Vloggers have some pretty specific needs. A compact, take-anywhere form factor, a flip-out screen for selfie monitoring and excellent autofocus to keep subjects sharp even when shooting from the hip are all highly desirable in the fast-paced world of online content creation. After a thorough review, we found the Sony ZV-1 to meet and exceed these demands. But of course, every camera has its flaws.
The Sony ZV-1 uses a 20.1 megapixel 1.0-type CMOS sensor matched with a wide-aperture Zeiss lens and a BIONZ X image processor. The lens features a focal length range equivalent to 24-70mm and uses Zeiss’s T* coating to suppress stray light and reflections.
With this setup, the camera can shoot up to UHD 4K video at up to 30 frames per second. In high-frame-rate mode, the ZV-1 can capture up to 960 fps in HD. It also supports HLG, S-Log2 and S-Log3 Gammas.
This vlogger’s camera has a 3-inch flip-out touchscreen LCD with touch focus tracking to complement Sony’s Real-Time Tracking & Eye AF. Other special features include switchable background defocus and face-priority auto exposure, among many others.
The Sony ZV-1 is an AI-powered vlogging camera
Sony emphasizes that no experience is necessary to capture great-looking videos with the ZV-1. They promise the ZV-1 is ready to use right out of the box, and we have to agree. When we first started testing this camera, we just switched on intelligent auto mode and hit record. The results were impressive.
Though you have the option to take full control over your exposure and focus settings, we suspect that many vloggers will leave the camera in intelligent auto mode. This mode continually adjusts the scene selection and exposure settings to match the subject matter of the shot. At the same time, the camera quickly finds and holds focus on the appropriate subject.
All vlogging cameras need a flip-out display
Sony tries out a new approach with a flip-out rear display on the ZV-1. Other recent cameras from Sony have used a flip-up design that put the rear display directly above the lens. In the ZV-1, the vari-angle touchscreen display flips out and around to the side. This places the display adjacent to the lens for selfie shooting.
The design also allows for more flexibility when it comes to screen angle, making it easier to compensate for glare when shooting in bright environments. It’s also useful when shooting at high or low angles.
The ZV-1 uses a Hybrid autofocus system with AI technology for more reliable face and eye-tracking. You can also switch focus between foreground and background using the touch screen.
As would be expected from our experience with other Sony cameras, the Face/Eye Detection AF works great for both human and animal subjects. There are certainly times when the camera will hunt for focus, but it is more than sufficient for fast-paced vlogging.
Along with focus tracking, the camera also features automatic exposure tracking so that the subject is always properly exposed, even when moving between different lighting situations.
Continuing down the list of creator-centric features, the ZV-1 also promises “amazing image stabilization,” according to Sony. We tested the built-in stabilization on a brief walk, and it worked well enough.
Active mode does result in a slight crop since it uses digital stabilization, but standard mode cuts down on the shake without affecting your field of view. Active mode is, therefore, best used only when absolutely necessary.
An emphasis on skin tone reproduction
The ZV-1’s image processing puts a particular focus on natural and vibrant skin color across the skin tone spectrum. You can even turn on a Soft Skin effect to smooth over imperfections if desired. There are three different Soft Skin levels, lo, mid and hi. We tried all of them and found the difference to be subtle.
HLG and S-Log
It is nice to see these pro features included on this beginner-friendly camera. Though the ease-of-use gives this camera broad appeal, those serious about quality video will appreciate the detail, dynamic range and latitude provided by these recording options.
It is nice to see these pro features included on this beginner-friendly camera.
However, this is an example of how the menu fails the user. Before using S-Log, you must first assign it to a picture profile and then select that profile. The process seems more complicated than it needs to be. It runs counter to the overall usability of the camera.
The bokeh switch
Another feature Sony touts is the ZV-1’s ability to capture professional-looking background bokeh. Bokeh can be toggled on and off using a dedicated switch, making it easy to get the look that you want.
The ability to capture bokeh, paired with the emphasis on accurate skin tone reproductions, further solidifies the ZV-1 as a vlogging camera. It’s also an excellent choice for portrait and selfie-shooting. All of this, of course, makes the ZV-1 an ideal camera for influencers and online video creators.
