Camera brands are routinely focused on specs to sell new cameras, launching new products at an abnormal rate as they compete with their rivals for the highest megapixel, EVF resolution, fps, high ISO, whatever, you name it. Can’t really blame them as their business is to sell cameras, right? The problem is you seldom see innovation in this spec race scenario.
Yet every now and then you do have innovative products, never mind if they end up successful or not. Some concepts are oddball and so extreme that you kinda foresee they will not survive – like the Lytro which was perhaps too far ahead of its time (?) – while others actually make you stop, scratch your head and thing about it for a while. Stuff like the Sigma Quattros, the Ricoh GXR (remember that one?) or the Samsung Galaxy NX.
The Zeiss ZX1 announced in September on Photokina 2018 is certainly in this last group, but probably more on the safe side, say innovative within acceptable limits.
A couple of days ago, Zeiss launched an official hands-on video of the ZX1 featuring professional photojournalist Sabrina Weniger who shows a quick walk-through of the camera.
You can check the video here if you want to know what this camera is all about.
Innovation within acceptable limits?
Yes. Let’s focus on the essential photo specs first. The Zeiss ZX1 is a fixed lens camera with a full frame 37.4 megapixel sensor. It’s got a 35mm f/2 lens. Being Zeiss, I can only assume the lens is excellent.
Then you have an EVF, external shutter speed and ISO controls, plus an aperture ring. Everything a photographer needs packed in a sexy, sleek and no-nonsense matte black body, approximately the size of a Leica Q.
Now, let’s stop here before we dive into the innovation stuff.
As a photo camera, what’s not to like? I mean, these specs seem pretty solid to me. Obviously at this stage we are still not sure about the ultimate performance and price of the Zeiss ZX1.
But putting this aside now, this is a camera I would seriously consider buying for myself if I did not already own the wonderful Sony RX1R II which, coincidentally, is very similar spec-wise, with its Zeiss 35mm f/2 fixed lens and a full frame sensor. In fact, I enjoy my RX1R II so much that I made my own detailed review here.
So what’s new? Well, the Zeiss ZX1 has got its own 512 GB internal storage and comes with Adobe Lightroom CC integrated in the camera, meaning that you can edit your photos in-camera by using its large 4.3″ multi-touch screen and upload them directly through wi-fi.
Simply speaking, Zeiss expects you to shoot, edit and share your photos without using a computer or whatever external device you would normally use for the purpose.
Scratching my head
This is the part that makes me stop and scratch my head. First of all, the concept per se is interesting as nowadays you read a lot of stuff about workflow, like what kind of software a photographer uses in post-processing after the photo is taken out of the camera and before it becomes a final product.
Personally I’m totally not interested in workflow discussions, as what I enjoy in photography is pressing the shutter button and getting the photo. I tend not to do any post-processing, probably just some cropping or minor adjustments. It’s just the way I am as I don’t enjoy the time spent in front of the computer tweaking and adjusting an image.
Hence I consider the concept behind the Zeiss ZX1 pretty interesting because it introduces something new by telling you not to depend on a computer to edit and share your photos.
But who is this camera for?
I wonder what’s the audience of the Zeiss ZX1. I expect this camera not to be cheap, so unless you are a pro photographer or a serious enthusiast who knows enough to appreciate the quality of its lens and full-frame combo, I don’t see any other consumer willing to pay a premium for this.
But then if the Zeiss ZX1 is targeted for pros and serious enthusiasts… What kind of photographer would prefer to edit photos by using a small screen in the camera, as opposed to working on a computer?
Perhaps a photojournalist on location who needs to upload the photo asap to a news agency?
I don’t know and I’m not questioning the concept, just wondering. Since nowadays any decent level camera will offer you wi-fi, you can easily have your images transferred to an external portable device with a better screen and better control – iPad, a laptop, whatever – and edit / share on the run anyway.
So what is Zeiss thinking that I’m missing? Are they thinking this is the future of digital photography, that the way forward is not to depend on computers?
The way I see it
I guess you either like the concept or you just ignore it as it’s irrelevant. Why?
Because if you don’t care about editing your photos with the integrated Adobe Lightroom CC or uploading through the camera, you can always use this camera as a normal camera and enjoy it as it is.
And you certainly will enjoy it because, as stated above, spec-wise the Zeiss ZX1 is very solid.
I’m still scratching my head though.