Eric L. Woods

Sony ZV-1: They made my ultimate Franken-RX100. Also good for vlogging I hear.

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Update 2:

Recorded a comparison video for the Sony ZV-1 and the Sony a6100.

Here is the stills photo mentioned in the video. Settings were all wrong as I had it in Shutter priority and 1/2000s but the camera still managed to pull off a decent shot by jacking up the ISO. Impressive for a 1″ sensor.

Sony ZV-1

Ground rules. I shoot 1080p even though 4K is available with both cameras. Personal decision. Storage and editing time does not justify the resulting boost in resolution that would be mostly wasted on Youtube and social media anyway. That being said I can understand perfectly that 4K would be preferred by others.

Thoughts after viewing the video.

  • As expected the larger sensor/brighter aperture set up yielded a shallower depth of field. But there was less of a difference than I expected and found the ZV-1’s performance perfectly acceptable.
  • Sharpness. Same. If paying strict attention I prefer the a6100, but the ZV-1 is more than acceptable.
  • Colors. I boosted the a6100 colors a bit, as I have long done, and left the ZV-1 as is to see how the newly tweaked colors work. Honestly the a6100 surprised me here. Not sure what I did wrong for my first video, but I have not changed the color settings and they were wonky enough last time that I converted the video to black and white. This time the a6100 did just fine. To my eye the ZV-1 was not quite as good out of the box but it did just fine also. I will play with increasing the saturation a bit in the future.
  • AF. Face AF works fine on the a6100. Add the ZV-1’s Product Showcase mode and Eye AF in video and it clearly pulls ahead.
  • Audio. Both used the RODE Video micro with out of the box camera settings. This was a surprise for me. The a6100 has a low hiss throughout while the ZV-1’s audio was cleaner throughout. Perhaps with some tweaking I could get the a6100 to match.

Other thoughts.

  • Stabilization. Not a factor this day because both were on a tripod, but the a6100/Sigma 16mm have no stabilization and I have tested the ZV-1 enough to verify that the optical stabilization is passable and the optical+digital stabilization are very good. Did much better than I expected while walking. Not to gimbal levels but great for gimbal averse folks like myself.
  • Exposure. Both are great with exposure. I give the advantage to the ZV-1 because of the face prioritization exposure feature. Tried it out and it worked as billed.
  • Ease of use. I am not a big video shooter but the ZV-1 is a very well thought out little device. This is the first camera I have ever owned that makes me want to shoot more video.
  • Portability and practicality. This camera showed up at an interesting time. A large part of my photography is capturing of my children’s school events that mostly never see the light of day outside of family. Could do with lesser gear, but why be practical when overkill will do. Especially with anything regarding my favorite people in the world. But that is winding down now. One had graduated, the next is graduating and the last one is not far behind and, much like me at his age, has sat out most of the activities his older siblings participated in. Was already winding down and moving to smaller bags and form factors. With this camera I can go even smaller and still obtain great results.
Sony ZV-1
w/ grip

This is exactly what I like about this camera overall. Features work as billed and are actually useful. The few things that may not be ideal are easily offset by the many things it does very well. Great as an only camera for a novice. Great as a standalone compact extra stills and video camera for those who are more experienced. Add to that the very reasonable pricing (a bargain in my opinion) and I highly recommend it.

Update 1:

This post started below after I pre-ordered Sony ZV-1 and before I received it. Pre-ordering is not something I usually do. I have to be very sure of what to expect from a brand and model to push that button. Since I owned (and traded) two RX100 models previously and Sony is now effectively on their 7th generation (technically 8th counting the V and VA) I was confident that this would be a hit. The Sony ZV-1 is essentially an enhanced 8th (or 9th) gen RX100. That was my thinking anyway looking at the specs.

When I received it and held it in hand I was convinced that this is a fantastic value.

No brainer. I have been staring at the many years old RX100IV for awhile now that they are still selling new for $898. The newer models cost even more and have a slower lens and no built in ND filter so that was a pass. (If they had released an accompanying 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 VI or VII model with an ND filter I would have likely purchased that already.) The ZV-1 is $150 less than the old IV that has both the lens and the ND filter I prefer.

Only down side was losing the EVF but the III I owned had one and I did not use it. A viewfinder on a camera this small is an ill fit for me. It is like holding something smaller than a playing card to your face. I always used the screen and trusted the AF like the II. And the ZV-1’s articulating screen that powers up the camera when you flip it out and powers it down when you fold the screen in is perfect.

I keep saying this but the ZV-1 has so many more new features I am surprised it is less than the IV and VA. It is functionally an RX100VII+video model with EVF delete for $400 less. While it would make sense that the EVF would add cost $400 seems a bit much. An EVF was added between the RX100II and RX100III and the price barely jumped. Their release prices were $750 (7/2013) and $800 (6/2014) respectively nearly the same as the ZV-1 in 2020. So onto first thoughts and the first few images.

First thoughts:

Build: Some have noted the plastic build as opposed to the metal build of the RX100 models, but I actually prefer it. It feels solid and durable and offers a slightly grippier surface that is improved further by the included grip.

Sony ZV-1

Ergonomics: Limited butttons actually works well for such a small camera. But enough was left that I was able to set the camera up like my other Sony cameras.

  • Set my favorite presets on the MR mode dial like my other cameras right away.
  • Quickly ran through and changed to my favorite initial settings in the Sony menu structure. Turns out the cure for Sony’s labyrinthine menu structure is owning a few. But…
  • My Favorites is there for you if you just want to put your most used items in one place.
  • Has the mother of all record buttons.
Sony ZV-1

AF: As swift and fast as ever. I never complained about AF on the II and III and this camera is in a whole other league. They had contrast only AF while this has the latest phase and contrast Sony hybrid tech. More advanced than the relatively recent interchangeable Sony bodies. While they have stills Eye AF the ZV-1 adds Eye AF in video (A7III does not even have that) and it works perfectly. And video AF with features like Product Mode work perfectly also. The processing grunt behind this little 1″ sensor is quite impressive.

Exposure: Metering is spot on. Always the case with RX100 cameras in my experience. And I understand video exposure is a specialty of this camera also with face priority exposure in extreme lighting conditions.

Image quality: One of my favorite Zeiss lenses happens to come with a camera attached.

Sony ZV-1

It is a fantastic lens as it was on the II and III before. At the wide end it is focus closely.

Sony ZV-1

Very sharp and makes great use of those 20MP. Very nice subject isolation.

Sony ZV-1

Great colors in JPEG.

Sony ZV-1

I have already noticed that the ZV-1’s color tweaks pay great dividends. Colors are so that I see little reason to fiddle with them much in post if at all.

I say JPEG because I have not yet sorted out how to import ZV-1 RAW files into Lightroom. If Lightroom has added the ZV-1 profile I will sort it out soon enough. If they have not yet I expect they will do so shortly. I recall a similar scenario with the A7III. Either way I expect even better images once I can access greater RAW editing capabilities. (RAW support has been added to Lightroom and as expected it offers more control.)

Hot shoe: I appreciate the hotshoe, lost after version II (pictured below), for attaching the great little mic dead cat.

Sont RX100II

But once in hand I immediately tested the camera out with the Godox TT350s flash. It worked perfectly and I also look forward to trying this camera out with the AD200. Add a flash, for stills, a compact LED, for video, the Sony remote grip

…and this would be a fantastic four piece go anywhere set up.

I keep talking about stills for a camera marketed as a vlogging camera first and foremost. I view this camera slightly differently than the marketing. I see this camera as the perfect RX100 for my purposes that also happens to be great for video.

Next up:

Video: For the first time ever I am actually looking forward to making videos. While the a6100 is great for video use…

…if things work out the way I expect with the ZV-1 it will see as much if not more use than the a6100.

Other features I am looking forward to using not mentioned yet.

  • HFR for slow motion.
  • 24fps second burst.
  • Exercise the ND filter and 1/32000s shutter a bit on bright conditions.
  • And of course combine all of these features to do something I have never done before. Vlog.

Will update once I have taken more photos and video.

Original post text:

Choosing camera gear is often not the easiest thing for me to do. Choosing between brands is usually not an issue. I mostly stumble when trying to choose a model within a brand. Years ago I vapor locked when trying to choose a full frame upgrade path (from the D3300) with Nikon. So much so that I left the brand rather than commit when I could not find an acceptable feature for price compromise. I once had a Fuji X-Pro1, X-T1, and X-T10 at the same time simply because I could not choose. The A7 line gave me fits for years until the A7III came out and settled things for me.

The Sony RX100 line has also been an issue for me. They keep releasing more and more and selling them side by side. Which one do you choose?

