A pocket-sized camera with a 20.1-megapixel, 1.0-type stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor and revised body design to suit vloggers, content creators and casual video shooters.
The ZV-1 will appeal to vloggers who are producing video clips to be shared via social media, particularly YouTube.
Although Sony says its recently-released DCZV-1 compact camera has been ‘Designed from the ground up for vloggers, content creators and casual video shooters’, essentially it’s a variation on the RX100 M5 (which we didn’t review, although we reviewed its successor, the RX100M6). The ZV-1 uses the same 20.1-megapixel 1.0-type sensor. BIONZ X processor and NP-BX1 battery as other recent RX100 cameras but its body has been modified to make it more video-friendly. The new name indicates it’s not part of the RX100 series but a separate product line.
Front view of the DCZV-1 with the articulated monitor extended, wind screen accessory attached and the tally lamp showing recording is in progress. (Source: Sony.)
The relatively short 9.4-25.7mm f/1.8-2.8 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* zoom lens is a bit shorter at the wide end than the 8.8-25.7mm lens in the RX100 M5 and covers the same angles of view as a 25.4-70mm lens on a 35mm camera. It’s both shorter in range and faster than the 24-200 mm (equivalent) f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens on more recent RX100 series models.
The autofocusing system draws a lot from the RX100 VII particularly with respect to face priority AF and AE shooting, but it’s been programmed to prioritise the presenter’s face and the camera includes a databank for registering faces. It also includes the Smile Shutter setting, which automatically takes a picture when a smiling face is detected.
Colour reproduction in the default ‘Standard’ Creative Style mode is also tuned to make skin tones look attractive and the special one-click Background Defocus mode sets the widest lens aperture for a shallow depth of field. Auto Object Framing detects the main subject of the picture and automatically trims the framing for optimal presentation. The original image is also saved.
The camera is supplied with a wind screen filter that clips onto the hotshoe and reduces the noise recorded when wind blows across or into the microphone. External mics can be fitted but there’s no jack for adding headphones to monitor audio recordings.
Built-in low-energy Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity supports instant transfer of video clips or still images to mobile devices for direct sharing to social networks, via email and to cloud storage sites. It also allows the camera to be used with the optional GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip, which was supplied with the camera for our review.
Who’s it For?
Sony makes it clear in its marketing materials and press releases that the ZV-1 has been designed primarily for vlogging. The product differentiation is clear on the company’s website, firstly through the avoidance of the Cyber-shot branding (even though the ZV-1 is listed with the Cyber-shot cameras) and by using the ‘DC’ prefix in the model name instead of the usual ‘DSC’.
Unfortunately, little has been done to simplify Sony’s labyrinthine menu system to make the camera usable to novices. The default setting for the C1 function makes it a ‘Bokeh switch’ that swaps instantly between wide-open (defocused background) and stopped down settings. There’s also a Product Showcase setting that disables stabilisation and face and eye priority AF and prioritises focus on the object nearest the camera. When an object is held up, focus shifts quickly to it and away from the presenter.
Otherwise, the ZV-1 works a lot like a regular RX100 camera, which means it works quite well for shooting stills since its sensor and BIONZ-X processor are the same as those used in Sony’s stills cameras. Sensor resolution remains at 20.2 megapixels (effective), unchanged since the RX100 Mark III which we reviewed back in July 2014.
Video capabilities are similar to those provided by the RX100 VII which we reviewed in October 2019. However, the ZV-1 will be able to be used as a webcam for direct broadcasting when it’s connected to a computer via USB once Sony’s new PC software becomes available next month.
Time-lapse movies can be recorded with the camera and assembled on a computer for sharing. An in-camera Photo Capture function allows users to grab an 8.29-megapixel still from UHD 4K movies or a two-megapixel still from Full HD clips.
The ZV-1 is Sony’s first compact camera with a side-opening vari-angle monitor, which makes it easier to shoot selfies when external audio accessories are attached to the camera.
