Both John and I decided to purchase the Sony ZV-1 around a month ago, but for very different reasons. For John, he was looking for a compact, high-quality camera that can shoot 4K timelapse and requires minimal setup, essentially a portable all-round solution that left his main camera (a Sony A7R3) available for actual photography use whilst the ZV-1 dealt could be occupied with timelapse capture.
For me on the other hand, I had heard (and seen) from multiple reviews that the ZV-1 was the perfect vlogging solution that, when used in conjunction with the dedicated recording handle/grip/remote/tripod thingy, could also replace the almost torturous weight of vlogging with an A7R3 and Joby Gorillapod attachment.
In addition to the two key uses mentioned above, both John and I were hoping the ZV-1 could be a replacement to our iPhone cameras when we're out and about, offering better specs and low-light capabilities to capture certain shots when we've left our main cameras at home. So, after a month of using the ZV-1, John and I have compiled our thoughts into a concise review that could help you decide if the Sony ZV-1 is the camera that suits your needs. First off, let's have a recap of the spec sheet.
Sony ZV-1 Specifications:
- 20.1MP 1" Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
- ZEISS 24-70mm-Equiv. f/1.8-2.8 Lens
- UHD 4K30p Video with HLG & S-Log3 Gammas
- 3.0" Side Flip-Out Touchscreen LCD
- Real-Time Tracking & Eye AF
- Background Defocus & Face Priority AE
- BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
- Directional 3-Capsule Mic & Mic Jack
- Multi-Interface Shoe, Built-In ND Filter
- Product Showcase Setting
- Price: $750 USD
Essentially the ZV-1 has taken certain capabilities from the Sony RX100-series and added certain modifications for vlog-style content creation. From the above specs, we've put together our likes and dislikes list below.
- Small and convenient form factor: This camera really is a pocket-sized device, ideal for carrying around in your back pocket or bag on daily journeys. As long as you can remember to take it with you when you head out, you'll never be missing a device that captures high-quality video and images
- Perfect for vlogging: The reviews weren't wrong about this. Sony has gone to extra lengths to make the product a go-to device for anybody looking to regularly product vlog content. Little touches like the red recording light on the front are well thought out and useful to have, ensuring that you're not turning the camera around every few minutes to check that you're still recording. The product showcase setting works extremely well, intelligently focusing on objects before switching back to your face as soon as the object in question is put down. It's worth noting here that you do need to remember to turn this off for better image stabilization - I found this out the hard way when I forgot to turn it off and found that most of my vlogging footage was unusable.
- The flip screen: This feature definitely links to the above point, but deserves a separate mention as its uses exceed those of just vlogging. The flip screen is a good feature for capturing certain angles and, being a touch screen, allows you to review content easily. The camera is also programmed by default to power off when the flip screen is close inwards, a feature that I really liked as it saved a lot of time that would have been spent fumbling for the button.
- The microphone quality: In the box, you're given a fluffy microphone cover that slides into the horseshoe mount. I found this solution to be perfectly suited to regular recording use, delivering clear sound quality that required no modification in post-production.
- The Sony GP-VPT2BT stand: A fantastic accompaniment to the ZV-1 camera. Once linked with the camera through Bluetooth, the stand acts as a remote, tripod, and grip, providing a versatile solution to a number of vlogging solutions. Finished holding it as you're walking? Great, pop the legs out and use it as a tripod. Want to film a different angle on the go? No problem, use the stand mechanisms to easily change the device orientation. Simple and effective.
- Low light capabilities and general image quality: John took the ZV-1 out for multiple experiments under a number of varying conditions, including some late-night street photography and timelapse shooting. Whilst the camera isn't going to match up to a full-frame device, overall he was surprised with how well the camera performed, providing clear, sharp images even under low-light conditions. The built-in ND filter is an extra bonus for shooting under certain light conditions and, whilst it's clearly not a full-on video camera like the A7S3, it provided good material for social media platforms and B-roll footage.
The above list of likes may convince you that the Sony ZV-1 is an all capable, all-powerful device that will immediately fill that tech void in your kit list. However, whilst it does have its merits, there are also a number of dislikes that hamper the ZV-1 from being truly untouchable.
- Poor battery life: As it's a compact camera, the batteries are really small, and will deliver a couple of hours of shooting before you'll have to switch out or recharge. We found the solution to this was to carry around a portable battery bank that you can plugin, but when you're initially looking for a compact device, carrying around a battery pack definitely reduces the portability of the solution.
- 24mm is not wide enough: It's adequate...but only just. For vlogging, we found that you'd definitely have to extend your arm out to make sure you could capture the entire scene. Certain modes will also crop in, further reducing the FOV. It's also worth noting that although the aperture is advertised as being F2.8, as soon as you zoom in by even 1mm the aperture drops considerably.
- The flip screen: Both a like and a dislike. In bright daylight, we had difficulty seeing the screen, and we wish it could have been a bit brighter. We also wish that there was a separate EVF (even as an attachment) that could be used for photography.
- Complex user interface: Sony menus are notoriously hard to navigate, and the ZV-1 is no exception. Even using the mode selector wasn't as easy as we thought it would be.
Our verdict: Despite its shortcomings, the Sony ZV-1 is a welcome addition to our kit list as long as you understand the limitations. As advertising, if you're looking for a compact solution for vlogging and point-and-shoot capabilities, this one is definitely for you.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back here and subscribe to our email list for more product updates and tips and tricks to take your content beyond visuals.
The Beyond Visuals Team