Sony decided that vlogging was big enough to warrant its own camera, the ZV-1. Of course, you can use it to take pictures, but that’s not its intended purpose. Almost all of the features are geared toward people who shoot a lot of video of their own.
So long as you don’t mind carrying around a lot of weight, you can use it for days on end. It has a flip-around screen, a high-quality built-in microphone, and Sony’s uncanny autofocus that keeps your face and eyes sharp at all times.
All in all, vlogging is time-consuming and expensive at $800. In order to capture crystal-clear 4K video, your camera needs to be able to smooth out loud footsteps, withstand heavy use, and adapt to rapidly changing lighting conditions with ease. The results are in.
Body and handling
Based on the small RX100 V, the ZV-1 is an odd combination of technologies. Despite its small size, the camera has a fixed 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8mm (equivalent) lens and a 20.1MP sensor. Despite this, it is more user-friendly than a mirrorless camera for vloggers who are used to using smartphones.
You won’t find these kinds of features on high-end mirrorless cameras. With a built-in “dead-cat” muffler to reduce wind noise, this begins with a high-quality built-in microphone. If that doesn’t work, you can use a Sony hot-shoe microphone or plug your own microphone into the microphone port. You won’t hear any audio issues during critical interviews or other shooting because the camera lacks a headphone jack.
Because there is no electronic viewfinder on the ZV-1, you must shoot with the display. As it turns out, this camera can be used simultaneously with an external microphone and a tripod. An odd problem: It is bright enough to be used in the sun. It’s impossible to see through polarized sunglass lenses, which can be a problem if you’re photographing on a sunny day. I’ve contacted Sony to find out why the screen cover is polarized for better visibility in the daytime.
As an alternative to a Gorillapod, Sony provides the ZV-1 with a shooting grip (along with a 64GB SD card). With the retractable legs, you can use it as a mini-tripod while still having access to zooming and recording controls. There was no way I could test one out, but from what I saw, it appears to be worth the extra $150.
The main and quick menus cannot be accessed via touch on most Sony cameras, but you can set a tracking point for the autofocus. When you’re vlogging, you have to reach around the back to manipulate the control wheel, which can be cumbersome. Since every other camera manufacturer offers touch menu control, Sony’s refusal to implement it is perplexing.
For a camera with a limited number of manual controls, such as a few buttons and a wheel, that’s a big omission. While the well-designed quick menu controls make sense, using them while vlogging without touch control is a major pain.
There are a number of unique features built into the camera that make it easier for you to use it in automatic mode.
The ZV-1 has a plastic body, unlike most of the RX100 series that are made of solid metal. It’s not weatherproof, so you won’t be able to go vlogging in a storm with this camera.
If you’re looking for a camera with a single UHS-I SD card slot, this is it. For 4K 30p video, UHS-I is fast enough, and there’s clearly not enough room for two cards. The RX100 V is a better choice if you need burst photography.
Micro-USB instead of USB-C port is another unwelcome blast from the past. However, the battery is so small that it doesn’t make much of a difference. When you’re shooting in 4K, the battery only lasts about an hour, so you’ll need multiple batteries and a charger to go out for the day. ZV-1 has a tally light that shows you when you’re recording; it’s a big improvement over the previous model.
Starting with the 24-70mm f/2.8-4 lens, let’s talk about video shooting on the ZV-1. Fast enough for most situations, but I would have preferred if it were a little wider. People with large heads or hair, as well as those with short arms, may have difficulty with this.
You can’t really use 24mm for vlogging because of the stabilization, even though it appears to be wide enough. When walking or engaging in sports, optical stabilization cannot smooth out jolts, so it does not add crop to the image. The active electronic stabilization of SteadyShot makes vlogging very smooth, but it crops by about 25% of what it would otherwise crop.
The ZV-1, unlike most Sony cameras, has a gyroscope. Even if you turned off stabilization, you can still use Sony’s Catalyst Browse app to smooth your footage. If you were to use either Premiere or Resolve alone, you’d get a better result. Cropping will still occur, but it will be much less than you would expect.
With its RX100 VII and mirrorless cameras’ autofocus, this camera has the best feature by far. If you move out of the frame, it keeps you in focus as if you hadn’t done so. If you want to follow a moving object, all you have to do is touch it, and the camera will do the rest.
