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Zeiss Cinemizer review

Andrew Williams



Our Score



  • Comfortable and light among peers
  • Easy to to use
  • Decent contrast


  • Sub-HD resolution
  • Colour distortion
  • Expensive

Review Price £800.00

Key Features: OLED display; 570 x 800 pixel resolution per eye; Optional head tracking accessory; 6-hour battery

Manufacturer: Zeiss

What is the Zeis Cinemizer?

“Virtual reality video glasses are the future,” was the thought of many a child who grew up in the 80s or 90s. Now it all seems a bit silly.

However, video glasses are slowly getting to the point where their embarrassment factor is minimised by performance. The big shot of the moment is the Kickstarter-backed Oculus Rift, but the Zeiss Cinemizer is a slightly more sensible affair.

These video glasses aren’t cheap at £600, but they are less ridiculous looking and perform better than most glasses we’ve tried, and the head-tracking feature is particularly good fun.

Zeiss Cinemizer 2

Zeiss Cinemizer – Design

Google’s Glass project is the darling of smart glasses, but the Zeiss Cinemizer are much more traditional in their approach. These glasses do not offer a heads-up display that gives you access to the internet, or information about the world around you.

The Zeiss Cinemizer are video glasses. They are connected to a power pack block, but supplying the juice and a few controls/sockets is more-or-less all it does. Their brains are very limited - you need to plug them into a video source to work. It’ll plug into anything with an HDMI port, and supports 3D content with sources like a PS3 or PC.

Zeiss Cinemizer 6

In order to give you the immersive effect video glasses are out to achieve, the Zeiss Cinemizer use tiny OLED displays that sit in front of your eyes. In order to fit these in, the glasses have to be fairly large.

However, we’ll hand it to Zeiss, they’re distinctly less embarrassing and/or shoddy than any video glasses we’ve reviewed. They’re better-made than the Epson Moverio BT-100, slightly less ridiculous than the poorly-camouflaged Vuzix Wrapwear 1200 and a good deal smaller than the Oculus Rift (which we are, sadly, yet to try).

Let’s not overstate matters, though – they still make you look like a bit of a twonk.

Zeiss Cinemizer 7

The Zeiss Cinemizer are fairly comfortable and impressively secure in-use. They are worn much like an ordinary pair of glasses, and use adjustable rubber guards that sit behind each ear to keep the set in place – especially important when using the head tracker accessory, which we'll cover later.

They are necessarily heavier and less comfy than a “normal” pair of glasses, and you wouldn’t want to wear them for hours on end, but after optimising their seating you can wear them for an hour or more without suffering.

One of the most sensible hardware extras of the Cinemizer is compensation for people who wear glasses. They offer -5 to 2 adjustment (which will make sense to anyone with glasses), so you don’t have to wear specs while using them. You adjust these settings using little dials by the eyepieces. It’s a great feature, but doesn’t appear to compensate for astigmatism and takes a bit of fiddling as there’s limited fine-tuning.Zeiss Cinemizer

Designed to be an end-to-end product apart from the video source, the Zeiss Cinemizer has a 6-hour battery unit that’s attached to the glasses with a cable and there are little bundled IEM earphones that plug into the glasses – each with its own mono 3.5mm socket on each arm. Unfortunately, you cannot use your own earphones as while there’s a 3.5mm socket on the power block, it’s an AV input, not a headphone out. Zeiss Cinemizer 10

The earphones are entry-level fare, let down more by the poor-quality rubber tips than the actual sound quality of the earphones – which is roughly on-par with the Creative EP-630. Zeiss offers some higher-grade customised Sony headphones, but as these cost $159 they’re anything but an impulse upgrade.

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May 17, 2013, 6:40 pm

"but the Zeiss Cinemizer is a slightly more sensible affair.
These video glasses aren’t cheap at £600" Oculus Rift is only 300 usd and and has much better tracking and fills your vision. The Cinemizer has been passed and they need to up their game.


May 17, 2013, 8:19 pm

Unless there is a new advance in audio-visual technology on the horizon (painting images on the back of the eye with low powered lasers?) glasses are simply the wrong way to approach the design of these devices. The Occulus Rift is a huge improvement because it takes its design cues from ski goggles, the only style of eyewear that can comfortably accommodate the need for additional, screens, lenses and electronics with a comfortable band holding them in place rather than two plastic arms hooked over your ears. Trying to put this kind of technology into designs based on glasses, even large wrap-around sunglasses, is a technological dead end that always ends up disappointing the user and creating a clumsy uncomfortable viewing experience. Even a big improvement in screen resolution can't get around the physiology of the human face and basic physics because the screen has to be a certain distance from the eye and so do the lenses that allow the eyes to focus on them. Human ears and noses never evolved to balance electronic devices on them. Vuzix, Sony, Zeiss and all the rest are simply barking up the wrong tree design-wise and are forced to make design compromises that create an extremely disappointing narrow field of view. I would go so far as to say that a person would look much less like a dork with an Occulus Rift which has a certain design integrity that giant oversized glasses never will have.

Michael Price

May 18, 2013, 10:10 am

The Oculus Rift may fill your vision but what is the image quality for that extra field of view? That is always the trade off.

David Fanning

May 20, 2013, 8:04 am

Oculus Rift won't be available until 2015, so it's difficult to say how good it will be. But the size of the display is not a measure of quality. They are aiming for a 1,280-x-800 display split between two eyes. So an effective resolution of 640-x-800 per eye. So having the bigger field of vision means merely magnifying the pixels.

The cinemizer has a smaller field of vision, but it is pin-sharp from edge-to-edge, and you won't see pixels (a bit like a Retina Display from Apple). To match that density of pixels at the size the Oculus Rift will display things, they would need a minimum 4K, Ultra HD display to get close. An 8K display would be better. But if course they don't exist at this size.

So it's like having a 40-inch screen at HD resolution, or a 120-inch screen with the same resolution. Bigger doesn't always mean better.


May 21, 2013, 2:53 pm

it says the headtracker "...won’t support full movement without a specific driver"

Thats not true. The tracker uses the HID-USB interface and those are standard drivers that come with every OS. What does needs to be done is, the Software has to support the Tracker. This means it needs to be modified by the developers. For this there is exists a free SDK.


May 21, 2013, 3:43 pm

"Oculus Rift won't be available until 2015"

The consumer version has not been dated, though Palmer has previously stated that they're aiming to get it out at least before Q4 2014, with the 2nd gen devkit arriving before then. The current devkit is available already: I have one on my desk.

The screen-door is noticeable, but it doesn't matter once you are wearing it. Because it tracks your head movement, and you naturally move your head around without realising it, you brain interpolates between pixels over time to build up an effectively higher resolution view of the world. Plus, enveloping the majority of your field of view with image is such a profound effect that you don't really care about the low resolution.

TR guys: if you want to play around the with devkit for a while, I can cart it down to the Southwark Street office for a few hours or so. My desktop isn't portable, so you'd have to have a decently grunty computer on-hand (a solid 60fps is a requirement to avoid nausea).

lou west

May 24, 2013, 7:12 am

I think the entire notion of having huge ski Goggles on is absurd. I would pic the Zeiss Cinemizer over Rift any day. I have a friend who has a Zeiss and its awesome...I'm surprised by all the negitivity...they are super easy to use and are really uber In person , they are not bluky and lightweight on the head...very very comforable very easy to use..and attractive..espeically since you would want to wear them for a long time..and you do not get the 3-D headache like you get when seeing 3-D in a movie threater...they come across very professional and the head tracker is being used by people who like to do RC helicopters they can set it up to see though the helicopters eyes..when flying its super sweet..

lou west

May 24, 2013, 7:25 am

I think if people had both sets to try they would pick the Cinemizer over Rift. Rift is so unprofessional looking..and I think a headset like this could be used on more then just games. Spending 300$ for a headset that doesn't look better then something you would sit at home in your PJ's with is a lot of money really. Especally since most gammers spend about 300$ for an entire gamming system..to spend 300 on just a head set that you wouldnt want to leave the house with is a lot of money.

lou west

May 24, 2013, 7:30 am

yea, in two years this concept with the Rift will drift away. There will be so many better options.


May 24, 2013, 3:19 pm

Well there is your problem. Puting form before function. Oculus offers something the cinemizer only dreams of with it's tiny fov. Oculus provides superior sensors and when the consumer version comes out (we are taking about a dev kit which also destroys your argument because these aren't meant for general public yet) will have a high res screen and decimate the boring, non immersive cinemizer. Where are the lines of people trying the cinemizer and freaking out ;)

Mat Holton

September 26, 2013, 8:37 am

I have tried both Oculus and Zeiss (on the same day, at a convention) and I can honestly tell you that the Oculus beat it!

Why you may ask? Simply because the Oculus provided a MUCH more
immersive experience. I think this was due to the fact that head-tracking was almost perfect but perhaps more than that was the fact that the Oculus 'screen' took up almost my entire field of vision. It was unbelievably impressive...and this even when the resolution is crap (compared to the Zeiss, oculus res is pathetic) - it doesn't seem to matter, once you find yourself 'immersed'.

Regarding the immersive-power Vs resolution issue. I recall playing a VR arcade game way back in the mid-90s. Graphics: terrible, Framerate: terrible, Experience: incredible! Basically, what I'm saying is that it's not about the graphics/frame-rate/#polygons - it's about how well the overall experience is!

That said, if I had to choose one of the devices to watch a film, I would choose the Zeiss but for anything else it's Oculus all the way!


September 15, 2014, 2:24 pm

It wouldn't be so bad if the reviewer managed to give the Correct resolution for the Cinemizers 570x800? NOT.
They are 870 × 500 pixels I have a set, they are amazing, I also have 640x480 LCD, these are not so good.
I have also tried a 3D BluRay which was impressive.
What often gets missed, is the very good contrast with OLED over LCD, where blacks look grey.

Joe Holliday

December 25, 2014, 7:04 pm

Here we are two years later with the DK2 out and future models on the horizon. You were saying?

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