Studio product images by Dan Bracaglia

The Zeiss ZX1 is the first-ever digital digicam to come back with Adobe Lightroom Cell built-in, encouraging you to shoot, edit and add photographs from a single machine. It has a 37.4MP full-frame sensor, a hard and fast 35mm F2 lens and the most important display screen we have ever seen on a contemporary digital digicam at 4.34″ (11cm) diagonal.

It is also a digicam that I questioned if I would ever see; it was introduced approach again in 2018, and there was a stretch of greater than a yr and a half the place we heard no information and revealed no developments on it. Some cried ‘vaporware,’ and we would nearly given up hope till we obtained a cheery e-mail that one was out there, asking if we wished to attempt it out. Uh, sure please! Right here it’s.

Look out, world, the Zeiss ZX1 has landed.
Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 100 | 1/683 sec | F2

Key specs:

  • 37.4MP full-frame sensor
  • Fastened 35mm F2 lens with Zeiss T* coatings
  • 4.3″ ‘angled’ LCD with 2.76M dots
  • 0.74x magnification digital viewfinder with 6.22M dots
  • Most shutter pace of 1/2000 sec (flash sync as much as 1/1000 sec)
  • Distinction and phase-detection AF
  • Three fps max burst pace
  • 4K/30p, 1080/60p video seize
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 512GB inner SSD, exterior storage utilizing USB-C
  • Single USB-C port, supporting USB Energy Supply and HDMI alt mode

Along with having Lightroom put in, the ZX1 is unconventional in that it consists of an particularly minimal set of bodily controls – ostensibly, to encourage a ‘back-to-basics’ approach of capturing – whereas additionally requiring you to make use of that large touchscreen in a approach that you just need not on most different high-end cameras.

So, how nicely does ‘back-to-basics’ work when mixed with a contemporary, smartphone-esque interface? Learn on to search out out. (Or you possibly can, after all, simply skip to our impressions).

The Zeiss ZX1 is on the market now at a steered value of $6,000 USD.

What’s new and the way the Zeiss ZX1 compares

That fancy angle on the display screen truly separates a slate of controls from the primary display screen in dwell view and playback.

The ZX1 is not the primary try we have seen at marrying a sensible machine with extra conventional digicam {hardware}. The likes of the Panasonic DMC-CM1 and Samsung Galaxy NX each benefitted from higher sensor and/or lens expertise than smartphones of the time in addition to Uncooked picture processing, however at present’s telephones use computational methods that can have largely closed the picture high quality hole with these gadgets.

So Zeiss wanted to do one thing a bit totally different; as a substitute of being principally a telephone that has some further digicam bits on it, the ZX1 is probably finest regarded as a digicam with some telephone bits inbuilt (like one other old-timer, the Nikon S800c).

On the coronary heart of the digicam is a 37.4MP full-frame sensor we have not seen earlier than. Formal testing continues to be to come back, however up to now we have discovered that the sensor provides nice decision, however maybe not essentially the most versatile Uncooked recordsdata. The 35mm F2 lens provides spectacular sharpness and pleasing out-of-focus areas.

We’ve not absolutely examined the ZX1 but, however up to now, we’re fairly taken with its 35mm F2 lens.

The 4.3″ touchscreen is among the many largest we have seen on a digital digicam, and is a pleasant solution to body up your photographs (identical goes with the high-res viewfinder). The snazzy angle/curve on the display screen is not only for present; it usefully separates the primary display screen from the touch-controls that you’re going to be working together with your proper thumb whereas capturing or in playback.

The inclusion of Adobe Lightroom Cell is an fascinating transfer. To make use of it, you need to register with an Adobe account. I discovered I used to be in a position to edit Uncooked recordsdata with an Adobe account that wasn’t at the moment subscribed to Inventive Cloud, however there was an ever-present warning reminding me that except I subscribed, I would not be capable of edit Uncooked recordsdata. It is a bit complicated.

Replace as of 12/11/20: Zeiss has confirmed that, even with out a paid Adobe account, you’ll be able to use Lightroom Cell on the ZX1 to do primary modifying and changes. You will not be capable of use so-called ‘premium options’ (denoted by the blue stars on the icons within the picture beneath), however this could set many customers’ minds comfy in that the overwhelming majority of changes you might need to reap the benefits of can be found subscription-free.

