The Sony ZV-1 is a pocket vlogging camera that is strong. It contains the best video features of the Sony RX100 series and blends them with interface tweaks that make it suitable for filming YouTube videos at home or on the move.
Its wide zoom range and fast f/1.8-2.8 lens make it perfect for landscapes and wildlife photography. The ZS-1’s 1-inch sensor is wide enough to deliver high-quality vlogs with background blur and clear focus.
Sony ZV-1: Price
Sony ZV-1: Key Features
Immediately, three features on the Sony ZV-1 stand out. First, if Sony typically sticks to simplified tilting displays, it has a completely variable-angle panel. The vari-angle pivot is particularly ideal for vertical video recording. Purists would shudder, but if your vlogs are built for consumption on a tablet, vertical content is what you need.
Second, on the top plate, there is a much wider microphone grille than normal. For voice recording, and for adding a custom-designed wind shield, the internal mic has been configured. This is included with the video and, with the mic, clips into the extension shoe and covers it with a furry baffle.
Third, there is a new AF mode ‘product showcase’ that changes focus to any object that you hold up to the camera when chatting. This, plus a recent ‘bokeh backdrop defocus’ turn, will assist novice video makers without being troubled by technicalities to create cinematic background blur and focus pull effects.
The ZV-1 does not have the Sony RX100 series cameras’ integral electronic viewfinder. It doesn’t have a light or even a mode dial, either. However, Stills shooters do not need to despair, all the normal shooting styles are still there and accessed by a Mode icon.
The ZV-1 has the same image resolution of 20 MP as the Sony RX100 cameras, but you can think of those as still cameras that can capture video if it helps, and the ZV-1 as a vlogging camera that can shoot fantastic stills as well.
Sony ZV-1: Build and Handling
If you like compact cameras, then the ZV-1 is just for you. It’s really friendly with a pocket or purse and there’s a grip on the right side of the body to help the fingers buy a little extra. However, it is easier for small hands than large ones, and there is space for just four small buttons and a dual purpose power/four-way navigation dial with most of the back taken up by the vari-angle panel. This is the only control dial on the camera.
The rear screen is good, but instead of the 16:9 ratio used for film, the 3:2 ratio is good. It’s sensitive to touch, but not all of the buttons. To set a fixation tracking point, you can tap the pad, but you need to use the navigational controller and the central ‘OK’ button for camera settings.
The ZV-1 does not have the control ring you see on the similar-sized RX100 versions around the lens. There is no electronic viewfinder, either, but for vlogging, that’s a pretty low priority anyway.
There is a large and conspicuous video capture button on the top, on/off and mode buttons and a small shutter release with an outside zoom lever.
The ZV-1 is a very good size to bring all-round, but maybe a slight fraction when it comes to handling and controls. You’re not going to get anything!
Sony ZV-1: Performance
Sony has truly finely tuned the AF system for its audience. The monitoring of the Real-Time Eye AF is unique in its precision and pace, and the product view AF only brings a smile to your face when you use it because of its speed and the professional look of its quick yet seamless refocusing operation (you can slow it down if it’s too fast).
It’s like Sony asked a vlogger to sit down and show them what they’re doing in front of the camera, and then built a camera to do it exactly.
It’s also just as good as the stock RX100 cameras for still photography. You may not have the extended zoom range of the new RX100 models or the built-in electronic viewfinder or a mode knob, but in a camera where still photography is secondary, these are not serious issues.
The audio characteristics are interesting. Whether the voice-optimized sound recording makes so much of a difference to expression is impossible to tell, but the wind shield makes a big difference. On a breezy day, we tried it out, and the wind noise made the audio unusable without the mask, but with it, we did not hear any wind noise at all.
Sony is keen to have the kind of audio output that makes it pointless for an external mic, which helps to an extent, but not when the speaker is a few feet away from the camera. There will be moments where, no matter what, you require an external mic, and for those times, the ZV-1 has a mic port.
The SteadyShot Active stabilization, which Sony claims is up to 11x stronger than normal stabilization, we are not so sure. Our run and gun experiments were pretty jerky and awkward to watch… but Sony is also going to provide a VPT2BT accessory grip (and a smaller SGR1 grip). The VPT2BT could balance your video a bit, or alternatively you might go for a stabilized gimbal-the light weight of the ZV-1 suggests that you won’t have to go too far up-market.
Sony ZV-1: Key specifications
- 20 megapixel 1” BSI CMOS sensor
- 24-70mm equivalent F1.8-2.8 lens
- Fully articulating, 921K dot, 3” touchscreen display
- 4K/30p, 1080p/120p and high-speed modes up to 960fps
- 8-bit. Log and ‘HLG’ shooting modes
- Directional 3-capsule microphone with windscreen
- Excellent autofocus in stills and video
- Can be charged via USB while in use
- 3.5mm microphone jack
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for image and video transfer
- Rated at 260 shots per charge
Sony ZV-1: Conclusion
As yet another Sony RX100 variant, some might ignore the ZV-1, but it’s way more than that. The sensor and lens may be familiar, but all the modern and exclusive and beautifully optimized for vlogging are the body, the buttons, the audio and the rear screen.
There are a few niggles. When you zoom in, the big difference in the minimum focus distance is irritating and the SteadyShot Active stabilization did not perform that well for us, but the autofocus is excellent and the ZV-1 is a delight to use, not least because there’s finally a vlogging camera here that’s very clearly designed for vlogging.