Sony is on a roll when it comes to producing some of the best video cameras for YouTubers – and the new Sony ZV-E1 could be its best full-frame sidekick yet for content creators.
Like a cross between the pro-friendly Sony A7S III and the travel-sized Sony A7C, the ZV-E1 is a 12MP full-frame vlogging camera with powerful video features. These include the ability to shoot 4K/60p video with 10-bit 4:2:2 color depth, plus some impressive new AI-powered features.
Thanks to the same Bionz XR processor and separate AI chipset that we saw on the Sony A7R V, the ZV-E1 has a range of new tools to help you keep subjects in the center of your frame – only this time, they're designed more for video than stills.
For example, an 'Auto framing' mode crops into the frame around your chosen subject (which you can pick by touching the screen) then tracks that subject around the un-cropped frame, like an AI-powered camera operator.
Another handy mode for video shooters is 'Frame stabilizer', which keeps your subject in the center of the frame as you walk alongside them, acting like a virtual gimbal. This again comes at the expense of a crop, but looks like a handy tool for vloggers who prefer the 'walk-and-talk' video style.
In both modes, you can also choose from three different crops of your subject (for example, upper body or full body). You can also simultaneously record the full, uncropped frame via an HDMI output to an external recorder such as an Atomos Ninja, an option that could save video creators lots of time in post-production.
As you'd expect from a Sony camera, autofocus is another strength of the ZV-E1. It has improved subject recognition and tracking, which works when your subject is facing away from you, and the ZV-E1 can also recognize birds, cars, planes and even insects.
There's also a new autofocus feature that we haven't seen before called 'Multiple face recognition'. This will automatically close down the aperture if an additional person enters your frame, to help keep everyone in focus.
In terms of pure video grunt, the ZV-E1 is also the most powerful model in Sony's 'ZV' lineup, which includes alternatives like the Sony ZV-E10. It can shoot 4K/60p video in 10-bit 4:2:2, while a firmware update that's coming in June will unlock 4K/120p and Full HD/240p slo-mo modes.
The ZV-E1 is also Sony's smallest full-frame camera with in-body image stabilization, and can livestream in 4K/30p resolution (or Full HD in 60p). With profiles like S-Cinetone and S-Log also on board for color graders, it's shaping up to be a little powerhouse.
Naturally, all of this doesn't come cheap, with the Sony ZV-E1 available to buy body-only in April for $2,199 / £2,350 / AU$3,799 or in a kit lens bundle with the 28-60mm kit lens for $2,499 / £2,600 (Australian kit price TBC but that's around AU$4,790).
Analysis: Sony's new video sweet spot
In our brief time with the Sony ZV-E1 so far we've been really impressed – it's shaping up to be one of the best YouTube cameras around, albeit with a relatively premium price tag.
Those new AI-powered features are its headline feature. They aren't perfect – for example, we did have a few issues with using 'Auto framing' handheld when indoors in low light. But when shooting outside, the tracking was excellent, and it's a great new tool for solo video shooters who like the idea of having a virtual camera operator.
Pro shooters will also appreciate the ability to attach an external monitor to the ZV-E1 and simultaneously capture both the cropped and uncropped videos. That makes it easy to cut between the two during post-production and could reduce editing time significantly.
With the same 12MP BSI (backside-illuminated) sensor as the Sony FX3 and Sony A7S III – and a future firmware update unlocking a 4K/120p mode – the ZV-E1 is a pro-level tool that's also approachable enough for less experienced video creators.
While it isn't cheap, the ZV-E1 is considerably cheaper than the Sony FX3 ($3,900 / £4,200 / AU$6,699), which means we can certainly see it forcing its way into a high position in our guide to the best Sony cameras. We'll bring you our final verdict very soon.