An impossibly small full-frame digital camera

Over the previous couple of years we have seen Sony develop its digital camera ranges into two, major households: the Alpha 7 lineup – which incorporates high-end full-frame cameras – and the ZV fashions which have vloggers in thoughts. These fashions are designed to be used by on-the-go content material creators. However what occurs if you attempt to mix these two ranges into one, single digital camera?


The reply to that query is the ZV-E1. It’s – in some methods – the non secular successor to the A7c. It is compact, options all of the vlogger-friendly instruments of the opposite ZV fashions, however has a full-frame sensor, a robust picture processor and an E mount for interchangeable lenses. It is attempting to be the most effective of each worlds, providing a robust, however easy-to-use digital camera that is tremendous compact.

Sony ZV-E1 camera card

Sony ZV-E1

Sony’s flagship ZV digital camera combines the facility and capabilities of a full-frame Alpha digital camera with the portability and options from its creator vary to nice impact. 


  • Compact and moveable design
  • Incredible autofocus efficiency
  • Nice battery life and handy charging
  • Far more user-friendly than Alpha cameras

  • It is costly
  • Just one SD card slot

Design and ports

  • 121 x 71.9 x 54.3mm – 483g – E mount lenses
  • USB-C with Energy Supply, 1x SDHC/SDXC port, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headphone out, 3.5mm mic in
  • Totally articulating touchscreen show – No EVF

This is not the primary time Sony has stuffed a full-frame sensor right into a tiny digital camera physique. In truth, its whole A7 vary is comparatively compact. However when speaking ‘not possible’ ranges of compactness, there was the A7c. It was launched virtually as a teaser of what was to return from Sony, however the common tone across the digital camera was that it wasn’t a ‘correct’ Alpha. So it is smart that Sony has tried once more, made it smaller, however rebranded it as a part of the ZV lineup.

There is no denying the Alpha sequence’ affect on the digital camera although. It is obtained the identical sensor because the A7S III inside and even options the Alpha brand on the entrance of the physique. The place the ZV-1F was launched as a gateway digital camera for creators who shoot on their telephones, the ZV-E1 appears extra like a gateway into Sony’s world of interchangeable lens-compatible E Mount full-frame ‘correct’ Alphas.

Sony ZV-E1 ports

We’re not exaggerating after we discuss this digital camera’s small dimension both. It is dinky sufficient that it’s going to sit actually comfortably within the palm, and it is actually light-weight for a full-frame digital camera. It does not have the identical retro allure because the A7c, but when your primary purpose is to get a correct, highly effective digital camera that is very easy to hold round, the ZV-E1 is that digital camera.

After all, how compact it’s shall be affected by what lens you employ with it. A very good variety of Sony’s G Grasp lenses are fairly large and heavy and can skew the sensation of dealing with the digital camera considerably. Nonetheless, we discovered it snug to make use of, and have carried it round our necks even with the 24-70 mm G Grasp f/2.8 lens hooked up, with none discomfort. Given the market that is geared toward, that is an excellent factor. Having the ability to use it handheld with out pressure is precisely what you need.

As for ports – there’s each flexibility and limitation. The latter – after all – as a result of compact dimension of the digital camera. It means there’s just one SDXC/SDHC slot, and no help for CFExpress playing cards of any sort. You additionally get a micro HDMI port as a substitute of a full-sized one. Nevertheless, you do get two 3.5mm ports (one for audio in, one for audio out), plus a USB-C port which is beneficial for charging, information switch and allows the digital camera’s plug-and-play webcam characteristic. You may merely join it to your PC/Mac and have it as your webcam on Zoom or Groups calls. Identical to the ZV-1F.

Sony ZV-E1 screen out

The digital camera additionally has a correct absolutely articulating touchscreen show. We’ll discuss extra about its UI and management system in slightly bit, however the display may be flipped to face forwards, backwards and most angles in between. Once more – for compactness – there is no EVF on this digital camera.

Usability and controls

  • Revamped touchscreen menu system on show
  • Devoted background defocus and film recording buttons
  • Plug and play webcam

With the ZV-E1 making an attempt to take care of the give attention to being a digital camera for fast, simple taking pictures, the consumer interface has been tweaked and redesigned to make altering settings easy. Meaning you’ll be able to regulate most vital parts with a fast faucet or a swipe on the touchscreen.

