- Compact size
- 4K recording at 120 fps
- Many advanced video options
- Face and eye detection and tracking
- Sensor stabilisation
- Impressive subject tracking
- Good sensitivity management
- Microphone and headphone jacks
- No viewfinder or joystick
- Limited recording time for 4K
- Only one SD card slot
- Burst mode limited to 10 fps
- Electronic shutter limited to 1/8000s
Sony is continuing to develop its range of E-mount hybrids and is targeting the videographer and vlogger market with a camera that looks like a professional body while retaining many of the features of the Alpha 7S III and introducing the Sony ZV-E1.
Sony has extended its range of ZV cameras without a viewfinder, mainly intended for vlogging, to a 24×36 sensor. After the ZV-1 and 1F on the expert compact market, the ZV-E10 with an APS-C sensor is the last born, the ZV-E1 equipped with a 12.1MP 35mm sensor. Yes, it’s not by chance like the Alpha 7S III (A7S III).
The Japanese company has one of the largest ranges of mirrorless cameras (or hybrids), particularly in the 35mm sensor segment. There are several categories, including the Alpha 7 family (A7 III, A7 IV and, to a certain extent, the A7C), which are versatile cameras that perform well in photography and video without being perfect in either of these practices.
The Alpha 7R range (A7R IV and A7R V), which launched the company on the 35mm sensor hybrid market and consisted of cameras with very defined sensors, is ideal for portraits or document reproduction.
The ZV-E1 is the smallest full-frame, sensor-stabilised hybrid on the market, once held by another Sony camera, the Alpha 7C (A7C).
With its 121 x 71.9 x 54.3 mm dimensions for only 483 g, it looks very similar to the ZV-E10, adding a larger sensor. It also has the same short handle.
The ZV-E1 has presented in such a large format thanks to removing the electronic viewfinder. While the A7S III’s viewfinder is still the most defined on the market (9.44 Mpts), the latest model follows the logic of vloggers and the A7S III’s cinema “cousins”, the FX3 and FX30. Having a viewfinder for photography is always lovely, but it could be more relevant for video and vlogging.
For the general navigation of the camera, you will have to use the touch screen (7.5 cm multi-touch), which benefits from the new menus inaugurated with the A7S III. Sony has implemented gesture-based controls. Sliding your finger to the left, right, or up and down brings up a series of functions. The screen is quite responsive, although a small joystick would have been a bonus.
On the top edge is a switch for switching between photo, video and S&Q (Slow & Quick) modes. A large REC button is positioned further forward. At the shutter release is the lever for the power supply and control for the digital zoom function or, if applicable, the zoom of motorised lenses (e.g. FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G).
The connectivity is less elaborate than on the A7S III. The ZV-E1 is only equipped with a Micro D HDMI socket, not a full-size one. There is no dual SD/CFexpress Type-A port, only one SD card slot (UHS-II compatible). Two micro jacks (headphones and microphone) and a USB-C port complete the proposition.
A successful grip, provided you have light and compact lenses
If the handling is less elaborate than with the Sony A7R V, using such a small body with focal lengths, such as the FE 24mm F2.8 G or even the famous 16-35 mm f/4 motorised, is quite pleasant. It’s nice to have a stabilised 24×36 sensor in a format that’s only slightly larger than the Sigma fp L. And it’s much more ergonomic.
The Sony ZV-E1 benefits from the company’s latest advances in responsiveness and autofocus. It’s equipped with the Bionz XR processor and an improved artificial intelligence chip. This includes advanced subject recognition. The camera even anticipates human body movements and positions to a certain extent.
Powerful detection and tracking
Each iteration of Sony cameras manages to surprise us with its subject tracking. Here we have a camera that performs as well as the A7R V. The recognition of human eyes and faces is achieved even when the subject is darkened or almost from behind with the face covered. There are also the latest modes for detecting animals of all kinds, cars, trains, planes and insects. An option that documentary fans will find to their liking.
The Sony ZV-E1 houses the same sensor cell as the Alpha 7S III and FX3. This means it’s a 12.1MP Exmor R CMOS back-illuminated 24×36 sensor. A relatively low definition compared to the standards of photography makes it possible to gain sensitivity and be more effective in low light thanks to larger photosites.
The default sensitivity of the ZV-E1 is ISO 80 to 102,400 and can be extended from ISO 40 to 409,600.
Like the A7S III, the details reproduction is perfect up to ISO 1600, where we detect the first smoothing traces. We can quickly push to ISO 6400 despite a slightly more critical deterioration. For jpegs, the ISO 12,800 value is still usable at the price of more extensive smoothing.
The most tolerant can use shots up to ISO 25,600. Beyond that, the images are too degraded.
Multiple colour profiles
Users can also rely on dedicated vlog modes, such as CineVlog, which adjusts the colour and frame for a more cinematic look. In addition, there are several colour profiles. There is the S-Cinetone imported from Sony’s cinema cameras or the S-Log 3 for a more neutral profile for post-production colour grading. Importing LUT profiles directly into the camera is possible to enjoy the desired colourimetry instantly.
The camera innovates by allowing you to play with mechanical and electronic stabilisation to frame your subject better and get better shots. A mode will enable you to keep your issue in the centre of the image by cropping in the sensor.
Even more impressive is that, despite a large amount of cropping, the camera can “follow” the subject as if an operator were moving the camera. As you can see in the example below, this works well as long as you stay steady and don’t follow a fast-moving subject.
The rolling shutter is almost invisible in Full HD and very limited in 4K. As for the autofocus, it is just as impressive in the video as in photos. Hardly any subject escapes the Sony ZV-E1, even in low light. Quite a performance.
What a strange hybrid the Sony ZV-E1 is. At first glance, it doesn’t look like much, but behind its small size and almost entry-level look lies a very well-equipped hybrid for video. For many videographers, except for the viewfinder and heat dissipation, it may be more relevant than the Alpha 7S III. As well as vloggers who want to give their footage 36mm quality, it will satisfy filmmakers looking for Sony’s video expertise at a lower cost.
Sony ZV-E1 | Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Vlog Camera with 28-60mm f/4-5.6 (Compact and Lightweight,4K60p, 12.2 Megapixels, 5-Axis and Digital Stabilisation System)
|Current Price||£2,519.00||December 10, 2023|
|Highest Price||£2,599.00||March 29, 2023|
|Lowest Price||£2,149.00||August 26, 2023|
Last price changes
|£2,519.00||December 6, 2023|
|£2,539.00||December 3, 2023|
|£2,474.00||November 30, 2023|
|£2,463.99||November 27, 2023|
|£2,419.99||November 15, 2023|