Sony ZV-1 Mark II review

Sony ZV-1 Mark II review

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Product images by Shaminder Dulai

The Sony ZV-1 Mark II is a vlogging-focused compact camera built around a 20MP Type 1 (13.2 x 8.8mm) Stacked CMOS sensor and an 18-50mm equivalent F1.8-4.0 lens. Besides the new focal length range, much of this camera remains the same as its predecessor, which was itself a competent pocket-sized video camera.

Key specifications:

  • 20 megapixel Type 1 (13.2 x 8.8mm) Stacked CMOS sensor
  • 18-50mm equivalent F1.8-4.0 lens with built-in ND filter
  • 4K/30p, 1080/120p video
  • 24fps stills in both JPEG and Raw, for up to 800 JPEGs
  • Fully articulating, 921K dot, 3" touchscreen display
  • 8-bit Log and 'HLG' video shooting modes
  • Directional 3-capsule microphone with wind screen
  • UHS-I SD card support
  • USB-C charging port, which can also be used while the camera is on and for streaming
  • 3.5mm stereo microphone socket
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for image and video transfer

The ZV-1 Mark II runs $899.99 (MSRP) and comes in two color options: black or white. The camera can be paired with a black or white Sony GP-VPT2BT Bluetooth shooting grip, which doubles as a compact tripod, for an additional $139.99.

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What is it?

The ZV-1 Mark II is an entry-to-intermediate level vlogging camera designed first and foremost for users to film themselves speaking to camera from arm's length, at a tabletop or from a tripod. It has a three-mic array designed to isolate voices speaking to the camera, a selfie-friendly zoom range and touch controls to operate the camera with the rear screen flipped out for selfie video shooting.

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While the camera can shoot stills in Raw and JPEG (the cheaper ZV-1F couldn't shoot Raw), it's very evident that Sony sees this as mainly a walk-and-talk video camera for YouTubers and social media creators; for confirmation, we only need to look at Sony's logo on the touchscreen, which only appears right side up when it's flipped out for a selfie.

Compared to its predecessor, the ZV-1 Mark II is an update with very few changes save for one very notable switch (arguably correction) to a wider 18-50mm equivalent F1.8-4.0 lens. The original ZV-1 had a 24-70mm equivalent lens that made it challenging to frame wide-angle selfies, especially if you cropped in by engaging digital stabilization. With the updates to the lens, we can start at 18mm equiv. or employ digital image stabilization (IS), which imposes a 1.33x crop to give approximately 24mm equiv. field of view. The change means the Mark II gives a 24-67mm equiv range when stabilized, making it more usable for on-the-go selfie vlogging.

Other than the wider lens, the rest will be very familiar for ZV-1 users. The same Type 1 (13.2x8.8mm) Stacked CMOS 20MP sensor returns, which helps it achieve fast autofocus, quick and accurate people and animal tracking with low rolling shutter. It also has the same form factor as its predecessor, with the same buttons in the same configuration, the same rocker switch for the zoom, and the same distinctive fuzzy rat over the mic array, which slightly obscures the on/off button in the same way. Also carried over are the fully articulating 3" touchscreen, battery and ports for a 3.5mm stereo mic socket and Micro HDMI output. The multi-port has been swapped for a USB-C port. Absent once again is a headphone socket for audio monitoring.

How it compares

We've seen a slew of vlogging or creator cameras in recent years from Sony, Canon, Panasonic and even Nikon; there's no shortage of options. Sony alone has produced five models in its vlogging-focused 'ZV' range, stretching from the $500 ZV-1F to the $2200 full-frame interchangeable lens ZV-E1.

Considering the vlogging camera space and which cameras to compare, we thought it apt to include Sony's ZV-1F and ZV-E10. These cameras are aimed at a similar user need as the ZV-1 Mark II, yet they're spread across lower price points, making a features comparison useful. Among competitors, we also looked at the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III and Nikon Z30, as they fit the bill for size, weight and features aimed at vloggers, making a comparison meaningful.

