Sony ZV-1 Hands On Review – A New Camera not Only for Vloggers

May 26th, 2020

The Sony ZV-1 has been just announced and we were lucky enough to put our hands on an early sample. With new enhanced features like built in ND filter, enhanced sound quality, faster autofocus, easier way to achieve shallow depth of field, and… a way to smooth the skin, Sony is aiming to capture the heart of vloggers by offering a new camera tailored to their needs. Let’s take a closer look with this Sony ZV-1 review.  

Sony ZV-1 For Vloggers and Professionals alike. Image credit: cinema5D

Sony is listening carefully and identified the need for an easy to use yet sophisticated camera that can appeal to vloggers and professionals alike. Yes, that’s right, no mistake here. The new ZV-1 is an exiting product, mostly because the direction Sony chose is right. It looks familiar (RX100 xx anyone?), but it is a better camera for video creation for different reasons. It is a very flexible working tool and when treating it right, the visual results can be impressive. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still those moments when I question some of the decision making when designing a camera like this, but all in all, my “features request list” for Sony compact cameras is shrinking. Who knows, maybe the next model will be a full bingo…

Sony ZV-1, Heritage

Sony took two of their 1-inch sensor compact cameras, the RX100 V and RX100 VII, and combined them into one shooting/filming device. This camera is presumably supposed to have the best of both worlds. The fast processor of the RX100 VII and optical block (lens and built in ND filter plus sensor) of the RX100 V. The end result is impressive yet not perfect.

Sony ZV-1 “Bokeh Button C1” and larger Record button. Image credit: cinema5D

Sony ZV-1 What is New

Sony really tried to cater to the needs of vloggers with the introduction of the following new features:

  • Improved autofocus performance (including “Product Showcase” feature, for fast and smooth transition between faces and products). This is implemented by pressing the C2 button
  • Improved stabilization
  • Clear voice recording (directional 3 capsule mic and a detachable dedicated windshield)
  • Easily accessible bokeh button (no need to dig into the menu)
  • Improved skin tones and “Soft skin” function
  • Front facing record light
  • Body grip for a comfortable hold

On top of the above features, the new ZV-1 is equipped with a vari angle LCD screen and a larger movie record button. As a working professional, I’m happy to see that Sony is continuing with its tradition of adding professional features to even their compact modestly priced cameras. S-log 2, S-log 3, HLG picture profiles next to zebra and manual audio and focus controls are all still there.

Sony ZV-1 Product Showcase C2 Button. Image credit: cinema5D

Sony ZV-1 at the Field

For the last few days, I’ve been running with the new camera and had a lot of fun using it. Its “dual personality” kept impressing me. For vlogging, it is a nice tool to work with. If you are a complete newbie, the camera will be ready to work for you in no time. Just dial “Intelligent Auto” and voila, everything is good to go BUT audio leveling – yes, even in this all auto mode, one will have to take care of the audio level control as the camera does not offer auto audio level in any filming mode. If your skills of operating a camera are beyond basics, the ZV-1 will grow with you. If you are a professional filmmaker, this compact camera can become the star of the day in some filming scenarios. Need a camera to throw in the bag as a modestly priced replacement for your A camera? Need a camera to get the job done in restricted places or sensitive situations? The ZV-1 might be the sensible solution. With many manual control options and enhanced operation, better performance much beyond basics can be achieved. Now, from the start I needed to be realistic. I did not search for 4K/60p or 10bit internal recording… For what it costs and for what it can do, it is a very nice device to have.

Sony ZV-1 Front tally lamp. Image credit: cinema5D

A Closer look at the Video Functionality of the ZV-1

As a professional filmmaker:

Using the ZV-1 camera can be challenging but rewarding. If you are a Sony user, you will feel right at home. Same camera menu structure (…), and similar functionality like with other Sony filming devices. HFR recording for example (High Frame Rate). Oh and speaking of which, I really hope for the day when no buffering is needed and simple HFR recording becomes possible…

While having an ND filter in such a small camera is truly amazing, at times I felt it is not strong enough to compensate in strong daylight (in particular when filming in S-log 2 where the native ISO value is 1000). Also, having a fast lens is a treat (f1.8-2-8), but when it comes to focal length, I wish the lens would have been wider. Especially when “walking and talking”, the 24mm wide side of the lens does not seem to be wide enough (the camera is equipped with 24-70mm lens). The absence of EVF (Electronic View Finder) was also an issue for me as jugging exposure and focusing in full daylight on an LCD is never a pleasant thing.

