Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Zeiss ZX1: Now heading to the maternity ward at long last

Zeiss ZX1: Now heading to the maternity ward at long last

A massive 4.3in screen and loads of editing capabilities built in: The ZX1 is a one-stop device for smartphone upgraders

The Zeiss answer to Leica’s Q2 has been a long time a-coming. In fact, this computational shooter has had the gestation period of an elephant, so it should be good when it arrives. The joyous news of imminent birth has shocked me, nonetheless. I thought everyone had forgotten about the Zeiss.

Unlike the more traditional Q2, which uses external applications for its photo management, the Zeiss ZX1 takes a leaf out of the smartphone book by performing all kinds of wizardry inside its body.

The 35mm Zeiss Distagon T* lens is similar to that seen in the Sony RX1. The ZX1 is a handsome camera, although it is ten percent heavier than its nearest competitor, the Leica Q2
The 35mm Zeiss Distagon T* lens is similar to that seen in the Sony RX1. The ZX1 is a handsome camera, although it is ten percent heavier than its nearest competitor, the Leica Q2

The bones of the beast comprise a 37MP full-frame sensor (which was tickety-boo when the Jumbo was inseminated but not so hot now), a fixed 35 mm f/2 Zeiss Distagon T* lens (similar to that of the Sony RX1) and a 2.07M-dot viewfinder (again, acceptable in 2018 but a bit dated now).

A massive 4.3in screen and loads of editing capabilities built in: The ZX1 is a one-stop device for smartphone upgraders
A massive 4.3in screen and loads of editing capabilities built in: The ZX1 is a one-stop device for smartphone upgraders. Love the yellow inlays on the dials and the lens.

Lightroom in the palm of your hand

But this is where the ZX1 deviates from the RX1 and the Q2: It features a large 4.3in screen and offers extensive in-camera editing features, with a built-in version of Lightroom CC running on Android. You can edit away without touching a computer and you get a massive 512 GB of storage onboard.

The camera weighs 813g, which is 80g heavier than Leica’s 28 mm Q2.

The camera is now available on pre-order from B&H in the USA for a price of $6,000. At the moment we have no news on a UK price or availability.

It will be interesting to see what level of success this camera achieves. Shortly after its announcement in 2018, I had a chat with Leica’s Stefan Daniel about the Zeiss. He explained that Leica preferred not to include too much in-camera processing options—such as the Zeiss’s Lightroom—because the electronics could become outdated well before the camera itself. Stefan felt then that most photographers would prefer to keep the photography and the processing separate.

The Zeiss ZX1 is clearly aimed at those who are used to a smartphone, which offers post-capture editing. Presumably, the company has identified a market. I remain unconvinced and, so far, prefer Leica’s approach. However, I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise. Who knows, Zeiss could be banging at an open door? Let’s hope, however, that we don’t end up with a white elephant.

What do you think? Will you be pre-ordering a Zeiss ZX1?

See this announcement at The Verge


    • I imagine that purchasers of the ZX1 will get a limited version of Lightroom CC and I would not be at all surprised if it doesn’t attract a subscription after an initial period of grace. Much of the camera’s success will also depend on how easy it is to upgrade the software. Indeed, how long would Adobe wish to continue support for a camera as it becomes out of date. There are all unanswered questions which will have a bearing on the success or otherwise of the Zeiss.

  1. I’ve been a zeiss user but I’m afraid that just like the Q2, I can’t afford the camera. I think the lens will be stellar and matched to the sensor but there are in my opinion a few shortcomings.
    Why doesn’t the camera have an in-body stabilization (37Mp)? ( the Q2 does and the 35mm crop is 30 Mp, very little difference interms of details)
    Why is it not weather sealed? (the Q2 is)
    Will future users process their images directly on the backscreen? (is it that precise to process your images on a camera screen?) Ricoh offers that possibility but I’ve never used it and far prefer my computer screen. Dave has already pointed that out in his comment.
    The camera seems to be more in tune with a computing exercise and they may pass it with flying colours but is the investment worth and do we need all that technology?

  2. Inseminated? Really Mike! They can do that with cameras now?
    I just can’t keep up with the techno-terminology.

  3. I was quite enthusiastic about the concept when it first emerged around twenty three years ago.

    My main reason was that I like Zeiss lenses, but then I bought a Zeiss design for my M-D to go along with my Summicrons.

