After fleshing out its vlog-focused camera lineup with the full-frame ZV-E1, Sony is now updating its bread-and-butter point-and-shoot that kicked off the ZV family. The new ZV-1 II is an $899.99 camera with a one-inch-type sensor, wider zoom lens than its predecessor, and various quality-of-life improvements over the ZV-1 of 2020. While the 20.1-megapixel resolution and ISO range remain the same, the new model opts for a wider, more vlog-friendly zoom lens and various conveniences like a USB-C port when it launches in June.
The original ZV-1 was very much an offshoot of the longstanding RX-100 line — a longtime favorite for people who wanted a compact camera with good image quality for stills — with enhanced video features and a better articulating screen for self-recording. The ZV-1 II takes that further with a wider 18–50mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.8-4 zoom lens, Cinematic Vlog settings (like the ZV-E1), touch controls, easy webcam use, a mic with adjustable pickup patterns for narration, and S-Log 3 for a taste of a pro-like editing workflow.
What the ZV-1 II doesn’t have is a mechanical shutter, eschewing one entirely in favor of a fast-reading stacked sensor that relies entirely on its electronic shutter for still pictures. If stacked sensors in a Sony Alpha 1, A9 II, or Nikon’s shutterless Z9 and Z8 can handle fast-action photos without exhibiting jello effects, then the ZV-1 II should be up to the task using the same tech in a smaller sensor.
While stacked sensors are handy for shooting stills without any shutter noise at all, having a fast readout sensor is also beneficial for video — which is more of this camera’s focus. The ZV-1 II, like its predecessor, is able to film in 4K at up to 30fps. It also uses Sony’s real-time phase-detect autofocus tracking to easily focus and track multiple faces and eyes as well as Product Showcase for knowing when to focus on objects held up to the camera. Much of this has become par for the course with Sony cameras, and while it may not have the AI smarts of A7R V or ZV-E1, it’s still impressive to get this level of focus performance in a camera under $1,000.
One of the trickle-down features from the recent ZV-E1 is that Cinematic Vlog setting, which adds black bars to the top and bottom of the frame, sets the frame rate to 24fps, and allows you to dial in some preset “looks” and “moods” to your liking. Much like how the ZV-1 II offers a shortcut to making decent-looking vlogs with minimal effort, Cinematic Vlog is a one-click way to add drama to a video clip — even if you don’t know your way around camera settings. The same can be said for the bokeh switch, which easily sets the camera up to narrow the depth of field for blurred backgrounds by opening the lens to its widest aperture.
The ZV-1 II’s maximum aperture of f/1.8 is the same as the lens of the last-gen model, but by opting for a wider angle of 18mm, it’s much easier to get both yourself and your surroundings in frame. The wider lens makes total sense, as most vlogs are filmed quite wide and losing some telephoto reach is probably no big deal, though the new lens is a slower f/4 when zoomed all the way to its 50mm limit. That’s still a fair tradeoff to be made by maintaining the ZV-1 II’s pocket-ish size.
The ZV-1 has been Sony’s bestselling model of its burgeoning ZV line, and the version II seems to offer the right improvements where it counts. Of course, it also costs about $100 more than the price of the original ZV-1 when it first came out and $150 more than its current selling price. But even at a higher price, a ZV-1 owner may find the new lens and features a worthwhile upgrade if they’re not yet ready to jump to a ZV-E10, ZV-E1, or Sony Alpha camera with interchangeable lenses, bigger batteries, and more robust features — at least, of course, until Sony floods this space with even more cameras for every possible use case.
Photography by Becca Farsace / The Verge