Love Or Hate? The Sony ZV-E1 Full-Frame For Vloggers & Creators

Balancing high-quality sensor, features, and price for content creators — weighing pros and cons for beginners and professionals in the film industry.


The Sony ZV-E1 camera has sparked a significant debate, leaving many intrigued by its merits and drawbacks. But what exactly is the reason behind this love-hate dynamic?

On the one hand, the ZV-E1 boasts a sensor of fantastic quality, delivering stunning image results that rival even the highly acclaimed A7SIII and FX3 models. Moreover, it offers an impressive array of features, if not surpassing them, all at a notably lower price point.

Conversely, the ZV-E1 takes a more minimalist approach, foregoing certain professional functionalities that some filmmakers may consider essential. Additionally, the $2200 price tag for the body alone surpasses the usual budgetary considerations for beginners.

The burning question remains – how does the Sony ZV-E1 align with your needs as a filmmaker?

An image without an alt, whoops

1. Top-Level Features

Before delving into the camera's limitations, let's take a moment to appreciate its many features. While this camera certainly caters to vloggers, its versatility extends beyond that realm.

One noteworthy feature is the Cinematic Vlog Mode, designed to replicate a wider aspect ratio by adding black bars at the top and bottom of the frame. It also automatically sets the camera to 24 frames per second, aligning with the coveted "cinematic standard."

The cinematic vlog mode further enhances convenience by offering preconfigured creative looks. These looks, including S-Cinetone, Clean, Chic, Fresh, and Mono, instantly transform your footage's dynamics, contrast, and saturation. A style layer comprising options like Auto, Gold, Ocean, and Forest also imparts distinct color vibes, except Mono, which renders a classic black-and-white aesthetic.

An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops

There's also a Product Showcase Mode, so if you're doing a product review, you can hold up the items in front of you, and it will find focus on them rather than staying on your face like it would in normal Face-Tracking mode.

And fear not for those seeking that sought-after blurred background effect — as the camera features a convenient one-button Background Defocus Mode, expertly adjusting the settings to achieve that desired visual blur. It also has new Multiple-Face Recognition, and in auto modes, it will adjust the aperture to bring multiple faces into focus instead of choosing one or the other.

These features might be a bit gimmicky and unnecessary if you're into cameras and know the ins and outs. You won't see them in Sony's more professional camera lineup. But these vlogging features can make your life easier if you want to create great content instead of getting caught up in the technical details.

An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops

2. Stabilization

The subject recognition technology in this camera can be used as a framing stabilizer. This means the sensor will crop the frame significantly to keep your subject in focus, whether you want it centered or manually selected in a specific part of the frame. It's like having a camera person who zooms in and automatically follows your subject.

I had the chance to utilize this feature in my recent firmware update video for the FX3, where I aimed to create a mockumentary-style look. This functionality can be handy for capturing behind-the-scenes footage without an additional camera operator. All you have to do is set up the shot with a broader perspective, and the camera takes care of the rest.

You can also leverage the HDMI output to obtain a clean, uncropped version of the footage. In addition to the framing stabilizer and auto framing, there's a new stabilization mode called Active Dynamic Steady Shot. This camera now offers both in-body sensor stabilization, the "standard" option, and active stabilization, which involves a slight crop. And now, there's yet another level up from that with a more intense yield. The resulting smoothness is impressive.

3. Audio

One of my favorite aspects that takes advantage of the camera's AI capabilities is its microphone.

Built into the camera's top, we have a three-capsule microphone. It lets you capture audio from the front, behind, or around the camera. More importantly, when set to automatic mode, the camera detects the audio environment and decides for you. It works exceptionally well and delivers excellent sound quality. It even comes with a little fuzzy windscreen that adds a touch of charm, making your camera resemble a cute troll doll.

An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops

4. Ergonomics

Physically, this camera is noticeably smaller and lighter than even the FX3. While I'll discuss its limitations shortly, this compactness makes the ZV-E1 incredibly convenient to pack and carry.

Although it may seem counterintuitive due to the absence of numerous buttons and dials on higher-end cameras, Sony has created a significantly improved touchscreen experience on this model compared to any previous Sony camera. Functions are now accessible by swiping in from the side of the monitor, and you can customize whether you prefer them to be separate or interconnected based on your usage patterns.

Swiping up from the bottom enables access to the function menu, and for the first time, main exposure settings and white balance can be adjusted directly from the touchscreen. With all these touchscreen capabilities, having fewer custom buttons becomes much more reasonable. Despite its minor form, the ZV-E1 still accommodates the Z100 batteries used in other Sony full-frame cameras, resulting in excellent battery life.

I've come across some reviews claiming that this camera lacks weather sealing. Still, according to Sony's website, the ZV-E1 boasts a dust and moisture-resistant design, similar to their other weather-sealed gear. So rest assured, we're covered there!

