Sony has introduced a new sub-category to its compact camera lineup that is designed mainly for vloggers. The ZV-1 is a compact camera, which is almost similar to the Sony RX100 series, but with a modified design. The rear LCD can be flipped outwards and turned 180 degrees from the side. Moreover, there are face priority autofocus and the promise of better audio quality, thanks to a directional three-capsule microphone.
The Sony ZV-1 can shoot up to 4K resolution video, similar to the latest RX100 series model. Sony has also added unique modes for adjusting the level of background blur. So, your face is more prominent when talking to the camera and the ability to prioritize an object instead of your face when you bring it to the frame.
Sony ZV-1 Design
One of the excellent new features is the side-hinged articulating touchscreen. This type of screen is better than a tilting one for shooting video because it makes the camera’s top and bottom free for attaching any accessories. Essentially, it also flips around 180 degrees to face forwards, enabling those operating one-person YouTube channels to frame their shots without requiring someone behind the camera.
Another great benefit of the side-hinged screen is that there’s space on top of the camera for a hotshoe. The opportunity to plug accessories such as LED lights or external microphones into that hotshoe is advantageous. For the Sony RX100 VII, you will have to purchase an external bracket to mount them, but with the ZV-1, there is no need for that. This brings us to yet another cool ZV-1’s vlogging bonuses: a 3.5mm mic input.
It isn’t worth it if you’re shooting an awesome-looking video if you don’t have equally fantastic audio to match. Therefore a 3.5mm port is essential for vlogging cameras. The Sony ZV-1 has an enhanced built-in microphone on its top plate. It is a three-directional capsule mic with left, center, and right channels.
Sony also added a ‘dead cat’ windshield with the ZV-1, which plugs into the hotshoe to help prevent wind noise whenever you’re shooting outdoors. An external microphone is still more important than any built-in equivalent, making that 3.5mm port a vital addition.
The addition of the micro USB port below the mic port is somewhat appreciated. While it’s quite far from a deal-breaker, we expect every new camera to provide USB-C ports for quick charging and general convenience. For instance, the Fujifilm X-T4 comes with a USB-C headphone adaptor that allows you to monitor the sound on your recordings, which is not possible on the ZV-1. It can at least charge the Sony ZV-1 while using the camera, so it’s not stuck in the charging dark ages.
The Sony ZV-1 has two other useful design modifications that can’t be found on the RX100 VII or any of its predecessors. One of them is a small handgrip. While this doesn’t significantly change the ZV-1’s handling, it’s another feature that lots of RX100-series owners have included in their cameras with third-party accessories. Lastly, for the first time on a Sony camera, the video recording button is as big as the stills shutter button.
Unlike the RX100 series, the ZV-1 is classified as a video-first camera that can also do stills. And, while you miss out on features such as an EVF and lens control ring, the addition of a side-flipping screen, hotshoe, and mic port make the ZV-1 the best pocketable tool around for vloggers and YouTubers.
Sony ZV-1 Features
- Sony ZV-1 offers a Vari-angle LCD screen, for selfie shooting with confidence.
- It has a directional three-capsule mic and a bundled windscreen.
- The vlogging camera has been optimized for easy and natural selfies
- It is compatible with all-in-one Bluetooth grips.
- Sony’s improved color science guarantees lively, natural imagery and is particularly strong across various skin tones.
- ZV-1 Camera gives high image quality and easily improved effects. Regardless of its pocket-friendly design, the ZV-1 is equipped with a large 1.0-type Exmor RSTM CMOS sensor for high-quality images, even in dim or challenging lighting conditions.
- Real-time Eye AF produces a top-notch vlogging autofocus. Although it lacks Animal Eye AF, but possesses Real-time tracking for moving objects.
- ZV-1 allows to rapidly shift focus between subjects. The high-performance, focal plane, phase-detection AF sensor allows high-speed and high-precision focusing with quick Hybrid AF. The sensor utilizes 315 phase-detection focusing points across a full 65% screen area to switch speedily between subjects without hunting.
- The bright 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens creates an incredible background blur.
- The C2 custom button in the Sony ZV-1 camera activates the Product Showcase Setting by default, deprioritizing your face to focus and widen the field-of-view.
- It offers powerful image stabilization.
- Smart auto-exposure (AE) transitions, optimized for faces is also a great feature.
- It allows you to attach professional accessories with the MI (Multi-Interface) Shoe. The wonderful Multi-Interface (MI) Shoe provides profound flexibility to attach lights, microphones, etc.
- It allows capturing powerful super slow motion videos which includes both drama and magic to your videos.
- Time-lapse adds cinematic expression to the passage of time. The ZV-1 has an interval shooting mode suitable for creating cinematic time-lapse movies with the Imaging EdgeTM Desktop PC software’s help.
- High quality 20.1 MP still image capture is possible. It captures high-quality still images due to the 1.0-type Exmor RS CMOS sensor and ZEISS® 24-70 mm20 lens. The large sensor and wide F1.8-2.8 aperture lens, alongside the latest-generation BIONZ X™ processor, gives professional-quality images with an extraordinary performance even in low light.
- You can develop artistic imagery with the Creative Style and Picture Effect.
- You can send videos to your smartphone with the Imaging Edge Mobile.
- The movie Edit add-on trims movies and expands image stabilization.
