#836. Monday Post (25 March 2019) – Love Vs. Hate, or Leica Vs. Zeiss, or Q2 Vs. ZX1

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Mar 25

7 years ago, Sony introduced a UPhO, or Unidentified Photographic Object, the RX1, and the world went: OMG, what have they done?

A diminutive camera which, at first glance, could pass off as one of the then so-many compact cameras. Except for for a very, very un-minor detail. It had a very, very un-small sensor. It was full frame! In such a small body! Talk about pocket-rocket! It also sported a fixed 35mm f:2.0 Sony-Zeiss lens.

It packed so much IQ in such a small body, thanks to its excellent sensor and lens that it would for sure had been a perfect spy-‘tog camera, or Q-cam, for photographers of the James-and-Bollinger persuasion.

Though what happened next was a real Q camera. Enter the Leica Q. Same concept: fixed lens (28mm f:1.7), full frame. Not as small as the RX1 (and its later sibling the RX1 II), but still not overlarge. And while the Sony was pricey, it was still not Leica-pricey. The Sony went for roughly 3000€ and the Leica for 4000€. The modesty (for Leica, that is) of the premium for the Q over the RX1 led many to believe that the Leica was in fact a Panaleica, with much contribution -if not all- from Panasonic, fueled by the unique-for-Leica aperture of f:1.7, whereas it is usual with Panasonic.

Lord Vador…

Travel forward, and 2 new cameras are introduced. Not the expected, awaited even, Sony RX1 III, but the logical Leica Q2, and the totally unexpected and in some ways il-logical Zeiss ZX1.

The Leica Q2 is logical in that it is an updated Q with better specs, including the first 35mm high-resolution sensor (47Mp), which means it dramatically out-resolves its more expensive siblings the Leica M10 and SL. It perseveres with its fixed 28mm f:1.7 Summilux (hold that thought!), and early images look very nice indeed.

The ZX1 is il-logical in that it comes from Zeiss. In a way Leica’s rival for the crown of best lensmaker in the world, and German to boot. But very different in that Zeiss stopped making cameras (think Contax, think Ikon) rather than go digital, and swore that hell would freeze over before they re-entered the market.

And the ZX1 is different indeed. No memory card but a huge SSD (512Go), few controls, a black body redolent of the monolith in Kubrick’s “2001, a space odissey”, a fixed 35mm f:2.0 (a true Zeiss one, so no relation to the one in the RX1), built-in wi-fi and an in-built copy of Adobe’s LightRoom running on Android, for all-in-one, in-camera shooting-editing-sharing. Needless to say, its annoucement in late 2018 made huge ripples, as it contained lots of news. Zeiss back in the camera business. New features to try to replicate smartphone-like ease and speed of use (though some will say that Samsung made an attempt at the same already a few years back, and that it bombed badly on them).

People wondered: is it actually made by Zeiss, or is it contracted out, and to whom? Is it filled with Sony innards, Zeiss’ historic partner (hence the Sony-Zeiss lenses)? Is it actually the re-badged Sony RX1 III, which has been long in not coming?

What interests me in these 2 cameras is this: the Leica is a logical, predictable (or at least as predictable as anything from Leica) offering, and it was very well received, including by the core of DearSusan insiders. The Zeiss was lambasted by many despite (or because of) its ambitions and innovations, including by the core of DearSusan insiders (but not by Pascal or I). Why so much love Vs. so little?

One complaint against the Zeiss is that the fixed 35mm all-in-one is not for everyone, even at the pro-am level it is priced for. The other complaint is the price, at some 4200€

My take is this: forget the in-built LightRoom instant-post hoopla. The ZX1 is a premium fixed-lens high-resolution camera with German optics. Just like the Q2. The latter sports more resolution (47Mp Vs. 37Mp) but, because its 28mm Summilux has huge distortion (13%!), mandatory in-camera correction lowers that resolution according to Lloyd Chambers’ Diglloyd blog. So the Q2 and ZX1 are obviously going after the same potential customers. So why call the ZX1 over priced and the Q2 sweet?

Is the square blue of Zeiss less exclusive than the red dot of Leica, and all this issue is snobbery? Is it because the inclusion of the SSD and LightRoom to fight off the onslaught of smartphones actually lowers the value of the Zeiss as a “serious camera”, and all this issue is clubbiness? Is it because the quick-post-online thingy is actually for a younger crowd than the well-heeled Leica and Zeiss aficionados, and all this issue is generational? Is it because how the Q2 will feel, behave and deliver is highly predictable so everyone has an opinion even without using it, whereas no-one really knows how the Zeiss with feel, behave and deliver, and all this issue is about the unknowns of innovation and resistance to it? Is it that the camera market has evolved towards more and more choice, options, menus, possibilities, add-ons, and the monolithic Zeiss goes the other way, and this issue is about innovation Vs. customer expectation?

