Sony recently announced its new compact mirrorless camera aimed for vlogging with features specifically curated keeping a particular audience’s needs in mind. The camera has a compact form factor with larger 20MP sensor and three directional microphones. There’s a hot shoe mount for accessories and tilt adjustable touch screen display in addition to fast and responsive autofocus mechanism. In addition to that, the camera also comes with several other features such as 4K video recording, slow-motion recording and more.
The Sony ZV-1 is priced at Rs 77,990, including the shooting grip and for the price, many can argue about its utility and practicality in real-world. Apart from that, the camera also needs to prove itself in regular day-to-day photography as well just like a regular point-to-shoot camera.
We tested this camera for a while and here’s what we think of it:
Sony ZV-1 camera: Key specifications
The Sony ZV-1 camera comes with a long list of features and functionality and here’s a small summary of that.
Sensor: 20 megapixel 1-inch Exmor CMOS sensor
Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8
Optical zoom: 2.7x
Display: 3-inch touchscreen with 921K dot Vari-angle
Video recording: 4K/30p, 1080p/120p and high-speed modes up to 960fps
Shooting modes: 8-bit. Log and HLG
Microphones: 3 directional capsule microphone with wind-screen accessory (included in the box)
Image processor: BIONZ X
Focus type: Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF / contrast-detection AF)
Focus mode: Single-shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF, DMF, Manual Focus
3.5mm microphone jack
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for image and video transfer
The specification list is quite extensive and impressive at the same time for the camera of its size. Sony has done a good job at least in on-part specifications.
Sony ZV-1 camera: Design and build quality
Sony ZV-1 is a compact and lightweight camera with dimensions measuring 105.5 x 60.0 x 43.5 mm and weighs 294g. Design-wise, the camera looks like a proper interchangeable lens camera and feels like one too despite being a fixed lens camera. However, the compact and rather smaller grip on the right side does not offer that confidence of being able to shoot using one hand or while recording when the camera is facing yourself. Although the button position is good and one-hand operations are a lot easier than we first thought. One can easily reach the recording button or zoom ring without much effort irrespective of how you hold the camera.
The camera comes with a fixed 1-inch 20MP Exmor CMOS sensor with a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens that means it is not as versatile as interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras. Still, at the same time, this makes more sense for bloggers, especially those looking for an upgrade from their mobile phones.
The three directional microphones are placed at the top of the camera alongside the power, mode, shutter and zoom controls. Towards the back, there’s a 3-inch vari-angle display along with multipurpose dial, delete, menu and preview buttons.
Bottom side of the camera has a tripod mount and battery compartment. The camera has a solid build and does not feel cheap at all.
Sony has also announced a shooting grip for the ZV-1 camera that transforms into a small tripod and also offers some controls such as zoom and record. The shooting grip, according to us, is a nice addition to the ZV-1 kit considering the convenience it offers.
Sony ZV-1 camera: Features
If one place where Sony ZV-1 cameras absolutely shines is in the image and video quality. We will talk about that a little later in this review, but before that, let’s take a look at the features it offers.
Despite featuring a small 1-inch sensor, Sony ZV-1 has no shortage of features. The camera offers easy switching between video and photo mode. It also comes with a memory recall feature to further simplify things for users. In addition to that, it also allows users to play with several aspects of the image and video quality such as contrast, exposure, several photos and video quality and more.
It also comes with a fast-hybrid AF system for faster autofocus while shooting videos and stills with a bunch of focus modes such as Single-shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF, DMF and Manual Focus. Yes, the camera offers a manual AF system as well. Then there’s object tracking, Eye AF, several shooting modes, scene selection, built-in ND filter, super slo-mo, panorama, timelapse and more.
All this is impressive, but there are few limitations as well. For starters, the camera does not come with a viewfinder that means the user is dependent upon the 3-inch display, which is bright enough to offer a fair amount of visibility outdoors. Another thing is the lack of dedicated audio jack, that means you can not hear in real-time what you are recording.
Things even get uglier when you start using the camera. There’s a touchscreen at the back, but that can only be used to set focus tracking points and not for navigating through menus. This is not new for Sony, almost all their cameras with touch screens do not offer this functionality. However, in this case, it is much difficult for a vlogger to reach to the back of the camera to adjust some settings.
Another significant issue is the inclusion of a good old micro-USB port. We were surprised to see that in the camera as soon as we removed the plastic flap covering it. Although the camera can be charged using the micro USB port, a Type-C port would have been a better option to go with here.
Let’s also talk about the camera menu, a one-stop source for all the settings and features. It’s like a maze, you open the menu, start digging the particular feature and forget the way in between. Simply put, it is a mess.
Sony ZV-1 camera: Performance
There are cameras that can shoot good quality videos and photos, then there’s Sony ZV-1 camera which is designed explicitly for vloggers and it stands to the claims to some extent. The sensor is fast and can capture some good looking stills and video footage with great level of stability. But once again there’s a catch here. The 24mm lens is not wide enough for vlogging.
The built-in optical image stabilisation offers a good amount of stabilisation. Still, it is not very effective while doing sporty activities or walking and we are glad that Sony has added an electronic SteadyShot stabilisation feature to counter such shakes. But that chops the frame by 25% by further narrowing the already narrow field-of-view. If you are ready to compromise on that part, the image stabilisation is stunning on this camera. We recorded a few video footage handheld and we even didn’t realise that this shot was taken without any tripod. Also, the camera gives users the option to manually apply the stabilisation using the Catalyst Browser app, which is a welcome relief for vloggers.
Let’s talk about another crucial feature that is important for vlogging. Sony has blessed the camera with hybrid AF system, which is a combination of phase-detection AF and contrast-detection AF. Then there are 315 points (phase-detection AF), 425 points (contrast-detection AF). As already mentioned, there are tons of focus modes and focus types that help the camera focus on almost anything and everything depending upon the settings. Overall the autofocus system on ZV-1 is almost perfect and not even by mistake the camera misses the focus on targeted subject or object.
To further enhance focusing, Sony has added eye and motion tracking features that can track the eyes and movement like a pro. It can follow the eyes of animals as well.
Vloggers at times endorse a product and it can be anything such as a gadget or makeup and for that Sony has added a Product Showcase feature. The feature prioritises the product instead of the face. Suppose you are recording a vlog and suddenly you bring any product or object the camera automatically shifts the focus of the object by blurring the face a little in the background within a blink of your eyes. We tested this with several products such as smartphones, masala box, pen and more and every single time it worked. No lag, no delay at all. The camera does this by disabling the face priority setting to focus on the subject for a limited time. Talking about face priority settings, it keeps the face always in focus and also keeps the exposure in check even with changing surrounding lighting conditions.
We also tested the background blur feature where the camera blurs the background with a soft bokeh effect while keeping the subject in focus. The cutout around the edges is good and let’s say as good as a natural blur which we get in DSLR cameras. Also, turning on the feature is as easy as hitting a single button.
Coming to the video quality of the camera, the ZV-1 can record up to 4K videos. The first thing we noticed is that the sensor has good dynamic range and captures a lot more details that we expected from such a small sensor. The video footage is detailed and sharp. Sony has also done a good job in balancing the colour processing to offer more natural colour tones. Sony ZV-1 is also capable of shooting S-Log3 and HLG settings that further improve the video quality.
Picture quality from the camera is acceptable and it serves its purpose. Images taken using the camera also offer a fair amount of details, vivid colours and sharpness.
The low light performance of the camera is also good in both videos and photos. However, the video footage recorded adobe ISO6400 turns out to be a little more grainy than expected, courtesy to the small sensor size. But anything around 6400 is good and more than usable.
At last, the three-directional microphones record very good audio while shooting videos. The mesh at the top also offers a decent level of protection from wind noise.
Sony ZV-1 camera: Battery life
The camera comes with a small battery pack that is rated to deliver 260 photos and 45 minutes of video recording. But they are just claims and real-world usages are near that. Still, we would recommend buying a couple of extra batteries.
Sony ZV-1 camera: Verdict
Sony has added a lot of features to the ZV-1 camera. The entire autofocus and its feature pack stand out, the image and video quality is worth the praise and the design and convenience of the shooting grip can’t be ignored. The level of customisation and flexibility of the camera is also something that matters for vloggers. Having said that, there are a few things that Sony shouldn’t have ignored such as a slightly bigger battery, a wider lens setup, a type-C port and slightly more functionality to touch screen would have made this the best camera out there for vloggers.
However, this is still a good camera for vloggers that offers ease-of-use and the video quality that matters the most. So, if you are looking for a good camera for vlogging, the Sony ZV-1 is a decent device to go with.