#773. The more the merrier at Photokina, or, in this case, der weirder, der better!

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Oct 01

Once upon a time, there was only one manufacturer of FF mirrorless. Sony. Or rather, there were two, but the other one, Leica, was so different that competition was not that strong between the two.

(c) Leica


Sony made great strides at the expense of Canon and Nikon with its FF mirrorless, so everyone felt they had to jump into this one growing segment of a falling market.


(c) Canon


The obvious newcomers were Canon and Nikon. Canon did the very minimum, repackaging its aging 5D IV in to a single EOS R. No IBIS. Not much ooomph to their thrust. Nikon did more: 2 cameras, Z7 and Z6, using the best bits from their DSLR range, and then sometimes more, with IBIS. Those cameras were expected.


(c) CameraLabs


Quite unexpected was Panasonic, announcing a couple of very well-endowed FF mirrorless cameras but only for 2019. That they formed a 3-way partnership with Leica and Sigma around the Leica SL mount, or L mount doesn’t seem to me to offer that much potential, because who would put Pana lenses on a Leica SL body, or SL lenses on a Pana body? As to Sigma, this is an opportunity for them to announce an also unexpected FF Foveon camera and to drop their own unloved mount in favour of the L mount.


(c) Dpreview


Now, after the merely unexpected, we get to the weird stuff. Weird as in bad weird. Or good weird. Or just weird weird.



(c) Leica Rumors


Zenit, a hallowed name from Soviet times announced a “new” rangefinder camera (FF mirrorless of course, what else?) in partnership with Leica. Except it is a rebadged Typ M240, an already superseded camera, kitted with a Russian designed 35mm f:1.0 lens! And basically sold at Leica used prices, which, for aging electronics, is hardly compelling.


(c) Leica Rumors / Pixii


If that isn’t weird enough, how about this? The Pixii. A two-person team attempting to bring a new rangefinder to the market. Very little information, except that it is “back to basics” and uses a smartphone to control it.

But the last one shows that weird doesn’t have to mean bad. Not at all. Enter the Zeiss ZX 1. Already, for Zeiss to get back into the camera business when they stated multiple that there was no way they would do this…

But the specs and look are definitely unique. A fixed-lens (35mm f:2.0) on a very design-intensive (and by no means small) Batcamera, with a 37Mp “Zeiss-designed” sensor. No-one knows who makes it, but it stands to reason that the electronics are Sony based in light of the fact that (a) Zeiss have no business in digital cameras, and (b) they have a strong relationship with Sony. That the ZX1 looks a little bit like a Sigma Quattro on steroids could suggest a Sigma involvement, except that Sigma just joined Leica in supporting the L mount, and that partnering with one pretty much excludes the other IMHO…


(c) Zeiss


The uniqueness however is in the ZX1 incorporating both 512Gb (yes!) of memory, and a cloud-based version of LightRoom CC. Meaning you can (that is actually what Zeiss say) shoot… edit…. share…. No need to download from a memory card (no slot!), or sit for hours in front of a computer, since you can shoot, edit right there and then on the LCD screen thanks to LightRoom, and post straight to wherever (social media, DropBox, DearSusan, especially DearSusan…).


(c) Imaging Ressource / Zeiss


Now the ZX1 won’t ship until 2019. There are so many things that could be and/or go wrong with it. But it is also THE new-and-interesting product of Photokina 2018. Canon, Nikon, Panasonic are just more or less slavishly trying to invade Sony’s turf, like a horde of thundering clones. Zenit seems to be a true partner-in-bizarreness of Leica. Pixii is not even enough to go to KickStarter.

But the ZX1 could change the way things are done. Emulating the practicality of the smartphone with top-notch IQ. Definitely not for everyone. Even at DearSusan, while some are pining for it and crossing fingers that Zeiss have “done it right”, others are very vocal in their derision of it. While the many are rushing to FF mirrorless to escape the onslaught of the smartphone, Zeiss have actually had the “stones” to go out and be different. In this instance, take the best of the smartphone, and graft it on a best-from-the-toolbox. I don’t know whether it will work. Even less whether it will work well. And I am not sure I want one, because I am not an instant-posting junkie. But I know one thing: I very, very much want it to be successful.