Before I discuss individual models I will list general RX100 line high points.

  • Sharp lens.
  • Swift, accurate AF.
  • Small and light.
  • Far better low light performance than one would expect.
  • Ergonomics do it no favors but full manual controls are there.

RX100II

Sont RX100II

Really liked this camera. Great price point used. Great to have f/1.8 at the wide end. Provides surprising low light performance and subject isolation for a 1″ sensor.

Vanishing Point
Vanishing Point
Parking lot stroll
Fall
Carolina Blue
Pan Pan Diner, Durham

What kept me from keeping it?

  • While f/1.8 at the wide end is great f/4.9 at the 100mm long end is less than optimal for a 1″ sensor.
  • An ND filter would be nice.
  • 1/2000s top shutter speed w/ no ND filter.
  • Thought I wanted a viewfinder. More on this later.

RX100III

Added a pop up flash, EVF, and an ND filter. The ND filter came in handy given the 1/2000s top shutter speed remains. Really like the f/1.8-f/2.8 24-70mm equivalent lens spec. Should have done it on paper. As with Gen II the III could capture a nice pic.

Sony RX100 iii
Sony RX100 iii
Sony RX100 iii
Sony RX100 iii
Sony RX100 iii

What kept me from keeping it?

  • Fiddly pop up then pull out EVF was a bit of a disappointment if I am honest. Barely used it.
  • So you say the RX100IV is 16fps instead of 10fps?

RX100IV (Comparison w/ RICOH GR)

Everything the III offers with 1/32000s top speed with a 960fps HFR mode. Aforementioned 16fps. 4K is nice.

Why not?

  • None of the latest Sony AF features.
  • $898 new is a bit stiff for a 3 generation old model.

RX100V/RX100VA

They added HYBRID AF. Top shutter speed upped to 24fps.

Why not?

  • Price yet again two generations back.

RX100VI/RX100VII

AF improvements, especially the VII with features taken from the mighty A9.

Why not?

  • The slower 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens is a deal breaker for me.
  • With that lens the ND filter was removed.
  • Prices have now well surpassed the price of an A7II on sale. Worth it but more than I would like to spend.

What would my ultimate Franken RX100 be?

  • The excellent 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens from the III, IV, V and VA for low light performance and bokeh.
  • RX100VII hybrid AF features like animal AF and Eye AF during video.
  • ND Filter and 1/32000s E Shutter to shoot wide open for the brightest scenes.
  • Each RX100 I owned had the tacked on grip which aided in handling. A built in one would be even better.
  • A great built in directional mic, mic jack, and a 180 screen would be great for a portable video all in one even smaller than my a6100 rig.
  • Optical and digital stabilization not offered on my a6100.
  • A price even lower than the 3 generation old RX100IV.

Welp. That describes the new $748 Sony Z-V1 perfectly. A no brainer. Marketed as a vlogging machine it has very impressive stills specs as well.

The two RX100 models I was stuck bouncing back and forth between were both flawed for my purposes:

RX100IV compared to the Z-V1

Old AF tech is a hard sell for a camera that is $100 more expensive.

RX100VII compared to the Z-V1

Z-V1 matches it AF spec for AF spec, has a lens I much prefer, and costs almost $400 less.

Further advantages

And you may have heard that it is well suited for vlogging also with additional features:

  • Tally light.
  • Product AF.
  • One touch background blur (which opens aperture and engages ND filter if need be).
  • Improved skin tones.
  • Hot shoe dead cat included.

Sign me up.

Down sides

So there must be down sides, right? Not for me considering the price.

  • No EVF. Not a necessity with such a small camera. My trusty old NX300 has no EVF with much worse AF and I get great use out of that camera.
  • Lost the lens surround programmable control ring and lack of dedicated dials. Personally never remembered this was there. I use this camera as a point and shoot mostly. Any variations in settings are handled by the programmable modes and I use 1 or 2 of those 90% of the time.
  • Some have lamented that they wish it had a wider lens. I expect my long arm with the excellent Sony remote grip will do just fine. Rather than a longer grip as some have suggested I am thinking that extending the Sony grip should do the trick.

If they had released this sooner I might not have bothered with the a6100 rig.

Save the ability to add a light via cold shoe with the Small Rig dealie on paper the Sony Z-V1 should be a match for this setup.

I am very intrigued. There will be more to come.

-ELW

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