- You can add meta tags to videos recorded vertically, enabling instant uploading to mobile-friendly platforms. No PC rotation or cropping is needed.
- Smart touch operation allows the selection of focus, tracking points, and other settings very easily, even with the display flipped for selfies and vlogging.
- You can shoot 4K video like a pro. You can capture all the wonders and detail of the world and yourself with the 4K (QFHD 3,840 x 2,160) video recording.
- The camera offers excellent support for professional movie-recording workflows. For extra demanding productions, the ZV-1 supports a series of movie functions more commonly found in professional equipment, including S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma curves.
- It has built-in ND filters for precise exposure control.
- It can capture full-resolution still frames from any of your recorded movies in-camera without needing any PC.
Sony ZV-1 Performance
Together with significant autofocus, a forward-facing screen, and excellent audio options, vlogging cameras also require an attractive image stabilization to help keep handheld footage steady. Well, of those four features, this is the Sony ZV-1’s weakest area. It’s not that the SteadyShot system is not sound, by any means. Its most potent ‘Active’ stabilization mode joins optical and electronic stabilization and is usable in 4K shooting. But if you’re doing any walkaround vlogging, this is an important mode.
Well, the issue with ‘Active’ stabilization is that it applies a small crop to your footage to counter the bounce in your walking movements. It’s not too intense, but because the ZV-1’s widest focal length is already somewhat tight (24mm), it does imply that you end up with very little room around your face when holding the camera at arm’s length. The crop is still good for handheld vlogging, especially as it reveals how right Sony’s Eye AF focusing is.
But if stabilization is crucial to you, it might also be worth considering alternatives or accessories. For instance, both the GoPro Hero 8 Black and DJI Osmo Mobile 3 (with a smartphone) provide high-quality stabilization to the Sony ZV-1, but at the expense of image quality.
The ZV-1’s built-in, three-capsule microphone grabs excellent audio for a compact camera. The ‘dead cat’ windshield is also relevant if you’re shooting under breezy conditions. But there is unavoidably little noise interference from the camera’s focus motors. If you want to capture audio that suits your videos’ quality, you’ll have to pair the ZV-1 with an external microphone.
Luckily, that’s possible due to the 3.5mm microphone port on the side, and there are lots of mics to choose from Sony’s own ECM-XYST1M Stereo Microphone to other products such as the Rode Wireless Go. If you’re just starting, getting a cheap lavalier (or ‘lav’ lapel mic) is another affordable option to enhance the ZV-1’s audio, too, especially if you’ll mainly be talking to the camera.
Also, the Sony ZV-1 provides slow-motion modes, including 250, 500, and 1000fps options, although the latter two deliver a vital hit to resolution and quality. The 250fps mode is appropriate and combines carefully with the ZV-1’s shallow depth of field. The only pitfall is that shooting four-second clips and setting up the slow-mo modes is still a cumbersome process.
The Sony ZV-1 battery life only has room for the same NP-BX1 battery as the RX100 VII, which can take about 260 shots or 45 minutes of video.
So, it’s advisable to have a spare battery or two. However, it is possible to use the camera while plugged into a battery pack or wall charger.
Additionally, it’s possible to bypass the default five-minute recording limit when shooting 4K video. You have to set the ‘auto power-off temp’ to ‘high,’ and it’ll keep recording until either the battery is fully drained or your memory card is full. Besides, Sony says using this mode won’t damage the camera in any way, so you have nothing to worry about.
Sony ZV-1: Image and Video Quality
Like the recent Sony RX100 cameras, the ZV-1 oversamples its video footage before downsampling it to 4K. This result is sharper than alternative techniques such as pixel binning, and you can see this in its 4K footage, and it’s very sharp and detailed and has no crop except you’re shooting with ‘Active’ stabilization.
It’s so disappointing that the ZV-1 doesn’t have a 4K/60p option, as this would allow you to slow down 4K clips without losing any quality. But it’s not a significant miss, and the 4K/30p mode still makes a good impression with the absence of a rolling shutter, which is a normal side-effect of CMOS sensors that sometimes results in skewed lines during quick panning movements.
The built-in ND filter also helps keep movement pleasant and smooth in bright conditions, although the ZV-1inherently struggles a bit more in lower light due to its 1-inch sensor. In case you encounter a high-contrast scene, then picture profiles like S-Log2 will assist you in extracting additional detail, but you have to be at ease with color grading before trying it.
An aspect of image quality that Sony has gone massive for the ZV-1 is human faces’ color and exposure. According to the feedback from around the world, Sony says it’s created an “optimized color algorithm” that ensures skin tones are natural. The ZV-1 also evidently uses its face-recognition tech to obtain exposure readings, to ensure the vlogger’s face is bright and exposed in every condition.
The truth is, no camera is perfect, and the ZV-1 could benefit from a wider-angle lens, especially with an active stabilization. Sony packaged incredible features into this small vlogging camera, such as the top-notch autofocus, flip-out screen, high-quality microphone, etc. It should make an excellent upgrade camera for vloggers presently using smartphones.
Well, $800 isn’t cheap, and you can get Sony’s mirrorless A6100 or Canon’s M50, both with a lens, for less money. Nevertheless, the ZV-1 has excellent tech that’s not found on those cameras that makes it an incredible deal more comfortable to use and even more effective in some ways. So, if you’re a beginner vlogger or just want to keep things simple yet elegant, I’d recommend the Sony ZV-1.