The Zeiss ZX1 with On-Board Lightroom: Ingenious evolution or newfangled idiot box?

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I think it was William Shakespeare who first penned the immortal words “Is this shit for real?” That’s how I felt last night after reading a preview press release for the new camera concept coming from the good folks over at Zeiss. No doubt the very mention of the Zeiss eponym carries an immense measure of photographic street cred with their lenses being counted among some of the worlds best and most sought after glass. So, knowing this, it makes the announcement of Zeiss ZX1 extremely interesting in terms of pure morbidity. The notion that we could be very well be looking down the barrel of the first rising wave of what could be the future of digital camera tech. This little nugget here is the Zeiss ZX1:

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At first blush it appears to be the weird mating of a Hasselblad X1D-50c and a Sigma Quattro and to me it looks sexy as hell. Clean, nearly sterile external body with a utilitarian simplicity of design which I adore. It’s packing heat with a 37.4 megapixel full frame sensor, a fixed Zeiss Distagon 35mm F/2 lens, a 512GB SSD internal memory in lieu of a card and yeah…Lightroom built right into the foundations of the camera. And that’s just the window dressing. Allow me to lay out some of the other beckoning features Zeiss has thrown into the boat:

  • Leaf shutter(Zeiss reports as near silent) capable of 30sec-1/8000sec
  • Android based interface
  • Full HD OLED EVF
  • 80-51200 ISO range…yes you read that right
  • 255 AF points
  • RAW(DNG)/JPEG shooting modes with 4k MP4 at 30fps
  • Leather lined cup holders with mahogany trim
  • Wifi and Blu-Tooth connectivity(of course)
  • Flash hot shoe 

It’s as if the very nature of the camera is, well, perfect. Think about it. Zeiss has seemingly done what a few other makers have attempted to do: fuse our inherent familiarity of smart phones with the imaging capabilities of a legitimate full-frame camera platform. That sensor, the ditching of memory cards for a whopping 512GB of internal storage, a fast and likely crystal clear normal prime lens(albeit fixed) and of course…OF COURSE gifted us the power of on the spot post processing with Lightroom right inside the camera. It all just looks so tasty and fun and beautiful; and that’s what bothers me some how. 

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Maybe I’m jaded from wading through the mires of the photographic landscape for all these years. Maybe it’s simply because we’ve all been burned so many times by big talk from camera manufactures who promise incredible innovation(looking at you Canon) with bright and happy new systems only to receive a watered down cup of Kool-Aid…with no ice.  I hope…I pray…I remain optimistic that the ZX1 will be the catalyst for a new Renaissance not only in camera design, but in the way we think about what we want in our cameras.

As a man who remains hip-dip in Adobe Lightroom, I can’t help but cautiously stand as nothing short of giddy to think about some of the presets I’ve made being available right at the fingertips of so many people, and in a Zeiss camera no less. That being said, I just don’t know. I just don’t know if the ZX1(or other like it) will be the flagship camera of a new pro-minded generation or just another pricey addition of picture making oddities that will sit on the shelf alongside other well intentioned flops. And speaking of price, it’s rumored that this bad boy will set you back somewhere along the lines of $4,000US give or take. Yeah, steep but not unheard of as far as cameras go. Thirteen years ago when the Canon 5D MK1 appeared the going price was about $3,300US and I believe that was body-only but I could be wrong. 

Time is going to be what ultimately decides the impact of the ZX1. I, for one, am excited to see what fate has in store. 

Get more of the skinny on the Zeiss ZX1 at the official webpage.

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