(c) Les Numeriques


So I don’t profess to know what the future holds for the ZX1. But I know a landmark camera when I see one.

Oh, and before you start carping on my missing an important camera, Fuji announced a GFX 50R, a compact version of hteir GFX 50S, at a price close to high-end FF mirrorless, even it has a mini-MF sensor; And Fuji, astutely, instead of calling it “mini-MF”, call it “super FF”. This shows how hot this segment is…


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “Weird” seems highly appropriate. Much as I love Zeiss glass, I can’t think of a single reason why I would even consider their contribution. Most of the rest of it reeks of unbridled envy, “me me me” stuff that I find nauseating – and the result is too many brats squabbling over who’d allowed to play. Some of the reviews are highly flattering – OK, that’s cool, that matches the higher prices being asked for these new toys.

    And yes they CAN do things that my gear can’t. But do I care? Not really.

    When they launched the D850, my reaction was there’s not much in it that I can’t do now – the main thing was a tilt screen, and even that’s rather limited in its range of movement – so I decided to “sit this one out” and see what happens next. Now it’s happened. Great. I’m forging ahead with my post processing skills, printing practically all my photos (all the “keepers”, anyway). And keeping an eye on all this stuff, for its entertainment value.

  • Adam Bonn says:

    I hope they’re all successful…

    But that Zeiss is a one trick pony…

    Which is it has LR installed.

    Everything else has been done before (ff, fixed lens, needs a smartphone connected to share)

    The shape of it looks like something blighting the London skyline 🙂

    But good luck to them, good luck to them all

  • NMc says:

    I just want to draw attention to one thing that seems to have been lost in the orgy of full frame megapixels, and that is the announcement of the Panasonic m43rds 10 to25mm. Quite fast and big, something new and useful, particularly for travel. I think this would be a good one lens solution in many situations. At least something non weird, non full-frame and non me-too was announced.
    The Ricoh GR update development probably deserve a mention on a travel based site as well.
    Sorry if that is too boring or unexciting.
    Regards Noel

    • philberphoto says:

      Noel, you are absolutely right. The Ricoh GR III could well be an excellent product, if it lives up to how good the GR II was/is. There were also other product announcements in the field of lenses, including from Leica, Hasselblad, others, and lesser-known brands as well. My post was not meant to cover Photokina comprehensively, but to highlight the trends: a rush to FF mirrorless, and, conversely, a rush to the weird. So, unfortunately, the “normal” stuff got lost in the middle…:-(

  • Adrian says:

    So Zeiss are making a camera with arguably the world’s most boring lens specification – a focal length that already exists on several other fixed lens camera, which is neither one thing or the other (neither wider nor longer), and with a so-so aperture of f2. It’s large, but it lacks many physical controls, so all the old buffers who go on about physical controls and decent size an handling won’t like it as it doesn’t really have any. What it does have is an Android phone stuck tonight’s back – the world’s most insecure, inefficient mobile OS that allows Google to grab all your personal data. The benefit of this is running Lightroom on a 4″ screen, and the ability to upload to cloud storage and share online. Except the same old buffers don’t want to share online. It has no memory card, probably because the old buffers think memory cards are like film and cn only be used once, which means the only way to get files off it is via cloud syncing or using a cable – although the cloud sync only works over wifi as although intended as an always on connected device, it doesn’t have a sim card, which also limits its potential for sharing online.

    So it’s a large, expensive camera with a boring lens (why no limited range zoom or a 50mm -ish lens?). It marries a phone to a camera, except the phone has been removed. It has editing via an overblown app on a 4″ screen, but it can’t share as it has no data connection.

    So it’s a smartphone for old rich men, without the phone, but with all the features that make phones so compelling to the young removed, and a price tag that puts it out of their price range.

    It’s an interesting glimpse of what a connected camera could be – but its got it horribly wrong. Our own Pascal has been questioning why it’s never been done, and now we now.

    Buy one now and leave it in the box, you might just have an investment as in a few years it will be lost in history.

    Or it might be worthless junk.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    • ZX1 :
    Zeiss used to know about cameras, I hope they still do.

    The resolution (37 Mpx) should be sbout the same as for ISO 50 colour or ISO 100 b/w 6×6 cm film – good margins for cropping.

