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Zeiss ZX1 Debuts With Full-Frame Sensor, Fixed Lens | News & Opinion

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Photokina’s media preview day was rife with camera and lens news, so Zeiss waited several days to make its big announcement for the show. At an event in Cologne earlier today it announced the ZX1, its first camera release since the discontinued 35mm Ikon rangefinder, and its first digital camera.

The ZX1 certainly breaks the standard design mold, mostly due to its handgrip. Its front has a triangular shape, but with rounded edges, while the rear angles slightly back. I haven’t had a chance to pick up and hold the ZX1 as of yet, but it looks like it should conform quite well to the shape of your hand.

The body features a matte black finish, with clean lines and bright yellow text marking control settings. There aren’t a ton of dials or switches on the body itself. The AF/MF switch is built into the fixed lens, along with a physical aperture ring and a rubberized manual focus ring, similar to what we’ve seen in the manual focus Zeiss Otus and Milvus lens series.

On the top you’ll find a hot shoe, shutter speed and ISO control dials, and the shutter release. On the rear? A big, 4.3-inch touch screen, a single button (presumably to toggle the eye sensor), and an EVF with diopter adjustment. The EVF sports a 0.74x magnification.

The large screen is there to help photographers edit and share images in the field. Images are stored internally—the camera sports 512GB of internal memory. Zeiss hasn’t yet published full specifications, so it’s unclear if there’s also a memory card slot, but you aren’t likely to be left wanting for extra space with that much internal memory. It’s enough to hold 6,800 Raw images and up to 50,000 photos in JPG format.

Zeiss ZX1

Wireless connectivity is included, both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and there is a USB-C port for physical data transfer. Firmware updates will be performed over Wi-Fi, and the camera includes a customized version of Adobe Lightroom CC built in, so you can edit photos right on the phone’s screen, just as you would with your Android device or iPhone using Lightroom Mobile. Additionally, the camera will be able to transfer images to the internet without having to first copy to your phone, provided it is connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The image sensor is a new design, a 37.4MP full-frame chip tuned to work in conjunction with the fixed 35mm f/2 Distagon lens. Zeiss says it has designed the sensor, but doesn’t say who makes it. I’ll speculate that it’s most likely Sony, given the collaborative history between the two companies and Sony’s extensive sensor business.

The camera supports Raw capture in the Adobe DNG format, along with JPG, for images. Video is included too, at UHD 4K resolution at 30fps, or 1080p at up to 60fps. There’s no mention of optical or digital stabilization, so we’ll have to wait and see how stable handheld video looks.

There are a lot of question marks about the camera. How is the funky grip actually going to feel in the hand? How good is the lens? And how much will it cost? We’ll know closer to its ship date, which is targeted for some time in 2019.

I am intrigued by some of the features. The internal memory is a boon—it’s something I’d like to see added to more cameras, not as the only storage option, but to supplement the memory card slot. Pros hesitant to jump to recent single-slot models like the Nikon Z 7 and izffarticle id=”363530″Canon EOS R—turned off by the lack of memory redundancy—would have their concerns ameliorated by a fast card slot coupled by ample internal memory.

Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF

The big-screen touch interface and integrated editing tools remind me of another promising, but ultimately flawed, camera, the Samsung Galaxy NX. Samsung’s attempt at a premium, connected camera was confounding. It had every tool a social media maven would want, including the ability to load Instagram and post directly from the camera itself. But I, along with other serious shutterbugs, was turned off by the design. Its huge touch screen was great, but where were the physical controls?

Zeiss seems to have gotten that right with the ZX1. No, you won’t have a button to change the metering pattern, drive mode, or EV compensation, but the three legs of the exposure triangle—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—are all accessible via physical dials. I’d love to have seen one more software-configurable dial on the body, but I’m willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt. I’m intrigued to see how the touch interface works to supplement physical controls.

In addition to the ZX1, Zeiss also announced a new lens for the Sony FE mirrorless system. The Batis 2/40 CF is a full-frame, 40mm f/2 prime lens with 9.5 inches (24cm) for 1:3.3 macro magnfiication. As part of the Batis family it supports autofocus.

It will go on sale in November and is priced at $1,299 in the US.

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