Lightroom Cell on the ZX1 could be very acquainted for anybody who’s used it on one other sensible machine. The yellow warning image on the highest seems to be a glitch from this early manufacturing digicam; Zeiss says customers can do primary modifying on the ZX1 while not having a paid subscription in any respect.

Many different cameras additionally permit for in-camera modifying of Uncooked and JPEG recordsdata, however to not the diploma nor with the polished interface supplied by Lightroom. Since there’s quite a bit to delve into, we’ll go into extra depth on how the modifying and sharing course of works on the ZX1 afterward within the overview.

In comparison with…

The Zeiss ZX1 joins a comparatively small membership of large-sensor, fixed-lens compact cameras, however all of them differ enormously when it comes to measurement, functionality, controls, and extra. All the different cameras require better reliance on bodily controls and much much less on their touchscreens than the ZX1 (and the Sony has no touchscreen in any respect). The ZX1 is the most important digicam right here by a wider margin than you may guess from the official product photographs.

Zeiss ZX1 Leica Q2 Sony RX1R II Fujifilm X100V
(at launch)
$6000 $4995 $3299* $1399
Sensor 37MP full-frame 47M full-frame

42MP full-frame

Lens 35mm F2 28mm F1.7 35mm F2 23mm F2 (equiv. to 35mm area of view)
Viewfinder decision 6.22M dots 3.68M dots 2.36M dots 3.69M dots + optical
LCD 4.34″ fastened;
2.76M dots
3″ fastened;
1.04M dots
3″ tilting;
1.23M dots
3″ tilting;
1.62M dots
Contact-screen Sure Sure No Sure
Constructed-in flash No No No Sure
Climate-sealing No Sure, IP52 rated No Sure*
Max. burst Three fps 20 fps 5 fps 20 fps (elec. shutter)
Max. shutter, mech | digital 1/2000 | N/A 1/4000 | N/A 1/2000 | N/A 1/4000 | 1/32000
Wi-fi connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi + NFC 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth
Video 4K/30p, 1080/60p 4K/30p, 1080/120p 1080/60p 4K/30p, 1080/120p
Battery life (CIPA) Not rated 350 photographs 220 photographs 420 photographs
Dimensions 142 x 93 x 46 mm 130 x 80 x 92 mm 113 x 65 x 72 mm 128 x 75 x 53 mm
Weight 800 g 734 g 507 g 478 g

*X100V comes with claims of climate sealing when the AR-X100 adapter ring and a 49mm filter are hooked up to the lens.

One different digicam to contemplate right here is Ricoh’s GR III. It is an extremely compact and comparatively inexpensive digicam with an APS-C sensor just like the X100V however with a 28mm (equal) F2.eight lens, so it has the identical area of view because the Leica Q2. It additionally depends closely on bodily controls, could be very customizable and has in-body picture stabilization.

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Physique, controls and dealing with

I do want that ISO dial was a generic management dial or an publicity compensation dial. As a result of I simply depart it on ‘A’ myself.

The Zeiss ZX1 has a minimalist design; there are a complete of solely seven bodily management factors. The fundamentals embrace an aperture ring, shutter pace dial and ISO dial. Aside from that, there is a guide focus ring, an AF/MF change on the lens, the on/off/sleep/video mode toggle, and a customizable button on the rear of the digicam. Does not get a lot less complicated than that.

The grip is supremely snug, and whilst you’re capturing, there’s an array of controls operating down the portion of the display screen to the suitable of the angle/curve. These embrace publicity compensation, drive modes, white stability, and so forth. You faucet these tabs after which drag a slider up and down to regulate it, and whereas this may be achieved together with your eye to the finder, it may be troublesome to be exact together with your changes.

The ZX1’s contact controls on the righthand facet of the display screen embrace publicity compensation, drive mode, white stability, metering, an AF contact pad, AF space measurement, AF-S or AF-C, the place you need your recordsdata saved, and ‘helpers’ just like the grid strains and histogram.

And admittedly, we would take an publicity compensation dial over an ISO dial since we have a tendency to make use of Auto ISO nearly all the time, and use publicity compensation to regulate picture brightness as crucial. Alas, you are caught utilizing the touchscreen for that, or making use of ‘publicity lock’ on the customized button. However when reaching for that button, it is too straightforward to swipe the Publicity Comp contact management and unintentionally dial it as much as +3; it is annoying.

