Sony just announced the new Sony ZV-E1 full-frame interchangeable lens camera. Currently the smallest and lightest full-frame interchangeable lens camera on the market. But who is this camera designed for?Regarding the ZV line of cameras, these have traditionally been geared towards content creators and vloggers that wanted a step up from their standard cell phones or action cameras. The Sony ZV-1 and Sony ZV-1F housed a one-inch sensor that gives users better image quality while still maintaining a small form factor. But for some creators, the one-inch sensor still isn't up to the standard they would like. Enter the ZF-E1, which aims to bridge the gap between high-end quality/ features and usability.
The ZF-E1 has a 12mp full-frame sensor, presumably the same that is found in the Sony FX3 and a7s III. It gives users the same 15+ stops of dynamic range and crazy low light ability as high as ISO 409,600. But it does all this in a small and compact package. And one thing I like about this is that the camera still has an abundant amount of custom buttons, dials, and switches to help users control and fine-tune the camera's many features.
The flip-out screen also has a very nice and intuitive touch screen with the ability to swipe left/right and up/down to reveal shortcut buttons and the customizable function screen. This swiping ability not only makes it easier to access and navigate the function menu but also frees up your Fn button to be used for any number of features you feel like assigning to it. The one thing I’m not really sure about is the use of the flip screen itself. While this style of screen has been a staple among the other film-centric bodies, I would have preferred the newer screen found on the Sony a7R V. This new screen gives users the same flip-out functions while also giving a tilting function found on most of the Sony stills bodies. And since this new screen was launched last year, I'd assume any future cameras would benefit from the design. But unfortunately, the ZF-E1 is limited to just the flip-out screen.
One of the biggest draws this camera has though is that it pairs the high-end features you see in their flagship film cameras with a more user-friendly endly and approachable setup. You can still go full pro-mode on the camera, but there are more automated features to help newer users get the most out of certain features while still having access to the more robust features of the higher-end setups. Things like automatically setting the camera up for a cinematic look or even having the ability to load the camera with a custom LUT so you can have exposure and style previews without the need for fancy external monitors. These features give users the ability to create more professional-looking work without the need to become a fully proficient filmmaker. People like me that are more entrenched in the photo side or even users outside of the photo/video space that still wants to create high-end content.
This camera is also loaded with features that aim to remove the need for aftermarket accessories. Like the new Dynamic Active Mode which is 30 percent more effective than the traditional active mode. This feature aims to give you a gimbal-like smooth video without the need for an actual gimbal. When I used it myself, I found the results to be way better than I could achieve on my own without any added gear and I didn't need to know any special techniques or tricks to achieve them.
The Sony ZF-E1 also has a new AI Framing Stabilizer, which allows the camera to frame and track you within a scene. The way this works is the image used is a cropped version of the full sensor (though the resulting file can still be 4k). But using the Ai tracking feature, the camera can use this zoomed-in view to track you around the frame. So you appear to stay centered in the frame as you move and only your background moves. Giving the appearance that you have a camera operator tracking you with the camera while the camera sits securely on a tripod. This gives the ability to produce a walking and talking type video or a video where you show multiple parts of a scene without the need for a camera operator.
Another feature that aims to up your production value while decreasing the amount of gear you need is the built-in microphone. While in-camera mics are traditionally terrible, this built-in mic takes things a step in the right direction. With the ability to auto-isolate audio from in front or behind the camera, or the ability to manually set the direction yourself. While the mic still can't compete with a dedicated mic and recorder, paired with the new AI audio tools from Adobe, the built-in mic delivers very usable quality audio. Even when recording in less-than-ideal conditions. Using this for the video in this article, I can't tell the difference between the audio from the built-in microphone and the audio from my Blue Yeti Microphone. And while the Blue Yeti isn't necessarily a pro-grade mic, it would traditionally give way better sound than any mic built into a camera.
What I Liked
- Ease of use with high-end features
- Dynamic Active stabilization
- AI-based framing stabilizer
- Amazing sensor
What I Didn't Like
- Flip screen instead of the flip/tilting screen of the Sony A7rV
- only a single SD card slot
While it would be hard to really dive deep into all this camera can do in an article like this, the items here are what I feel to be the more notable features. In my opinion, this camera is the perfect combination of professional features and quality paired with usability. The Sony ZF-E1 gives a one-man-band content creator the ability to have a more high-end deliverable product without the need for complicated and expensive accessories. It's also the smallest and lightest full-frame camera with image stabilization on the market, which makes it a bit easier to add to your kit and always have with you.