    So this might be the modern version of the old rangefinder 6x6cm Zeiss Superikonta III w. Tessar 75mm f/3.5.
    ( Mine is dormant – no darkroom.)
    It had aperture and speed dials coupled as an EV scale, something I’ve never seen elsewhere (the Selen meter scale was in EV)!

    And it was jacket pocket foldable and very quick to unfold.

    Sadly a higher definition FF 35mm f/2 can’t be that compact…

    • GR :
    I wish Ricoh would also make a GR with a collapsible short tele lens.
    Then I’d buy both – one for each pocket!

    • Adrian says:

      But it appears to get so much wrong.

      Let’s think about the analogue controls.

      It’s got a shutter speed dial for the hair shirt brigade to twiddle. Except it only has about 8 values in full stops, just like cameras from 1953 that had very inaccurate mechanical shutters with a limited range of speeds. But now its 2018 and cameras have electronically controlled shutters.

      So how do you get 1/3ev values, or values above or below the maximum on the dial?

      Almost certainly you have to use the touchscreen. So it’s got a physical control that cannot access all the values that setting can have, requires another control to over-ride it, and may no longer show the actual / correct shutter speed value about to be used.

      The same comments apply to the iso dial with full ev settings.

      So it’s a connected camera without a connection that has outdated analogue controls in a digital world to appease people who don’t like change.

      I think Pascal is right to question why camera makers haven’t been better at making cameras that make it as easy to upload and share work as smart phones. However, it’s consumers who generally want that simplicity, not people with £4,500 to spend, and this appears to get quote a lot wrong in the delivery of that goal.

      I also sincerely hope its been developed and manufactured by a third party who actually has experience of connected devices, Android etc, otherwise it’s quite possible it could be quite dysfunctional at the hardware and software level.

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        As to the ZX1 dials,
        on my Canon M5 I get 1/3 EV values on the dials, but setting up my old analogue cameras with 1 EV dials was much faster.
        ( For a quick setup in changed light after pulling the ZX1 out, I think those dials seem sensible and cover most situations.)

        I suppose you will get 1/3 EV exposures in A or S mode, though.
        The aperture ring might accept half stops.
        And I do want easy access to exposure compensation on the screen while looking through the viewfinder!
        We’ll see…

        As I understand it, you just connect the Android ZX1 to your phone by WIFI.
        ( I certainly agree with Pascal and you in asking for smartphone-camera convenience in cameras.)

        I guess there’s lots of other First Generation problems as well.
        It might (as I said) get things right…

        £4.500 ?
        I haven’t seen a price yet but – being full frame – I guess it will be quite above average…

        • philberphoto says:

          Kristian, Adrian,

          A camera incorporates many features, and thus the way in which each of them is implemented cannot possibly satisfy all people. Plus, Pascal would argue that it is just such an attempt to be “all things to all people” that makes cameras so complex and shooting-experience-unfriendly. I have no idea (a) how good a job Zeiss have done with their very ambitious concept, and, (b), whether, assuming it is at least good enough, it is for me (though I think somewhere between possibly and yes). So I can’t really respond to your comments, except to say that (a) I give Zeiss basic credit that they have a fairly good knowledge of enough photographers for them to test their ideas before crashing, and (b) the ZX1 is “different enough” from anything else that items that would be deal-breakers between near-identical cameras suddenly become less material, just because there is no real alternative. Remember, when the Sony RX1 came out, there was lots that lots of people didn’t like. But, because there was nothing like it, if you wanted what it offered (FF sensor in super-small form factor, you just had to suck it up and buy it, whether you liked it or not.
          For your information, on a high-end forum (Fred Miranda), on a tally of hundreds of respondents, 7% declared they were sold on the ZX1 and intended to buy one. For such a bold and different concept, and this price level, I find that a very high percentage.
          Until then, it is promises, promises…

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            ( Sorry for the late answer, no i-net for some days.)

            You give us a good summing-up!

            > “For such a bold and different concept, and this price level, I find that a very high percentage.
            Until then, it is promises, promises…”

            🙂 . Exactly!

            I find it a very intriguing concept, and I’m very curious about how it I’ll turn out in the end.

            Especially as it – except for the non-folding larger size – reminds me of one of my favourite Zeiss cameras.

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