As far as I am concerned, having more choice is good, so thank you both Zeiss and Leica. Having manufacturers dare, risk and innovate is good, so I welcome the ZX1, though it seems to be behind schedule (Q1 2019, when it was supposed to be released ends in 6 days). And the fact that neither camera (after all, high-priced fixed-prime-lens cameras are not for everyone) might be for me in no way means it is bad, stupid, overpriced or whatever negative comment has been hurled at Zeiss, especially before it is even released and reviewed by DS.

Just as the RX1 UPhO was a landwark camera, even though it did not sell in huge numbers, the Leica Q2 is a safe bet, it will play well to the Leica crowd, and the ZX1 a highly un-safe one, which could turn out to be a bomb or another landmark camera. Please forgive me for being more interested in the latter.

While I am basically a Ferrari guy, for years the innovation lay with Lamborghini (think Miura, Espada, Countach). Ferrari prospered, while Lamborghini had to be saved more than once, which shows that innovation, especially when execution is less than flawless, can be a road to ruin. But today’s super-and-hypercars look more like a Miura than like a Daytona. So, yes, I am sure the Leica Q2 is nice, very nice even. But the ZX1 is where I expect greatness. Hopefully enough to make happy-as-a-clam-with-his-Hassy Pascal teary-eayed…

 
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  • Philippe great post, “I’m still holding that thought” not sure how I can keep doing that!!

    Being a Zeiss man I hope they get the ZX1 right first up, as you say it only appeals to a few due to its price and spec’s.

    • pascaljappy says:

      That makes two of us. The ZX1’s success depends on so many variables and – more worryingly – on the media. But I really hope Zeiss get it right and sell tons of those. The market needs to be shaken up and to see new ways of working.

    • philberphoto says:

      You can unhold your thought, Dallas! You we supposed to hold it until I came back to the subject of the Leica Q (and Q2) lens. Which I did when I mentioned its very high disortion with a link to Diglloyd. And thanks for the kind words!

  • Hans Ernst says:

    I loved the article and great respect for Zeiss, they must know that innovation is always difficult to sell.
    Could it be that the ZX1 should be seen as a trail camera?
    When Sony brought out the RX1 knowing they were going to lance the lens interchangeable A7?
    Wouldn’t it be great to see a CZ7 with interchangeable, Loxia type, lenses?
    A camera with a totally new philosophy and interchangeable lenses!

    I love reading your articles, from the whole team.
    Always such a pleasure to find a new DS email in my box.

    Thanks

    Hans

    • philberphoto says:

      Thanks, for the kind words, Hans, they are much appreciated! Regarding the CZ7 with intechangeable lenses, I am not sure (yet). Basically, if the ZX1 is “just” another camera based on a higher-resolution (35,7Mp) Sony sensor and a very good Zeiss AF lens, and incorporating an SSD and LR, then it might well fail IMHO. Because that would mean there is no bonus to compensate for a fixed prime lens. In the RX1, the obvious bonus was size, which couldn’t be matched by a comparable ILC. And indeed a A7x + Loxia is substantially larger and heavier than a RX1. In the Leica Q the bonus is in-camera lens correction, and you can’t build that in for just any adaptable lens. So what will the bonus be in the ZX1? I don’t know, but I have likely suspects. The sensor could well be Sony’s lastest generation, as they have announced a brand new 36Mp design, so it could enjoy a temporary plus over rival cameras. The lens might be better than a Batis. In fact, Zeiss have hinted that they were able to do “something” with the lens because it is fixed that they couldn’t have matched in an ILC-designed lens. So I am hoping and waiting…

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    OM Gawd – too much, all at once.

    1 – I am darkly suspicious of the liaison between Panasonic and Leica – who does what? – which one made which bit? – are we looking at twins, a “Leicasonic” and a “Panica”? Something “neither fish nor fowl”? Especially when the pair of them brought out two remarkably similar cameras (similar in all respects, except externals), yet the Pana had a lower price and shorter warranty – while the Licker had a traditionally higher price and a 3? – 5? – year warranty. And now of course it’s worse – they’re both in league with a famous lens maker, SIGMA, with their common lens mount for all three.

    2 – I’ve no idea when Zeiss started making cameras – my first two Zeiss cams were both Super Ikontas, a design I believe they sold both before and after WW2 (during it, too, no doubt) – NOT followed by the Contax, I skipped that and went for the Contarex and – as soon as I could afford it – their Contarex. Which, I believe, was their last camera. Till now. And if I may say so, the Contarex was brilliant! – its 50mm Planar lens was scaled up and attached to the Hasselblad that Neil Armstrong’s team took to the moon – the first lens ever, on the moon. Here’s a review comment on the camera’s lenses – it might seem exaggerated now, but it was certainly my own personal experience both during the period of manufacture and for decades afterwards, till I finally retired it after 4 decades of faithful service and fantastic photography.
    “The Zeiss Contarex lenses, manufactured for the redoubtable Contarex line of cameras from 1958 to 1973, have attained superstar status. According to most camera historians these lenses were the best ever, optically and mechanically.”

