer says are FSX limitations, mainly that they can’t be altered much once set, and must be set individually by aircraft position, requiring a restart of FSX between each placement.

Final Word

As it turns out, re-creating the FS camera system is a complex, multi-layered process. Given that complexity, I think EZCA does an admirable job. The interface needs some serious streamlining, and the documentation could do with a good going-over as well. The control panel that drives everything isn’t available in full-screen mode, so you have to drop into windowed in order to change anything, which gets old quickly. Also, I’m not convinced that the camera switching is much of an improvement over the built-in FSX method, and it seems as if a lot of EZCA’s functionality is tied up in reproducing something that already worked fairly well. Having said that, the camera effects are so over-the-top fantastic an improvement that I think it’s worth putting up with the rest of the niggles just to experience them. This video is a great comparison of flying with and without it:

As of version 1.15, there’s full support for TrackIR, and EZCA works with the head tracker hand-in-glove, expanding and enhancing its options. In fact, it seems to me that EZCA delivers much smoother head tracking than FSX did by default, which in turn makes flying seem more fluid.

The developer seems dedicated to improving the product, and is active and responsive on the support forums. That bodes well, and a I have no qualms about recommending EZCA. For anyone who has it, I’d be interested in hearing of your experience as well.

For more information and to purchase EZCA, visit Flight1. If you want to do your due diligence before purchasing, you can also visit the support forum.

20 comments… add one

  • reply Charles Earl May 30, 2010, 4:46 pm

    I have a problem with TrackIR and I am hoping that EZDOK solves it.

    The eyepoints in default aricraft are great. Over the hood visibility in all Default FSX planes is great for the most part. Add on planes like Carenado however seem to be off. I feel like a kid sitting in the cockpit. Face up against the pannel and below the glare shield. Quite annoying. Thank goodness, we can all adjust eye hight and distance from pannel. Up, down and forwards and backwards with the SHIFT+ENTER or other combos.

    Then as soon as you TrackIR, you have no say in the default “CENTERED” position. You hit the CENTER EYEPOINT key with TrackIR on and you have that crappy viewpoint to deal with. SHIFT+backspace or CTRL+ENTER don’t work when using TrackIR. It sticks to that default viewpoint like glue. Only workaround is painstakingly adjusting cfg files through trial and error.

    So. When TrackIR is running with EZDOK, do you overcome that problem?

    Charles.

    • reply Bill Womack May 30, 2010, 5:23 pm

      Yes, I believe EZCA is the answer for that problem. The eyepoint that TrackIR is snapping back to when you center it is what you’re changing with EZCA. Here’s how I set up my Bonanza VC camera:

      1. With TrackIR running, center the view using whatever key you’ve set up in TIR for centering. Then, without moving your head, disable TIR.

      2. Hit the EZCA “edit camera” hot key and move the eyepoint up, down, right left, in and out until you’re happy with it. Hit the edit key again to save this new position.

      3. Re-enable TIR. It should now snap to this new location when you hit the centering key. I’ve found that using this method results in perfectly tunable views.

    • reply Paul M September 24, 2010, 7:30 pm

      <>

      Shift-Enter doesn’t seem to work for me in the Carenado Seneca. The screen vibrates slightly like it’s stuck, and the eye position doesn’t move. I’ve tried Global Disable, then shift-enter to move eye position. Fine so far. However, as soon as I re-enable Global, eye position moves back to what it was.

      • reply Bill Womack September 24, 2010, 8:28 pm

        What’s shift-enter set up to do on your system, Paul? On mine, the camera is moved by first entering “edit” mode, then using page up/down to move the camera up and down, and the up/down/right/left arrow keys to move the camera in, out, left, and right. Have you tried that? The usual FSX camera commands won’t work with EZCA.

  • reply atf300 May 30, 2010, 8:22 pm

    Bill, so whats your workflow for making cameras and effects for addon planes.

    did you try the 1.5.1 beta version available at the simforums support page ?

    • reply Bill Womack May 30, 2010, 9:45 pm

      For addon planes, I usually find a camera that close to what I want in a default plane, then export it and import it into my add-on. It might take a little tweaking once you’ve imported it, but I find it’s the easiest way to start. So far, I’ve had zero luck setting up an exterior camera from scratch – it always dumps me into space, looking down at the Earth, when I try to do it. Export/import seems to be the way to go.

      I haven’t tried the new beta – figured I’d wait until it’s part of a stable release first. I’m on two other beta teams right now, and I’m about out of time for testing.

  • reply bandsma June 1, 2010, 2:21 pm

    This re-affirms my add-on purchasing strategy to always wait for v2.0 before buying.

  • reply bandsma June 1, 2010, 2:21 pm

    This re-affirms my add-on purchasing strategy to always wait for v2.0 before buying.

