The Zeiss ZX1 may be the ULTIMATE 35mm Camera

The Zeiss ZX1 may be the ULTIMATE 35mm Camera

By Steve Huff

More info at B&H Photo HERE. 

As the band “Hot Chocolate” sang in 1975 “I believe in miracles.. since you came along, you sexy thing” I have been saying this ever since I saw the new Zeiss ZX1 announcement. I have ket quiet about it, thought about it and avoided writing a piece with my excitement but dammit, I am excited by this camera. 

It’s no secret I loved the Sony RX1 and RX1RII, but that original RX1 and I created a bond back then and I took that camera with me everywhere. The quality was almost medium format like due to Sony matching the lens to the sensor, that ZEISS 35mm f/2 Lens ; )

It was sharp, had some amazing color and IMO is still the best IQ I have personally gotten from any Sony camera. The only nitpick from me was it was almost too small, and the battery was/is awful by todays standards.

Many have been asking me about a replacement from Sony for the RX1RII and I do not believe one is coming. The RX1RII did not sell very well for them and I believe Sony’s sole focus today is on their A7 and A9 bodies and lenses. I could be wrong as I am not talking with any kind of insider knowledge but that is just what my gut tells me.

But for all who have been hoping for a new RX1RIII, along comes Photokina 2018 and I feel brought something even better. Yep, this Zeiss ZX1 is like the RX1R on steroids. A true Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens, a unique body that screams “DIFFERENT”, a sexy yellow color scheme on the controls and lens barrel and again, the sensor matched to the lens. They even named it similarly to the Sony..RX1 vs ZX1.

The Zeiss for me appears to be a beautiful minimalistic camera that will showcase Zeiss quality throughout. I have always LOVED Zeiss lenses for their warm color punch and 3 dimensionally as well as their resolution. Here we have an all Zeiss design and lens combined to make a camera that should deliver a pretty sweet user experience.

This camera even has a built in 512GB of memory. YES! 512 GIGABYTE! In fact, here are the specs of this sexy camera:

Shoot
  • Full-frame 37.4MP CMOS sensor enables recording high-resolution stills at up to 3 fps and 4K30p video, along with a sensitivity range of ISO 80-51200.
  • Built-in ZEISS Distagon T* 35mm f/2 lens has been perfectly matched to the sensor in order to provide edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination. The optical design incorporates two double-sided aspherical elements, which help to reduce spherical aberrations and minimize distortion. Additionally, the bright f/2 maximum aperture is suitable for low-light shooting and also offers increased control over depth of field.
  • Leaf shutter design provides flash sync at all shutter speeds and allows for especially quiet shooting.
  • A 255-area AF system is available, and can be used in conjunction with single-shot or continuous AF modes, or DMF and MF modes can also be used.
  • Physical shutter speed and ISO dials, along with a manual aperture ring on the lens, afford direct, intuitive control over exposure settings.
  • High-resolution 0.7″ OLED electronic viewfinder has a Full HD resolution along with a 0.74x magnification for clear, bright viewing.
  • Rear LCD incorporates a side tool bar for quick switching between four distinct camera modes.
  • Microphone and headphone jacks can be used for enhanced audio recording and audio monitoring while recording video.
  • Top hot shoe is compatible with the Sigma TTL flash protocol.
Edit
  • Based on a large, 4.34″ rear LCD screen, on-the-fly image editing is possible. The HD (1280 x 720) screen has a 338 ppi resolution and is touch-sensitive for intuitive navigation and editing control. The spacious screen is also the perfect place for in-depth review of your imagery while out shooting.
  • The distinct shape of the camera body, which has a bend in the middle, allows for an easy-to-find groove in the screen where the touch-sensitive tool bar is located.
  • Integrated Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC allows for thorough editing capabilities directly on the camera. This sophisticated software lets you adjust everything from exposure and color to making selective edits or syncing your edits to Lightroom CC on your computer.
Share
  • A wide range of sharing capabilities are possible, including both wireless and wired means to help you quickly and efficiently get your photos out to the world.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity let you seamlessly share images directly from the camera to a linked device.
  • USB Type-C interface can be used to port images directly to an external hard drive, share a live view of the camera to an additional screen, or an external battery pack can be used to power and charge the internal battery.
  • Integrated 512GB SSD allows for storing a huge amount of photo and movie files without the need to swap memory cards. On the camera, files can be organized into different collections for easier navigation.
  • Wireless connectivity lets you upload your files to cloud storage services directly from the camera.
  • Automatic backups are possible to your own NAS system and remote access to the files is also available from wherever you are.
  • Firmware updated can be downloaded and installed or updates over-the-air are also possible.

