Zeiss ZX1 Review
|Full model name:||Zeiss ZX1|
(36.0mm x 24.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||80 - 51,200|
|Extended ISO:||80 - 51,200|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 sec|
5.6 x 3.7 x 1.8 in.
(142 x 93 x 46 mm)
Zeiss ZX1 Preview
by Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 09/28/2018
Zeiss is known for producing high-end optics, particularly camera lenses and now the company has decided to branch out into digital cameras as well, by announcing the full-frame Zeiss ZX1. This new camera, which retains similar aesthetics to Zeiss' recent lenses, is a very distinct offering, so let's take a closer look.
- Fixed-lens full-frame mirrorless camera
- 35mm f/2 Zeiss Distagon lens
- 37.4-megapixel image sensor
- ISO range of 80-51,200
- 4.34-inch multitouch display
- Built-in electronic viewfinder
- 3 frames per second continuous shooting
- 4K video recording
- Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
- 512GB of internal storage
- Integrated Adobe Lightroom CC
The Zeiss ZX1 is an interesting looking camera. It has a very simplified design with a smooth aluminum body and no signs of rubberized grips on the camera. On the top of the camera, there is a hot shoe, and two dedicated dials which control ISO and shutter speed, along with a power/movie switch tucked under the shutter speed dial. There is also a shutter release, of course, but no other buttons or dials.
The back of the camera is even more spartan. There are no navigation buttons or dedicated function buttons to be found, but instead the focus is solely on the display. The 1280 x 720 pixel LCD is 4.34 inches diagonally and has a 16:9 aspect ratio. This wide ratio, compared to the image sensor which is 3:2, allows for space on the right side of the screen to be used for controlling the camera. The display has a resolution of 338 ppi and is multitouch-enabled. It's evident that the camera is very much employing a smartphone-inspired user experience while still providing direct access to exposure triangle controls.
Above the display is a built-in electronic viewfinder with -3 to +3 diopter adjustment range. The 0.7-inch OLED EVF has 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and has a 35mm-equivalent magnification of 0.74x, which is pretty large. For reference, the Sony RX1R Mark II, which is also a fixed-lens full-frame camera with a 35mm f/2 lens -- more on that later -- has a 0.74x magnification EVF as well.
The product shots for the ZX1 can be a little bit deceiving because the camera is actually fairly large, at least in terms of its width. Its dimensions are 5.6 x 3.7 x 1.8 inches (142 x 93 x 46 millimeters). It's worth noting including the lens adds 20 millimeters to the overall depth. If you compare this to the Sony RX1R Mark II, the Zeiss ZX1 is over an inch wider and over an inch taller. In fact, the Zeiss is about the same height as a Sony A7R Mark III while still over half an inch wider. The ZX1 weighs around 28 ounces (800 grams) with the battery, which is around 300 grams heavier than the RX1R II. The Zeiss ZX1 is not very compact.
Image Sensor, Shooting Features and Lightroom CC
We don't know a lot about the performance of the image sensor in the Zeiss ZX1 as of yet, but we do know that it's a 37.4-megapixel full-frame image sensor with an ISO range of 80 to 51,200 (it is unclear if this is the native range or if this figure includes expanded settings). The image sensor has been designed in-house at Zeiss, but we don't know the producer. It stands to reason that Sony may be involved, given the close relationship between the two companies -- after all, the Sony RX1R II uses a Zeiss lens.
Regarding shooting features, the ZX1 has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/8,000s using a leaf shutter, and the camera can shoot at up to 3 frames per second. The camera offers a self-timer, interval shooting, AE bracketing and in-camera panoramas. The aperture ring, shutter speed dial and ISO dial all have "A" (Auto) settings, allowing for programmed auto, aperture priority, shutter-speed priority and full manual exposure modes as well as auto ISO. The ZX1 shoots RAW (DNG) and JPEG image files and does not offer built-in image stabilization.
There is no mention of picture profiles or special filters, but the ZX1 has a fancy and unique editing trick up its sleeve, it has Adobe Lightroom CC built right into the camera, running on the Android operating system. This allows you to process RAW images using the full power Lightroom CC -- which can be updated over the air as Adobe improves the software -- and export/share your photos from the camera's 512GB of internal storage.
The camera offers single-shot, continuous and manual focus, including DMF. We don't know the basis of the autofocus system yet, whether it is hybrid or contrast-detect only, but the camera offers AF area and AF spot options, including 17 x 15, 1 x 1, 3 x 3 and 5 x 5 focus areas.
Built-in Zeiss Lens
Zeiss is known for their lenses, so expectations are surely high for the optics in the ZX1. The 35mm f/2 Zeiss Distagon T* lens has 8 elements in 5 groups, including a pair of double-sided aspherical lens elements. The lens has a close focusing distance of just under a foot (30 centimeters). Looking at the lens, we can see that it has a focusing ring, an aperture ring and an AF/MF switch. Further, the lens has a 52mm filter thread.
It's interesting to note that the Sony RX1R Mark II, which as mentioned above has a Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens paired with a full-frame sensor, uses a different Zeiss lens. The Sony opts for a Zeiss Sonnar T* lens with 8 elements in 7 groups, rather than 5, and includes a trio of aspherical elements. The Sonnar has 9 aperture blades. We don't know yet how many aperture blades will be in the ZX1's lens. The RX1R II has a slightly smaller 49mm filter thread as well.
Zeiss ZX1 promotional video
The Zeiss ZX1 can record 4K (3,840 x 2,160) video at up to 30 frames per second. If you want a higher frame rate, you can shoot Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) video at up to 60 fps. Video clips have a maximum length of 15 minutes. No other video specs are available beyond knowing that the camera records in .MP4. It is also stated that the camera can record externally using HDMI via USB-C 3.1 (likely HDMI Alt Mode) although it's unclear if there will be potential improvements to video quality or maximum clip duration when recording externally.
Connectivity, Storage and Power
As mentioned, the camera has a USB-C 3.1 port which is the only port on the camera, and Zeiss says external mics, headphones and HDMI are supported via USB-C. Interestingly, the hot shoe is Sigma flash protocol compatible.
The ZX1 has built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth. You can geotag image files via a smartphone and can also remotely control the camera through a smartphone app. The Wi-Fi is 802.11 b/g/n/a/ac and the Bluetooth technology is 4.1 LE.
We mentioned earlier that the camera has 512GB of internal storage and external storage is supported via USB-C. Internal storage will be able to store around 6,800 RAW (DNG) files, 50,000 JPEG images or around 20 hours of 4K video.
Regarding power, there is a 3,190 mAh rechargeable battery although we don't know what type of battery life you will be able to expect. The battery is charged in-camera but is removable (unlike the storage), so you will be able to swap batteries as needed.
Pricing and Availability
Zeiss has not yet shared pricing information regarding the ZX1 camera, but we know that it should be arriving in early 2019. The camera will come with pre-installed Adobe Lightroom CC software, a battery, lens hood, cap, ring, quick guide, AC adapter, USB cable, strap and strap accessories.
Zeiss ZX1 versus Sony RX1R Mark II
We cannot yet paint a full picture of the Zeiss ZX1, but it's worth giving a quick overview of what the ZX1 appears to offer when compared with the Sony RX1R Mark II, which is another full-frame camera with a fixed lens.
Image sensor: The Zeiss ZX1 has a full-frame 37.4-megapixel sensor. The Sony RX1R II has a 42.4-megapixel Sony Exmor R (BSI) image sensor. The ZX1 has an ISO range of 80-51,200 whereas the Sony delivers a native range of 100-25,600 (expandable to 50-102,400).
Lens: Both cameras employ Zeiss 35mm f/2 lenses. The ZX1 opts for a Distagon lens with 8 elements in 5 groups, including two double-sided aspherical elements. The RX1R II, on the other hand, has a Sonnar lens with 8 elements in 7 groups and three aspherical elements. They have the same close-focus distance of 30 centimeters.
Design: The ZX1 is larger than the RX1R II by a significant margin and weighs around 300 grams more. Both cameras have built-in electronic viewfinders with 0.74x magnification. The ZX1 is aluminum and features very few buttons and dials. The RX1R II is designed more traditionally, offering more buttons dials and gripped areas. Plus, the RX1R II has a pop-up EVF. Regarding the display, the ZX1 is fully invested in a touch-based user interface, utilizing a 4.3-inch multitouch display. The RX1R II goes smaller and has a button-based interface. The RX1R II does not have a touchscreen, but its display does tilt, something the ZX1's display cannot do.
Video: The ZX1 records 4K/30p video and the RX1R II tops out at Full HD video recording. The RX1R II can do 120fps recording at 720p resolution whereas the ZX1 can only shoot at up to 60 fps when shooting Full HD video.
Shooting: This section is a bit tricky, as there's still a lot we don't know about the ZX1. The ZX1 has a fastest shutter speed of 1/8,000s, twice that of the RX1R II, but the RX1R II employs impressive Fast Hybrid AF with 399 PDAF points. Perhaps the ZX1 will be equally impressive, but we simply don't know yet. We do know that the ZX1 can shoot at only 3 fps, whereas the Sony can shoot at up to 5 fps. Neither camera offers a built-in flash.
In-camera processing and sharing: The Zeiss ZX1 has Adobe Lightroom CC built into the camera and the Sony does not. Both cameras have built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, but the ZX1 adds Bluetooth.
Summary: The Zeiss ZX1 has some unique tricks up its sleeve that the Sony does not. The Sony has more resolving power and faster shooting. Regarding autofocus performance, we don't know yet which camera has more on offer, but we do know that the ZX1 can do 4K UHD video recording while the Sony RX1R II cannot. The Sony costs around $3,300 USD and we don't know what the Zeiss will cost. One thing is for sure, the Zeiss ZX1 looks unique and ought to deliver impressive image quality. For fans of fixed-lens cameras, there will be another full-frame option come 2019.