    The thing that I didn’t like was the idea of having to abandon my favourite developing software (Iridient Developer) for the bloat that Zeiss were hardwiring into the ZX1. I can’t stand Lightroom, and like it even less, now that it is subscriptiion based.

    • Same here. I use Iridient Developer as well and after Affinity Photo started supporting Silver Efex Pro I got rid of my (older version of) Photoshop as well. I have absolutely no desire to ever go back to Adobe…

  4. Well, I don’t know. I have a SL2 and a recently acquired Q2. It’s been an adjustment to not be able to reach for a different lens, but also liberating to just walk out the door with one widget!
    My son had this bizarre tomato in his garden that looked all the world like a psychotic carved pumpkin. The better half insisted I take pictures. I grabbed the Q2. So far, so good. The macro function on the Q2 is really a pleasure to use.
    Pictures taken, the aforementioned better half wanted to see them now- and wanted them sent to her iPad for immediate disbursement (I surmise). As I removed the Q2 faux leather case, pulled out the SD card, and headed for the nearest laptop (with Capture One on it) and began the import process, she became impatient. I said I have to ‘fix’ them. She said she didn’t care, just push the ‘share’ icon at the top. I patiently explained there was no ‘share’ icon and that I wasn’t that far yet. She stormed off thinking I was just giving her a hard time.
    Sure, I thought of using Leica Fotos, but then there’s that image size (80+ MB) traded off against battery life. Nah, SD card and CO it was.
    Then I saw the ZX1 release.
    Maybe Zeiss is onto something there…

  5. Great idea at conception, video German lady repoter, now a day late and dollar short and probably surpassed, I would buy a used MF X1d and short 45 mm still come out ahead!

  6. Hit and miss for me. I like the idea of a fixed lens compact and prefer 35mm to 28mm, and would even prefer 40mm or 45mm as ideal, just like old fixed-lens rangefinders of the film days.

    At $6000 I believe it will not sell. At $4000 or so it might, if they raise the viewfinder spec and sensor spec to match the Leica Q2.

    As for the in-camera LR, that’s definitely not for me, but I can see others embracing it. I do love the idea of 512GB storage especially if it also has an SD slot and is weather sealed then this would be the ultimate travel camera, with a built in backup on the camera’s SSD in case a card fails.

  7. If this had an up to date sensor and EVF, and cost ~$3000, I’d be interested. The RX1 was an amazing camera in its day, and there’s no excuse for this Zeiss not to be even better.

  8. It is inevitable that the Zx1 will be at a price that I simply cannot afford. I certainly like the idea of it though. And I’d argue that it actually takes the fixed-lens design ethos to it’s ultimate conclusion in a digital age – complete and total independence from all extraneous equipment.

    It is, of course, going to be a highly niche product. But if that lens is as distinctly “zeiss” as I suspect it will be then in a theoretical world where a mysterious Kenyan benefactor leaves me untold millions – and they keep sending me emails suggesting they will do just this – I would probably buy this over the 28mm equiped Q2. Even if it’s just to be different…..

    • I must confess Jason, I have a slew of these emails, and have often pondered what jewels they may bestow upon me – I would still head in the direction of the Q, and not the Zeiss, I like the idea of processing in body, but I like to see my images up close and personal on my Macbook – when it isnt stuttering. Old Molly the Macbook Pro needs to do another year or so until Apple move their processors the next evolution. Unless my Kenyan benefactor leaves me enough to make both my Q and Macbook disposable income.

  9. Dear Mike, I will not buy this camera: it is too expensive, a fixed prime option is limiting, and 37 MB full frame is overkill for me. However, I think that it is a very exciting concept as a travel camera. My idea is that something like the Sony rx100 (whatever model) or Panasonic lx100 with image editing capability, Android and wifi would be a winner.

    • We will have to wait and see. I’m inclined to agree with Brian’s verdict and I will be surprised if the Zeiss sells well. I am actually a fan of fixed focal length cameras and, for me, the Leica Q2 is near perfect. I never got on with the RX1, on the other hand. I suspect, too, that all these computational aids would overload a small cameras such as the RX100. For one thing, to really get benefit you would need a big screen similar to that on the Zeiss.

  10. BTW, the price tag of $6K was on the B&H website but has since been removed. Rather confusing to say the least…


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