Sony ZV-E1 touchscreen menu

On the left and proper aspect of the touchscreen there are columns made of easy sq. icons for accessing these vital controls. By default, this embrace issues like altering the taking pictures mode with the intention to shortly change between clever auto, program auto, or aperture, shutter or publicity precedence modes.

There are additionally fast icons for altering the artistic look, which route the microphone is selecting up audio from, altering between the completely different topic recognition choices – it could possibly change between human, animal, hen, insect, aeroplane and practice/automobile – plus the toggle for enabling and disabling the product showcase mode.

Alongside the underside is a row of extra essential controls, so that is the place you’ll discover the ISO, shutter pace, white steadiness and aperture controls. When you’ve chosen, you’ll be able to proceed utilizing the touchscreen or use the management wheel on the again of the digital camera.

This rotating dial is the one one on the digital camera, with Sony utilizing the ZV-E1 to reveal that it is aware of learn how to present restraint and simplify issues for individuals who aren’t old-school images fans. Saying that, there are sufficient buttons to be helpful, with out feeling too restricted.

Sony ZV-E1 buttons

The off/on change and the zoom rocker encompass the shutter button on the highest of the grip, giving you quick access to them along with your proper index finger. Other than these – on prime – you’ve got a film file button, which needs to be pressed to begin recording, even if you’re in film mode.

There’s a background defocus button that toggles on a heavy background blur for if you need to add efficient separation between you and your background – or simply need to be certain that the topic/expertise is the main target – and there’s the three-point slider change for transferring between stills, video and S&Q (sluggish and fast) modes.

Lastly, we’re glad to see the menu button is in a wise place on the correct hand aspect and inside simple attain of our proper thumb. Historically on Alpha cameras, this has been tucked away on the left hand aspect, which now we have discovered just isn’t as handy in use.

Autofocus, topic recognition and monitoring

  • Human, animal, insect, automobile, practice and airplane recognition
  • Actual-time monitoring and autofocus
  • Auto-framing when mounted

Like so a lot of Sony’s different cameras, it’s the automated topic recognition, monitoring and autofocusing talents that make the ZV-E1 such an excellent digital camera to make use of each day. In truth, for many of what we wished to do with it – from video or stills – we may confidently depart autofocus on, and let it do its factor.

With filming merchandise for our YouTube channel it could shortly and reliably select the topic, give attention to it and create a stunning background blur. We hardly ever needed to contact the shutter button to assist focus or change to handbook focus.

Particularly, with product showcase mode enabled, we have been in a position to face the digital camera, carry a product to the lens and the ZV-E1 was in a position to detect it, fast change focus, after which transition focus again to our face once more when the product was eliminated.

A variety of these options have been mainstays for Sony cameras for the previous few years, however topic recognition is one thing of a brand new improvement. The ZV-E1 makes use of the identical sensor, picture processing and AI as the latest full-frame Alpha 7R. Meaning it doesn’t simply recognise faces and eyes, however is aware of the place the important thing elements of a human physique are, so it could possibly preserve folks in focus even when they’re not dealing with the digital camera, or if their face is obstructed by one thing else.

It’s a very helpful characteristic for those who’re taking pictures somebody operating, strolling or doing something that isn’t a portrait shot. It may possibly additionally recognise animals, birds, planes, automobiles, trains and bugs now too. All you need to do is shortly choose which sort of recognition you need, and also you’re good to go.

All in all, it’s fairly efficient, and works effectively in video mode. Outcomes might be slightly combined on stills, nonetheless, with the digital camera struggling to robotically lock on and monitor a baby swinging up and down on a park swing.

Video recording, stills and battery life

  • 4K/60 (4K/120 coming in later replace) – 10-bit 4:2:2 all inner – S-Cinetone profile
  • 12.1MP full-frame sensor – Bionz XR picture processing
  • 15+ stops dynamic vary – 3 capsule built-in microphone

Regardless of its diminutive dimension, the digital camera is filled with some highly effective and really succesful internals. Not like the A7c, there is no feeling that you just’re being short-changed on the video capabilities. Need excessive bitrate video? No drawback, there’s 4:2:2 10-bit functionality, and you may shoot at 4K/60. In truth, Sony’s pushing a firmware replace so as to add 4K/120 to the digital camera in a number of months’ time (though that may introduce a ten per cent crop when it drops).