Sony ZV-1 Mark II Sony ZV-1F Sony ZV-E10 Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III Nikon Z30
MSRP $900 $500 $700 (body only), $800 (w/16-50 lens) $750 $710 (body), $850 (w/16-50mm lens)
Sensor 20MP Type 1
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Stacked CMOS
20MP Type 1
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
(23.5 x 15.6 mm)
20MP Type 1
(13.2 x 8.8 mm)
Stacked CMOS
(23.5 x 15.7 mm)
Stabilization Electronic (Video only)

(Video only)

Lens + electronic Lens + electronic Lens + electronic
AF system Phase-detect Contrast-detect Phase-detect Contrast-detect Phase-detect
Viewfinder No No No No No
Lens/Zoom range 18–50 equiv 20mm equiv Interchangeable lenses 24-100mm equiv Interchangeable lenses
Rear screen Fully articulating, 0.92M dot, 3" touchscreen

Fully articulating, 0.92M dot, 3" touchscreen

Fully articulating,
0.92M dot,
3" touchscreen

Tilting 1.04M-dot (180° up, 45° down) 3" touchscreen Fully articulating, 1.04M-dot, 3" touchscreen

Up to 4K/30p

Up to 4K/30p Up to 4K/30p Up to 4K/30p Up to 4K/30p
Mic / headphone socket Yes/No Yes/No Yes/Yes Yes/No Yes/No
Dials 1 rear dial 1 rear dial 2 rear dials 1 rear dials 1 front dial,
1 rear dial
Card slots UHS-1 SD UHS-1 SD UHS-1 SD UHS-1 SD UHS-1 SD
Battery life rating Still: 290; Video: 45 min at 4K Still: 350; Video: 60 min at 4K Still: 440;
Video: 80 min at 4K
Still: 235; Video: 55 min at 4K Still: 330;
Video: 75 min at 4K
Weight 292g 256g 343g 304g 405g
Dimensions 106 x 60 x 47mm 106 x 60 x 47mm 115 x 64 x 45mm 105 x 61 x 41mm 128 x 74 x 60mm

If vlogging and auto mode simplicity are the chief concerns, then the Sony ZV-1 Mark II is a suitable option. It benefits from a Stacked sensor, allowing for faster readout for minimal rolling shutter, and has very responsive phase-detect autofocus to help it avoid focus hunting during videos.

However, if you're seeking more control and want the versatility of exchangeable lenses – and don't mind losing the outstanding autofocus, rolling shutter performance and pocketability of the ZV-1 Mark II – we recommend the Nikon Z30. It's a trade-off that gains a larger sensor and better ergonomics, and while you may miss focus more often for selfie videos, we think the positives outweigh the negatives.

Body and handling

The ZV-1 Mark II is small, compact, lightweight and relatively pocketable at 292g (10.3oz) and 106mm (4.2") on its longest side. The body is very boxy, with a slight bump along the front for a hand grip and a thumb rest along the back. For its size and stature, the bump and thumb rest in tandem are surprisingly efficient and comfortable in securing the camera when not shooting selfies. A wrist strap loop adds peace of mind that the camera won't get jostled loose while in use.

When held in selfie mode, the camera can become difficult to hold steady or maintain a nice grip. We found having an external handle to screw into the tripod mount was essential for steady operation. Sony has an optional Bluetooth shooting grip (Sony GP-VPT2BT) with REC and zoom controls, which can also double as a compact tripod, for an additional $139.99, but any grip will do if you're looking to save some money.

The camera is sparse on buttons. Along the top plate and rear are a limited set of buttons, a rocker switch for the zoom and one rear dial. There is no viewfinder on the ZV-1 Mark II, which may present a challenge when used in bright sunlight if you're not shooting video in selfie mode.

On the back, there's a button for the Fn menus and 4-way dial to make quick adjustments to camera settings, but aside from the prerequisite shutter button, menu button and some additional customizable function buttons, the ZV-1 Mark II delegates most operations to the touchscreen.

We found the touchscreen to register inputs quickly. With the screen flipped out for selfie video, the touchscreen allows quick adjustments to shutter, aperture, ISO and white balance settings, but anything more requires swiping the panel to bring up additional quick menus. For instance, if you want to activate the ND filter or switch from touch focus to touch tracking, you'll need to swipe up on the touchscreen to bring up the Fn menu. Starting and stopping recordings can also be done through a touchscreen button, but we found it far easier to use the physical record button on the top plate. Having a tactile confirmation you are recording is nice, but we also appreciate the inclusion of a tally light and a red border that appears around the screen when recording. However, adjusting beyond basic settings requires accessing the main menus, which became an issue when shooting in selfie mode.

With the screen-flipped out or selfies, the touchscreen becomes your main way to control the camera, with all basic settings a tap away, including focus and the record button.

While on the go, thankfully the ZV-1 Mark II is quick to boot up and be ready to shoot. Users can turn the camera on/off via a power button along the top plate. However, this button ends up obscured and buried under the fuzzy rat accessory which sits over the three-capsule microphone, but there is an alternative. The camera can be set to turn on and off by flipping open or closing the rear touchscreen, and this quickly became our preferred way of activating the camera.


