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Prosumer camera great for vloggers at home

The global coronavirus pandemic is rubbing salt into the wound of the beleaguered camera industry, as people are staying indoors and not venturing out to take photos.

However, Sony has smartly launched a camera - the ZV-1 - that caters to video bloggers who continue to produce content at home.

At first glance, the ZV-1 looks like Sony's highly successful RX100 prosumer compact camera series. It even uses the same 20-megapixel 1-inch image sensor.

However, there are several design differences with the ZV-1 to cater to video bloggers.

First, it has no built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is found in the RX100 series and more suited for shooting stills.

Second, instead of a tiltable display, the ZV-1 comes with a side-opening vari-angle touchscreen display that can be rotated 180 degrees for selfies. This display also allows videos to be shot in the portrait orientation.

Third, it is equipped with a three-capsule internal microphone designed for forward-directional audio. There is a large microphone grille on top of the camera, which replaces the pop-up flash found in the RX100 series, with a hotshoe mount sited to the top left. Partnering the microphone is a furry "dead cat" microphone cover that clips to the hotshoe mount.

The ZV-1 lacks the top Mode dial found in the RX100 series. In its place is a large video-recording button. In front of this button is a dedicated "background defocus" mode button. There is also a new Product Showcase autofocusing (AF) mode. In this mode, the camera will automatically focus on the product a presenter is holding during video recording.

On the left side of the camera are a microphone port (for connecting external microphones), a micro-USB charging port and an HDMI port. There is no headphone port that lets you listen to your video recordings when you view them on the camera.

A nice touch is the tiny red light in front of the camera that lights up when recording starts, akin to studio video cameras.

The ZV-1 is compatible with Sony's VCT-SGR1 shooting grip ($139), which was used during this review. This grip can double as a small tripod while giving you convenient access to the video-recording button and zoom control.

  • FOR

    • Fast autofocusing during video recording 

    • Side-opening vari-angle display

    • Excellent video quality

    • Great still image quality

  • AGAINST

    • Video stabilisation could be better 

    • No headphone port

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $999

    IMAGE SENSOR: 20-megapixel 1-inch BSI-CMOS

    DISPLAY: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen LCD with 921,600 dots

    LENS: 24mm-70mm (f/1.8-f/2.8)

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 64 to 12,800

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 24 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 294g (body with battery and memory card)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

For the review, I switch on face and eye AF tracking - also available in the latest RX100 series - during video recording. I find the AF locking onto my face and eyes almost instantaneously, even when I am moving about in the frame.

The Product Showcase feature works as advertised. I hold up a watch during a test video and the camera automatically focuses on it while I am talking.

And when I put the watch down, the camera quickly shifts the focus to me. This is definitely handy for video bloggers or influencers who need to promote products.

The 4K videos shot with the camera are of excellent quality, with great detail and sharpness. The internal microphone does a superb job in capturing my voice with very little wind noise.

On the downside, the video stabilisation function can be better. The videos are a tad too shaky even when I am just walking.

The image quality of the ZV-1's stills is great, with nice edge-to-edge sharpness and no visible noise artefacts until ISO 800. I see significant detail loss and chromatic noise only above ISO 6400.

Battery life is mediocre, though. On a full charge, it can shoot around 260 still images or 45 minutes of video recording, according to Sony.

In my tests, I record only around 25 minutes of 4K video before the battery goes flat. You might want to pack an extra battery or two when using this camera. That said, the ZV-1 ($999) is much cheaper than the latest RX100 VII ($1,649).

For those who do a lot of video blogging, getting the ZV-1 is pretty much a no-brainer. And even if you are not a video blogger, its quality stills and selfie-centric video capability will let you record your travels in style when you can do so again.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'Prosumer camera great for vloggers at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe