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Thread: Zeiss Ikon

  1. #1

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    Zeiss Ikon

    Any news on the ZI?

  2. #2
    Mongo's Avatar
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    What news are you looking for? What do you already know?

    The body is produced by Cosina, and is based on the Bessa series (although it's not the direct Bessa re-badge job that the Rollei was). I believe the body is due out next month.

    The only thing I know for sure is that it's way out of my price range. B&H has the system listed now, and it's more than I'd pay for a Cosina-made camera regardless of the quality of the lenses. I won't touch it until there's at least a year's worth of data available on how well it holds up in the real world.

    The lenses, of course, can be used with any Leica M-mount camera and are the "real" news. My guess is that they'll perform very similarly to the Contax G-series lenses; that is, extremely well. Look for the lenses to be the real story here.

    (Also, look for Zeiss to contract out the Contax name in the near future, now that Kyocera has dumped the license. My bet is that Cosina will be producing a C/Y mount body for Zeiss within a year, probably based on the Bessaflex M42 mount body that they've been selling. As to whether or not the autofocus Contax bodies - the N series and the 645 - will be produced by Cosina, by another maker, or lost to history, is something I'm not willing to bet on just yet.)
    Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.

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    bjorke's Avatar
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    Dirk-san has the 50mm

    "What Would Zeus Do?"
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    Zeiss Ikon

    Thanks for the information, Mongo. I knew that it was supposed to come out in the spring, but I hadn't kept up with it. I agree that I'd wait for them to get the bugs out before buying. I thought that I'd start looking for users' experiences when it hit the stores. It's always good to wait to see how the price stabilizes too - although the cheapest price for the R3A was when it first came out.

    I didn't know that it was based on the Bessa series. I had read that it was a new design & that the dimensions are different from the Bessa. Interesting . . .

    The price is high, but I like the 28 mm focal length. That means an auxiliary viewfinder on a Bessa, bringing the USA price for a Bessa combination up to $700. And you still have the inconvenience of focusing & composing with 2 separate viewfinders. ZI includes 28 mm frame lines in the viewfinder. And then there's that base line - twice as long as a Bessa, as I recall. When I read about it, what stuck with me was the ability to focus wide angle lenses at distances of less than 20 inches - a closer minimum focus distance than even a Leica by about 8 inches, or something like that.

    I have an R2 & have been frustrated with the fact that it doesn't focus closer than about 3 feet. I noticed that they had improved that feature on the Rollei version, but it was just too expensive for an upgraded R2. I was interested in the R3A, but when I read about the ZI at the same time, I thought I'd wait to see if it was worth the extra dollars for the combination of extra features.

    Again, thanks for the update. I'll watch for it next month.

  5. #5
    Mongo's Avatar
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    The Zeiss is not a clone of the Bessa R-series; the top of the camera (including the rangefinder) is definately a new design. It's a much better design, at least on paper, than the Bessa R3 and Rollei cameras. The main body of the camera, though, is very similar to the R3 cameras. And the body is being built by Cosina.

    If you have an R2, then you are familiar with the build quality of the Cosina-made rangefinders. They're not junk, but they're also not in the $1000+ league. I thought the price of the R3 was high for a Cosina camera; the Zeiss goes far beyond that point. (B&H is listing the Zeiss body for US$1617.)

    The rangefinder, which was almost certainly designed by Zeiss, is bound to be a major improvement over the Bessa series. That design alone might make this camera worth it for you. But for me, I just can't see it. Had the Zeiss camera come in at an incremental price increase over the R3, say $800, it would be a much more interesting camera to me. But at $1617, the camera seems drastically overpriced. Even the Contax G2 cost significantly less than the Zeiss. (I bring up the G2 not because they're similar cameras, but because the G2 is built like a tank and has a lot more costly features included in the body than the Zeiss does...autofocus, automatic film transport, sophisticated flash metering, etc. All in a body that gives you access to Zeiss glass.)

    I'll be very interested to hear the feedback from users of the Zeiss camera. It may turn out to be a magnificent camera...but $1600+ for a camera that's coming from Cosina just feels out of line, regardless of the feature set.
    Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.

  6. #6
    adrian_freire's Avatar
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    anybody know were is the rewinding crank in this camera?

  7. #7

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    Adrian, the rewind crank is on the bottom.

