First Look: Sony ZV-1 – Keeping an eye on yourself (for less than R17k)

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You might think you’ve got the perfect camera, and you might even be right. But if you’re a video fan, specifically in the vlogging sphere, there’s a decent chance you’re a little bit wrong. Sony’s ZV-1 is an alternative to the company’s excellent RX100 but with a very video focus.

It’ll make DSLR cameras nervous on the quality front (just a little), sports an f/1.8 lens and Sony’s crammed it with eye-tracking and continuous autofocus as well. There are a couple of other features that make this compact the ideal camera for YouTube, Twitch, Insta or even TikTok fame. The charisma? You’ll have to make your own at home. If not, store-bought is fine.

Hey good looking

Sony’s gone for a simple look for the ZV-1’s design — the compact camera has its internals stuffed into an attractive metal frame with enough knobs, dials, ports and bits to keep even the most rabid camera fan happy.

There’s a large hot shoe on the camera’s top, as well as a microphone grille concealing three microphones. Buttons for power, mode, the shutter, depth and recording dot the rest of the upper level, while the rear features the videographer-friendly articulated screen. The 3in LCD flips out sideways and around, letting you use it as a moveable viewfinder — which is handy because there’s no optical viewfinder to speak of. It’s bright, supports touch (to a limited extent) and you’ll use it to get some killer social media footage.

Also on the rear are the ports, for an external microphone, micro-USB and micro-HDMI — these are kept away from the screen so you can do the flippy thing while having the ZV-1 connected to all sorts of things. On the base, the battery and microSD compartments reside but the design is such that you can’t get to them if you’ve got the camera mounted on a tripod. Boo. Lastly, there’s a control wheel where you’ll fiddle with most of your settings, as well as access and manage the gallery. You know the sort of thing we mean.

Handles well

Sony’s 1in sensor, seen in the RX-100 series of cameras, is present here. It sits behind a 24-70mm lens, which covers the aperture spectrum from f/1.8 to f/2.8. It lets in a lot of light, making it a versatile little compact. Focus is speedy, Sony’s eye-tracking and face-detection tech are inside, as well as OIS, Sony’s SteadyShot EIS and more standard tracking modes. Continuous and single-point AF is present but while images are excellent, you’ll get better results with an APS-C sensor.

But what you won’t get is Sony’s new ProductShowcase feature, which is designed for folks who do things on the internet. Professionally, we mean. ProductShowcase automatically focuses on an object as its brought into frame, taking the focus off the user’s face. Put the product down and it’ll refocus on your face again, allowing you to keep extolling the virtues of that lovely new Lego set, smartphone, or excellent vlogging camera. That’s a bit of a game-changer for content creators — expect the feature to be copied in short order.

Expect stills of up to 20.1MP and video up to 4K (shot at 30fps). You can use the camera for live streaming if you happen to have a capture card, thanks to the HDMI-out, while the camera does a decent job of recording sound. You might find yourself wanting to add an external mic if you’re keen on recording from behind the camera but the three-mic array will do for a lot of situations.

Sony ZV-1: Initial Verdict

There are some really excellent features in the Sony ZV-1. It’s not going to displace a dedicated photo-shooter, especially if you’re already rocking some Sony tech, but if you’re in the market for better videos for social media platforms then you can’t go wrong here. The articulated screen should prove a winner, even if we wish the touchscreen was a little more useful, but the real prize is the video-specific stuff.

ProductShowcase, if it works as good as it looks so far, will up anyone’s game with very little intervention. That one-man YouTube channel you’ve always wanted to launch? That’s very much within reach, especially since the Sony ZV-1 has launched at just under R17,000 in the South African market. Stick around, we’ll have a more detailed review up as soon as we’ve spent a respectable amount of time with the camera.

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