THIS SOUNDS AMAZING and is very forward thinking. You can edit your images on the lovely and huge LCD, you can share them easily, no need to swap cards (though if the internal SSD fails, that could be a huge issue and is the one potential issue I can see). Video, photo, wifi, USB-C, built in memory, nice EVF and LCD, in camera editing via Lightroom and auto backups. Headphone and mic jacks, and of course that full frame 37MP sensor.

I am excited for this though I feel it will come in at around $4000-$4500. Look at the Sony RX1RII prices, and keep in mind this is a ZEISS and a with new forward thinking modern day features. I think it will be the best of the fixed lens 35mm full frame cameras.

What do you think of this new Zeiss ZX1? Why do you think you will like it or even hate it?

You can check out more on the ZX1 at B&H Photo HERE. 

 

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67 Comments

  1. Looking forward to seeing this camera in person. Wasn’t happy with the sluggish performance of the RX1mii and I’m sure this won’t have that problem.

    More importantly though, I find having to edit my A7iii files in Capture One a hassle. Yes it’s simple and it does a great job editing Raw. Better than Lightroom, IMO. But being able to obtain the files I want OOC and being able to share and back them up right away should be simplify the experience even further.

  2. Steve, I like your enthusiasm in testing camera against one another and making it subjective. < After all, it is how well we like working with the camera and whether it inspires us!

    To that end, I hope you get to review this new Zeiss ZX1 camera against the Hasselblad X1D, Sony RX1 III and the new slime version Fuji GFX – 50R.

    I would also stop mislabeling it as a compact, which it is not. (A Ricoh GR is a compact!)

    But I would remind people that it (hopefully!) gives the image quality of a Zeiss Otus lens, along with an 'free' camera body, for less money and less weight. (Those Otus lenses are huge, heavy and expensive but wonderful!)

    If nothing else, to me it is a great modern sculpture and could be thought of as an 'show' camera, that for once is going to be made available to us mere mortals. (Unlike the unattainable mouth-watering square digital V1D mock-up, that Hasselblad has teased us with!)

    Thanks again for your/our great adventures with cameras and photography.

    P.S. The portrait of your 'sweetie' with the Sigma dp-2 camera is still the best color I've ever seen.
    I suppose it is impossible to get portrait comparisons from these cameras above, but I'd love to see it.
    Too bad that sensor is so hard to work with! But Sigma mentioned a FF coming … Humm!

    • Thank you David I will do what I can, and hope to get one of these in my hands sooner rather than later. Also, I do not believe I called this camera a compact camera. I think it is around Leica SL size. Thanks again!

      • No you did not. I was talking about the media in general, calling it a ‘compact’. Sorry.

        Also I do think you nailed it, saying people do not want to spend anymore time on their computers, just because they wanted a ‘nice’ photo. So having it built-into the camera is a big plus for me.

        At Fuji’s original presentation of their GFX, the representative stated that he thought most photographers would find the images coming straight out of the camera to sufficient,
        without additional computer work. (The on-board adjustments would be enough.)

        Cheers

    • I don’t think there will be an RX1III. The Zeiss, I feel is a great size (for me) but I love the size of the Leica SL with M lenses. Perfect fit for my (smallish) hands. The RX1 is tiny, and cramped in comparison but of course gorgeous IQ.

  3. Glad you can still enthuse, Steve! I’m an enthusiast for Zeiss lenses on Sony Nex and a6000 bodies. But I’m grateful, too, for all the warning comments aagainst buying this body.

    • Well, I approach with caution but I am personally excited by it as I loved the RX1, but prefer the size of something like the Leica SL (thin but taller), and this appears to be a combo of those two in that regard. I am learnt of the built in SSD though, No card slots may be a deal breaker but even so, I am excited to see the IQ as the original RX1 had beautiful IQ up there with the best. It also had slow AF and very small controls and body. I guess we will see! Thank you.