    To address your questions as to the Leica Q vs Zeiss ZX1 debate, I’d really rather leave that aside. I had similar stupid arguments with my stupid eldest brother more than 55 years ago, when he was shooting Leica and I had my Contarex. He proclaimed without any testing or knowledge of the Contarex that his camera was vastly superior. I simply ignored his piffle and left him holding his over-priced substitute for a decent functional camera, and went on my merry way. I had much the same experience with a similar dickhead in Montmartre, of all places, a couple of years ago – I’ve mentioned it before on DS – who (together with his travelling companion) had 8 red dots hanging from their necks, yelling to the thieves and pickpockets that they had the best part of AUD$100 grand’s worth of gear. I nearly threw up when they demanded to see what my cams were, and I was very relieved when they turned their noses up at mine & went back to playing with their measles.

    To me, Sony’s RX1, the Leica Q and Zeiss’s ZX1 all appear to address much the same market – but they address it in a different way. So which is “better” boils down to personal choice and personal preference. Now I’ll shut up, because I said I wouldn’t get involved in this debate. , as they say in the old country. 🙂

    • philberphoto says:

      Aaaah, Pete, I laughed so hard i need to get to the chiropractor to get my back back… 8 Leica = measles… OMG the pain….
      And bikes… Now I make sure I shoot them because of popular demand, almost as an obligation. Am I involved in some form of photoprostitution? Eeeeek!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    PS – I love your sense of humour, Philippe – I hope you’re wearing a bullet proof vest! I was also much happy to see the return of the bicycles to these pages. 🙂

  • Hans Ernst says:

    I loved the article and great respect for Zeiss, they must know that innovation is always difficult to sell.
    Could it be that the ZX1 should be seen as a trail camera?
    Sony brought out the RX1 knowing they were going to lance the lens interchangeable A7?
    Wouldn’t it be great to see a CZ7 with interchangeable, Loxia type, lenses?
    A camera with a totally new philosophy and interchangeable lenses!

    I love reading your articles, from the whole team.
    Always such a pleasure to find a new DS email in my box.

    Thanks

    Hans

  • immodoc says:

    Hi, the Q2, ZX1 and RX2 are all great cameras. — I would prefer the Q2 if I were to buy any one of them, because it has IS
    (not because I have (and used) a Leica M6 since 1988, replaced by the M9 in 2010), which makes it more practical.

    Maybe, these just mark the beginning of lines of compact high end cameras, which (hopefully) will become even more compact in future,
    more like the ROLLEI 35 I had in my motorcycling-days (it had ZEISS lenses).

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Philippe,
    The photo with the faces.
    And, counting from the end:
    #4 (house with angles) &
    #5 ( 90° “pattern”).
    Great, love them!
    ( Especially as that pattern is ever so slightly off horizontal, just right!)
    – – –

    I think the Zeiss ZX1 is intriguing, I think of it as a possibly worthy successor of the Superikonta (loved mine) – except that that was foldable to coat pocket size, it was in fact the smallest of all(?) 120 film cameras (except the folding 6×4.5cm ones).

    • philberphoto says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Kristian! Especially coming from someone who is now a fellow DS contributor, whose uncanny ability is there for all to see… And you did pick 2 Wilsons, so…. a great thumbs up!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Thanks for *your* kind words, Philippe!
        ( But don’t let’s accelerate into a kindness match, photo comments need to be kept useful, 🙂 .)
        – – –

        But you make me curious, which one of those three do you consider un-Wilson – unless that is a too private question?

        • philberphoto says:

          The faces are the un-Wilson (good of you to one-up me on “un-ning”!). There is always a deeply personal component in a Wilson, and, if “it is just out there for all to see”, somehow it feels less personal. But, remember, I have no desire to theorise a Wilson, lest my intellect take control of what is -and which I wish to remain- a wholly emotional process.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            Thanks Philippe, I was sure of the “pattern”, and I guessed the “house” as the choice of how to show those angles looked very intentional!
            But your way of hinting at a third face in-between also seemed a strong candidate.
            – – –

            Clure, of course theorising is off!
            Sorry about intruding, I thought un-ning had become DS jargon. ( But I might find it hard to un-un…)

    • Johannes Hüttner says:

      I second the photo with the face wall art. And not to forget those rusty bicycle photographs. They look like they’ve been dredged from the bottom of the Seine.

      The ZX1 is for me the more interesting option (just because it tries something different) and I´d love to test one out even though I´m not in the market for a ff compact camera.

      • philberphoto says:

        Thanks, Johannes! And yes, what we shot were a bunch of bikes dreged up from a canal, as well as some “other hardware” including a wheelchair. Regarding the cameras, my thoughts exactly…

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