The Sony ZV-1F is a strange take on the world's finest vlogging camera

The Sony ZV-1F is a strange take on the world's finest vlogging camera ...

Sony''s ZV-1 was first launched in May 2020, and we still believe it is the best vlogging camera of its kind. Now, Sony has made your decision a little trickier by introducing a more affordable version with a slew of features.

The Sony ZV-1F is in some ways a break from the original Sony ZV-1 (which will be on sale), while in other words, it is a demo. It''s a 20MP 1-inch compact camera capable of shooting 4K/30p video with the kind of natural bokeh, or background blur, that smartphones still struggle to produce.

The two main disadvantages of the ZV-1 are its lens and user interface. One of the best concerns about its predecessor is that its 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens might be somewhat tight if you''re on a handheld rather than on a tripod. Instead, the ZV-1F attempts to overcome this problem by offering a wider 20mm f/2 lens.

It''s a shame that the lens isn''t quite as bright at the ZV-1''s, and photographers will miss the capability of zooming. In theory, the ZV1-F should still offer the thin depth-of-field that smartphone models like the iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 are striving to mimic with their ''cinematic'' modes.

Sony claims that the ZV-1F includes a number of new, smartphone-style touchscreen features. Unlike the ZV-1, which allows you to tap the screen only to get focus, Sony''s new vlogging camera allows you to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to use frequently-used settings, or tap the screen''s control icons to change things like aperture.

The ZV-1F also has some odd limitations. The most disturbing part is that its autofocus system, which is probably the ZV-1''s standout feature, uses an older contrast-detection system, rather than a hybrid system, which provides better tracking than contrast- and phase detection techniques.

This should not make a lot of difference in most vlogging situations, according to Sony. The new model does have a higher focus rate than the ZV-1 (425, compared to 315), but it does increase the number of focus points used by the ZV-1F in line with older competitors, including the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III, which also only uses contrast-only autofocus.

The other physical disadvantages from the ZV-1 are that the ZV-1F now has USB-C charging rather than microUSB, but it also replaces the ZV-1''s hotshoe (which requires accessories like a shotgun mic while you use them) with a simpler coldshoe.

The Sony ZV-1F will be available for purchase in October for 650 (around $630 / 565 / AU$1,015).

Analysis: Flying too close to smartphones?

Smartphones have made unusual advances in video shooting performance in a variety of ways, including in Apple''s ''Cinematic mode,'' which was formerly aped by the Google Pixel 7 series, in the two years since the original Sony ZV-1 was launched.

The Sony Xperia Pro-I, which also has a 1-inch sensor and a ''Video Pro'' interface that looks very similar to Sony''s high-end mirrorless cameras, appears to be making a ZV-1 killer. So is there any real connection to cameras like the new ZV-1F?

The margins are now falling, and a lot depends on your preference of smartphone. A compact camera like the ZV-1F, for example, provides high-quality video capture in a pocketable format factor for those who have mid-range smartphones or don''t want an Xperia phone. A ZV-1F, for example, does not (on paper) have sufficient light-gathering capabilities.

Sony''s ZV-1F is compared to its predecessors, which includes the Sony A7S III. The ZV series, which includes the Sony A7S III, is also assembled from the components left behind by several of Sony''s older stills-focused cameras. The ZV-1 and ZV-1F, for example, come from the same gene pool as Sony''s RX100 series compacts.

It''s a shame the ZV-1F''s autofocus has apparently regressed with its contrast-only interface, and we''d like to see even more smartphone-style user interfaces. But the ZV-1F might, on paper, continue to make a list of the finest vlogging cameras thanks to its new prime lens and a relatively affordable price tag.