Vlogging relies heavily on face and eye detection, which can be erratic on other cameras. But on the ZV-1, it’s near-perfection time. To my disappointment, it was only able to handle a sudden transition from low-light to high-light or when there were two faces in one photograph. Slowing down the focus settings helped, I discovered. Consider the fact that the ZV-1 has animal eye AF, which can be used for a variety of animals, but it only works for photography and not video.
Products like smartphones and makeup frequently feature prominently in the videos of vloggers. The ZV-1 has a new feature called “product showcase” that makes it much easier to do. The camera will focus on any object placed in front of it rather than your face if you’re vlogging. Rather than having to tap the screen to switch focus, which could potentially shake the camera or miss a shot, this saves you the hassle of doing so. Because SteadyShot stabilization is disabled, this feature must be used with a tripod. Face/eye AF is also disabled, allowing the camera to focus on the surrounding area.
Background defocus is another fantastic autofocus feature. Using a wide-open aperture allows you to stand out against a beautiful bokeh background. Just press a button and you’re done; there is no tinkering.
A neutral density (ND) filter is included in the ZV-1, so it can be used outside. There’s no need to increase the shutter speed to 1000ths of a second or more because it darkens the image by three stops. A staccato Saving Private Ryan effect can be created by using such fast shutter speeds, as opposed to the smooth video with a slight motion blur that most vloggers prefer to use instead.
Be aware that the ND filter has one drawback: there is no “auto” setting in any of the main video modes for it; you must turn it on or off by hand instead. As a side note, it would have been nice if it automatically applied the blur effect when using the background blur mode.
The soft skin effect is another useful feature for vloggers (shown above). It makes you look plastic at the most aggressive setting, but it uses AI to smooth out any blemishes or other skin issues. Don’t forget to turn off the “low” setting if you don’t want it on; this is something I’ve had to learn the hard way.
Most cameras’ auto exposure modes change exposure settings in a jerky, distracting manner, so vloggers should avoid using them. The ZV-1, on the other hand, has a special face-priority mode. Even if the sun moves from behind you to in front of you, the exposure on your face remains constant.
Even better, the ZV-1’s exposure can be smoothly ramped up and down as the lighting changes. There’s no need to worry about messing up your shots when using shutter or aperture priority mode, which is ideal for beginners who don’t know how to use manual mode. Even if you prefer to shoot in a completely manual mode, the ZV-1 is capable of doing so as well.
For a camera with such a small sensor, the ZV-1, like the other RX100 models, delivers excellent video quality. There are no moire or aliasing issues because video is shot using the entire sensor and supersampled to 4K. (color fringing). Color science has been tweaked in the ZV-1 by Sony to produce more realistic hues, particularly in the skin tones.
Sony’s S-Log3 or HLG settings can be used to get the most out of your footage. Even though it doesn’t have a 10-bit mode, I wouldn’t expect it to be an HDR or professional camera because it’s a compact camera. There is a risk that the camera will overheat even more when shooting in 4K on a hot day.
A small sensor camera can shoot in low light up to ISO 3200 or 6400, which is impressive for a camera with such a small sensor. So, be aware that you won’t have a lot of room to tinker with the footage once it’s shot. For such a small device, it provides excellent video quality.
A good time to mention that the ZV-1 can take photos as well is at this point. Sony already has the RX100 series of cameras for photo and hybrid shooters, so I wouldn’t buy this one for that reason.
The RX100 VI is very similar in terms of specs. For photos, the camera’s main strength is its mach-level shooting and autofocus speeds. Bursts of 24 frames per second can be fired using the camera’s Auto Focus and Auto Exposure modes on. Face and eye tracking for animals and humans are also included in Sony’s uncannily fast autofocus.
Because they both use the same 1-inch sensor, the photo quality is also the same between the two models. As far as low-level performance is concerned, you can expect nothing less than the best.
As for vloggers, what is the verdict? ZV-1 could use a wider-angle lens, especially with active stabilization, to make it more versatile. Headphones and a proper touchscreen are also on my wish list.
In the end, it’s just nit-picking. I can’t believe how much Sony has crammed in here, from the impressive autofocus to the flip-out screen to the excellent microphone and so on, into this tiny vlogging camera. For vloggers who are currently using smartphones as their primary camera, this could be an excellent upgrade.
If you’re willing to shell out $800, Sony’s mirrorless A6100 or Canon’s M50, both of which come with a lens, would be better options. The ZV-1, on the other hand, is equipped with cutting-edge technology not found in either of those cameras, making it both easier to use and more powerful in some ways. When it comes to vlogging gear, the ZV-1 is a great choice for those who are new to the hobby or just want something basic.