Tech review: Sony ZV-1 is the perfect compact camera for video bloggers

At first look, the ZV-1 looks like Sony's highly-successful RX100 prosumer compact camera series.
At first look, the ZV-1 looks like Sony's highly-successful RX100 prosumer compact camera series.PHOTO: SONY

The global Covid-19 pandemic is rubbing salt into the wound of the beleaguered camera industry, as people are staying indoors and not venturing out to take photos.

However, Sony has smartly launched a camera that caters to video bloggers who continue to produce content at home. It is called the ZV-1 (available on Lazada and Shopee).

At first look, the ZV-1 looks like Sony's highly-successful RX100 prosumer compact camera series. It even uses the same 20-megapixel 1-inch backside-illuminated image sensor as them.

However, there are several design differences with the ZV-1 to cater to video bloggers. First, it has no built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), found in the RX100 series and which is more suited for shooting stills.

Second, instead of a tiltable display, the ZV-1 comes with a side-opening vari-angle touchscreen display that can be rotated 180 degrees for selfies. This display also allows shooting videos in the portrait orientation.

Third, it is equipped with a three-capsule internal microphone designed for forward-directional audio. There is a large microphone grille on top of the camera, which replaces the pop-up flash found in the RX100 series, with a hotshoe mount sited to the top left. Partnering the microphone is a furry "dead cat" microphone cover that clips to the hotshoe mount.

The ZV-1 lacks a top Mode dial, which is found in the RX100 series. In its place is a large video-recording button. In front of this button is a dedicated "background defocus" mode button.

There is also a new Product Showcase autofocusing (AF) mode. In this mode, the camera will automatically focus on the product a presenter is holding during video recording.

On the left side of the camera, you will find a microphone port (for connecting external microphones), a micro-USB charging port and a HDMI port. There is no headphone port that lets you listen to your video recordings when you view them on the camera.

Another nice touch is a tiny red light in front of the camera that lights up when video recording starts, akin to studio video cameras.

The ZV-1 is compatible with Sony's VCT-SGR1 shooting grip ($139), which was used during this review. This grip can double up as a small tripod while giving you convenient access to the video recording button and zoom control.

 
 
 

For the review, I turned on face and eye AF tracking - also available on the latest RX100 series - during video recording. I found the AF locking onto my face and eye almost instantaneously, even when I was moving about in the frame.

The Product Showcase feature works as advertised. I held up a watch during a test video and the camera automatically focused on it while I was talking. And when I put down the watch, the camera quickly shifted the focus on me. This is definitely handy for video bloggers or influencers who need to promote products.

The 4K videos shot with the camera are of excellent quality, with great details and sharpness. The internal microphone does a superb job in capturing my voice with very little wind noise.

On the downside, the video stabilisation function can be better. The videos are a tad too shaky even when I was just walking normally.

Image quality of the ZV-1's stills is great, with nice edge-to-edge sharpness and no visible noise artefacts until ISO 800. I saw significant detail loss and chromatic noise only at above ISO 6400.

Battery life is mediocre though. On a full charge, it can shoot around 260 still images or 45 minutes of video recording, according to Sony. In my tests, I found that I can only record around 25 minutes of 4K video before the battery goes flat. You might want to pack an extra battery or two when using this camera.

That said, the ZV-1 ($999) is much cheaper than the latest RX100 VII ($1,649). For those who does a lot of video blogging work, getting the ZV-1 is pretty much a no-brainer. And even if you are not a video blogger, its quality stills and selfie-centric video capability will let you record your travels in style when you can do so again.

FOR

- Fast autofocusing during video recording

- Side-opening vari-angle display

- Excellent video quality

- Great still image quality

- Much cheaper than the RX100 VII

AGAINST

- Video stabilisation can be better

- No headphone port

- Mediocre battery life

TECH SPECS

PRICE: $999

IMAGE SENSOR: 20-megapixel 1-inch BSI-CMOS

DISPLAY: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen LCD with 921,600 dots

LENS: 24mm-70mm (f/1.8-f/2.8)

SENSITIVITY: ISO 64 to 12,800

SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 24 frames per second

CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

WEIGHT: 294g (body with battery and memory card)

RATING

FEATURES: 4/5

DESIGN: 4/5

PERFORMANCE: 4/5

BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

OVERALL: 4/5

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