We adore a solid DSLR camera around these parts. I mean, can you blame us? We take so many pictures and record so many interviews that the quality of a proper DSLR video is unmatched a lot of the time. Yet even we have to admit that they can be cumbersome loads to bear. As an office, our necks are collectively weak so having one of those behemoths dangling around as we walked around a convention centre (Ah, the good ol’ days) was often rather frustrating. Yet now that Sony’s gone and done the ZV-1, we’re about to save on our trips to the chiropractor because this little thing? Well, it churns out videos of a quality we couldn’t believe, even if the stills suffer sligfhtly.
Which obviously means it’s a touch pricey. At around R17 000, the ZV-1 is something you’ll really have to commit some proper funds towards but it’s still cheaper than the RX100 VII even though it comes with the same sensor and similar photo quality. What the ZV-1 brings to the table is a fully articulating screen, improved audio capture, strong video functions and just all the extra little bits that someone who captures a decent amount of video could need.
As expected from Sony, the ZV-1 looks fantastic. Tastefully restrained in it’s aesthetic, the camera itself keeps things simple with a build that’s solid and compact while not sacrificing all the added extras you expect from a device like this.
While most of button placements are pretty standard, something we do appreciate about the ZV-1 is that the ports, including a microphone, micro USB and micro HDMI, are located on the side that the screen doesn’t flip out on, a design oversight you’d think other cameras would accommodate for but many often forget.
Another great addition to the ZV-1 is that very same articulating screen, something Sony has been slow to implement in their current hardware. There’s nothing all that special to say about it other than that it flips out and spins so you can see yourself if you’re filming a vlog or…something. I mean who besides vloggers actually need a proper articulating screen? Still, it’s nice to see Sony actually designing around a crowd that would get plenty of use out of a powerful, tiny camera.
Oh, also a special mention for microphone grille packing three of those bad boys on the top of the device. Sony’s even kind enough to provide a cute little wind muff in the box!
DO NOT TOUCH
So while the ZV-1 is designed beautifully, there are some bizarre decisions made to the camera’s screen and interface. The biggest problem with it is that despite the display being fully touch sensitive, so you should be able to operate it like any other touch screen, you just…can’t. You have navigate all the menus using the camera’s buttons, made even weirder by the fact that that UI looks like it should operate through touch.
Look, it’s still functional and the display is as crisp as you’d expect on a Sony camera but why go to the trouble of including a touch screen if you’re going to that kind of functionality to users?
As for how well the screen functions, it’s as good as you’d expect if you’re not trying to study it in direct sunlight. Indoors, the display looks great and offers a wide range of viewing angles and decent brightness levels that only begin to suffer outside. Of course, if you’re looking at mainly taking stills this might be more of an issue than for folks just looking for that sweet video capture but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re planning on some precision film.
Well, it’s a Sony camera so it’s obviously going to perform exceptionally well as can be expected. Quick focus, enhanced eye-tracking, a whole suite of focus modes, face detection and the image quality, especially for a compact camera like this, is incredible with the right lighting.
A new addition to the ZV-1, and something that’s been blatantly included for vloggers is the new ProductShowcase feature which instantly picks up when a “product”, in whatever vague terms that could mean, is being shown to the camera. It works surprisingly well, instantly shifting focus from the person to the product with nearly zero delay.
So while the picture and film options are excellent, what kind of sound can you expect those three microphones to sound incredibly clear with the addition of the wind sock proving even better for shooting video outside without attaching all kinds of large and unwieldy microphones. Of course, that’s of you’re in front of the camera. If you’re behind it won’t capture as clearly but that seems obvious, right?
Right off the bat, the main complaint we have with the ZV-1’s battery is that once the device has been mounted you can’t easily swap it out. Sure, you can just run it off a plugged in battery pack but that’s not really all that ideal. In terms of longevity, it could be slightly better with a 4K shooting time limited to under forty minutes. Yet you’re also shooting in 4K so the drain on the battery will obviously be more pronounced.
Yet shooting on lower resolutions and taking photos, the battery life of the ZV-1 is more than suitable for photoshoots and brief filming opportunities. Though if you’re planning on filming all day, you should probably pack an extra battery.
Given everything that it does, the ZV-1 is a remarkable little compact camera. Offering excellent image quality, a great range of options of shooting video and features designed specifically for vloggers on the go, Sony have managed to out do their previous (very good) compact camera, the RX-100. Our only real issue is the lack of a touchscreen interface, which still blows our minds, and the battery being inaccessible if the camera is mounted. Yet those are small gripes with a piece of hardware that is one of the best available on the market and an easy recommend for anyone looking at investing in quality, portable cameras.