review sony zv 1 thumb800

Review: Sony ZV-1, the best camera for vloggers

Sony ZV-1

Sony ZV-1: is it worth your purchase?

Punctuation: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings

Pros:

  • Easy to use with automatic mode
  • Sharp, high-quality video
  • Compact and small

Cons:

  • Poor video stabilization
  • Limited photographic functionality
  • Battery life to improve

Compact and powerful, the Sony ZV-1 camera is ideal for creators of audiovisual content (although not for photographers).

Retail price (RRP)

$ 799.99

Review: Sony ZV-1, the best camera for vloggers

The camera for videoblogs. This is announced by Sony, and it is not without reason. The Sony ZV-1 is an excellent, albeit not perfect, camera that will truly delight content creators, both amateurs and professionals, on YouTube and other social channels.

I said that it is not perfect, but I wanted to prepare this review from the point of view of its target audience to understand how vloggers and YouTubers can benefit, or not, from the benefits of this camera.

I warn you from the beginning: it is expensive. Despite not labeling it as a video camera, this Sony does not offer better photographic features than some high-end smartphones , so you should think carefully before spending the € 800 it is worth.

To help you make a decision, here is my assessment after several weeks of testing.

Design and display

At first glance, we can already see that it is a compact, light camera that will be very easy to carry in any pocket and also to operate even with one hand (although for best results we recommend holding it with both).

Personally I like its design in black, because it makes it more elegant, although perhaps some would value a greater variety of colors from which to choose. Beyond that, it highlights the front and rear grip for better grip for handling.

Precisely the front grip helps to hold the camera well when you use it in selfie mode . To this end, it also helps that the screen can be opened horizontally so that you can see it to ensure that you appear well in the frame.

Screenshot 20

From a more technical point of view, it is a 7.5 cm (4: 3) LCD panel with an opening angle of almost 180º and a rotation angle of about 270º. Their touch capabilities are so limited that you won’t even notice they are available.

Its colors are crisp and bright, although only if the light conditions match. With a lot of sun it will be difficult for you to see well what is shown on the screen. You will not see all the details of the recorded video well due to its size, but it is the usual thing in cameras.

In addition to being able to check it on the panel, the red light on the top of the lens is very practical to know if you are recording or not. Surely you know that terrible feeling when you realize that, after filming minutes, you haven’t actually recorded anything (at least I have!).

The layout of the buttons is also important. Although in general it is the usual one in a camera with these characteristics, two that stand out will make things easier: the bokeh button next to the shutter button and the trash can to activate and deactivate the Presentation Adjustment. Later I will analyze these benefits.

Screenshot 21

Image and video quality

Let’s go to the most important thing. The Sony ZV-1 has a 24-70mm (f / 1.8-2.8) lens, accompanied by a 1.0-type Exmor RS CMOS image sensor and artificial intelligence technology that enables autofocus.

But what does all this mean for practical purposes? The video quality of this vlog-optimized camera is very good. In my case, I have tried it without using accessories such as light bulbs, which obviously would have given an even more professional result.

The recording in 4K HDR is crisp and clear, and to that are added some gamma controls that will appeal to those who want to edit the tones and colors of the video recorded in post-production. You can check the results without editing in my video below.

To determine if the quality of the moving image of this camera is good or not, we are going to review the main features available to it that have been designed for video bloggers. At the end of the day this is your target audience.

Autofocus

As mentioned above, this Sony camera has an incredible autofocus that allows the subject or object portrayed in the center of the image to always look sharp, whether or not the bokeh effect is applied in the background.

This approach is fast and precise, and this is also translated when making self-portraits. Sony has included here a system it calls Real-time Eye AF. AI is used to detect the subject’s eyes and face to ensure they are always in focus.

All you have to do to activate this system is to look at the camera until you see that a box appears around your eye on the screen. Once you have done this, you can stop looking, as the camera will be able to track your face. It even works with sunglasses and a mask.

Another feature that exemplifies the ZV-1’s autofocus quality is the agility with which it changes focus when going from a selfie or close-up to a landscape shot. The change in focus occurs in milliseconds.

In the autofocus department, it is important to also analyze the bokeh effect and Presentation Setting also offered by the camera. 