Build and Ergonomics
Superficially, the ZV-1 retains the familiar compact size, light weight and sleek styling of the RX100 series. But its body has been designed for forward facing recording when filming the user to create vlogs or for taking selfies.
We had problems framing shots with the monitor screen when shooting in bright sunlight, both while using the camera as a point-and-shoot capture device and when the camera was mounted on the GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip and used in selfie/vlogging mode. Even increasing the screen’s brightness made little difference to the display in these conditions. Shooting stills and video became a point-and-guess exercise.
There’s no built-in flash for low-light shooting or backlight fill-in; just a Multi Interface Shoe that can accept an external flashgun. No viewfinder is provided, whereas the RX100 series has featured a high quality pop-up electronic viewfinder. The lens control ring provided on the RX100 series cameras is also absent, and the mode dial is replaced by a button that opens a sub-menu.
Front view of the ZV-1 showing the self-timer/tally lamp and front-facing zoom lever. (Source: Sony.
The embedded LED on the front panel doubles as a self-timer and tally lamp that shows when recordings are taking place. The right-hand grip is larger to allow one-handed recording and lens is optically stabilised. Active SteadyShot stabilisation further reduces the appearance of camera shake for smoother takes, claiming up to 11 times more stabilisation than the standard SteadyShot with HD video or eight times with 4K video.
Top view of the ZV-1 showing the video-orientated controls. (Source: Sony.)
As in previous models in the RX100 series, the shutter button is positioned towards the front of the top panel on top of the zoom lever. An enlarged REC (movie recording) button is located just behind the shutter button where it’s easy to reach with an index finger.
The large, 3-capsule internal microphone that sits in the middle of the top panel (where the flash was located on the RX100 series cameras) is designed for forward-facing audio recording. A dedicated wind screen, clips onto the Multi Interface Shoe and covers the mic. grille to suppress unwanted noise.
Rear view of the ZV-1. (Source: Sony.)
The arrangement of the rear panel controls is almost the same as on the RX100VII and the buttons are very small, making them difficult to operate by anyone with large fingers or limited dexterity. Manual focusing is also difficult and only accessible by setting the focus mode to MF and then turning the control wheel on the rear panel until the image appears sharp on the screen. Focus peaking and magnification are available to aid accuracy.
While previous models all the way back to the second in the series have had tilting screens, the ZV-1 has a fully articulated touchscreen LCD that shows what the sensor is capturing when it’s facing towards the user. Touch shutter, touch AF and touch tracking are available.
Side panel of the ZV-1 showing the interface ports. (Source: Sony.)
Three interface ports are located on the right hand side panel. At the top is the 3.5 mm microphone jack, with the Micro USB terminal below it. At the bottom is the HDMI micro jack. Embedded in the body below this terminal is the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antenna.
As is typical of most point-and-shoot cameras, the battery and memory card slot share a compartment that is accessed via the base plate. The NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery is CIPA rated for approximately 260 shots/charge and the battery is charged via the supplied USB cable.
Internally, the ZV-1 caters for the vlogging crowd with functions like the Product Showcase Setting, Background Defocus, the Soft Skin Effect and Face Priority Auto-Exposure. The latest BIONZ X image processor adds the latest autofocusing algorithms with features like Real-Time Eye AF and Real-Time Tracking to the new camera. Note: Real-time Eye AF for animals is not available for movie shooting.
The front-end LSI and enhanced sensor performance also improve overall image and video quality, especially at higher sensitivities. UHD 4K recording using full pixel readout without binning is supported at up to 30p (25p for PAL system users) for extended takes. This oversampling increases video clarity while reducing the impact of moiré and jaggies.
The camera also offers Sony’s advanced XAVC S format for recording a high bit rates up to 100 Mb/s. HDMI also enables output to an optional external recorder for clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.
Sony’s S-Log2 Gamma Curve, which is used on high-end Sony Cinema cameras and compresses up to 1300% more dynamic range into the video signal than the traditional REC709 codec is supported. In addition, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profiles and the BT.2020 colour space are available when footage is recorded for professional use.
Recording times depend upon the codec selected, the clip resolution and frame rate and whether Auto Power Off Temp. has been set to Standard or High. Maximum recording time for an XAVC S 4K clip is approximately 30 minutes but the camera will switch off if the internal temperature rises above a pre-determined level. A fully-charged battery can support up to 45 minutes of movie recording.
High Frame Rate shooting is available for super slow motion playback. The camera includes a dedicated HFR mode that boosts the camera’s frame rate to up to 960/1000 fps at 1244 x 420 pixel resolution as well as slower settings of 240/250 fps and 489/599 fps. Recording times are reduced to one or two seconds in this mode, while playback times range from approximately four seconds to two minutes and 40 seconds, depending on frame rate and resolution. Audio is not recorded.
Face-Priority AE can detect the subject’s face and adjust the exposure to keep it at an ideal brightness, even if the subject is walking from a bright place into shade, or vice versa. The AE technology also suppresses abrupt changes in exposure if the subject quickly turns away from the camera. A built-in ND filter is available for controlling exposures in bright lighting conditions.
Colour reproduction has been re-engineered to optimise skin tones and a new Soft Skin Effect can be used to soften and smooth wrinkles or blemishes on a subject’s face. Three adjustment levels are available, Low, Mid (the default) and High and the effect can be disabled with the Off setting.
The new Background Defocus button (C1) on the top panel provides a quick way to switch between the widest aperture (Defocus) and f/5.6 (Clear) without losing focus on the subject. The Product Showcase Set function in the Camera Settings menu configures the camera for product reviews by prioritizing focus on objects close to the camera and providing fast and smooth focus transitions between the presenter’s face and the object placed in front of the lens.
Playback and Software
The playback button on the rear panel accesses all the standard playback functions for both stills and movie clips, using the image database that is automatically created when a memory card is inserted into the camera. Playback functions can be engaged by touch but all playback is blocked with the camera is writing to the memory card.
Movie playback includes the ability to display the path tracked when recording a moving object as well as still frame capture. Slideshow playback is supported and images and clips can be star rated or DPOF tagged for printing. In-camera raw file conversion is not available.
No software is supplied with the ZV-1 camera; just a stack of multi-lingual printed manuals that are little more than set-up guides. However, they also provide links in the form of URLs and QR codes that will take you to the products’ downloads pages.
Here can be found both the basic Help Guide (Web manual), which is also available in printable PDF format plus a basic Startup Guide in PDF format. Video tutorials can also be accessed from the downloads page, along with Sony’s Imaging Edge software for desktop and mobile, Movie Edit add-on and PlayMemories Home.
The GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip
Although it’s not bundled with the camera, the GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip is likely to be the first accessory to be purchased with the ZV-1 because it makes vlogging easier. Consequently, we received a unit to assist with this review. The camera is attached via a mounting screw which fits into the tripod socket.
The ZV-1 mounted on the GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip. (Source: Sony.)
A built-in Bluetooth function enables the camera to be controlled remotely from the grip without requiring interface cables. Pairing the grip with the camera is straightforward and achieved through the following steps: Menu > Network > Bluetooth settings > Bluetooth function > On. Once the pairing screen appears you simply select Pairing and hold down the Photo button and the T side of the zoom rocker for at least seven seconds until the message ‘Paired’ appears on the camera screen.
As well as being able to initiate stills capture or movie recording via dedicated buttons on the handle, there’s also a zoom rocker and C1 button that accessed the function that had been assigned to the parallel button on the camera. A lock switch can disable the remote command function to prevent unintentional re-adjustment of camera functions.
An angle adjusting button lets users change the tilt angle of the camera mount by 10 degrees while the flip button at the base of the camera mount is pushed in. Pressing in the flip button also allows a mounted camera to be rotated through 90 degrees in either direction.