Extra positively, the general touchscreen interface is fairly responsive. From dwell view / capturing mode, swipe up for settings and swipe right down to go to playback, after which down once more to go to the digicam’s Android house display screen (on the time of this writing, you can’t obtain extra apps).

The rubberized guide focus ring is sweet and easy, and the aperture ring strikes in 1/3-stop detents as you flip it.

On the subject of the Android OS, you will not need to be powering down and powering up the digicam on a regular basis, as the method takes 10-20 seconds identical to a smartphone. However as soon as powered on, a flick of the facility toggle will put the digicam into sleep mode, identical to ‘locking’ your telephone. One other flick and the digicam is again and able to shoot in lower than a second, and for those who hold the digicam ‘locked’ between photographs, a full day of capturing on a single cost is straightforward.

In case you’re achieved for the day, it is best to completely shut the ZX1 down as sleep mode does devour battery energy if left alone for hours. You may also set the digicam to completely shut down after a specified time period asleep.

With the ZX1, it is best to get used to placing it to sleep once you’re not about to make use of it – identical to a smartphone.

When it comes to storage, energy and ports, the ZX1 comes with a built-in 512GB SSD (although a few of that’s taken up by the working system) and a replaceable battery pack with 22.9Wh of juice (Zeiss would not give CIPA rankings, and it would be exhausting for them to make sense of a half-camera, half-phone kind of product anyway). When it comes to ports, you solely get a USB type-C connector that helps USB 3.2 speeds. It is good for charging the digicam, transferring recordsdata to your pc or to an SSD, or adapting to an HDMI output sign.

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Modifying on, and sharing from the ZX1

Identical Lightroom, totally different platform; as you’d anticipate, the ZX1 produces an identical outcomes to what you’d get on a desktop machine. You may see and obtain the unedited JPEG and DNG file right here.

Lightroom serves as the one approach (on the time of this writing) to actually fine-tune your output on the ZX1. Most different producers supply coloration profiles, or the power to tweak JPEG output when it comes to sharpening, tone curve, and so forth. On the ZX1, you haven’t any such choices; you need to pull a file into Lightroom to make any tweaks in any respect. The tradeoff for the additional effort is, after all, the diploma to which Lightroom means that you can make edits.

The Lightroom modifying expertise is pretty responsive and isn’t any totally different than the Lightroom cell expertise on Android or iOS. We’ll say although that exporting edited DNGs took anyplace from 30-50% longer on the ZX1 than a Pixel 3a smartphone (a midrange 2019 mannequin that is not particularly highly effective or costly), with the identical file and an identical changes.

Whereas it is good to have the pliability of Lightroom on the ZX1, you do not all the time want it. I wasn’t all the time blown away by the ZX1’s JPEGs, however I believed this one was good, shiny and contrasty, and the white stability nailed the nice and cozy sundown mild.
Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 100 | 1/242 sec | F8

When it comes time to share your photographs, you need to first dive into the digicam’s settings, connecting to a Wi-Fi sign and log in to Fb or cloud providers Flickr, DropBox or OneDrive. As soon as you have achieved that, you possibly can share them immediately from the digicam’s playback mode. Testing with a OneDrive account, solely a few faucets had been required, and the digicam created a ‘ZX1’ folder and uploaded a full DNG file with no hiccups.

It’s possible you’ll discover that you just’re having to log in to related accounts somewhere else, although, which is a bit bit complicated. You can share on to Instagram from playback, however it’s important to log in from the playback display screen; there is no choice to log into Instagram from the primary menus the place you possibly can log in to a Fb account.

Logging into an account is not all the time essentially the most streamlined affair.

There’s additionally the choice to share immediately from Lightroom Cell, however the app itself handles all of these logins, so that you’d must arrange your accounts there, too. In different phrases, login settings you have entered within the digicam’s menus aren’t carried over into Lightroom mechanically. If you wish to add immediately from the Lightroom app as a substitute of the playback display screen, you are able to do so within the background if you would like to renew taking photographs.

After you have gone by way of a number of rounds of logging-in, although, importing photographs to quite a lot of providers is fairly simple, and except you are switching accounts, you will not must log in once more.

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The query we began out with was, “how nicely does ‘back-to-basics’ work when mixed with a contemporary, smartphone-esque interface?'”

