Despite the huge improvements made to smartphone cameras in the last decade, photos and videos captured with a dedicated shooter still look markedly better, and Sony is hoping to woo vloggers and streamers away from their phones with its new video-focused ZV-1F camera, which arrives with an aggressively tempting price tag.
The new Sony ZV-1F is a follow-up to its ZV-1 introduced back in 2020. It’s actually designed to be an even simpler and more affordable tool for those shooting videos for social media, streaming through platforms like Twitch, or just participating in conference calls, who also want to maximize the quality of the video content they’re sharing. As capable as smartphone cameras have become, most content creators appearing on camera actually still rely on these devices’ lower-quality front-facing cameras, and it shows.
Like the ZV-1, the new ZV-1F is loosely based on Sony’s compact RX100 line, but with customizations that prioritize the camera as a tool for primarily shooting video. It features a 1-inch, Exmor RS CMOS sensor, with a 20.1 MP resolution for capturing 4K video at either 24 or 30 fps (60 fps recording is not supported, unfortunately), but trades the ZV-1's non-swappable 24-70-millimeter f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens for a non-swappable and non-zooming 20-millimeter f/2.0 prime lens that’s capable of capturing an even wider vista, making framing easier for those wanting to selfie shoot with the camera in an outstretched hand.
Despite the use of a prime lens, Sony still promises the ZV-1F can perform up to a 4X zoom when shooting video without resorting to any digital enhancements. Capturing 4K video requires at least an 8.3 MP sensor, and since the ZV-1F features a 20.1 MP sensor, zoomed video is simply created by recording a smaller portion of what the sensor is capturing.
Battery life is rated at around 360 photos or about an hour of video capture with the articulated pop-out screen being used, while the weight comes in at 256 grams, which is only a few grams heavier than beefier smartphones like the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Otherwise, the ZV-1F doesn’t break a lot of ground compared to the ZV-1. It still offers easy background defocusing through a single button press, eye-tracking autofocus, a “Product Showcase Setting” that will quickly shift focus to an object held up closer to the camera, auto exposure adjustments that prioritize a tracked face in frame, a directional three-capsule stereo microphone on top with an optional wind screen cover, as well as a 3.5-millimeter input jack for connecting external mics.
The ZV-1F also carries over the ZV-1's red LED tally light on the front, so users can easily know when the camera is capturing video, but further enhances it with a red border around the preview screen, which is where content creators often focus their attention. For those looking to upgrade their laptop’s built-in webcam for livestreaming, the ZV-1F easily connects to a computer through a simple USB-C cable, but has no onboard streaming or connectivity capabilities of its own.
Despite technically being a step down from the ZV-1, the most compelling feature of the new ZV-1F is the $500 price tag it will boast when it releases later this month. That’s $300 cheaper than the older ZV-1. For amateur content creators and aspiring vloggers and streamers trying to build an audience and deliver professional-looking content, the ZV-1F is a relatively affordable way to improve the material they’re producing, and a definite step up from relying on a smartphone for their video needs.