Review Sony ZV-1

sony zv-1 packshot

The best camera for vloggers?

Sony confidently announced the ZV-1 as “the ideal vlogging camera in pocket size.” We started working with this camera, paying particular attention to the video capabilities. Is the ZV-1 as good as Sony claims?

TEST RESULTS Sony ZV-1:

PROS

CONS

  • Easy to operate
  • Accurate autofocus
  • Good image quality straight from the camera  
  • Log profiles for post-processing
  • With Active (electronic) image stabilization, you lose wide angle
  • No headphone jack

The lens looks familiar: a 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with large maximum aperture.

The ZV-1 seems very familiar. Although the name suggests it is a completely new camera, it is based on the successful Cyber-Shot RX100 compact cameras. Just like the RX100 VII, the ZV-1 contains an image sensor in 1-inch format (13.2 x 8.8 mm) with 20.1 effective megapixels. The sensor has a stacked design, which means that fast DRAM memory is integrated into the sensor. As a result, the sensor can be read out very quickly. The lens also looks familiar: a 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with large maximum aperture.

sony zv-1 productshot

 

SCREEN TO THE SIDE

But not everything is familiar territory. The ZV-1 is Sony’s first compact camera with a ‘vari-angle’ LCD touchscreen that folds out to the side of the camera and turns. With the RX100 cameras, the screen folds out upwards. If you want to picture yourself – and that’s what vloggers do – a side-folding screen is more convenient, because you can still place accessories such as a directional microphone or an LED light on the camera’s flash shoe. This is not possible with a vertically folding screen. Even if you are not filming yourself, a vari-angle screen gives more options in terms of camera position.

The position of the screen next to the camera does have an unexpected disadvantage. When you film yourself, you will tend to look at yourself on the screen. Because the screen is next to the camera, you look away from the lens. That is normal in a filmed interview, but seems very unnatural for vlogging. This problem was not encountered with a vertically folding screen, because the screen is then just above the optical axis of the lens. So use the screen to check the settings and exposure, and then try to stare at the screen as little as possible.

bovenkant Sony ZV-1

OPERATION

It is very comfortable to focus the ZV-1 on yourself and hold it with one hand. At the top, there is a large REC button to start the recording, and at the front, there is a red light indicating whether the camera is recording.

The ZV-1 uses Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilization, so you can also film while walking. In the Standard setting, the camera only uses the optical image stabilization in the lens. For an even more stable image, use the Active setting, which also uses electronic stabilization. However, a light crop is then applied. When you hold the camera at arm’s length, your head will fill the image when you set the image stabilization to Active.

I used the ZV-1 together with the GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip with Wireless Remote Commander. Once camera and grip are connected, it is very easy to start a recording and zoom the lens in or out.

IMAGE QUALITY

The category of “vloggers” is very broad and includes every level of technical knowledge. The ZV-1 offers something for everyone. If you don’t want to delve into video settings, you can get started right away with the ‘Smart automatic’ recording mode. This controls the exposure and ensures an end result with good contrast and vibrant colors that can be used immediately. In the case of large differences in brightness (for example in bright sunlight), this does cause problems with the rather limited dynamic range of the sensor.

Those who are more technically sophisticated can film with a “flat” image profile such as Sony S-Log 2, S-Log 3 or Hybrid Log-Gamma (HDR). The exposure is then regulated differently in order to achieve a larger dynamic range. Straight out of the camera, the images are dull and have low contrast: post-processing is required to use them (color grading). That takes more time and effort, but the result is much better.

The ZV-1 shoots in 4K resolution with a XAVC S codec with high bit rate. For post-processing, it offers Hybrid Log-Gamma (HDR), S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3, and S-Gamut3/S-Log. Connecting it to a PC via USB makes the ZV-1 usable as a webcam.

The High Frame Rate recording mode of the RX100 series is also available for super slow-motion recording at 250, 500 or 1000 fps. These are limited to a few seconds of recording time and chew through the battery life.

GOOD audio

No one will watch your video if the sound isn’t good. The ZV-1 therefore includes a directional microphone designed to record audio in the forward direction, which in selfie mode clearly captures the voice of the vlogger and minimizes background sounds.

The audio quality is good; however, because the ZV-1 does not include a connection for a headset, it is difficult to check whether the volume is well regulated. A standard 3.5mm microphone connection and Multi Interface Shoe allow external microphones to be connected. The ZV-1 also comes with an accessory that fits on the MI shoe to minimize wind noise.

SMART FEATURES

The Sony ZV-1 lets you easily switch between two levels of background blur (bokeh) while shooting. Thanks to a separate Bokeh button on top of the camera, you can do this without going into the camera menu. The Product Showcase setting ensures fast and smooth focus transitions between the presenter’s face and an object being shown.

Face Priority AE function detects faces and adjusts exposure to ensure that the face is always bright. This AE technology also suppresses an abrupt change in exposure if the subject quickly turns away.

The Sony ZV-1 itself will be on the market in June for €799.00.

selfshooting vlogger

CONCLUSION: REVIEW Sony ZV-1

For this price (800 euros, plus 199 if you also want the wireless GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip), it offers great value for money.

The ZV-1 is indeed an ideal camera for vloggers: easy to operate, with accurate autofocus, good image quality straight from the camera and log profiles for post-processing. The ZV-1 is not perfect: With Active (electronic) image stabilization, you lose wide angle, and a headphone connection would be practical. For this price (800 euros, plus 199 if you also want the wireless GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip), it offers great value for money.