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  • Cheryl Tan

Sony ZV-1: The Video Pocket Rocket We Have Been Waiting For

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Sony has announced their new ZV1 camera, and we’ve actually tried out the camera for the last few weeks, so here’s our opinion on what it’s actually like to use.

When we talk about video cameras, there are a lot of settings that can sound like it’s Greek. We’re going to keep this one simple. The design of the ZV1 has a lot of DNA from the RX100 series, but there are definitely changes.

The edges are a little rounder, and the texture on the body seems to have a little more grip and it feels almost like you can throw it into bags without having to worry about scratches.

There’s a little grip that helps with stabilisation even though it doesn’t look like it. When you go to the top of the camera, that’s where it differs a lot from the RX100 series. You can tell that this is a video-centric camera just by the big recording button. There’s also a shutter release button, on/off button, mode and C1 button that affects background defocus.

You have a large internal microphone in the middle of the top of the camera and it’s actually pretty good quality. There’s also a hot shoe on the far left of the camera and it connects to stuff like Sony’s external microphone without any wires needed. A windshield is also provided in the box to protect against wind noise and it works pretty well, as seen in the video.

Sony has finally given their users a screen that’s able to flip out and rotate, and that’s a huge plus. It’s such a welcome addition, especially for this camera when you want to mostly use it for vlogging. You can flip it out while recording to see the eye-tracking, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, audio levels and more. It’s a beautiful 3-inch display, and you can rotate it around to get some pretty creative angles when shooting.

There are three ports on this camera and they are all ports of necessity, a 3.5mm mic jack, a Micro-USB port and a mini HDMI port. We’re not too sure why Sony went with the Micro-USB port, it might be due to the electronics inside, size, weight, all that. The Micro-USB port can be used to charge the camera and grips can also be attached via that port, so it’s not too big a deal.

The micro HDMI port is pretty important because the camera can even be used as a webcam for conference calls. Simply plug it into a monitor or computer, and it’ll be easily set up as a webcam that also has microphone functionality!

The lens is one of the most important things in a camera. What the lens sees, the sensor sees. What the sensor sees, we see. On the RX100 series, we have a 200mm lens. Sony has gone with the 24-70mm f/1.8 – f/2.8 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens on the ZV1 and it’s a great focal length for videographers and day to day photography.

You get that great 24mm length for a wide shot and a 70mm length for close-ups and portraiture, all while keeping great bokeh thanks to the wide aperture. There’s also an ND filter built-in so you can keep the lens wide open while shooting outdoors in bright environments.

Let’s talk about what’s inside the camera now. It’s running on a 20.1MP 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor, the BIONZ processor and you can shoot 1080p up to 120fps or 4K up to 30fps. There’s also a High Frame Rate mode that allows users to shoot up to 960fps, and High Frame Rate is basically just shooting video in slow-motion.

Battery life is important on a compact camera, and you can get actual shooting times of 54 minutes at 1080p 60fps, or continuous shooting time of 75 minutes. At 4k 24fps, you can get continuous shooting times of 30 minutes.

There’s image stabilisation in the camera, called Steady Shot. There are three modes, active, standard and off. Don’t turn it off, it’s always good to get smooth footage instead of a video that’s so jerky you’re unable to watch it.

Colour science has also been improved here, Sony really concentrated on skin tones and there’s a nice warm glow present. There’s also Auto Exposure that focuses on faces to auto expose a scene when moving.

There are two other features that are really cool on this camera. The first is Background Defocus. It’s one of the buttons on the top of the camera. When you press it, it blurs out the background, but it’s not synthetic blur. What it does is force the camera to f/1.8 to get even more depth of field.

The other feature is the Product Showcase, which will be great for people who vlog about products often. With a lot of cameras, there’s eye-tracking so the focus is always locked on the person’s face. If Product Showcase is turned on, pressing the Background Defocus button actually forces the camera to focus on the object closest to the lens. It’ll stay on that object as long as it’s in the frame, but once the object leaves the frame, the camera will refocus on the user’s face.

But what about photography? This camera does actually take pretty good photos, and if you want to snap some shots of fast-moving subjects, you get up to 24fps in high-speed burst mode. It’s very impressive.

We didn’t know what to expect at the start, so the whole process was about discovering the camera organically and we were very impressed at the features considering the price point of S$999. There are a lot of features here that we weren’t expecting, and it’s almost like how the A7III shocked the full-frame camera market when it came out.

The ZV1 is expected to come out around the beginning of June and will be priced at S$999.

This content is brought to you in partnership with Sony Singapore.

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