As a vlogger:

The dedicated “bokeh button” is working like a treat as long as you are in Intelligent Auto mode. If tempting to film in manual mode, an issue might arise. What this button does is opening the lens aperture to the maximum. By doing so, the camera needs to compensate for the amount of light entering the lens, and the best way to do so is probably by letting the camera itself to do so. The result is higher than 50 (60) shutter speed and “floating” ISO settings, both will change constantly. This is OK if you are looking for “just vlogging”.

Sony ZV-1 battery. You will need many of those to complete a shooting day. Image: cinema5D

For both Professionals and Vloggers:

Focus: Continues autofocus works well but I actually like the “Override” option where by touching the LCD screen AF-C becomes Manual Focus with the option to simply refocus on the object you like by touching the screen… I also appreciate how fast focus can be changed when pressing the C2 button and activating the “Product Showcase” function (what an engaging name). This function will speed up focus changes between, for example, the face and anything being put in front of the lens.

Stabilization: The Electronic stabilization system works well too. Between the two options “standard” and “active”, the latest is doing a better job but at the expense of cropping into the image.

Audio: The built in 3 capsule mic is doing an overall good job (for fast deployment). For enhanced audio functionality, an external microphone can be attached. Manual level control is also possible. What is really missing is a way to monitor sound as this camera like many other Sony compact cameras is lacking a headphone jack. Really a pity!

Handling: The new camera grip is just in the right size for my small hand. How people with bigger hands will feel I don’t know, but in any case, holding the camera is MUCH better this way. Another little treat is the red tally light next to the lens. Needless to say how easy it is now to spot if you are recording yourself.

Recording limitations: By default, in 4K filming mode, the camera will stop recording after 5 minutes. (Overheating protection).  To overcome this, change the settings under “Setup 2” – Auto Power OFF Temp, and apply “High”. Now recording up to 30 minutes should be  possible.

Proxy recording: Proxy recording for easier editing on slow computers is possible by simultaneously recording a lower resolution video file on the same single SD card.

Powering options and accessories: The Sony ZV-1 is a compact camera with a very small battery. You will need many of those to  conclude a shooting day. Luckily, external powering is possible. When it comes to accessories, the GP-VPT2BT hand grip can extend the usability of the camera by offering easier control when vlogging.

As a photo camera: Jugging the Z-1 as a photo camera is beyond my expertise, but one thing caught my imagination. The camera can shoot 24 frames per second and up to 172 shots (equal to about 7 seconds of video). By utilizing this photo function can we actually record higher than 4K resolution video? I’m yet to find out.

Sony ZV-1 Happy Vlogging. Image credit: cinema5D

Pricing and Availability:

The Sony ZV-1 will be available at the beginning of June 2020 and will be sold for $748. There is also a special accessory kit (Camera, Sony grip and SD card) that will be sold for a special price. ($846 at B&H)

Conclusion

The new Sony ZV-1 camera is a Jack of all trades. In many ways Sony is trying to combat the popularity of using mobile phones for capturing videos with this camera. Vloggers will find it as a nice tool to work with (no USB-C socket though, so probably no way to connect the camera to a computer and use it as an advanced webcam). As indicated before, for professionals it can be a nice modestly priced “throw in the bag” camera, one that can work well in many scenarios.

The above video was shot on a Sony ZV-1 camera. Camera settings: XAVC S, 4K/24p/100M. For the vlogging part: Mode – Intelligent All (PP Off). For the creative part: Mode – Manual. PP7 (S-log 2). Graded with FilmConvert.  Music: epidemicsound

What do you think about the new Sony ZV-1 camera? Can you see yourself using it for vlogging or during a professional shoot? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. 

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Jon Best
Jon Best
Member
August 20th, 2020

How long can you record 1080? Is it limited to 30 minutes?

Richard Ramos
Richard Ramos
Guest
July 10th, 2020

Thanks for the video review. It´s useful information needed to make a decision. Concerning the sound, I actually prefer the bit with atmospheric sound. I don´t find that the atmospheric sound makes it more difficult to understand your message. In fact, during most of the review you can notice the trees in background moving but you can´t “perceive” what is it that is making them move.

Thank you again.

Antoine
Antoine
Guest
June 30th, 2020

Also very good review, thanks!