Bokeh effect

Users of the latest generation smartphones will have become accustomed to taking portrait mode photos that blur the background, either through a good combination of lenses or with software thanks to artificial intelligence.

If you are an advanced photographer, you will also know this effect and you may even use it frequently, as it is true that it gives it a more professional touch. With the Sony ZV-1 it is also possible to open the aperture to f / 1.8 to shorten its depth of field.

The results are excellent. Furthermore, blurring can also be achieved quickly thanks to the dedicated button next to the shutter release button that lets you turn that effect on and off when it suits you best.

Presentation Adjustment

Another feature of the Sony ZV-1 related to autofocus is Presentation Adjustment, which you can also quickly toggle on and off. In this case, you will have to use the trash can button and make sure to do it before recording (Sony, would it be possible to do it once the recording has started too?).

This Presentation Setting is clearly intended for YouTubers. You will have seen some of them bring an object (a new smartphone , a makeup product, an ingredient for a recipe …) closer to the lens in the hope that the camera decides to focus only on that product and blur the background.

Honestly, I think this presentation is more of a marketing claim , as the results don’t differ much from using autofocus directly, which is excellent. The main difference is that with the Presentation Adjustment activated the plane is enlarged.

Image stabilization

Another feature that audiovisual content creators appreciate about a camera is its image stabilization. My experience with this provision has been irregular. The first day I had a hard time noticing the difference between the videos recorded with or without stabilization because they all seemed quite stable to me.

However, and although I admit that I do not have a good pulse, things changed when I recorded on windy days. The difference between videos recorded with or without itself is appreciated, but even videos with stability show that unwanted shake.

The image stabilization of the Sony ZV-1, then, is not the best. I wish that Sony would have let me try one of its recording grips, such as the GP-VPT2BT or the VCT-SGR1 , as the results would surely have changed.

Zoom

It could not miss a section dedicated to zoom, although it is quite poor. Most YouTubers will settle for the one included with this 24-70mm lens, but you’ll quickly realize that it has its limitations.

Despite the fact that the zoom is somewhat short and perhaps it is not the most suitable if you want to make a travel documentary, it must be recognized that the image quality of the zoom shots is good and there is little difference between the optical zoom (x2, 7) and digital zoom (x11).

Other benefits

Sony has included an integrated ND filter, a very interesting decision since it allows recording in variable light conditions. If you use automatic mode, you should not worry. Users of manual mode will want to activate it to obtain the optimal exposure level for each recording.

On the other hand, the most creative will like the slow motion option (“super slow motion”, in Sony’s words), from which you can easily adjust its speed. For other creative features, go to the dedicated section below.

Audio quality

YouTubers will be interested in both image quality and audio quality, especially if, like me, they would stop watching a video with a bad sound and a great image sooner than a video with a great sound and terrible image.

The Sony ZV-1 includes a 3-capsule directional microphone more thought to capture sound well from the front of the camera. That means it prioritizes the person in front and youTubers who talk while recording won’t like it as much.

In any case, it can be said that the sound quality is convincing in all cases, especially when using the windscreen that comes included in the box. This accessory was my best companion on those windy days.

As with the image, you will have to pull accessories if you want to improve its quality even more, but for most users within the target audience of this camera, the built-in microphone will be more than enough (especially indoors).

Although the audio quality is not comparable to that of the video (this is spectacular), the sound is clear in practically all cases. Again, you’ll need to plug an external microphone into the 3.5mm minijack port for a sharper result.

Screenshot 22

Photographic quality

As in the case of audio, in my opinion the photographic mode of the Sony ZV-1 cannot be compared with its video performance. In fact, it seems to have been thought only to take photos for networks and thumbnails to accompany YouTube videos.

The fact of not including an electronic viewfinder already says a lot. The same can be said for the absence of flash. Sony has not designed this camera to take spectacular pictures and you shouldn’t buy it with this lens in mind either.

This does not mean that you have completely abandoned photographic mode. The photos, in general, are quite decent and full of details, especially if the light conditions are good. Now, there are smartphones like the Galaxy S20 with better features.

In any case, the speed of the trigger is undeniable and, without a doubt, one of its strengths. Although not as impressive, it is interesting that Sony has used artificial intelligence for its smile-grabber too. Yes, you can take photos shooting with your pretty smile.