  4. Shoot, edit, post – that is a key advantage of a smartphone camera + small size and simplicity. The Zeiss camera is heading towards smartphone/camera integration and that is a good thing. However, it is not small, probably not as simple to use as a smartphone, lacks multiple focal lengths that some smartphones provide, and will likely cost far more. While innovative, the Zeiss camera is not a winning formula for me YET. For now my A9 with small 35mm lens, iPhone or iPad mini, and camera connection kit is a better proposition.

  5. Wonder about strap fixing: looks as if there’s are two slots with a vertical post at the top of the camera, near front face. With chromed lugs you cannot mark the camera finish with accessory straps but one would hope that fitting any third-party straps, such as A&A, would not scratch black finish. Maybe Zeiss’s own strap would have different method of securing.

  6. I like the look of the camera. Simple dial, etc. 4k video is nice. 35mm is too long for a fixed lens. Given Zeiss expertise in lens-making, a 28 would not exhibit any defects ie distortion etc. In fact adding 4k video demands a 28mm view as that is the industry standard length.

  7. I was really looking forward to this camera. But now that it’s here I’m disappointed. First of all, the thing is HUGE. It’s bigger than my Sony A7RII. It’s about the same size as the Hasselblad X1D. A successor to the Sony RX1II it ain’t. And the built-in Lightroom does nothing for me. I’m never going to feel the need to edit photos on a 4″ screen. It lacks IBIS, which for me is a huge fail. And I’m not crazy about the built-in memory instead of a card slot, even if it is 512GB. I’d rather have the capability to swap out cards.

  8. As an IT professional of 35 years, I’m with you Steve: memory fails, hard drives, SSD, SD cards, etc. I don’t want to buy a camera that only has internal memory. That’s the biggest design decision mistake in an otherwise exciting camera I would buy,having owned both RX1 versions. And was waiting for 3rd version, but I agree with you its not coming. Now, I’m using A7111 with Zeiss 50 Distagon. Wonderful, but a heavy monster compared to RX1. Thanks again, Steve, for your wonderful reporting and insight. I suggest to Sony/Zeiss to remove the memory and add 5-axis IS, looks like the body is big enough, and they would have the most awesome 35 on planet.

  9. Simplicity and indeed very forward thinking.
    This isn’t a Leica, but at least Zeiss listened to what photographers want.

  10. What an indulgence this camera would be! I love the minimal and modernistic styling. That said I wish I could justify the price tag (price as guessed by others in this thread). Very futuristic. Kind of reminds me of the the first Apple Macintosh. People either got it or stuck with the status quo.

    Would this replace my Fuji XPro2 or XT-2? No. But I still can dig it!

  11. I bet the images don’t compete with the Sigma DP Quattro range at low ISO. It will probably better at everything else though!

  12. Dear Zeiss
    SERIOUSLY Consider CREDIBILITY HIT, BRAND DAMAGE
    you would take were inbuilt 512GB corrupted, failed.

    Dear Zeiss
    You still have TIME SPACE inside ZX1 to put
    Single UHSII SD CARD PORT BACKUP to internal 512GB.

    BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY.

  13. 5.6 x 3.7 x 1.8 inches (142 x 93 x 46 millimeters); including the lens adds 20 millimeters to the overall depth
    28 ounces (800 grams) with the battery

  14. Another photo site published an image of several competing cameras side by side. The Zeiss ZX1 is by far the largest of them all.
    I think that the camera, unfortunately, may permanently be trailing in the market. And that is too bad because Zeiss has always made excellent cameras.

    • I’m not sure about this new body style. It does not look good on first glance. I also feel that an expensive camera should have interchangeable lenses, not a fixed lens. Lastly, I’m a bit nostalgic for the styling of the lovely M-mount Zeiss Ikon.

  15. I love the cool design. This could be a great camera for street photography, family/friends/vacations. I don’t see the need for an SD slot if the images are sent to an iPhone or iPad. The Q has been a favorite, and this seems to be directed at the same market. IMO, it’s got to come in at a lower price point than the Q. I’d guess $3500-$4000. If it was a sub-$2k camera as some have proposed, I’d be shocked, but would immediately order one. Nice to see Zeiss offering a modern camera.