An adjustment wheel on the right hand side of the grip is used to tighten or loosen its tension, which can be tightened when heavier cameras are mounted. Two ‘legs’ pull out from the back of the handle to turn the unit into a tabletop tripod.
The unit is powered by a CR2032 coin battery, which slips into a locking chamber in the grip’s handle. As well as being suitable for use with the ZV-1, it is fully compatible with the RX100M7 and with the RX0M2 with firmware Ver. 2.00 or later. Some of Sony’s ILCE Alpha interchangeable lens cameras may also be able to be used with the GP-VPT2BT but the tripod could become unstable, if the lens fitted to the camera was large and/or heavy.
Unfortunately, when we conducted this review the ARW.RAW files from the ZV-1 were not supported in the June 2020 edition of Adobe Camera Raw, our preferred raw file converter. We tried converting them into 16-bit TIFF format with Sony’s Imaging Edge software but ended up with files that were lower in resolution than the out-of-the-camera JPEGs so our test results are based upon JPEG files only.
The camera’s exposure system worked well in most lighting conditions but could take up to a second to adjust to changes in lighting when the camera was used for vlogging. In contrasty lighting we found the in-camera DRO controls struggled to prevent both highlights and shadows being clipped.
Interestingly, the camera can detect when it’s being held vertically for movie recording and will preserve the vertical orientation in the recorded clips. This feature should appeal to those who post on platform like TikTok.
We were pleasantly surprised with the images we obtained from the Clear Image Zoom and digital zoom settings, both of which interpolated crops from the full sensor area up to the 5472 x 3648 pixel 3:2 aspect ratio size. The details captured in close-up shots using these settings were quite impressive.
Once exposure levels had been determined, most backlit scenes were recorded with a usable dynamic range, although post-capture editing was often required and highlights were frequently clipped. Flare artefacts were rare but not entirely absent but we found no instances of veiling flare.
Imatest showed the review camera capable of exceeding expectations for the 20-megapixel sensor with JPEG files at ISO settings up to ISO 200 and with longer lens focal lengths. The graph below shows the results of our tests across the camera’s ISO settings.
Maximum resolution occurred between one and 1.5 stops down from the widest aperture, and at the longest focal length setting. Diffraction began to take effect from about f/4.5 on with a steep drop between f/8 and the minimum aperture of f/11. The tests also revealed edge softening across most aperture settings as shown in the graph of our test results below.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained within the ‘negligible’ range at all the focal lengths and apertures we measured, which is to be expected since it is corrected in the camera. In the graph below, which is based on JPEG files, the red line indicates the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.
Long exposures at night retained a similar amount of detail and colour accuracy to those from the Mark VI. Low-light focusing was fast and accurate, even well after sundown. We had to begin our tests before it became completely dark to enable the slowest shutter speed of 30 seconds to deliver correct exposures at ISO 80 with our test subject.
From that point, correct exposures were possible up to the highest ISO setting. Noise became visible at ISO 6400 and softening was evident at ISO 12800, the highest sensitivity supported. Noise-reduction processing increased softening and reduced contrast as sensitivity was raised.
The auto white balance setting produced close-to-neutral colours under fluorescent lighting but failed to fully eliminate the warm cast from incandescent and warm-toned LED lights. The incandescent and all of the fluorescent pre-sets tended to over-correct but manual measurement produced neutral colours under all types of lighting. In-camera adjustments are provided for tweaking colour balance on-the-fly.
No coloured fringing was found in shots taken in outdoor conditions, even with contrasty lighting. Bokeh at wide aperture settings was much as you’d expect from a fixed-lens, short-zoom camera with a 1-inch type sensor, with outlining common around brighter highlights in backgrounds.
Video quality wasn’t quite as good as we obtained from the RX100 Mark V11 even though the ZV-1 has similar recording capabilities. However, autofocusing in movie mode was as fast as we found with stills shooting and the system coped well with subjects entering and leaving the frame. We found no evidence of moiré in any of the clips we shot.
