Sony Creates ZV-1 Compact as the Ideal Vlogging Camera05/26/2020
Vlogging just got a whole lot easier with the release of the Sony ZV-1 Digital Camera. This ultra-compact system may look familiar to fans of the RX100—it does borrow a lot of that series’ tech—but Sony has redesigned the ZV-1 to better appeal to the everyday content creator. Just by looking at it, you can see the improvements—it has a side flip-out screen, brings back the Multi Interface Shoe, adds a significantly better audio system, and offers some under-the-hood features that will make recording video a breeze.
The ZV-1 Is a Compact with a Vlogger Makeover
One look at the spec sheet should make you realize that a lot of the RX100’s DNA has returned in the ZV-1—which is good! The ZV-1 uses the same sensor and processor combination as the RX100 VII, which is a 20.1MP 1"-type Exmor RS stacked CMOS and the BIONZ X processor with front-end LSI. Basically, that means it's sharp and fast. It also unlocks some a9-like features, such as Real-time Eye AF and Real-time Tracking in video.
Another thing lifted from the RX100 series—specifically from the pocketable Mark V version—is the ZEISS 24-70mm-equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens. Its fast aperture helps in low-light shooting and getting the shallow depth-of-field look in your photos and videos. The lens also has Optical SteadyShot image stabilization to help smooth out your shots, and it can combine with digital stabilization for a much more advanced Active SteadyShot mode.
Beyond those key features, the ZV-1 takes on a whole new external appearance. It is lighter than RX100-series cameras and has a larger, more pronounced grip that should make one-handed operation easier. The biggest update is the 3.0" side flip-out touchscreen, which is exactly what most content creators would choose if they were designing a camera. And, there is a large REC button on the top and a tally light on the front to help solidify the camera’s positioning as a compact video creation tool.
Looking at the top of the camera reveals a few other tweaks. The big change to the middle is a brand-new directional three-capsule microphone. It has been optimized for audio coming from the front of the camera and will help isolate your subject’s voice while reducing background noise. The ZV-1 even comes with a windscreen that slides into the Multi Interface Shoe.
Oh yeah, and it has a hot shoe. Everyone can identify the benefits of a Multi Interface Shoe on a vlogging camera. You can mount all your extra accessories, whether might be a wireless receiver or a light, and you can use it for dedicated attachments such as the Sony ECM-XYST1M Stereo Microphone. It’s also offset to the side of the camera. A standard 3.5mm microphone port is available, too, for even greater mic compatibility.
High-Quality 4K Video and Fast AF
In terms of video, there should be few surprises here. The ZV-1 is going to match up with the highly regarded RX100 VII. It will record in UHD 4K at up to 30p while doing a true downsampling of the sensor to create detailed footage. The larger 1"-type sensor will help minimize noise in low light, and the ZEISS optics and fast aperture will further benefit the video-quality pipeline. Sony has also eliminated the video record limit for 4K shooting with select settings, and there is a micro-HDMI port for those choosing to use an external recorder as opposed to in-camera recording to an SD memory card.
Setting the ZV-1 apart from the rest is Sony’s inclusion of its advanced Picture Profiles. These let you tune the look of your footage in numerous ways. Pros will immediately gravitate toward options like S-Log3/2 and HLG, both of which are found on Sony’s professional cinema cameras. HLG, especially, will appeal to creators, because it helps unlock an Instant HDR workflow. Additionally, Sony has again tweaked the color science for improved skin tones.
Where the ZV-1 excels is going to be in the autofocus department. The RX100 VII’s tech is impressive and can track subjects with ease, even in Movie Mode. Highlights for vlogs and content creators have to be Real-time Eye AF for humans and Real-time Tracking AF. Both of these can be tuned for speed and sensitivity to optimize performance for different situations. It’s something that has to be seen to understand just how good it can be.
Another speedy feature is a Super Slow-Motion option. Again, this is a feature we have seen before but greatly appreciate seeing again. It allows for recording in up to 960 fps for extreme slow-motion capture. It’s a niche feature that can be a lot of fun.
Dedicated Features for Content Creation
Making the ZV-1 even better for vlogs and other content is Sony’s continual addition of new features to improve the filmmaking experience. Sony took the time to tune the ZV-1 to an impressive degree.
One of the most interesting is the Product Showcase Setting. If you have watched a YouTube review of a product, you’ve seen how it goes. The presenter holds the item in front of their face and then the camera eventually (hopefully) shifts focus to the item. The Product Showcase Setting optimizes AF performance so that it will quickly and smoothly switch between an individual’s face and the object placed in front of the lens.
Helping automate the video process are a couple of new features. The Face-Priority Auto-Exposure (AE) function will use the ZV-1’s advanced face detection tech and make sure the exposure always prioritizes the face. This means that as you walk and talk in changing light, no one will lose track of what is most important: you! Also, something great for beginners is a Background Defocus function. This is simple; it will automatically set the aperture to provide either more or less depth of field without having to think about it.
Another new addition is a Skin-Softening function. This should help you look camera-ready any time and anywhere you want. Of course, since everyone is already beautiful in their own way, you can always turn it off.
As with nearly every new camera, the ZV-1 does have built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This allows it to transfer photos to your phone easily via Sony’s Imaging Edge Mobile app. It also means it will support the Movie Edit add-on app, which can help edit and crop your video for various social media platforms and perform impressive digital image stabilization.
Pick It up with an Accessory Kit
Anyone can get started in vlogging with the ZV-1, and to make the jump easier, Sony has developed the Vlogger Accessory Kit. Including the GP-VPT2BT Shooting Wireless Remote Commander Grip and a 64GB SDXC Memory Card, you’ll have everything you need to start your own YouTube channel. At launch, Sony is offering this kit at discount when purchased with the ZV-1, so now is a great time to jump in.
If you want to know a few other recommended accessories, I would say to absolutely pick up a couple spare batteries. Then consider compact lighting and audio gear, such as the RØDE Wireless GO or Aputure MC RGBWW LED Light. And, be sure to check out B&H’s video hands-on review for a first look at the ZV-1.
Are you a vlogger who is excited about the ZV-1? Anything in particular catch your eye from the feature list? Let us know in the Comments section, below!