Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony ZV-1
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Lens: 2.73x zoom
(24-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder: No / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 12,800
Extended ISO: 64 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/32000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.7 in.
(106 x 60 x 44 mm)
Weight: 10.4 oz (294 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $800
Availability: 06/2020
Manufacturer: Sony

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20.10
Megapixels
2.73x zoom 1 inch
size sensor
image of Sony ZV-1
Front side of Sony ZV-1 digital camera Front side of Sony ZV-1 digital camera Front side of Sony ZV-1 digital camera Front side of Sony ZV-1 digital camera Front side of Sony ZV-1 digital camera

Sony ZV-1 Review -- First Impressions

by William Brawley
Preview posted: 05/26/2020

Are you a YouTuber, a vlogger, an independent video creator, or even just a casual video shooter? What camera do you typically grab for shooting video? These days, the options are nearly endless, with all sorts of different types and styles of cameras. For many, it's a DSLR or perhaps some flavor of full-frame mirrorless camera. The upsides there are large sensors and impressive image quality, but these devices are often expensive, cumbersome, and, at the end of the day, they are cameras designed primarily as still photography tools. For others, it might be a type of compact camera, for example, a Sony RX100 model or a Canon G7X Mark II. These camera styles are both easy to use and lightweight, making it great for "run-and-gun" video recording. The compact cameras have drawbacks, too, however. Their smaller sensors don't have that "full-frame look," they perform worse in low light, and again, their design and operation are focused first as photography cameras, not video cameras. And then there are dedicated camcorders, but the vast majority of these have really tiny sensors. And for larger-sensor video cameras, the complexity and cost of these put them well out of reach for most non-high-end or professional cinematographers.

So what's the solution? Well, we mentioned the Sony RX100 series, which is an incredibly popular and versatile compact camera series centered around a relatively large 1-inch-type sensor. It appears that Sony is all too aware of the RX100's popularity in the video world, and has decided to create what is essentially a souped-up, video-centric RX100-style camera: The Sony ZV-1.

Sporting the imaging pipeline of the RX100 VII and the bright f/1.8-2.8 24-70mm-eq. zoom lens from the RX100 V, the new Sony ZV-1 features an updated body design that has a similar RX100-style form-factor yet includes modifications and features dedicated to video recording. (And it'll also shoot stills, for those wondering!)

It's an impressive-looking camera that appears to address many of the pain points that content creators face, such as focusing issues, image stabilization, audio quality problems and more. Plus, it also appears to rectify many of the usability issues typically experienced when using a compact camera like the existing RX100 models for shooting video.

Let's dive in to see what this Sony ZV-1 is all about!

Key Features & Specs

  • Modified RX100-style body design with flip-out, articulated touchscreen display & small handgrip
  • Onboard directional capsule mic with detachable windscreen
  • Multi-interface shoe & standard 3.5mm mic jack
  • Front recording light (REC tally light)
  • 20MP 1-inch-type Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor with onboard DRAM chip
  • BIONZ X image processor with front-end LSI
  • Fast Hybrid AF with phase-detect + contrast-detect AF
  • Real-time Eye AF tracking
  • 4K video recording with full pixel readout
  • Unlimited video recording time*
  • HLG/HDR & S-Log3/2 support
  • Time-lapse video recording
  • 960fps/1000fps super slow motion video
  • Optical SteadyShot + Active mode (Optical + Electronic)
  • $799.99 USD / $999.99 CAD MSRP

Design & Build Quality

The new Sony ZV-1 features a similar size and shape to its photo-centric RX100-series siblings, but the ZV-1's design has been optimized for video recording first and foremost as opposed to still photography. Construction-wise, rather than the metal mag-alloy body of the RX100-series, the ZV-1 instead uses a composite material, as Sony calls it. We're not yet sure if that's similar to sturdy polycarbonate plastic, but Sony does say that it should offer better heat dissipation -- a key factor when recording high-resolution videos for extended periods of time. Additionally, the slim ZV-1 features a small, front-facing handgrip with a rubberized coating for easier handholding. The RX100-series do not feature any sort of grip or non-slip coating, which can make the cameras feel somewhat slippery at times.

The primary and perhaps most visible change to the ZV-1's design compared to a standard RX100 is its flip-out articulated touchscreen display. This new screen not only offers tilt and swivel articulation but can also be flipped out into a front-facing direction. The RX100-series have typically only offered a simple upwards and downwards tilting LCD, which is fine for most photographic pursuits. However, the ability to have a front-facing screen is a big convenience factor for many video creators, especially vloggers and other single-person recording setups. Recent RX100 models (the VI and VII) now offer the ability to flip the screen upwards by roughly 180-degrees for a front-facing setup. However, on the ZV-1, this flip-up design could interfere or be blocked by your choice of microphone, so Sony decided to make it a side-articulated screen that can flip outwards into a front-facing direction.

The Sony ZV-1 features a 3.0-inch touchscreen TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 921,600 dots.