Stabilisation – which is vital when you’re vlogging with the camera hand-held – crops the frame, making the lens closer in focal length to a 30mm lens in 35mm format, which is a bit too narrow for the purpose. The vlogger’s head takes up too much of the frame, even when the grip is used to extend the distance between the camera and the user’s face.
Actual stabilisation performance was a bit patchy, particularly when the grip was used. Clips recorded in bright sunlight often suffered from highlight clipping, especially at higher frame rates. Audio clarity in soundtracks was better than we expected and certainly good enough for amateur use. The wind filter reduced, rather than suppressed ambient noises.
Our timing tests were conducted with a 32GB Lexar Professional SDXC UHS-II card, which claims read/write speeds of 300 MB/s. The review camera was quite slow to power-up, taking a little over two seconds to activate and extend the lens.
We found capture lag times of between 0.2 and 0.3 seconds without pre-focusing, reducing to less than 0.1 seconds when shots were pre-focused. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.35 seconds. No indicator light is provided to show that files are being processed and it’s difficult to measure processing times for single shots with the necessary precision. However, we estimate each shot took between 1.2 and 2.2 seconds to process.
Continuous shooting is a mixed bag and the highest frame rates require the electronic shutter. The buffer memory is very large for a compact camera but it can take several minutes to clear and you can’t take any further shots while files are being processed. Processing can be tracked with a count-down bar in the top left corner of the screen.
In our test, the review camera recorded 156 Large/ExtraFine JPEGs in 7.2 seconds, before the first pause, which is close to the 20 fps specifications. It took several minutes to process this burst.
With ARW.RAW files, the camera recorded 76 frames in 3.9 seconds before pausing. It took just over two minutes to process this burst. We didn’t bother with timing bursts of RAW+JPEG pairs because of the extended processing times.
One issue potential purchasers should consider is the relatively low battery capacity. If you spend much time working through the menu system, you’ll find it falls well short of the claimed 260 shots or 45 minutes of movie recording time per charge. And it has to bne recharged via a Micro-USB cable, which may not suit some users.
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Image sensor: 13.2 x 8.8 mm Exmor RS CMOS sensor with approximately 21 million photosites (20.1 megapixels effective)
Image processor: BIONZ X
A/D processing: 8-bit
Lens: 9.4-25.7mm f/1.8-2.8 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens ( 25.4-70mm in 35mm format; aperture range – f/1.8 to f/11
Zoom ratio: 2.9x optical; 3.8x digital
Digital zoom: 20M approx.11x / 10M approx.16x / 5.0M approx.23x / VGA approx.44x
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (DCF / Exif 2.31) ARW.RAW 2.3; Movies – XAVC S with LPCM 2ch (48kHz 16-bit) audio, AVCHD v.2,0 with Dolby Digital 2ch audio
Aspect ratios: 3:2. 16:9, 4:3, 1:1
Image Sizes: Stills – 3:2 5472 x 3648; Movies – 3840 x 2160 at 30p/25p/24p, 1920 x 1080 at 120p/100p/60p/50p/30p/25p/24p, 1280 x 720 x 480 at 30p/25p
Shutter / speed range: Electronic and mechanical shutter / iAuto (4\ – 1/32000) / Program Auto (30\ – 1/32000) / Manual (30\ – 1/32000) / Aperture Priority (30\ – 1/32000) / Shutter Priority (30\ – 1/32000)
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
Image Stabilisation: Optical SteadyShot
Exposure Compensation: +/-3EV (in 1/3 EV steps), with exposure compensation dial: +/-EV (in 1/3 EV steps) for movies
Bracketing: AE – 3 frames across +/- 3EV in 1/3EV steps, WB
Focus system/range: Fast Hybrid (phase detection/contrast detection) AF with auto, single, continuous and manual modes; range: 5 cm (W) or 30 cm (T) to infinity
Focus area selection: Wide (315 points (phase-detection AF), 425 points (contrast-detection AF)), Zone, Centre, Flexible Spot (S/M/L), Expanded Flexible Spot, Tracking (Wide/Zone/Centre/Flexible Spot(S/M/L)/Expanded Flexible Spot)
Exposure metering/control: Multi Pattern, Centre Weighted, Spot, Entire Screen Avg, Highlight modes