  16. I was kind of hoping for a retro design by Zeiss. Still… a very intriguing camera. The RX1 isn’t too small for me personally (and I prefer its more pocketable size) and while I’m holding out hope for an RX1R M3 I have to say… “well done, and bold move Zeiss!! I applaud you.”

  17. Steve, of all the cameras that have been announced, the Zeiss is the one that got my blood pumping. I was initially thinking of saving for one of the cheaper Fuji Medium format cameras, but I have a feeling the ZX1 is going to have extremely special image quality. This was a bold and unexpected move from Zeiss and I really, really hope the price isn’t too outrageous (for my budget). Can’t wait to see what you can do with it.

  18. For those of us who like real manual control, these are: speed (dial), aperture (lens dial), iso (dial) and phocus (real ring on the lens). Fuji gives you everything on their X100 series, except for the real phocus (it’s phocus by wore). If this doesn’t have a real phocus ring doesn’t make it for me. I don’t like af.

  19. Marketing 101 : What is the USP Unique Selling Point.

    Too many cameras are samey me too.
    Made for me too people.

    Zeiss went Bold.
    Zeiss with its pedigree it is a requirement to be
    Bold Different Thoroughly Lone Ranger.

    • The Lytro was bold and cool and different too. So was the Samsung NX. I believe history will look back on this camera with phrases like “remember when Zeiss made that one camera?”

      But I could be wrong. Just the way I’d bet my own money, if I had to bet.

      • The Lytro (little tube like camera) was awful. Not a real camera by any means and barely even a toy. Even their full size camera was awful. This is much different as it’s like an RX1, which is one of the top 5 cameras I have used I life. I expect even better performance. To me this has simple build, unique bold, a great Zeiss lens, a full frame sensor and very simple and basic controls. That’s why it looks good to me. I could care less about the editing in camera as I wouldn’t use it anyway. The SSD is a bummer though as they should have put I a card slot as well. Very strange decision. I guess we shall see soon.

  20. Thank you Steve, so nice reading about newest Zeiss!
    Hopefully it has a simple menu, unlike Sony..
    I have a Minolta-Konica with bits of Sony already there..
    Took the Sony card and SD. A menu from hell.
    I gave up years ago and used it in BW mode, which was great.
    Size matters, too small causes pain, to big and heavy, well why that and not your SLR/DSLR?
    New Zeiss lenses seem overlarge, big, clumsy..
    A big no monster drive, praying no failures..
    At end like certain Leica models, a strong body shape that is similar to Ricoh-Pentax!
    Like f1.7 lenses..
    Looks like a winner but price may be the bridge too far..

  21. Probably a great camera and very nice design. Like you, I worry about the SSD, but even more about the resale value. As SSDs degrade over time and use, I’d personally never buy one 2ndhand. An extra card slot (with a 512Gb card) would have been better for direct sync/disk mirrorring and fallback option if the SSD fails.

    • I think your worries about the SSD degrading over time are a little over blown. Testing of desktop SSDs have shown that you can get greater then 700TB of data writes to an SSD on the low end cheap models. Higher end models go up into the 1.2 Petabytes of data. On a camera that has a 45-50MB RAW file size, that is a whole lot of pictures. Plus if it’s using an M.2 interface, the read/write speed is going to be phenomenal. But I’m guessing it has a SATA interface, the internal processor would have a hard time keeping up with M.2.

      I personally would not buy this camera due to the fact it’s likely going to be out of my price range for what I would spend on a fixed lens camera. But I have to say, it’s a very interesting camera which I will be drooling over. If by some miracle it is under a grand USD, I would be all over it. 🙂

  22. OK, just another pipe dream: Perhaps some camera company will be brave enough to make a 25-55mm f/2 fixed zoom camera as well as the companion 60-120mm f/2-2.5 fixed zoom camera. One can dream.

  23. It looks like a great camera. I just hope the price is reasonable, e.g. $2000 to $2500 even though it is Zeiss. Of course such a hope is probably a pipe dream.

    Zeiss could make a companion came with 90mm f/2 lens and the wedding and events crowd will be happy – two cams with wifi backup and no lens swapping. PLus quiet operation and fully synced flash.

  24. I have one major concern about this camera. I want to love it but I fear it har one very weak point. Startup Time. If there is some kind of OS on board to run LR CC it will need some tine to boot. This would be a killer for me.