Across the top of the camera, you can see additional changes compared to a typical RX100 camera. Gone is the characteristic pop-up EVF seen on the majority of current RX100 models -- in fact, the ZV-1 doesn't offer a viewfinder at all, nor does it have a pop-up flash. Instead, Sony added a Multi-Interface Shoe at the top-left corner for attaching digital microphones or, via an adapter, mounting various third-party microphones to the hotshot. The camera also includes a standard 3.5mm microphone jack for use with other mics. Next to the hotshot is the ZV-1s large, built-in 3-capsule directional microphone. For those who don't use an external microphone, this larger built-in mic, with its three-mic array, should be a big upgrade over the tiny stereo mics typically seen in digital cameras. You can also add on a detachable fuzzy windscreen to this built-in mic, which is included in the box with the camera -- an uncommon accessory for a typical digital camera.

Further down the top of the camera, you'll see a different array of controls and buttons than your usual RX100. Of course, the camera features a standard shutter release button -- since the ZV-1 can capture stills with the same vast array of features as a normal RX100. Surrounding this, there's the wide-tele zoom lever switch. Notably, the ZV-1 also features a large video record button placed prominently on top. Finally, in addition to ON/OFF and Mode buttons, there's a single programmable "C1" custom function button. By default, though, the C1 button controls one of the ZV-1's unique video shooting features, which we'll discuss further down.

Moving to the rear of the camera, the ZV-1 mirrors the RX100 almost exactly, except for the Movie Record button, which is now on the top. The articulating LCD screen can still flush against the back surface of the camera, with the entirety of buttons and controls situated on the righthand side. The ZV-1 keeps the same basic control cluster layout as the RX100 VII, with four standalone buttons surrounding a small, rotating directional control dial with a large central button.

Image Quality & Video Features

When it comes to imaging performance, the primary focus of this camera is obviously video quality, but nonetheless, the camera's main video and photo specs are very similar to the RX100 VII. However, it does offer several unique and specialized video recording features not shared with other RX100-series cameras. 

Both the ZV-1 and the RX100 VII utilize the same basic imaging pipeline: a 20MP 1-inch-type stacked CMOS sensor with onboard DRAM paired to the latest-generation BIONZ X imaging processor with a front-end LSI. The lens, meanwhile, is shared with the RX100 V, offering a 24-70mm-eq. zoom range with a bright, yet variable aperture of f/1.8-2.8. Whereas the latest version of the RX100, the Mark VII, opted for a longer-zooming lens but compromising with a dimmer f/2.8-4.5 aperture range, we're pleased to see the new ZV-1 opting for the brighter yet shorter zoom lens of the RX100 V. This will help not only with better shallow depth of field and subject isolation but also improved image quality in lower light situations. Unlike the 24-70mm-eq. lens on the RX100 V, the version of the lens here on the ZV-1 does not include a manual lens control ring. 

As with the RX100 VI/VII, all this high-tech processing power inside the ZV-1 should result in both high image quality and high performance. The stacked CMOS sensor is the same overall structure and design as the one inside the high-end A9 and A9 II, and this unique sensor structure allows for very fast sensor data readout speeds. Paired with a fast BIONZ X processor with front-end LSI, the ZV-1 offers not only impressive stills-shooting specs, such as 24fps continuous shooting with AF/AE at full-resolution and RAW+JPEG image capture, but it also allows for high-quality 4K video recording up to 30fps with full pixel readout (no line-skipping or pixel-binning) and with minimal rolling shutter. The ZV-1 is also capable of super slow-motion recording, with up to 960fps recording at up Full HD resolution.

As mentioned, the ZV-1, like the majority of modern cameras, shoots 4K video. The ZV-1 offers this ultra-high-definition video resolution at frame rates up to 30fps, while it's also capable of Full HD video at standard video frame rates up to 120fps. 4K video can be shot continuously with no recording limit, however, it's not enabled by default.* Out of the box, the camera is set to limit 4K sustained recording is limited to just five minutes due to heat considerations. However, like with the RX100 VII, this time limit can be disabled by changing the "Auto Power OFF Temp" setting to "High" in the menus.

Additionally, the ZV-1, like the RX100 VII, offers a high-speed, or "High Frame Rate" video shooting mode designed for super-slow-motion videos. Creators can shoot Full HD videos ranging from 240fps up to a whopping 960fps. However, these fast frame rate modes capture video at lower resolutions. With the "Quality Priority" setting, 240fps mode is captured at 1824 x 1026 resolution, 480fps at 1824 x 616 and 960fps at 1244 x 420. For Speed Priority, the resolution is decreased further at each FPS setting, with 960p dropped all the way down to 912 x 308. So while the outputted video might be 1080p, the image quality of these HFR videos is decreased compared to the camera's standard video recording modes. 

The ZV-1 also offers support for High-Log-Gamma (HLG) and HDR video recording, as well as including S-Log3 and S-Log2 profiles, which provide flatter image profiles and expanded dynamic range for better post-processing image control. The camera also features interval shooting for timelapse video creation.

Sony has made tweaks to the camera's Face Priority Auto-Exposure (AE) function in order to better handle auto-exposure adjustments when the user is moving from one lighting condition or location to another. The ZV-1 utilizes face-detection to prioritize exposure on the face, which for situations like vlogging, the subject's face is the most important feature of the scene. Thus, the camera will bias exposure in order to better provide the proper exposure for the face rather than having a bright or darker background influence the exposure. 