Antoine
Antoine
Guest
June 30th, 2020

I think it is a fine little camera to have in your bag. I can totally see it in a video journalist bag with a sony x70, it is a perfect match as second camera for interview shot, still, to film in places were only tourist are allowed or when you need a super lite package, when doing sport, hiking or just to put on a lite gimbal. It’s a cheap rx100 that focus on video without sacrificing much.

 Juan Francisco Calero
Juan Francisco Calero
Member
May 29th, 2020

I’ve been using a Lumix LX100 for video bloggins succesfully for years. The key point, a good APP to focus my face, better than a switchable screen wich is small and far from the speaker, light reflections, etc. A good and reliable app is much better than a 360 screen, by far. So, no info in the review about an app tu use it, and if it works well. For example, my Fuji XT-3 has a annoying and unusable APP to self record, really disgusting. What about?

Philip Johnston
Guest
May 29th, 2020

Why do Sony insist in NOT giving you a headphone jack on this camera…a waist of time if you cannot monitor your sound. It seems to me a lazy streak in the designers of these cameras. What professional would choose this camera if you CANT MONITOR YOUR SOUND…GET IT RIGHT SONY !!!

Tim Shoebridge
Guest
May 28th, 2020

Great review Johnnie. As always :)

To me a 1 inch sensor provides a great opportunity for implementing really effective IBIS. For this camera to be considered a serious vlogging + video camera I personally think IBIS should have been included. I’ve seen a lot of walk+talk footage shot with this camera over the last 24 hours and it really is not smooth enough. Trouble is, I don’t think Sony are the real masters of IBIS technology yet…

 Alec Kinnear
Alec Kinnear
Member
July 2nd, 2020
Reply to  Tim Shoebridge

The real joy here is being able to convert footage shot with just optical stabilisation to optical plus digital after the shoot with Sony’s Catalyst Browse. That way you shoot the best quality footage and add the stabilisation after the fact, using gyroscopic data.

Examples here: https://youtu.be/HMon1AVdfeM?t=284

PS. After years of owning Sony cameras for small carry (NEX-5T) and for video (A6300, A6500, A7II), I’m all Nikon these days. I wouldn’t touch the ZV-1, due to the rapid deterioration in quality from ISO 400 up on a 1 inch sensor. Much better to get a Nikon Z50 with a great lens, minimal rolling shutter and great video quality. Still, what Sony is doing here with recording gyroscopic data for later computer conversion is an amazing innovation. Let’s hope it’s not patented, just as RED has locked us all out of in-camera RAW. If Canon hadn’t wielded its cripple hammer again on the M6 II 4K quality, it would be another excellent contender for small, high quality hybrid camera with high quality image and good dynamic range.

 Göran Svensson
Göran Svensson
Member
May 28th, 2020

Does it have a clean HDMI-out? Can you use the Bluetooth to listen to audio true BT-headphones?

 Alfredo Canziani
Alfredo Canziani
Member
May 27th, 2020

«no USB-C socket though, so probably no way to connect the camera to a computer and use it as an advanced webcam» how are the two even remotely connected?!
But the way, it seems they’ll release software to turn this camera into a webcam this summer.

 Giovanni Lorini
Member
May 26th, 2020

Hi Johnnie,

nice review as usual with a lot of footage, also in S-Log, Is it possible to download some original clip
to check it ?
Do you know if is it possible to use the camera as Usb Video source with OBS or Vmix or similar streaming software ? i think for a Vlogger could be a very useful setup for live streaming.
Another question, I see you are still in Japan but the camera menu are in English and there is
the PAL-NTSC selection, is an overseas model or finally Sony made a world model also
for Japanese market :) ?

thank you !

Oliver
Oliver
Guest
May 27th, 2020
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

According to this German Sony Community post, it will be possible to use it as USB webcam with Windows 10. The software for it is supposed to be available in July. Interesting to see, how long you can use it until swapping batteries. https://community.sony.ee/t5/entdecke-sony/die-neue-vlog-kamera-zv-1/ba-p/3665401

Google translate of the relevant part, my apologies I am short on time:
“Live streaming with the ZV-1

The ZV-1 can be converted into a webcam by connecting to a PC (footnote 15: Windows 10) via USB. This allows content creators to interact with their followers in real-time while using the advanced imaging technology and unique features of the ZV-1. The required new PC software from Sony will be available from July 2020.

The full specifications are listed in the table below.”

Great first impression, there are not many around – much appreciated!

/Oliver

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