An image without an alt, whoops

5. Image Quality

Here's something noteworthy: this camera is the first in the Sony lineup to support 4K 30fps streaming over USB-C! I've been using this feature on my A7 IV for a while now, but that camera is limited to 1080p.

If the image quality is your primary concern, as I mentioned earlier, this camera boasts the same exceptional 12-megapixel camera sensor found in the A7S III and FX3 models. It offers identical frame rates and codecs, supports full 10-bit recording, dual base ISO, and user LUTs, just like the FX3 with recent firmware updates.

You'll achieve the same level of quality as those other cameras, but here's the exciting part: while the FX3 and A7S III come in at $3,900 and USD 3,500, respectively, the ZV-E1 comes at a more affordable $2,200 US. That's a fantastic cost-saving without compromising on image quality.

However, before you rush out to make a purchase, there are a few downsides worth considering that may influence your decision.

An image without an alt, whoops
An image without an alt, whoops

6. What It's Missing

I adore the compactness and lightness of the ZV-E1, especially when I'm on the go. However, it's worth noting that it lacks the same sturdy build found in Sony's more professional camera models. The materials emphasized plastic more, requiring me to exercise more caution when handling the camera. The overall feel is quite satisfying when paired with one of Sony's smaller, lighter lenses, such as the 16-35 F/4.

However, if you prefer using larger, heavier lenses like those from the G Master series, you'll quickly notice that the ZV-E1's grip and ergonomics don't measure up to the rest of the lineup. The balance feels off, and it may not provide the level of comfort you seek.

For more professional users, one significant drawback is only one card slot, meaning there's no redundancy in case of a card failure, which can be a deal-breaker for high-risk scenarios. Additionally, while recent Sony cameras have featured a full-size HDMI port, the ZV-E1 reverts to a micro HDMI port. Although it technically transmits the same signal as the full-size port, it is more flimsy and less secure, which may pose some concerns.

You probably noticed that the ZV-E1 lacks an electronic viewfinder, which is a deliberate choice to keep the size of the camera compact. However, it can pose challenges when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, as it becomes difficult to see what's happening on the screen.

Now, let's talk about the absence of an internal cooling mechanism, a feature in cameras like the A7S III and FX3. This has led to reports of overheating when using the ZV-E1 in hot environments.

However, I want to emphasize that I haven't encountered any overheating issues while shooting with this camera. Most of the tests I've met have portrayed overheating as a potential concern only in specific situations, such as extended continuous shooting in high frame rates under hot conditions. Unless your shooting style aligns precisely with these criteria, overheating should not be a problem you'll face.

An image without an alt, whoops

7. The Love-Hate Debate

It's because this is a confusing camera!

Technically speaking, this camera was produced for content creators, vloggers, and those who may be considered beginners rather than super camera enthusiasts or professionals seeking the level of control offered by an FX3.

But here's the twist: It possesses the same sensor and image quality as the FX3, along with the AI processor and new features of the A7RV, surpassing many other professional cameras in the Sony lineup in certain aspects.

Suddenly, someone who initially desired an A7S III or FX3 for their image quality can now obtain it at a significantly lower price point. However, because they've been eyeing the FX3's page for weeks, they've also become enamored with all its other professional features. As a result, the simplified ZV-E1 might appear somewhat underwhelming or unsatisfactory.

In essence, the ZV-E1 becomes the most affordable Sony option for vloggers and content creators to access full-frame, 10-bit video quality, matching the caliber of other creators who are more camera-savvy.

That said, such creators may need help understanding the significance of 10-bit video, the distinct visual characteristics of full-frame cameras, or how to leverage the full potential of everything this camera offers. Additionally, with a price tag of $2,200, it could be a more beginner-level investment.

So, while this is an excellent camera, it's challenging to pinpoint its exact target audience. However, I'll attempt nonetheless:

  • If you had your eye on the Sony A7 IV because it was the most affordable full-frame Sony option with 10-bit video and a flip screen, and your primary focus is video shooting, then the ZV-E1 might be a suitable choice.
  • If you own another Sony full-frame camera with 10-bit video and seek a cheaper secondary camera that matches the quality, the ZV-E1 could be a viable option.
  • This camera may be worth considering if you're a content creator or vlogger who appreciates the aforementioned features and user-friendly functions. However, if you're more of a hybrid photo and video shooter seeking a single, high-performing camera for both, I recommend exploring the A7 IV instead. If any drawbacks I mentioned seem like deal-breakers, it's best to continue saving up for the A7S III or FX3.
An image without an alt, whoops

💌 There's More!

Enjoyed this read? Subscribe now and receive all the latest and greatest articles straight to your inbox. All original. Community first. 100% ad-free.