Built-in ND filter: Yes, 3 steps
Shooting modes: iAuto, Program Auto, Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority
Creative Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Black & White, Sepia
ISO range: Auto – ISO100-12800 (ISO 125-12800 for movies); Expansion to ISO 64/80 and ISO 25600 available
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent (x3), Daylight, Flash, Colour Temperature, Filter, Custom; WB adjustments: G7 to M7 (57 steps), A7 to B7 (29 steps)
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): External flashguns only
Sequence shooting: Max. 24 frames/second
Buffer memory depth: 172 JPEGs, 80 raw files
Storage Media: Single slot for SD/ SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo/ Pro-HG Duo
LCD monitor: 3-inch fully articulated TFT LCD touch panel with 921,600 dots
Interface terminals/communications: USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec), micro-HDMI type D, 3.5 mm stereo microphone port
Wi-Fi: Yes, 802.11 b/g/n plus low-energy Bluetooth 4.1
Power supply: NP-BX1 lithium-ion battery, charged via USB cable; CIPA rated for approx. 260 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 105.5 x 60.0 x 43.5 mm
Weight: 294 grams (with battery and memory card)
Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071
Based upon JPEG files recorded with the review camera.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting.
9.4mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/640 second at f/4.
25.7mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/800 second at f/5.6.
Clear Image zoom; 25.7mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/800 second at f/5.6.
Digital zoom; 25.7mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/800 second at f/5.6.
Close-up at 9.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/640 second at f/4.
Close-up at 25.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/250 second at f/5.6.
Close-up at 25.7mm focal length with Clear Image zoom, ISO 125, 1/100 second at f/4.
Close-up at 25.7mm focal length with Digital zoom, ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/4.
30-second exposure at ISO 80; 21mm focal length at f/4
15-second exposure at ISO 160; 21mm focal length at f/4.
4-second exposure at ISO 1600; 21mm focal length at f/6.3.
2-second exposure at ISO 3200; 21mm focal length at f/6.3.
2-second exposure at ISO 6400; 21mm focal length at f/9.
1-second exposure at ISO 12800; 21mm focal length at f/9.
25.7mm focal length, ISO 125; 1/400 second at f5.6.
Crop from the above image showing no signs of coloured fringing.
Bokeh with moderate backlighting; 25.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/4.
Backlit scene; 25.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/250 second at f/5.6.
9.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/4.
13mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/80 second at f/4.
25.7mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/4.
25.7mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/2.8.
15mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/3.5.
25.7mm focal length with Digital zoom, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/4.
This picture illustrates the difficulty of framing shots accurately in bright outdoor lighting; 25.7mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/6400 second at f/2.8.
16:9 aspect ratio; 9.4mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
4:3 aspect ratio; 25.7mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/4.
1:1 aspect ratio; 9.4mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/4.
Still frame from Full HD AVCHD movie clip recorded with FX 50i / 24M setting.
Still frame from Full HD AVCHD movie clip recorded with FH 50i / 17M setting.
Still frame from XAVC S 4K movie clip recorded with 25p/ 100M setting.
Still frame from XAVC S 4K movie clip recorded with 25p / 60M setting.
Still frame from XAVC S HD movie clip recorded with 50p / 50M setting.
Still frame from XAVC S HD movie clip recorded at 25p/50M setting.
Still frame from XAVC S HD movie clip recorded at 25p/16M setting.
Still frame from XAVC S HD movie clip recorded at 100p/60M setting.
RRP: AU$1299; US$800
- Build: 8.5
- Ergonomics: 8.0
- Autofocusing: 9.0
- Imaging performance: 8.5
- Video performance: 8.6