There are more cameras available to buy today than ever before. That usually means that consumers receive more innovation and better prices, and sometimes the best example of those perks are hidden gems.
Last month. I wrote an article, which raised the question of which camera is the worst value for money. The rules were straightforward: you had to suggest a camera that can currently be bought brand new and then justify your decision. The issue with the question of the worst value is it's much murkier than the more positive version this article addresses. The reason for this is that a price being higher than the product is currently worth isn't necessarily linked to the cost of manufacturing. There are myriad reasons that might cause a camera to have an inflated price tag for the spec sheet — reasons like protecting the brand's perceived value despite the model of the camera being outdated, for example. Another (arguably connected reason) might be that the manufacturer does not want to cannibalize the sales of their newest release by dropping the price of the older version that they still sell brand new.
All these nuances of price mean that the number we see on the tag hanging from the delicious new piece of equipment might not be representative of the technology it sports, but rather some internal politics or strategy. However, the question "which camera is the best value for money" is quite different. There are fewer considerations, particularly pertaining to brand strategy, and the focus is more directly on the old adage of bang for your buck. That is, what exactly are you getting for your money?
Interestingly, when looking into this question, I found that the two extremes of the spectrum were contenders for best value; neither the cutting edge of cameras nor the cameras with the reaper's "discontinued" scythe looming over their aged frame were very good value. The former were trying to lead the line and charged a premium for anyone who wanted to join them at the front, and the latter were largely outdated in all regards, but not cheap enough for you to be able to explain away the differences and justify the purchase. Of the two poles, the older cameras were certainly the more likely to host great value, but it didn't seem to yield too much, though perhaps I missed a hidden gem.
Where I — perhaps a little unexpectedly — found the most contenders low buck bang-age was mostly in middling areas that didn't serve as many photographers' main camera. However, it's there that the price had to be the most competitive, and it was there that I found my entry for this competition of value: The Sony ZV-1.
The first difficulty with this question is regarding value; it's relative, not absolute. I don't mean that necessarily in terms of the consumer's wealth, but rather based on the consumer's needs. For example, a sports photographer isn't going to want a great value body with tragically low maximum frames per second — that isn't good value for that particular photographer. This question is really for a "one size fits all" camera that doesn't cater to any specialist genres that require specific equipment, like long, fast telephoto lenses, or 2:1 macro, or tilt-shift, and so on. Rather, I'm looking for a camera that can shoot portraits and landscapes well, and has a lot of features for the money. For me, that's got to be the ZV-1.
The ZV-1 is great for many, but it really shines in a few areas. If I were to give you an elevator pitch for this lens, I'd say that it is a strong stills camera with a well-received 20.1 megapixel Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor and a full frame equivalent of 24-70mm ZEISS lens on the front, with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 at 24mm, through to f/2.8 at 70mm. The 24-70mm is a staple of photography for good reason, particularly when it's a quick lens too. However, the pièce de résistance of this little camera is it is arguably the perfect vlogging camera, with a 3" flip-out touch screen, UHD 4K video at 30p with HLG and S-Log3. It has a 3.5mm microphone port, a Multi Interface Shoe on the top, as well as all the Sony tech which includes advanced image stabilization, Face Priority AE, and so on. Not to mention, Sony has now released the software to turn many of their mirrorless cameras into webcams to stream or use on video calls. After all this, I've still missed out a plethora of quality of life settings and modes.
Yes, there are of course downsides, with the biggest arguably being that it isn't an interchangeable lens camera (ILC), but the price can quickly make you forget about that: $748. You can scarcely get a decent lens for that money, and you're getting a fast ZEISS 24-70mm in front of one of a fantastic Sony mirrorless that shoots 4K. No, it isn't perfect, and no, I wouldn't have it as my primary camera, but it's compact and lightweight, which means as a walkaround camera to throw in your jacket pocket or bag on a day out, it's borderline perfect. For vlogging, streaming, or capturing b roll, it's a similarly impressive fit. So for me, the ZV-1 wins the title of best value for money as of the time of writing this.
What Do You Believe to Be the Camera That Is the Best Value for Money?
My opinion is far from indisputable, and I suspect there are some strong feelings, so it's time to have your say. Is there a camera I completely missed? Is the ZV-1 in fact not great value for money for reasons I didn't spot? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Remember, your entry for the best value camera has to be currently purchasable brand new; the secondhand market is for another day!