  8. #8

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    Mongo, keep posting. I need you to talk me out of this purchase! I did some research last night & found that it will be available for under $1400 as an import, which is a little better. Strange, but I found that prices were even lower at Robert White in England than at B&H! Unheard of. Must be that falling American dollar.

    Pricing is a funny thing. On any new product, R&D, tooling, & other overhead is spread out across an expected sales volume. Times have changed dramatically since the Contax G was introduced more than a decade ago & when it was seen as more of a mass market product than any rangefinder can possibly be today. Furthermore, Contax G/2 prices were not considered low when it came out. They now seem relatively low because they have stayed where they were when the camera was introduced in the mid '90s. They have been able to keep costs down because R&D + tooling are a one-time expense & I'm sure that they have long since recouped those costs - which were at 1990s' dollars (or yen) anyway.

    Second point about pricing is that cost of the Bessa series cameras were kept artificially low - especially in USA - by Cosina's minimalist corporate organization. They went through a series of so-called "distributors" here, none of which could be considered distributors in the true sense of the word. You couldn't buy Bessas in Europe, where there was a more traditional distribution network, for the prices they were selling here. Great for the consumer, but it skews other comparisons. I'm sure that factoring Hasselblad & Zeiss into the mix has inflated the price. As an example, when I bought my Nikon FM3A, the price difference between a "USA" model & grey market was $100.

    R&D is also a significant factor. Cosina has done a great job of trading up on other people's R&D. The Bessa body was developed for other companies with their R&D, e.g. Nikon FM10, & Cosina simply recycled it. Rollei asked for closer minimum focus rangefinder coupling, paid for it, & then it showed up on the R2A & R3A. Epson paid for the development of the 1:1 viewfinder & then it showed up on the R3A. Very shrewd of Cosina & very beneficial to their customers, but again their cameras don't reflect the true cost of development.

    Niche products like this will always go for higher prices than for similar mass market products. I've had no problems with the build quality of my R2, so it seems to be good enough - not Leica, but good enough. However, the base line, minimum focus distance, & need for an external finder for 28 mm lenses are all limiting factors. (The 28 mm finder alone is a $150 add-on to a Bessa.) If I could find these features on a Bessa camera & at Bessa prices, I wouldn't be considering this purchase. It seems to be a compromise between Cosina & Leica - Cosina build quality, which isn't so bad in my experience, with Leica features. So the price sitting between the two - but much clser to Bessa than Leicas - seems to make some sense. I also have some confidence in the Zeiss role in this production. Their insistence on quality control is legendary. No spot checking for them, every lens is checked & tested before it goes out the door. I expect that these same QC practices have been intraduced at Cosina for this body & lens or Zeiss wouldn't put its name on it & be so visibly involved in the marketing.

    Tell me I'm wrong. Please.

  9. #9
    Mongo's Avatar
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    I won't tell you that you're wrong...in fact I think you've hit the nail pretty squarely on the head. The price of the Zeiss camera reflects the Hasselblad distribution and advertising costs as well as the cost of Zeiss' involvement in the project.

    The question for me, though, is what the real value of the camera is compared to the other options that are available. Leica, for example, makes absolutely wonderful cameras with magnificent lenses...but part of the reason the prices are so high is the "boutique" factor. (Before Leicaphiles come crashing down on me, you'll have to explain to me how the "roll your own Lecia for a zillion dollars" program is anything but proof of the boutique factor involved in Leica marketing.) Cosina has proven that you can build a capable camera that will mount Leica lenses for a whole lot less money...a market that Leica could have easily exploited if it would not have endangered the "image" of the Leica camera. With the new Zeiss-Ikon, you're not only paying for the R&D and QA, but you're also paying for the Zeiss name and the Hasselblad distribution network. These costs are, to me, non-value added. As a consumer (especially as a consumer who's interested in products in a quickly shrinking market space), the additional costs involved in using Hasselblad as a distributor for the new camera are absolutely a waste to me. You can bet that at least a couple hundred of the dollars of the Zeiss-Ikon price are to support Hasselblad's involvement. What's that really worth to you?

