Putting full-frame sensors into smaller and smaller compact bodies is all the rage nowadays. Nikon did it with the Z5, Panasonic did it with the S5, and just last month Sony joined the crowd with the new A7C. After announcing its compact full-frame camera more than two years ago, Zeiss’ $6,000 ZX1 has finally become available for preorder online this week. Yes, you read that correctly: $6,000.
The ZX1 was originally billed as Zeiss’ first digital camera. Featuring a 37.4-MP full-frame sensor, Zeiss has managed to cram a lot pixels into a relatively sleek frame that measures just 2.6 inches thick (not including its lens) and weighs 1.76 pounds (body and battery). Strangely, unlike a lot of full-frame cameras (especially ones this expensive), the ZX1 also has a fixed 35mm f/2 lens. So while the ZX1 might be a great wide-angle camera for travel or street photography, with a max shooting rate of just 3 fps and the inability to change lenses, the ZX1 also feels like an incredibly niche device made only for people with deep pockets.
The reason for the ZX1's extremely minimalist design is that Zeiss created the camera around a philosophy of “shoot, edit, share” to help keep photographers focused on their content while cutting out distractions. Alongside a USB-C port, the ZX1 also comes with built-in wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC to make it easier to offload and share photos with nearby devices.
But the ZX1's most unusual features are 512GB of onboard storage along with an integrated version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom so you can edit photos right on the camera’s 4.3-inch touchscreen without ever needing to sit down in front of a regular PC. It’s a nice idea in theory, but seeing as how the ZX1 features an OS based on Android, it’s difficult to see what the advantages are for editing photos on the ZX1 rather than just sending photos to a nearby phone or tablet.
That said, since Android itself was originally an OS designed for cameras way before it was ever used on phones, it’s kind of a treat to see Google’s now-ubiquitous mobile platform come full circle on the ZX1 in 2020.
Other specs and features on the ZX1 include a 0.7-inch OLED electronic viewfinder, a 255-point area AF system, dedicated headphone and microphone jacks, and support for video recording at up to 4K/30 fps.
There’s no doubt the ZX1 is an interesting camera, but with that $6,000 price tag and a fixed lens, it’ll almost certainly end up in the same territory as a lot of Leica cameras that are very pretty and fun to use, but ultimately too expensive and single-purpose to actually buy.