  • reply Bob Folsom June 1, 2010, 11:30 am

    I am intrigued by EZCA. It adds the dimension in Flight Simulators that is badly needed. That and realistic cloud shadows.
    I really hate the distorted camera shots. I hope theres a way to make things look “normal”.
    I went on You Tube and looked at the collection of films. Why he didn’t do something familar like Plum Island Airport when you get the swirls from the trees just before you hit the numbers, I don’t know. Everybody is used to Plum Island. That is if they’re really genuine Flight Simulator flyers…
    Bob

    • reply Bill Womack June 1, 2010, 12:56 pm

      Bob, the cameras are fully flexible regarding zoom level and placement. Personally, I like a much closer zoom to get the somewhat claustrophobic feel of a real GA cockpit. But then, I’ve got a TrackIR, so angle of view is less of a problem. I agree 100% about the head effects being one of the “missing links”… it really adds to the realism factor.

  • reply Tom Harnish July 4, 2010, 12:32 pm

    Great review Bob. After hours of struggle I tried to deinstall the damn thing, forgot I’d disabled the A and S keys and spent far too much time trying to figure out the problem. In the process found your review and you pushed me over the edge to try again. Reinstalled it and enabled TrackIR, which frankly, I’d never had much success with. Ta-rah. Everything seems to be working great–even TrackIR! Appreciate your comments and suggestions that encouraged me to try again.

    Two annoying problem remain however: 1.) none of my shift panels work, such as Shift-3 for GPS. May have nothing to do with EZDOK, but I’m stumped. And 2.) I can’t figure out how to create a camera center on the aircraft that will allow me to move around it in 3D to take screenshots. Everything seems to be centered on the camera not a relative point in space. I RTFM but even after a revisit can’t seem to find the answer.

    • reply Bill Womack July 4, 2010, 1:12 pm

      Thanks, Tom. (Bob is a great name, BTW, but I’m Bill ;-) ) It sounds as if something else has taken over the Shift-Number combination in your hotkey settings. You might double-check your fs button settings, and also have a look at your EZDok key assignments to make sure the keys aren’t inadvertently assigned to EZCA. Other than that, I have no idea, sorry.

      As for the external camera, I’m not sure of how to set that up. I haven’t ventured too far into ext. cameras just yet.

      • reply Tom Harnish July 4, 2010, 1:52 pm

        Not only am I a terrible reader, I’m an idiot too. As in, “Oh THAT Bill Womack!” Bob Womack didn’t ring any bells, but now Bill (blush). . . .

        I was one of the FTX PNW beta testers, and your exquisite 7S3 artistry. Simply amazing. Had my wife up in a Cub a couple weeks ago (she’s a pilot too) with Track IR, EZCA, REX, and PNW/7S3 and she agreed a new i7 was better use of our money than $5/gal avgas!

        After 10,000 hours the novelty has warn off, the odds are stacked against me, and the cost is ridiculous. But with FSX I can fly all those airplanes I never had a crack at, regardless of the drizzly PNW weather, and pause to go take a pee instead of gritting my teeth.

        So I have much, much more to thank you for than just an outstanding add-on!

      • reply Tom Harnish October 15, 2010, 10:29 am

        In case someone wanders by with the same pop-up panel problem, (shift 1, shift 2, etc) I have a confession…<blush.somehow I managed to set the transparency to 100%, so they were there, working fine, but they were totally transparent and thus invisible. Note that the issue had absolutely nothing to to do with EZDok camera application.

  • reply Tom Harnish July 4, 2010, 1:33 pm

    Yike! Reading comprehension isn’t my strong suit, I guess. Misread an earlier post. Thanks for the good suggestions!

  • reply Danny Heart July 16, 2011, 8:42 pm

    I have one major problem with this camera program. I make my cameras, i have over 20, and only 10 of these cameras show up!! It’s driving me NUTS!!! These are world cameras so i don’t know if there’s anything i can do. Can you help me please? Reply. Thanks.

    • reply Bill Womack July 16, 2011, 11:25 pm

      Hi Danny,
      I don’t use world cameras in EZCA, just the standard aircraft cameras. Have you asked over on the EZCA support forums?

  • reply Martin Cumming February 22, 2012, 2:11 pm

    Dear Bill

    In your review of ezca you said the easiest way to add cameras to an add on aircraft is to export one from a default aircraft. Can you be a bit more explicit? I have no idea how to do this!

    Regards

    Martin

    • reply Bill Womack February 22, 2012, 3:02 pm

      I’m not in front of my flying PC right now, but if memory serves there’s an option somewhere in the EZCA studio interface to export a camera set. Load a default plane, launch the EZCA studio, and export that set. Then load an add-on plane, choose “Load Camera Set” (or whatever the wording is), and choose the set you just exported. It’s pretty simple.

  • reply Nicholas July 3, 2013, 4:12 am

    Quick question, does this work with addon planes?

Leave a Comment