In the Flickr gallery below, you can get an idea of ​​the results you will achieve both on sunny days and on more cloudy days. The ZV-1 also includes modes such as night mode or panning for a better experience.

Sony ZV-1

Creativity benefits

Also in the Flickr gallery you can see the results of some of the creative effects of the camera, in this case applied to photos although they also work with video (as long as you have selected the appropriate mode).

The Sony ZV-1 includes several creative styles that honestly make it difficult for me to think about when they will be useful. Although the black and white and sepia effects offer interesting results, the truth is that you can also get them in post-production.

The same can be said for photo effects like watercolor, illustration, thumbnail, monochrome, retro or pop color. I do not know when I would use them in my day to day, but I understand that it never hurts and perhaps the most creative minds do see the sense.

On the other hand, and although I advocate a society in which we are not judged by our appearance or the acne pimple we have on our faces, it must be said that the smooth face effect of the ZV-1 works well and you can adjust it in various intensities.

All these effects should allow you to have the photos and videos ready to be uploaded directly to social networks. For this you must use the Imaging Edge Mobile app , although if you prefer you can first use the Movie Edit app to edit your videos.

Connectivity and battery life

One of the first things you will notice when you take the camera out of the box is that the Sony ZV-1 uses a microUSB cable to charge, something that personally disappointed me and I hope that in the future the company will bet on a USB port -C.

I would also have preferred to have included a battery charger in the box, but in this case Sony “forces” you to settle for plugging the cable directly into your computer (or a USB adapter you have at home). If, like me, you also value the benefits of having a charger , you must pay an extra € 75.

Although it must be recognized that the charging speed is quite good, we also recommend acquiring an extra battery if you have the idea of ​​recording for hours on end without stopping. The autonomy of the battery could be much better. 

To test the drums, I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a YouTuber who records himself throughout the day. In my case, it did not last more than a day and that I did not make a very intense use of the camera. You will need to recharge it every night (although surely you are already used to doing the same with your smartphone ).

Speaking of smartphone , I like that Sony agrees with me and sees it essential that the ZV-1 can connect directly to your mobile. To do this, you will also need to have the Imaging Edge Mobile app installed and a Sony account.

In my case I have used the Sony Xperia 1 II, which I am also testing, and the process to link the camera and the mobile has been relatively easy. To pass many videos and photos at once, I would still use the USB cable, but this way you can have them on your mobile quickly to upload them to the networks without wasting time.

Screenshot 23

Easy to use

If your use of the Sony ZV-1 will be limited to turning it on and hitting the record button, then it will be very easy to use, especially since, as we will see in the following sections, the automatic mode is capable of identifying the environmental conditions well. and offer good results.

If you are a beginner or this is your first camera and you are used to the simple language of the smartphone camera app , you will need a little time to get used to the technical words used beyond the automatic mode.

You can easily choose the mode (automatic, photographic, panoramic …) with the dedicated button, while in the Menu you can choose the file format, change the screen settings, etc. With the Fn button you can also choose other video settings such as focus or skin effects.

review sony zv 1 2

Price and availability

The Sony ZV-1 camera has an official price of € 800 and you can buy it directly through the Sony website . It is obviously a high price, although Sony cameras usually are. They have models of € 400, but the results will not be the same.

In any case, as has been said throughout this review , those who would only use it to take photos should not consider buying this camera (whether or not it is within their budget). For these, another one like the Sony RX100 (€ 600) is better .

Verdict

The Sony ZV-1 is the ideal camera for video bloggers, although especially for those vloggers who want to tell their day to day without having too much video knowledge. If you are a documentary filmmaker and / or want to use it also to take photos, I do not recommend it.

It is easy to use even with limited photographic and videographic knowledge, especially since it has a very good automatic mode. It’s easier to operate a smartphone , but no mobile phone will offer you the ZV-1’s autofocus.

In fact, autofocus is one of the features that the target audience of this camera will take advantage of the most, either with the bokeh effect in self-portraits, when teaching products to camera with the Presentation Adjustment or when changing from a close-up to a plane general when walking around the city.

It is not perfect and you will have to think hard if you want to spend the € 800 it costs, because you will need to add a grip for better video stabilization and an extra battery to be able to record without worrying about running out.


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