Sony ZV-E1 camera

We have already talked about autofocusing and real-time monitoring, which is a giant a part of the expertise as a result of it makes taking pictures something actually fast and simple. The autofocus was so dependable we may simply depart it on more often than not and barely needed to contact the handbook focus, even for very close-up small objects like budding leaves on a tree/plant. It should not actually be a shock both, as a result of the digital camera makes use of the identical AI-enhanced Bionz XR picture processor because the far more costly A7R V.

Just like the ZV-1F it additionally has a zoom lever, so if you wish to digitally zoom, you are able to do as much as 1.5x, even when you have a wide-angle prime lens hooked up. You may see a drop in high quality if you use this mode, nonetheless. Photos and video seem much less detailed and artificially sharpened, which is sort of definitely right down to the comparatively low-resolution sensor.

Pictures taken shut up with the ZV E1 with autofocus enabled. 

It is this 12-megapixel sensor that will simply be a little bit of a sticking level, no less than for photographers. It is the identical sensor that is within the Sony A7S III, which is nice for video and for low mild efficiency, however you actually do want a correct zoom lens if you wish to get nearer to faraway objects. Not like the A7R sequence, it could possibly’t depend on further pixels to supply crispy digital zoom.

That does not imply it could possibly’t take good stills. It may possibly. In truth, it is undoubtedly the strongest digital camera within the ZV vary for images, due to its massive sensor, nice autofocus, depth of area and nice color copy.

Photos taken with prime lens and zoom lens

Picture and video high quality general is sweet, with nice depth of area and vibrant – however not unrealistic colors – on the entire. There have been instances it appeared to wrestle with exposing our face, typically overexposing it and softening it to offer it an excessively clean and contrasty texture with not sufficient element. However this solely appeared to occur on odd events after we had options just like the product showcase mode enabled.

Stabilisation is a powerful level of the digital camera too, with the digital camera in a position to actively clean out handshake fairly comfortably, so you’ll be able to shoot handheld. Plus, it has a few new computerized framing options that work when the digital camera is mounted to a tripod. You may have it characteristic timed in order that it crops in to the body at intervals so as to add a little bit of dynamic motion to your static interview/speaking head clips. You can even make use of an auto-framing characteristic that may preserve a topic framed and central at the same time as they transfer. It is much like the Centre Stage on Mac/iPad.

Our workflow usually includes taking pictures hosted YouTube movies, with a lot of comparatively shut product photographs, principally in 4K/50, shot indoors with synthetic lighting in a studio setting, and it handles these calls for like a champ. The battery lasted about in addition to some other digital camera we have examined in recent times, comfortably dealing with taking pictures all of the b-roll and a-roll required for a full 10-minute video. Meaning 30-45 minutes of taking pictures wasn’t sufficient to empty the battery, even taking pictures internally at 4K/50. Plus, as a result of it has a USB-C port with Energy Supply help, it means you’ll be able to simply plug it right into a telephone or laptop computer charger everytime you prefer to refill it once more.


There is no denying the attraction of the ZV-E1. Having stuffed so a lot of its finest options into such a small physique, Sony has created a super-portable powerhouse of a digital camera that is additionally – as Sony cameras go – easy to make use of. It is virtually as if Sony mixed mashed-together bits from the ZV, A7S III and A7R V to create a digital camera with the most effective qualities of all three. It is genuinely a fab little digital camera.

It may possibly do a heck of rather a lot, providing nice computerized focusing, object recognition, background blur and even caters for the professionals with excessive bitrate video recording talents and nice stabilisation.

There’s one sticking level although: the worth. With a really useful retail value of €2700 in Europe for simply the physique, it is positively approaching Alpha territory, and stepping away from the remainder of the ZV vary which is significantly cheaper.

That is going to make it a difficult promote to its supposed viewers, however when you have obtained the funds to spend and need a feature-packed all rounder, there’s rather a lot to like right here.