Sony also says they've tweaked the color science of the ZV-1's image processing for better skin tone reproduction across different races and skin tones.

While the ZV-1 does not offer sensor-shift image stabilization like a number of Sony's mirrorless cameras, the ZV-1 does offer optical SteadyShot in the lens, as well as a hybrid SteadyShot Active mode that combines optical and electronic (digital) I.S. for stronger stabilization.

Autofocus

As a video-focused camera, the ZV-1 includes a range of features tailor-made for video creators that the standard RX100-series don't offer, with many of them centered around autofocus. Like the RX100 VII, the ZV-1 features Sony's Fast Hybrid AF system, which combines 315 phase-detection AF pixels on the sensor with 425 contrast-detection AF points. Phase-detect AF points cover approximately 68% of the image area. The ZV-1 supports Real-Time AF tracking as well as Real-Time Eye AF tracking for both stills and video. The camera also supports Animal Eye AF, but only for photos and not video.

Unique to the ZV-1, however, is a new Background Defocus function, which provides an on-demand "bokeh" effect for improved subject isolation and shallower depth of field effect. Similar to how many modern smartphones offer a "portrait mode" with a simulated blurred background, the ZV-1's Background Defocus feature, instead, utilizes the wide aperture of the zoom lens and essentially forces the lens' aperture to its widest setting (based on the focal length). At the same time, the camera maintains the same exposure setting by automatically re-adjusting the ISO and/or shutter speed. As we understand it, the ZV-1 is only utilizing the aperture for this defocusing effect and is not performing any sort of additional computational or simulated blurring effect.

Sony ZV-1 Background Defocus "Bokeh Switch" sample video

So, for instance, say you're filming yourself or showcasing a product or object in front of a busy or distracting background and would like to blur it out to better isolate the subject of your scene. Th ZV-1, by default, has the Background Defocus mode pre-assigned to the "C1" button on the top of the camera. While filming, simply press the C1 button and the camera will switch to Background Defocus mode (then press it again to return to the previous exposure/aperture settings).

Another specialized focusing setting offered on the ZV-1 is called the Product Showcase function. Another on-demand setting, this focusing mode is pre-assigned to the "C2" button on the camera. For example, let's say you are filming a scene of yourself, with the camera's face/eye-tracking AF locked on your face, and then you bring in a product or other objects into the scene to showcase. In some cases, other cameras might struggle to quickly or smoothly re-adjust autofocus off of your face, which might still be prominently in the framing of your shot, and onto the object you want to present. With the ZV-1's Product Showcase function, you can essentially tell the camera to maintain real-time AF tracking but disable Face Priority. The AF system will then continuously track objects and quickly adjust focus to the product or "non-face" object brought into the scene. Then once the object is out of frame, the camera will automatically switch back to Face Priority real-time tracking.

Sony ZV-1 Product Showcase Setting sample video

Ports, Connectivity & Battery Life

When it comes to ports and connectivity, the ZV-1 is quite similar to its standard RX100 siblings, featuring both Micro HDMI (Type D) with 4K support and Multi-terminal Micro USB 2.0 port that supports an optional wired remote. Sadly, the ZV-1 does not feature a USB Type-C connector, but it does support in-camera charging. As mentioned, the ZV-1 has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, though it unfortunately does not have a headphone jack.

As expected, the camera features a built-in Wi-Fi connection and Bluetooth connectivity. Using Sony's Imaging Edge smartphone app, users can remotely control the camera as well as transfer images and videos to their paired smart device. Additionally, with the Movie Edit add-on (a free but separate mobile app), owners can then perform basic video editing using the videos transferred via the Imaging Edge app directly on their smart device. In addition to assisting with image transferring, the ZV-1's built-in Bluetooth connectivity also provides support for Sony's GP-VPT2BT Wireless Shooting Bluetooth Grip accessory, which mounts to the camera's tripod socket and provides both a steady handgrip and also photo and video recording buttons, a C1 function button and zooming control.

The ZV-1 is powered by a rechargeable NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery back, the same battery as the RX100-series. According to Sony specs, the battery life is CIPA-rated for approximately 260 shots per charge. For video recording, accord to CIPA, the ZV-1 is capable of up to 75 minutes of continuous video recording time on a single charge.

Pricing & Availability

The Sony ZV-1 is scheduled to go on sale on June 11, 2020, with a standard MSRP of $799.99 USB or $999.99 CAD. However, Sony is launching the camera with an initial $50 USD discount until 06/28/2020, lowering the launch price to $749.99 (US only). Additionally, Sony is planning a Vlogger Accessory Kit, which includes the GP-VPT2BT Wireless Shooting Bluetooth Grip and a 64GB UHS-II SD card, which will retail for $149.99 USD or $199.99 CAD). However, the Vlogger Accessory Kit will be available for $99 USD if purchased alongside a ZV-1 (until 06/28/2020), or $149.99 CAD until 06/25/2020).

 

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