Because it seems, pretty nicely. The Zeiss ZX1 would not come off as if it is having an id disaster, nor as an digital gadget with novelty that begins to put on off on the packaging you take away it from. It comes off, merely, as a digicam – albeit one which has its fair proportion of quirks – however up to now the ZX1’s enjoyable issue has outweighed the frustration issue. However solely simply.

The direct dials and massive shows go a good distance in direction of permitting you to simply concentrate on photographing what’s in entrance of you. It is a digicam that’s fairly well-suited to being your every day photographic companion, capturing the ins and outs of every day life and permitting you to share these moments from wherever you occur to be.

This was certainly one of my favourite photographs from a fast yard photograph shoot, however even with the AF space over my topic’s face, the picture ended up barely back-focused 🤬 That bokeh, although…
Faucet or click on by way of for the total picture.
Adjusted in Digital camera Uncooked 13 | ISO 100 | 1/271 sec | F2

However the quirks do irk. The ZX1’s autofocus system is, to place it kindly, primary. There is not any topic monitoring nor face detection, and I ended up with extra mis-focused photographs of static topics than I am used to on trendy cameras. (I would not even attempt to {photograph} animated kids or pets with the ZX1.) Additionally, that ISO dial ought to actually be an publicity compensation dial or at the very least a multi-purpose dial with publicity compensation as an possibility: utilizing the touchscreen takes my focus away from my picture as I attempt to dial in +2/Three EV as a substitute of +1 2/Three EV.

After which there’s the ZX1’s raison d’être; the inclusion of Lightroom Cell. Fortunately, you do not want an Adobe subscription to make use of the digicam and even make many of the edits you may need to, in-camera. On the draw back, the Lightroom export course of is mostly slower than a midrange Android telephone, and its integration with the primary digicam’s settings might be improved.

This photograph might be many issues. An actual-estate firm’s annual report cowl? A weary traveler’s reminder of a neighborhood? Just a few digicam reviewer’s bizarre tackle Pioneer Sq. in Seattle? You resolve.
Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 100 | 1/304 sec | F5.6

Total, I am glad the Zeiss ZX1 exists. It is refreshing to see a producer do one thing actually totally different from the competitors. The design is placing, and there are in all probability well-off photographers on the market who need as easy a capturing expertise as potential, however nonetheless need to have the ability to fine-tune their photographs in put up. It is an fascinating proposition for world vacationers as nicely (as soon as such issues are possible once more). For these of us, the ZX1 means you get the whole lot you want in a single machine.

However what of the remainder of us? In any case, it is a $6000 digicam, or absolutely one thousand {dollars} greater than the already premium-priced Leica Q2. That buys numerous gear, plus, frankly, numerous smartphone. So talking personally, I am leaning in direction of sticking with the smartphone in my pocket and a ‘dumb’ digicam round my neck… for now.

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Picture high quality

Our take a look at scene is designed to simulate quite a lot of textures, colours and element varieties you may encounter in the true world. It additionally has two illumination modes to see the impact of various lighting circumstances.

Instantly, we will see that the sensor / lens mixture on the ZX1 turns in gobs of element in every single place you look. It is spectacular whilst you get out in direction of the perimeters of the scene. The value you pay for this degree of sharpness comes when it comes to moiré patterning. At larger ISO values, we begin to see the ZX1’s sensor fall behind the competitors when it comes to noise (and a few occasional ‘banding’ patterns).

JPEG high quality is fairly strong, however the white stability was a problem. After a number of makes an attempt, this was the most effective white stability we may get the customized white stability perform to present. And, because the digicam lacks the choice to manually regulate the inexperienced/magenta ‘tint’ axis, we had no approach of bettering on it. This is not a problem for those who course of the DNGs in-camera, after all, as Lightroom offers far more refined correction instruments.

Instantly, we will see that the JPEG engine is failing to carry on to all the high-quality element that we see in Uncooked, wanting a bit ‘fuzzier’ than the Q2. We are able to even see this as we get into the corners, the place the ZX1 has a definite benefit in Uncooked. Regardless of the white stability woes, JPEG coloration seems fairly pleasing, with punchy reds and blues, heat greens (which we want) and good shiny yellows. At larger ISO values, the ZX1 leaves behind extra luminance noise (grain) than its friends, however does a fairly good job of holding onto element. Even with low-contrast element, the ZX1 seems fairly good.

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Pattern gallery

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