Missing In Action: Where In the World Is the Zeiss ZX1?

The Zeiss ZX1, a camera many photographers had wet dreams about, has seemingly vanished without a trace.

Picture it; Cologne, Germany, 2018, thirsty photographers from around globe packed into an event hall for Photokina to get their grubby mitts on new and exciting cameras, and there, like a shining ray of light, was the Zeiss ZX1. A new camera so unique, so cutting edge, so gorgeously designed that it seemed too good to be true. And apparently, it was. This marvel of a camera was due to be released in early 2019, but to date, it is still missing. We know it has been out and about in the wild with testers, but they are sworn to secrecy. The official Zeiss ZX1 website is alive and well, and the camera also received Adobe camera RAW support in December of 2019, so what happened to this gorgeous Full Frame, internet-connected camera? Let’s talk about it after the break.

Be honest; had you ever actually heard of the Zeiss ZX1 before this article? It’s okay if you haven’t. For as good as this camera could (and still might) be, after Photokina, the noise surrounding the camera faded away. The Zeiss ZX1 is the best camera most photographers have never heard of, and that’s a real shame, so let’s shed some light on it.

Zeiss ZX1 – Styling

zeiss zx1

The gorgeously designed Zeiss ZX1 shocked onlookers at Photokina. Remove the Zeiss branding, and the camera looks like something that could have been designed by Jony Ive for Apple in Cupertino. Its sleek body, which mixed vintage-styled dials and a cutting edge curved screen that separated the live view from capacitive controls, looked like something right out of the Jetson’s space age. The matte black body, the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f2 lens, and engraved yellow markings were also easy on the eye. The outside of the camera and its ergonomics looked stunning, but the specs under the hood were spectacular too.

“New sensors are great, better AF systems are great, but online, social, and in-camera editing features represent a massive step forward in the right direction.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Zeiss ZX1 – Under the Hood

zeiss zx1

According to Zeiss, the ZX1 took the best of smartphone technology, and the best camera technology and mashed them together. Under the hood, a Zeiss developed 37.4MP sensor would capture your images. A large 4.3-inch TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 720P would be used to control the camera, and an OLED 1080P EVF, which was set to the left, which would make the ZX1 a Rangefinder styled camera allow you to see the world in front of you.

SD cards? Nope, you don’t need them with the Zeiss ZX1 as it has 512GB of built-in storage, which would be able to store 6,800 RAW files or over 50,000 JPEGS. Add in other mod cons such as 4K video, an ISO sensitivity range of 80-51,200, a fast contrast and phase-detect AF system that was perfectly tuned to the sensor and lens, and built-in access to cloud storage, and you have a well rounded out camera.

Connectivity, Lightroom, and Photoshop

Imagine not having to do this to edit your images. The Zeiss ZX1 would let you use Lightroom or Photoshop in camera to edit, and then you could share online instantly.

With the Zeiss ZX1, you could connect to the internet (via your phone’s data connection) to upload your favorite images to the cloud or various social media platforms instantly. The Zeiss ZX1 featured Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac 2.4 and 5GHz, and Bluetooth. What if I went further and told you that the Zeiss ZX1 came with Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Lightroom pre-installed, and that the touchscreen was big enough and responsive enough to let you edit your images right on the phone? Crazy right? Thanks to the camera running a custom version of Android, all of this was possible.

This level of innovation is what the photography world is crying out for. New sensors are great, better AF systems are great, but online, social, and in-camera editing features represent a massive step forward in the right direction. Who knows, maybe we will still get to see these features in action on the ZX1, if not, we hope other camera manufacturers were paying attention. This jump is needed.

“The Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f2 is a beauty, and the 35mm focal length would make this camera perfect for so many different genres.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

The Lens – Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm F2

zeiss zx1

We all know that Zeiss lenses are some of the best that you can get your hands on, and the one on this camera is a stunner. The Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f2 is a beauty, and the 35mm focal length would make this camera perfect for so many different genres. It would have gone head to head with the Leica Q2, which features a slightly wider 28mm lens, but it’s still comparable. The Zeiss ZX1 would be perfect for street photography, event photography, food photography, weddings, portraits, landscapes, and so much more. Having so much power contained in one body, with a lens that you know will render beautiful images would be a dream.

The Official Word

We reached out to Zeiss to find out what the company’s standpoint on the ZX1 is, and we can confirm that the Zeiss ZX1 is still in development. While we weren’t given any specific reason for delays, we were told that Zeiss engineers are “very particular about the fine-tuning of all aspects of the camera and are still working to provide the best experience possible.”

Apparently, the engineers at Zeiss are nearing the end of the development cycle for the ZX1. Zeiss, however, still does not have a release date that’s set in stone. Still, this news is incredibly exciting! We are thrilled that the Zeiss ZX1 might yet grace us with its presence sometime in the near future. The camera market is a hard one to break into, but it certainly seems that the guys and gals at Zeiss have tried to be as innovative as possible when it comes to the Zeiss ZX1, and right now, innovation is something the camera market needs. Manufacturers have been taking small steps forward, but a camera like this one from Zeiss will represent a massive leap in the right direction.

What do you think about the Zeiss ZX1 with its custom Zeiss designed sensor, built-in storage, and ability to let you edit your images in-camera? What would you pay for a camera like this? Let us know in the comment section below.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.