If the Top Gear PH team were to pick a favorite compact point-and-shoot camera, the Sony RX100 series would easily be top of mind. We’ve used practically all versions of it during countless motor shows, events, and trips throughout the years—a couple of the units we owned ourselves, while most were borrowed for review (and grudgingly returned).
So now that video has become king of online content, it’s only fitting we tried out Sony’s dedicated compact shooter for this type of medium to vlog a Boracay drive we recently joined. Yes, we vlogged—or at least tried to—because vloggers are who the Sony ZV-1 is aimed at.
In the same way the RX100 provided a welcome change to carrying around heavy DSLRs, the ZV-1 gave us a reprieve from hauling our usual mirrorless cameras and gimbals. It’s a powerhouse in a small, lightweight package. Features include a 20.1-megapixel 1.0-type Exmor RS CMOS sensor; a built-in 24-70mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens; 4K shooting at 30fps and full HD at 120fps; high-speed shooting at up to 960fps; S-Log modes for experienced editors who want more flexibility for color-grading in post-production; and a directional three-capsule microphone with a detachable windscreen.
Our test unit came with a shooting grip that allowed for key controls to be operated even when the camera was held at arm’s length, as when you’re filming yourself. It also provided an easier way to hold the ZV-1 when shooting vertical clips for mobile.
But why not go for a high-end smartphone if you’re producing content for mobile consumption? Well, you’d opt for a compact vlogging camera like the ZV-1 if you want more control over settings, although Sony still has these buried in submenus that you access via the control wheel in the back. That fully-articulating display’s touchscreen functionality is limited to setting autofocus points, which the ZV-1 does latch onto quite well once set. Apart from that, zooming and recording are the only things you can toggle with the camera front-facing; if you want to adjust everything else, you need to turn the camera around and flip the screen to see what you’re doing.
Content creators who do product reviews will find the ‘product showcase’ feature useful. We just kept it off since it’s not really of use for the kind of reviews we do—it’s not like we can pick up a life-sized car and bring it to the foreground to give you guys a closer look. More handy for those who shoot almost exclusively outdoors are ‘background defocus’ and the built-in ND filter. We also found the stabilization lacking for the usual action shots we require, but if you’re like us, you’d already be carrying around an action camera, anyway.
We didn’t connect an external mic via the 3.5mm jack so we could fully test the built-in microphone; it struggled in harsher conditions, but we expected that and recorded backup audio on our phone for safety. Speaking of backups, do have a power bank handy for whole-day outings. You can shoot while the ZV-1 is hooked up to one via micro-USB cable (no USB-C here), so if you’re out there trying to maximize whatever natural light is left, there’s no time wasted. Shoot any stills you need while you’re at it, too—true to its RX100 origins, this is capable of snapping high-quality images as well.
Sony is upfront about what the ZV-1 is for: In the product webpage, it describes this model as being “designed for casual videography.” This doesn’t mean it’s only for newbies, though—even more advanced users will find it plenty capable if they want a break from stylized shoots and want something more lightweight and straightforward for laid-back content.
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