The Sony zv-1f is a small vlogging camera with a Type 1 sensor (13.2×8.8mm) and a fixed 20mm equivalent lens. This camera is clearly aimed at vloggers, with a three-capsule mic and fully articulating screen for creating facing-the-camera videos. The Sony ZV-1F will be available in late October at a suggested retail price of $499. This is $300 less than the original ZV-1 model’s launch price.
The 20mm equivalent lens has a 40.5mm filter thread, allowing for the use of ND or variable ND filters and the use of video-friendly shutter speeds even in bright light. The cold shoe can be used to secure a windscreen over the microphones on the camera. It gives the ZV-1F the rakish appearance of a pompadour blowing in the wind. The ZV-1F has a USB-C port for charging, power, or using the camera as a webcam (up to 1080/60p). There’s also a microphone jack and a micro HDMI port.
The ZV-1F is the company’s second vlogging camera built around a Type 1 sensor, but it has a wide-angle, 20mm equivalent prime lens instead of the ZV-1’s 24-70mm equivalent zoom. Despite its lower price, the ZV-1F can capture 4K video at up to 30p using the entire width of its sensor. This combination of a wide lens and full-width readout enables it to provide a usefully wide angle of view even when digital image stabilisation is enabled (imposing a 1.23x crop and giving an approximately 25mm equivalent field of view).
Despite the fixed lens, the camera offers a 2x ‘zoom’ thanks to cropping and Sony’s’super resolution’ upsampling. Because of the camera’s 5.5K sensor, anything beyond 1.4x zoom must be taken from a smaller area than 4K and upscaled, then you’re limited to ‘1.5x zoom’ in 4K mode. The ZV-1F includes Sony’s ‘Product Showcase’ AF mode, which employs face detection but prioritises objects held close to the camera. However, because the ZV-1F lacks on-sensor phase detection, it lacks inherent distance awareness.
Compact cameras have become increasingly rare, but we suspect that some photographers will be drawn to the idea of a small, ultra-wide prime camera with a relatively large sensor. The first thing to know is that the ZV-1F cannot shoot Raw files; it can only shoot JPEG or movie. There’s also no built-in flash and no hot shoe to attach one. However, the camera has full PASM shooting modes, so you can take control as well as shoot stills if you prefer.
The ZV-1F must perform a delicate balancing act. As a lower-cost alternative to the Sony zv-1f, some features must be sacrificed or scaled back (ND filter, Raw photography) (focal range, autofocus performance). The problem is that as costs are cut, the advantages of using a dedicated camera over a modern smartphone diminish.
Yes, the video quality of the ZV-1F will be superior to that of your smartphone’s selfie camera when vlogging, but you will also be missing features like 4K/60P, faster sensor readout, and optical stabilisation that most smartphones provide.
The ZV-1F’s value will be determined largely by how much you use the articulating screen for creative camera angles and the clever ‘Product Showcase’ mode. For many, these features alone will be worth the low price. With Sony’s professional picture profiles and log video recording, the ZV-1F could be a great second or overhead camera that will colour-match with a higher-end Sony camera.
So, while we can see some situations where the Sony zv-1f could be a good choice, we believe that for the majority of those interested in vlogging and video production, it might be worth saving up a little more for the Z-V1 or ZV-E10, both of which offer far more advantages over a modern smartphone camera.
What about stills?
The ZV-1F is an intriguing proposition as a stills camera. It’s not designed to be primarily a photographic device, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used as one. Even without phase detection, autofocus is quick, and the combination of a large sensor (by compact camera or smartphone standards) and a relatively bright lens is intriguing.
It has good image quality, but without the automatic combination of multiple shots used among high-end smartphones, it won’t necessarily offer a significant improvement in image quality over the latest iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy. And, perhaps in order to protect RX100 series sales, there is no option to shoot Raw in order to gain processing flexibility. So the real question is whether the ZV-1F provides a sufficiently superior photo-taking experience to explain the use of a separate device.
In this regard, we are not entirely convinced. With only a single, fiddly control dial on the back of the camera, the Sony ZV-1F doesn’t offer much more than a phone’s touchscreen-based experience. Given the fixed lens, the zoom rocker on the front isn’t particularly useful, so you end up with all fingers and thumbs on a device that constantly reminds you that this isn’t what it was designed for. $500 for a pocketable, large sensor, ultra-wide camera may sound appealing, but keep in mind that you’re not getting a bargain 20mm equivalent Ricoh GR.
The ZV-1F is a self-filming camera aimed at vloggers and others. It has vlog-friendly features like a wide, 20mm equivalent lens, a good microphone with a detachable windscreen, as well as Sony’s ‘product showcase’ mode, which detects and focuses on an object held in front of the camera. Still, if the idea of a compact camera with a wide angle lens for travel or street photography appeals to you, keep in mind that the ZV-1F does not capture Raw images, so you may want to look elsewhere.