Sony unveils its attempt at the ultimate no-learning-curve vlog camera
Plenty of folk these days buy cameras with the intention of pointing them mainly at themselves, and Sony has put together a neat little compact that's laser-focused on content creators who want beautiful video with zero learning curve.
Some folk love learning the crafts of photography and videography – and there's certainly plenty of creative control to be gained from mastering a beautiful pro-grade DSLR. But if you've grown up with a smartphone that makes one-button jobs out of photo and video, it's fair to ask why a vlogging camera can't be just as easy to use.
Sony has focused its ZV-1 compact squarely on vloggers who want to concentrate on their makeup, their jokes, their begging for you to click various buttons, or even their content, and just let the camera do the rest with the minimal possible fuss.
Thus, it's small enough to fit in a pocket, and lightweight at 295 g (10 oz). It uses a 1-inch Exmor CMOS sensor with solid low-light capability, and an integrated 24-70-mm equivalent Zeiss zoom lens with a super-wide f/1.8-2.8 aperture, giving you plenty of ability to blur out the background with a soft bokeh if you want.
It records very nice-looking video in 4K/30 fps, offering 1080p slow-motion shooting up to an absurd 1,000 fps, with plenty of frame rates in between. Plenty of attention has been paid to audio as well, with a directional 3-capsule microphone designed for good audio capture in selfie mode, with a fluffy muff accessory for when it's windy and a 3.5-mm mic jack if you want to take things up a level with a lapel mic.
Naturally, the back screen flips out, so you can frame yourself better, and there's a "bokeh" button on top of the camera to flip between wide and narrow apertures to either blur or clarify the background at the touch of a button without needing to fiddle with camera settings.
The jewel in the ZV-1's crown is its near-instant autofocus system, which looks super impressive in Sony's sample videos. Face- and eye-tracking keep your face in near-perfect focus even at wide apertures, and if you swing the camera around to look at something else, it focuses on it almost before the camera's stopped moving.
Sony has also recognized that certain types of vloggers like to hold up products in front of the camera as they talk about them, so it's created an extra "product showcase" autofocus mode. Activate this using the trash can button during shooting, and the autofocus system will immediately snap to anything you hold up in front of your face, then back to your face as soon as you drop it out of frame. Very neat.
The exposure system is geared toward keeping your skin tone natural, whatever that skin tone is, and whatever the lighting is doing. There's skin softening to help smooth you out, and it's multi-mode switchable if you're not into that sort of thing.
There's also some pretty high-grade image stabilization going on here as well; Sony claims the active optical and electronic stabilization works eight times better than its SteadyShot technology when you're shooting in 4K, and 11 times better if you shoot in 1080p. That makes walking footage a lot easier to watch.
It's easy to make fun of vloggers and influencers, but right now COVID-19 is forcing a lot more folk to work from home, and a lot of business owners that would normally work face to face are scrambling to get up to speed with video technology in order to make presentations online. A camera like the ZV-1 could make the transition to video much smoother and easier for people; it might be dropping at just the right time.
It'll be available from early June with a retail price of US$799. The VCT-SGR1 Bluetooth shooting grip/mini-tripod in some of the photos is a separate, but very handy-looking piece to add to your kit. Check out a video below.