The Ultimate Content Creator camera?
The Sony ZV-1 is designed for content creation with a selfie-friendly vari-angle LCD screen, body grip and a recording lamp. A directional 3-capsule mic with wind screen picks up your voice clearly with less wind noise; and the Bokeh switch and Product Showcase Setting make videos more interesting with less effort.
- Large 1.0-type Exmor RS CMOS image sensor
- BIONZ XTM image processing engine
- 4K movie recording
- Directional 3-capsule mic with wind screen
- Vari-angle LCD screen, body grip and recording lamp
SENSOR TYPE – 1.0-type (13.2mm x 8.8mm) Exmor RS CMOS sensor, aspect ratio 3:2
NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE) – Approx. 20.1 Megapixels
ISO SENSITIVITY (STILL IMAGE) – ISO64-12800
The year is 2020, the world is filled with wannabe VLoggers and upcoming content creators.
The world has never been so full of technology aimed at the content creator world, which is both a very positive and slightly negative thing.
We get brands competing to bring bigger, better products at more affordable rates, but we also get a right load of crap in the mix, that is purposefully crippled to upsell people to their more ‘professional’ lines.
This is why I feel the Sony ZV-1 has REALLY hit the mark and is one of the best releases in the past few years, although I have to say their marketing was a little off.
It was heavily marketed as the ultimate VLogging camera, however I feel Sony did slightly hinder themselves with that, as it is much more than ‘just‘ a VLogging camera.
Most VLoggers either go the GoPro route for portability and ease of use, or the larger cameras like the Sony A6400 for more ‘cinematic’ style VLogs.
Each have their positives and negatives, with the GoPro being super easy, rugged, having good image quality and having class leading stabilization. Whereas the likes of mirrorless / DSLR have superior image quality, more customization due to lenses / filters and the ability to have a lovely blurry background (aka bokeh).
So this nifty little Sony ZV-1 looks to be in a sort of middle ground between the ultra compact and the ‘pro’ options, but just how good is it?
First off, I have to say, I will not be going into super detail about specs and will try to keep this as ‘Consumer‘ friendly as possible, as not all content creators are ‘Cinematographers‘, but I will have some geeky bits in there.
As far as design goes, it’s very similar to Sony’s RX100 lines, which are compact photography cameras that are well known for their quality.
The ZV-1 however is more focused on the video world, as seen by the MUCH more prominent and easily accessible video record button, handy grip, swivel screen (that flips to the side and turns forward), good quality front facing microphone and stabilization. Not to forget the handy tally light on the front so you don’t have to guess if you are recording.
So I’m going to talk about the highlights of this camera for me, as a content creator and cinematographer.
Image quality is obviously a HUGE factor for people buying camera nowadays and the Sony ZV-1 does not disappoint.
Crispy oversampled HDR 4K files at up to 30fps, Full HD at up 120fps and even decent slow motion quality up to 240fps in my opinion (the 480+fps options are purely for fun and are a little gimmicky in comparison).
Part of the system that helps you nail crispy footage is that sweet sweet autofocus.
This is taken from their more expensive cameras, real-time face tracking and eye tracking, which I have to say is ultimately a class leading feature. No other camera I’ve personally used, anywhere near this price, is as accurate or fast as the ZV-1.
The footage out of camera in the ‘Standard’ colour profile is stunning, sharp, vibrant, pleasing to the eye (especially thanks to the Face priority mode, when filming people in bright light) and honestly, you’d be hard pressed to REALLY critique any negatives in this price range.
Talking about colour profiles, you have all of your standard profiles, as well as SLog3 and HLG3 for the more ‘creative’ colour graders out there.
Personally I dislike SLog due to it tending to have more noise and being a little wild to tame in some situations.
Sony’s sweet spot for me is HLG3, which is a HDR mode that retains A LOT more information than your standard profiles in 8bit.
It’s EXTREMELY easy to grade in pretty much any software, even if you just want to add a HDR converter on and tweak a couple of easy sliders like saturation, you’ll most likely end up with a better dynamic range than ‘standard’ profiles.
The HLG3 profile is my go-to profile for anything ‘cinematic‘, I generally leave it on though due to the fact it’s SO easy to do anything in post anyway.