  25. My dream fixed lens cameras are (1) 35mm F2.0 FF or 23mm F1.4 APSC. The closest is X100F. Fuji, please make the lens one stop faster. (2) 24mm-75mm F2.8-F4.0 FF or APSC eq. The closest is LX100II. Panasonic, please make the camera 1.5 times bigger. These two dream cameras will be my dream minimalist kit. Who needs a full bag of heavy, inter-changeable lenses?

  26. The design is radical. IMO, it more likely will be a flop than a game changer. Why Zeiss do not learn from the cameras already on the market, Q, RX1RII and X100F? A 35mm F2.0 Q like, or a 23mm F1.4 (35mm F2.0 eq.) X100F like will sell very well.

    • The design is radical. IMO, it more likely will be a flop than a game changer. Why Zeiss do not learn from the cameras already on the market
      Looks like a fresh start to me, why look at other manufacturers? Only downside for me is the extra 160g weight over the Leica Q, which brings it closer to M≠ lens territory. If the guesstimate figures are close then a very affordable ‘second’ camera. And as you can upload pics instantly to Cloud you would have a backup. Or go home, upload to computer then clear memory.

  27. Oh that’s not the new Fuji
    All amazing.
    Zeiss remained between Leica and Leica though.
    Same price, and keeping in mind 75% design versus 25% functionality.
    No real grip. No real strap holders. Plastic like (or maybe a still undiscovered material) galactic finish.
    It seems fitting better inside a lady’s bag tha to be part of a photographer’s gear

  28. I think this is where digital cameras are going. Over time this will be the norm. As micro circuitry gets smaller(it will), more and more things can be put into a camera body.

  29. I like the controls, simple to the point. You know what the camera set at unlike most other cameras. Leaf shutter will be epic for strobe and silent shooting. Hopefully the battery will be decent. Internal memory is bold but could cause cold sales if it fails for anyone. Transferring photos hopefully will be fast. The exposed usb c port might get crud in it. Otherwise if I got one I know I would have fun using it for everything.

  30. This is a neat idea being you can make edits while on the move, has a big enough screen for these edits and compact enough that you don’t have to worry about lens. I think it is the perfect travel camera

  31. I have a fair amount of experience with both the RX1 RII and the Leica Q. Both are excellent and have their unique quirks. I share the same concerns regarding size, weight and usefulness of built-in Lightroom. Having said that, I know a number of photographers who specialize in higher end social media images. This may be their ideal camera…great IQ and the ability to edit and share in the field immediately. I want to love this camera, but will wait for reality…then decide!

  32. Will this be able to stream video like some cell phones? There was also no mention of video codec or bitrates, so I’m assuming nothing special? If it is running Lightroom CC, does that mean it has Android OS? Will the user be able to shoot stills or video directly to an attached USB-C drive if one is attached? But it is a shame that they did not include cellular communications in this, being able to run this on MetroPCS/T-Mobile fast unlimited data plan anywhere you happen to be might have been worth the price alone, if you are dependent upon being in WiFi range, it really isn’t that forward thinking, as it wouldn’t even replace an iPhone camera.

  33. I can’t say I want one. There is no doubt that the engineering is going to be superb. But… what’s the point? I just can’t see it.

    It’s larger than the Q, has a slower frame rate (3fps vs 10fps), and is probably going to cost the same. The ZX1 will have a better sensor, and some people do prefer the 35mm focal length. On balance, however, I’ll pass.

  34. I am excited about this camera but could care less about the “future” aspects of it. Can one really use editing sw on a little screen on a $4500.00 camera – must be marketing idiots. I just want fabulous inages, great haptics and no video and the related menus.

    • Absolutely agree. A camera like this, (and many others), is like buying a car and having the dealer say that you have to take, and pay for, a bunch of options you don’t want. Oh, and by the way, the things you do want, like weatherproofing, a card slot, etc., aren’t available.
      Not for me.

    • Did people edit photos on iphone 5, 5s with its 4inch screen ….
      IPhone 6, 7 with its 4.7inch screen ….

      Lightroom Mobile is free and will be on this Zeiss ZX1.

