Sony has launched a new full-frame E-mount interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera aimed squarely at vloggers and content creators. The Sony Alpha ZV-E1 shares many features with Sony’s a7S III and Netflix-approved Cinema Line FX3 cameras but costs around 40 percent less. So, what does it offer?
The ZV-E1 has a 35mm full-frame back-illuminated CMOS Exmor R sensor with a 12-megapixel resolution. This appears to be the same sensor as found in the Sony FX3 and Sony a7S III cameras. Although 12 megapixels (MP) is relatively low for still photography, it’s more than enough for 3840 x 2160 UHD video, which is only 8.3 MP. In addition, the larger pixels give you a much cleaner image when shooting in low light. This is boosted by an ISO range up to 409600. Sony also claims the sensor has a dynamic range of more than 15 stops.
The ZV-E1 has Sony’s new BIONZ XR image processing engine with up to eight times the processing power of the company’s previous processors. This means you can record high-quality 4K (UHD 3840 x 2160) video internally in 10-bit 4:2:2 quality. At launch, the ZV-E1 can record up to 60 frames per second (fps) in 4K. However, Sony has said that you will be able to shoot at 120 fps in June 2023 after it releases a license upgrade. In addition, using the camera’s S&Q (Slow and Quick Motion) mode, the maximum frame rate is 240 fps in 1080p HD.
The ZV-E1 is smaller and lighter than the a7S III or FX3, weighing around 14 ounces (399 g) for the body only. This is because it uses recycled plastic rather than metal for construction. The ZV-E1 uses the same NP-FZ100 batteries, which Sony says will allow you to record continuously for around 95 minutes. However, it doesn’t have a cooling fan like the FX3, so shooting 4K 60p video is limited to around 30 minutes before the camera overheats. The camera doesn’t have a viewfinder, so you need to use the vari-angle, three-inch LCD touchscreen to set up your shots. There is also an HDMI micro connector to feed an external monitor.
The ZV-E1 features five-axis stabilization and gyro sensors to give you up to 5.0 stops of stabilization. In addition, you can use Sony’s Catalyst Browse software to stabilize the footage from the camera rotation metadata in post-production. Great video needs great sound, and the ZV-E1 has a high-performance three-capsule microphone with variable directivity. There are also 3.5 mm sockets for an external microphone and headphones to monitor your audio.
Settings for content creators
The ZV-E1 has preset Cinematic Vlog settings so you can choose a Look and Mood to match your vision. You can also shoot at 24 fps and add 2.35:1 aspect ratio widescreen bars. In addition, the camera uses AI (artificial intelligence) to help solo shooters capture great videos. AI features include Multiple Face Recognition, Auto Framing, Framing Stabilizer and even Auto Microphone directivity. The Auto Framing feature automatically crops the frame to your desired level so you can keep the subject where you want them. The ZV-E1 features a bokeh switch for one-touch background bokeh enhancement and the Product Showcase setting from Sony’s ZV line.
What we think
The ZV-E1 is an intriguing camera. Although it can take stills, its layout and design are clearly video focused, more akin to the FX3 than the a7S III. You can even record in Sony’s S-Cinetone picture profile for a cinematic look straight out of the camera. The ZV-E1 also has some additional features, such as focus breathing compensation which the FX3 and a7S III don’t have. If you are a full-time filmmaker, the ZV-E1 probably falls a little short of what you need. However, it could make an excellent second camera, giving you a full-frame alternative to the Sony FX30 for only a few hundred dollars more. For content creators and vloggers, however, it’s a great choice, giving you full-frame cinematic video for a fraction of the price of the a7S III and FX3.
Pricing and availability
The Sony Alpha ZV-E1 full-frame interchangeable lens camera will be available in May 2023. It will retail at $2,199 for the body only. It will also be available as a bundle with Sony’s 28-60 mm F4.5-5.6 zoom lens for $2,499.