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Sony ZV-1 II review: Improving the compact vlogging experience with a wider 18mm lens

Sony ZV-1 Mark II

Source: Sony

The ZV series from Sony is designed for vloggers and content creators. This camera's design reflects this purpose with a top plate equipped with dedicated buttons for quick access to essential functions, such as shooting mode selection, still photos, and video recording. Additional shortcuts like background de-focus and product showcase, cater to specific vlogger needs.

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Let's start by briefly covering the essential specifications of the Sony ZV-1 Mark II:

20.1-megapixel 1-inch stacked CMOS sensorBionz X image processorFully articulated 931-dot touch displaySony's multi-interface shoeBuilt-in high-quality three-capsule mic18-50mm F1.8 to F4 lensNP-BX1 battery

As you can see from the specs, most of the main features from the 20.1MP sensor, Bionz X image processor, multi-interface shoe, and three-capsule mic down to the battery pack remain the same as the original ZV-1.

The most significant difference between the Sony ZV-1 Mark II and its predecessor, the ZV-1 is the lens. The original ZV-1 featured a 24-70mm lens, criticised for not being wide enough for vlogging. Sony has addressed this issue in the Mark II by providing an 18-50mm lens with a brightF1.8 aperture at the widest angle. This change offers greater flexibility, allowing users to capture themselves, their surroundings, and even a few friends comfortably in the frame.

Source: Sony

However, there are caveats to consider. While the wider lens is undoubtedly a welcome addition, the Mark II sacrifices some zoom range compared to the ZV-1. More significantly, the telephoto end of the lens has a much slower F4 maximum aperture, again compared to the F2.8 on the VZ-1.

Sony also decided to remove a couple of other features from the Mark II, which are probably more geared towards photography, but they do impact videography as well. For example, the absence of a mechanical shutter limits the camera's maximum shutter speed for still photos to a quarter of a second. Additionally, the Mark II lacks optical image stabilisation, relying only on digital SteadyShot only. Unless you only shoot with the camera in a fixed position like on a tripod, SteadyShot has to be turned on for video shooting, which will result in frame cropping, partially negating the benefits of the wider lens.

Further, the Mark II's high frame rate shooting capability is now limited to 120-frames per second, a significant drop from the ZV-1's 960-frames per second. This, coupled with the slower lens, diminishes the camera's performance in low-light conditions and dynamic shooting scenarios. Here's an example of the Mark II's direct image output (cropped, but otherwise unedited) compared against an iPhone 14 Pro. These photos were shot at the same time concurrently. Watch the full video reviewfor more examples.

Shot on iPhone 14 Pro, Auto Mode, 1x default rear camera.

Shot on Sony ZV-1 II at 18mm (cropped), Intelligent Auto mode.

Despite these drawbacks, the Sony ZV-1 Mark II boasts impressive autofocus capabilities, ensuring quick and accurate subject tracking. It even includes animal detection for video, enhancing its usability outside of human subjects.

Quality of life improvements, such as a touch screen menu offer a smoother and more intuitive user experience. The revamped design features, like the relocated screw thread at the bottom and the inclusion of USB-C support, contribute to its user-friendliness with accessories.

The question remains as to who is the ZV-1 Mark II made for? In a world where smartphones have made significant advancements in both photography and videography, the Mark II faces stiff competition if Sony believes that this is the stepping stone for users wanting to upgrade to a “proper” camera from their phones. Just about every phone today can already shoot unlimited 4K footage, with 8K starting to be commonplace. There are even smartphones with built-in gimbal stabilisation for video such as the Vivo X80 Pro. Advanced features like 10-bit LOG, and AI post-processing capabilities such as Video Boost on the Pixel 8 Pro or Cinematic Mode rack re-focusing on the iPhone 13 Pro, 14 Pro and the latest 15 Pro are all unavailable on the ZV-1 Mark II as well.

Priced at S$1,199, the Sony ZV1 Mark II is a mixed bag of improvements and drawbacks. While it enhances the vlogging experience from the original ZV-1 with quality of life features, better navigation and a wider lens, its limitations in low-light shooting, dynamic scenarios, and advanced videography features may deter potential buyers looking for their first dedicated camera upgrade.

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