  35. Sadly, many companies today operate in a bubble (hello Apple). They really need to understand and listen to their established and existing customer base. It is a very interesting camera, but function, for professional use, MUST come before form or beauty. I like the idea of an internal hard drive (probably necessary for the software, etc., but it really needs a single card slot to compliment it (write to card and backup to hard drive). The second “deal killer” for me (again for potential professional use) is that it must shoot 4fps. That is the minimum. I wouldn’t care if it did faster, but at least 4fps.

  36. Certainly looks interesting. i personally don’t find the yellow markings sexy though. not at all. Quite the opposite.
    Might be useful on foggy days.
    35mm lens is one of my favorite focal lengths but it won’t suit many who want something wider or a zoom.
    It’s another variation on a camera with some great features and some not ( depending on your needs
    Built in storage is excellent idea. No need to worry about CFSDXQzx .. well …whatever’s next cards!

  37. Hot Diggity.

    Future thinking.

    Hitting it out the park.

    Tilt EVF, Backup card port, weather resistance would made it complete :
    (Tilt swivel screen not sturdy enough for all the touching editing).

  38. I have LR6 now,
    do I need a license for LR CC on my computer, if I want to load the images to my system? 🙁
    BTW: Steve, the link to B&H does not work.

  39. This new camera looks interesting. Descriptions from Photokina attendees who handled this camera noted it is large and some noted, heavy. Some people might not find it so, so that remains to be seen when it starts shipping next year. It will be interesting to see how the image quality looks once RAW images are in peoples hands for processing.

    Finally, your price points would put this in Leica Q territory. Probably a good guess. My own feeling based on the specs and the fact that Zeiss does not have other cameras to share development costs with (as Leica does) is that the price will be a bit north of your estimate (more likely between $5K – $6K).

  40. Seems like a good way to stay ahead of smartphone cameras while improving on what small digital cameras can do. As a first step, this camera is essentially a miniature computer, right? Internal SSD, ability to run apps (at least one now), wifi & network connectivity. What if you could load a mobile OS and install other apps? Or a better LCD, smaller SSD with more space, faster processor, etc.? With the Zeiss glass and bigger-than-smartphone sensors, this camera and its successors can stay ahead of iphones. Now, if they could just bring the price down below $2000. Otherwise not sure sales volume can support this.

  41. This offering from Zeiss is definitely an intriguing camera, but if you’re right about the price – I think Zeiss might be a buck short and a day late. The new Fujifilm GFX 50R 51.4MP medium format camera is compact, and now available for pre-order for $4,999-.

    Granted, the Zeiss does include a lens for the price – but not interchangeable. The Zeiss is a cool looking camera, but I think it’s appeal will be to a very small customer base.

    • Totaly agree!

      The GFX will be with the future pancake lens not so bigger, has the exposure compensation dial and a swivel screen.
      If the Fuji medium format are like their APSC , you can do some RAW adjustements in camera ( exposure, white balance , simple shadow or highlights tones , DR etc ) and share with your phone.

      When you see what you get with a Ricoh GR or a Fuji x100, you must really need full frame to buy this kind of camera. Moreover the others full frame options just seems to be better ( leica 28mm and the sony rx1).

      Let’s wait for Steeve to get it, he must be in a GASy mood after photokina !

  42. Interesting concept, but fails in a number of areas for me:

    – Screen is fixed – no tilt
    – No SD card slot
    – Fuji-style controls. No exp comp dial
    – Lightroom CC is waste of time on such a small screen
    – Price likely to be way too high

    I’d still go for the RX1ii over this.

    • Lighroom being a waste of time depends on the implementation; imo it would be worth it if they implement Fuji-style presets with the possibility to easily customize your own ones. Icing on the cake would be a tablet application for editing in-camera on a bigger screen.

    • Agree on fixed screen, lack of ex.comp. wheel , joystick for AF spot area would be nice to. Looks more like mock-up then finished product.

  43. Interesting but will we have to wait for the ZX-2 for the workaround when the internal SSD fails? Also, Looks like the rear screen is fixed. Otherwise, appealing. I was hoping for a Sony RX1-RIII. Maybe this is it.

    Thanks as always.

  44. Love the simplicity of this – looks perfect in that respect.
    Zeiss make their money from lenses.
    Any reason they shouldn’t make an interchangeable lens version?
    That would be the only camera I’d buy to add to my Sony system.

    Danny

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