Product showcase mode
Aiming to appeal to all creators, the ZV-1 also features a Product Showcase Setting. This mode widens the angle of view and switches the focus to the object of interest.
The idea is to eliminate the need to hold up your hand behind that tube of lipstick. In practice, we found it to be marginally useful.
The ZV-1 also features interval shooting mode. In this mode, the ZV-1 automatically captures sequences of images from 1–60 seconds apart. These can then be edited into a cinematic time-lapse in post-production.
Once you locate the option in the menu, the setup process for interval shooting is straightforward. Though the camera will not assemble the images into a movie, you can preview the results with the continuous playback option.
High frame rate recording for slow-motion video
On the other end of the spectrum, like other Sony cameras, the ZV-1 features a high frame rate recording mode that can record HD video at up to 960 frames per second. That’s 40 times slow motion when played back at 24 fps.
We tried the feature out on some small fireworks. While the subject matter and low-light environment made exposure settings more challenging, we were generally pleased with the results. We did notice noise in the image, but we thought the severity could have been due to leaving the camera in auto-exposure.
However, we tested high frame rate mode again the next day and still saw more noise in the HFR footage. Shooting at high frame rates also crops the image, giving you a slightly tighter field of view.
Speaking of low-light shooting, there is good news for vloggers who favor evening and night time shooting. In our informal testing, noise becomes noticeable at around 1000 ISO. Still, the image is usable up to 12800 ISO, meaning you can shoot in darker environments with reasonable confidence. This isn’t surprising for a Sony camera, even with its smaller sensor.
Getting around the camera
Though touch-based focus control is convenient, we often tried to execute other functions using the touchscreen, only to realize we needed to use the physical button interface or jog wheel instead.
Overall, the menu is a bit hard to navigate. The camera packs in tons of features, but many get buried in the camera’s multi-tiered menu system. This is fine if you are going to shoot using only the necessary controls. However, if you need frequent access to the more advanced options, we recommend making use of the customizable menu.
Thankfully, the function menu gives quick access to the most frequently changed settings, and the external buttons are useful and well-placed.
Ergonomics and usability
If you are not thinking about how to hold the camera, that is a good sign. Though small, the ZV-1 is easy to grip both when shooting normally and for selfies.
We also tested out the GP-VPT2BT Wireless Shooting Grip packaged with the optional Vlogger Accessory Kit. It is a convenient mini-tripod/selfie stick that lets you wirelessly trigger the shutter or video recording and control zoom level.
Another point of praise is the fast start up time. You don’t even have to press the power button. Flipping out the screen is enough to trigger the camera to turn on, and you can be up and recording within seconds. This capability is crucial for vloggers who can’t always predict the next vlog-worthy moment.
Overall, the camera makes it easy to capture great-looking footage without really thinking about it.
A thoughtful audio solution
For better audio capture, the camera pairs with a specially-designed directional three-capsule mic. This mic promises a clean audio recording from in front of the camera. It also comes with a windscreen to counter wind noise when shooting outside. The mic sits comfortably on top of the camera in the MI shoe, making it a clean and thoughtful solution for this compact camera.
As with any camera-top mic, the quality of the sound will depend on the proximity of the sound source. If you have a different preferred microphone or need to get the mic close to the subject, the ZV-1 features a 3.5mm microphone jack as well as the MI shoe connection.
Unfortunately, there is no separate headphone jack for monitoring. However, there are on-screen audio meters for some indication of your audio levels.
Connectivity and sharing
Because the ZV-1 is designed to be the creator’s camera, it should be no surprise that Sony tries to make it easy to share your photos and videos to the web.
Sony offers a free Imaging Edge Mobile app for iOS and Android. With it, you can transfer images shot on the ZV-1 to your smartphone. From there, you can edit and upload your content to social media. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to connect the camera to our phone. However, once set up, the app is relatively easy to use.
