A year ago the word “webcam” meant (usually) something from a company like Logitech, was probably made of plastic, had little in the way of “proper” camera features and was relatively cheap.
The major use was chatting to friends and family via social media such as Facebook and the business world was not really that interested in the concept.
Today, due to the dreaded BeerBug™, major players in the camera / camcorder game are falling over themselves to not only make dedicated or semi-dedicated webcams, but also release software that adapts existing models to the idea of webcamming – also called vlogging.
Additionally, software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams is being used on an enormous scale to connect home-bound workers to try and keep the wheels of industry greased and the engine room humming.
Sony is of course one of the manufacturers who have leapt on the bandwagon, and its main strike weapon is the recently released ZV-1, a 20Mp camera / camcorder that shoots 4K / 30p or 1080p / 120p using a 1” sensor that is also capable of 960fps when required.
The built-in lens is a 24mm – 70mm equivalent F1.8-2.8mm.
The ZV-1 is quite small, easily operated by one hand which is a useful asset when taking selfies of course, if you must. The swing out 3” articulated touch screen is bright and whilst not brilliant in strong sunlight, is passable and certainly better than many other cameras / camcorders we have tested over the years.
There is no EVF, which as usual, we deplore.
A Mode button on the top plate on the ZV-1 lets you quickly switch between the various modes available using an on screen touch menu and there is also a very clever – and quite simply brilliant – memory recall function letting you customise complex combinations of settings, as well as the shooting mode including exposure, image quality and so on, and easily switch between these various settings.
One thing that did annoy us though is that the touchscreen can only be used for focus when in video mode. The single control wheel on the rear of the ZV-1 is for shutter speed and aperture in both video and still mode, so if you are in selfie mode with the touch screen swivelled toward you, to make any other changes other than focus, you need to gain access to the rear of the camera.
Having said that, the auto focus is excellent.
The top of the ZV-1 also has a single C1 button which is by default set to a defocus background, again useful for selfie / vlogging. A second button (called C2 not surprisingly) defaults to a “Product Showcase” mode whereby the ZV-1 will auto-tragically pull into focus anything entering the frame and defocus any faces that are already in frame.
Other scene selection modes include Pet, Beauty Effects, Night Scene and Night Portrait.
If you prefer your shooting to be more manual, standard PASM modes are available, and for those with access to an HDR capable display, HLG shooting is also catered for.
More “advanced” tools such as zebra and focus peaking are standard on the ZV-1 as well as S-Log 2/3 for those of us who like playing around with footage in post.
Of course for vlogging, audio is a major component of the overall, and the ZV-1 has a directional mic aboard adjacent to the hot shoe on the top of the camera. If you wish to use an external mic such as the new Sennheiser MKE200, there is a separate port on the side of the ZV-1 along with USB-C (which is used to charge the camera battery and you’ll get around 250 shots / charge) and an HDMI port. Bluetooth and Wi-fi are available for image transfer.
The ZV-1 has a retail price of $1299, which in the realm of webcams is high. But of course, the ZV-1 is not just a webcam; it doubles up quite nicely as a stand-alone camera and camcorder in its own right.
Ergo, if you have a need for a webcam camera for use in Zoom, Teams or whatever, or vlogging in Twitch etc, and also want a lightweight and capable portable camcorder / camera, the Sony ZV-1 makes for a very good choice.
If you do intend on vlogging with the ZV-1, may we also suggest you invest in the Sony wireless shooting grip as it will make your life a lot easier to boot.
For more details and complete sepcs on the Sony ZV-1, click here.