    With the G-series Contax cameras, Kyocera delivered a rock-solid body that could mount lenses that are the equal of the Leica lenses on any meaningful test...for a whole lot less money. The price when they were introduced may not have been cheap, but it wasn't considered outrageous either. Hasselblad, on the other hand, has the wonderful XPan camera that they can't seem to sell very many of because of the high cost. The XPan R&D costs were recovered a long time ago...but the body does say Hasselblad on it so the price of the camera remains high. Since there's no viable alternative, they continue to sell enough XPans to justify having the camera in their line...but the first company that comes along with a camera that's 80% as good as the XPan for 50% of the price will wipe out the XPan market. (On another note: Had Kyocera managed to deliver a digital Contax G-series camera, I believe that they'd still be holding on to the Contax license today. It was their inability to exploit the advantage of the Zeiss glass on a digital camera that cost them their place in the photographic business. But that's a story for another time.)

    Given that you want 28mm bright lines and a long baseline, you're kind of stuck for a camera that meets your needs. But if you're correct about Cosina taking the work of others and incorporating it into their bodies (and I think you're absolutely right), then I imagine it won't be too long until there's a Bessa-badged body that will meet your needs for a whole lot less money. The Zeiss camera will have the cachet of the Zeiss name...that and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee. (Note: I never buy a camera as an "investment"...I buy cameras to use. If re-sale value is important to you, then having the Zeiss name on the body might be worth something to you. We won't know that until the camera's been on the market for a while.)

    You mentioned that the price of the Bessa cameras was kept artificially low in the US because they didn't have a standard distribution network. I think this is a great thing. The day of high-volume sales in the film camera business is over. Having regional salesmen go into stores to schmooze the managers into buying their equipment was a model that worked very well in the 1960's and '70s...but those days are long gone. A minimalist distribution network that keeps prices low is the right way to distribute cameras today. Let's face it...new film camera sales won't support the parade of salespeople from store to store any longer. Removing the non-value added steps from the supply chain makes good business sense. Adding non-value added steps to the supply chain is a sure way to make sure someone else can beat you on price. Cosina has done it with the Bessa line, and given that Zeiss is involving Hasselblad in the ZI network means that Cosina will continue to do it.

    Again, the ZI looks like a fabulous camera on paper, and the lenses will almost certainly be among the best that money can buy. But paying for the cameras and lenses is one thing...paying for an unnecessary distribution and advertising network is quite another. If I was really interested in a new rangefinder, I'd wait a year to see what Cosina does next. Past behavior predicts future behavior...they'll take whatever they can from the ZI camera for their next generation of Bessa cameras.
    Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.

  10. #10

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    Excellent comments, Mongo. Much food for thought. You are, in fact, slowing down my latest GAS attack.

    Your comments about Hasselblad are right on the money. There was, in fact, another version of the X-pan (Fuji), but it wasn't distributed in the US. Mark up for Hasselblad - about 70%!!

    I am not buying as an investment. I've never re-sold a camera I've owned. I still have my Canonet, bought almost 30 years ago - & still use it.

    Regarding the lenses, where Leica lenses have had an advantage has been at full aperture - for some of their lenses. The Zeiss 45 Planar, for example, that was rated higher than Leica's 50 Summicron by photodo, was not a match for the Summicron at f/2. Due to the vagaries of the photodo formula, this was not reflected in their evaluation. One of the things that's exciting about the new Zeiss lenses is that the 50 Planar seems to be a better performer at f/2 than the 45 G version - judging by MTF ratings. ( Ihaven't seen pictures yet.) And Zeiss replaced the G-series Planar with a Biogon, which also seems to better performer that the 35 Planar. Both seem to be at least the equal or better than Leica equivalents even at f/2.

    It will definitely be interesting to see if Cosina can benefit by the Zeiss R&D. It will be more difficult than in the past because in these cases previous equipment was either discontinued or was not a direct competitor - as in the case of the 1:1 finder from the Epson. The R3A was obviously no threat to R-D1 sales. I think that it will be more difficult for Cosina to rip off Zeiss in this case unless the ZI quickly tanks. In fact, it seems to me that Cosina has added a premium rangefinder line to its offerings with this move so that its line-up is now stratified - something that Leica should have done a long time ago, as you point out. This may keep the collaboration going for some time once the camera settles into a stabile price niche dictated by the market.

    I have an opportunity to buy a Contax G2 with 3 lenses & flash real cheap + the cost of a minor repair. Maybe that's the way to go . . . & continue to play with my R2 for MF lenses. Much to think about.

    Thanks again for all the good thoughts. Enjoy the day.

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