Other features worth mentioning
A record lamp on the front of the camera is useful in selfie mode. We didn’t think much of it at first, but later found ourselves checking it frequently. A built-in neutral density filter is another nice touch.
For multi-platform creators, the ZV-1 automatically tags vertically oriented videos, making it easier to produce content destined for smartphone viewing.
One gripe: For some reason, this camera does not use USB-C. It is a minor complaint, but it does make for some unnecessary cable swapping.
With the ZV-1 Sony competes directly with Canon’s PowerShot G7 X Mark III, itself a top-rated vlogging camera. The two cameras are priced within $50 of each other. The cameras are almost a perfect match-up, but Canon places a stronger emphasis on photo features and does not offer HFR recording or a log picture profile.
If you like everything about the ZV-1 but need a camera with a longer zoom range, consider the Sony RX100 VII. These two cameras share many of the same specs, but the RX100 VII offers a larger zoom range of 24-200mm (35mm equivalent). It also costs more at around $1,300.
The Sony ZV-1 is a beginner-friendly camera perfect for on the go shooting and vlogging. While some of the features are borderline gimmicks, the core vlogging features are solid. Whether beginner or pro, the camera packs in a ton of intelligent automation that makes it easy to capture fleeting moments with a look that you are happy with.
- Easy to use
- Flip-out screen
- Fast-startup time
- Solid AF performance
- Some features are more like gimmicks
- Menu is convoluted
- Pixels Effective: 20.1 Megapixel
- Maximum Resolution: 5472 x 3648
- Aspect Ratio: 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9
- Sensor Type: CMOS
- Sensor Size: 1″
- Image File Format: JPEG, Raw
- Image Stabilization: Digital, Optical
- Focal Length: 9.4 to 25.7mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 24 to 70mm)
- Optical Zoom: 2.7x
- Digital Zoom: 16.3x Maximum (44x Combined Zoom)
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.8 to 2.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/11
- Focus Range: 1.97″ to Infinity / 5 cm to Infinity (Wide), 11.81″ to Infinity / 30 cm to Infinity (Telephoto)
- Optical Design: 10 Elements in 9 Groups
- Exposure Control
- ISO Sensitivity Auto, 100 to 12800 (Extended: 64 to 25600)
- Shutter Speed Mechanical Shutter
- 1/2000 to 30 Second
- Bulb Mode
- 1/2000 to 4 Second in Auto Mode
- Electronic Shutter
- 1/32000 to 30 Second
- 1/32000 to 4 Second in Auto Mode
- Metering Method: Average, Center-Weighted Average, Multi, Spot
- Exposure Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority
- Exposure Compensation: -3 to +3 EV (1/3 EV Steps)
- White Balance: Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Custom, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent (Cool White), Fluorescent (Day White), Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Warm White), Incandescent, Shade, Underwater
- Continuous Shooting: Up to 24 fps at 20.1 MP
- Interval Recording: Yes
- Self-Timer: 2/5/10-Second Delay
- Special Options: Panorama
- Recording Modes: MP4/XAVC S
- UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p [60 to 100 Mb/s]
- Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/119.88p [16 to 100 Mb/s]
- Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 50i/59.94i [17 to 24 Mb/s]
- Recording Limit: Unlimited
- Video Encoding: NTSC/PAL
- Audio Recording: Built-In Microphone (Stereo)
- External Microphone: Input (Stereo)
- Audio File Format: AC3, Linear PCM (Stereo)
- Viewfinder and Monitor
- Monitor Size: 3″
- Monitor Resolution: 921,600 Dot
- Monitor Type: Articulating Touchscreen LCD
- Memory Card Slot Single Slot: SD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Duo Hybrid
- Connectivity: 3.5mm Microphone, HDMI D (Micro), USB Micro-B (USB 2.0)
- Wireless: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
- Battery: 1 x NP-BX1 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion, 3.6 VDC, 1240 mAh (Approx. 260 Shots)
- Dimensions: (W x H x D) 4.15 x 2.36 x 1.71″ / 105.5 x 60 x 43.5 mm
- Weight: 10.37 oz / 294 g (Body with Battery and Memory)