Along with the fact the Sony ZV-1 has an awesome profile in HLG3 for grading, it also has a built-in ND filter, this helps you to nail down your shutter speed to 1/50th for the cinema style motion blur at 25fps.
While it works for like 80% of situations, in bright sunlight you are going to need to close down your aperture to compensate, OR do as I do and buy a cheap external adapter / filter kit. This enables me to add a CPL or ND as needed during shoots.
The microphones on the Sony ZV-1 are actually pretty darn good, if you don’t have an external mic or lav system, it will certainly have ‘decent‘ audio, while I wouldn’t personally call it ‘studio‘ quality. They pick up primarily in front (that VLogger lifestyle) but you do get surrounding noise creeping in there too, so it’s not TOTALLY directional.
One part of the mic system that I am super impressed by, is the included wind muff…yeah.
It just does a BRILLIANT job, it’s like a brand new microphone when you slip at bad boy on.
From whistling wind, to dead silence. Rather impressive.
There are a couple of interesting features in the ZV-1 that I personally enjoy, even if I would not necessarily use them in my personal products a lot.
First there is product showcase mode, this basically enables content creators to display objects in the foreground without the camera keeping lock on their face. So you get a nice smooth quick transition from your face to an object that passes in front, then snaps back to your face when it’s gone. Works very well!
Next there is the so called ‘Bokeh‘ button, which changes all of your settings to enable you to use f1.8 on the lens (or brightest stop available) with one push.
That’s quite nifty, when going from f5.6 for example, you can press it and instantly get that beautiful blurry bokeh you crave. It works and I actually use it a fair bit as a shortcut.
So we have easy controls, sharp footage, good directional mic, flip-out screen, nice colour profiles, built-in ND, fun modes like product showcase and bokeh, but what do I NOT like about the Sony ZV-1.
Now onto the bad.
Honestly…I find it hard pressed to find many.
One issue that DOES plague me, is that the battery / SD compartment is blocked when on any sort of grip or tripod. This is an issue that just annoys me more than anything and is due to the fact that the screw mount is right next to the door. Why not move it?
It can be avoided by using a cage but this shouldn’t be a necessity.
Another that I find a lot of people complaining about is the menu system.
It’s extremely thorough and can seem rather overwhelming for some.
However, most settings only need to be set once and you are good to go, the rest that need changing more often, can be put in the custom ‘My Menu‘ area so they are all accessible in a timely manner.
So while not a massive negative, I can see some of the more ‘consumer’ reports of being frustrated or finding it difficult to find what they need.
My final annoyance with the Sony ZV-1 is that you can use the touch screen for AF, but not for anything else. I mean…you have a touch screen right there, why not let us use it for selections?
Something I will mention here is the lens.
For me personally it’s perfectly fine, for ‘VLoggers‘ it is reportedly too ‘zoomed in’ at 24mm.
While I can see this in some circumstances, I have to say, it’s a very popular range and will do 99% of what most people will want.
So if Sony can fix these little annoyances, somehow squeeze 10bit recording in, I see the eventual ZV-2 being one of the best selling cameras of all time.
For now, the Sony ZV-1 is absolutely my go-to camera and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to every content creator, existing or future.
It is not just for ‘VLoggers‘. It absolutely should have been marketed as a ‘Content Creators’ camera, perfect for YouTube and the like. Also would have stopped many ‘VLoggers‘ complaining about the zoom range, as they wouldn’t be 100% the focus.
If used properly, it really is a cinematic beast and even got me to give up my Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera, as when seeing the difference in image quality / dynamic range, for 90% of my situations, I didn’t see the need for all that extra gear.
I can literally have everything I need in a tiny bag, ready to go, whenever, wherever.
I am in love with this bit of kit, just a tad…ok maybe a bit more than that.
I’ve put a couple of test videos I filmed with the Sony ZV-1 below and hope you enjoyed this little review.
Some Sony ZV-1 accessories I highly recommend:
Tripod / Grip – https://geni.us/MUMiwh4
Filter Adapter – https://geni.us/o02TFUp
Variable ND – https://geni.us/0qqIU
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