The ZV-1 Mark II retains the same 4.5Wh NP-BX1 battery from the original ZV-1, which is CIPA-rated for 290 still frames per charge (it's pretty normal to achieve at least twice the rated value). This is a reasonable level of endurance to squeeze out of a small battery. The CIPA rating for "Actual" video recording is 45 minutes. In practice, we landed closer to 30-35 minutes for video, which became a pain point.

New to this version is a USB-C port, which can be used to recharge the battery. Using this method, we could recharge the battery from nearly empty to full in about 35 minutes. You can also power the camera while in use over USB. Hence, an external power bank becomes an option for longer shoots than a single battery will allow, but this also defeats the purpose of a small form factor and highly portable design.


The ZV-1 Mark II can capture up to 4K/30p, but that drops to 1080 if you want to use slow-motion frame rates. Unlike its predecessor, this version does not have lens or in-body stabilization. Stabilization is only available in video as a digital process, which crops the frame and takes its video from a moving frame within the cropped region to correct for motion. It works fairly well when capturing 4K video, and the crop turns the 18mm equiv. into about a 24mm equiv. This crop feels intentional; to deliver a camera designed to be a stable 24mm equiv., an unstabilized 18mm equiv. lens was required. (If you're curious, the original ZV-1's digital IS had a crop that turned the 24mm equiv into about a 30mm equiv.)

1080 video crops

4K video crops

Sony has included HLG modes, which are designed for viewing on HDR displays, and S-Log2 and S-Log3, which are aimed at retaining additional tonal information about the scene to give users more control over how they color grade their footage during editing. But there's just one problem. The camera only has 8-bit color depth. This is unusual for HLG and has a major drawback for Log footage.

Capturing in 8-bit risks the footage falling apart if you try to adjust color too far; this is because a wide dynamic range is stored with too few data points, and the result is images can start to degrade, band and posterize as you try to make large adjustments. S-Log3, which tries to maintain a very wide dynamic range, is particularly susceptible to this. We'd tend to stick with S-Log2 on this camera.

A few creative modes and dedicated buttons also return from the ZV-1 for vlogging ease. A defocus button tells the camera to prioritize a shallow depth of field and a 'Product Showcase' mode uses face detection but tells the camera to automatically rack focus to any objects you hold up close to the camera, which should help for anyone doing make-up tutorials, cooking demos, unboxing videos or anything where you need to demonstrate something and shift focus from your face to the object. A 3-capsule mic array also automatically adjusts to isolate the speaker's voice, whether behind, in front or around the camera.

CineVlog mode

New to this version is CineVlog mode, which automatically sets the camera to a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with the 24p frame rate used in cinema and a gentler 'film-like' color profile. It also lets you apply color filters and adjust focus speed to mimic the big screen presentation.

Within CineVlog mode, a unique subset of color filters are broken down into "Moods" and "Looks." Broadly speaking, Moods adjust color response and Looks adjust tonal response and contrast. Both can be used in combination with each other to dial in a preferred presentation.

Looks: Chic Clean Mono
Moods: Forest Gold Ocean

Four Mood options (Auto, Gold, Ocean and Forest) and five Look options (Classic, Clean, Chic, Fresh and Mono) exist. Autofocus transition speed may also be set between Hi, Mid and Lo.

The idea behind CineVlog is to produce ready-to-share videos directly from the camera. However, it should be noted this mode has baked-in black borders and the 2.35:1 isn't the native format YouTube and other social media platforms use.

File management and Sony's Creator App

One appeal of dedicated vlogging cameras is improved file management. Whereas a smartphone requires freeing up internal memory to continue shooting or a possibly slow and tedious download process that halts work, a camera with an SD memory card allows for quick swapping and downloading of files independently of a camera being used for filming.

In addition to memory cards and USB-C tethering, the ZV-1 Mark II can transfer files to mobile devices using Sony's Creator App (Android or iOS). With the app, files are meant to be moved directly from camera to phone and appear in the phone's photo/video library. In practice, we found the iOS version of the app was finicky with failed connections and frequent signal drops mid-transfer. We did not test the Android version.

Image stabilization performance

The quality of the stabilization will vary, depending on how much movement the camera is experiencing and in which direction. As you may expect, the slower and more steady the movement, the better the result in digital stabilization.

Walking at a normal pace – not briskly or intentionally slow to steady the camera – we found the stabilization to be better when moving forward and backward in the same direction as the walker talking to the camera. Vlogging to the camera was smooth, and pointing the camera out as we walked forward also yielded decent results.

Once we introduced walking turns around street corners and panning there was a noticeable drop in quality, with the the stabilization trying to grab onto the framing and then releasing as it reached the limit of what it could correct, giving a jerky experience. It's a very noticeable pain point that doesn't come up often, but it can make your work look amateur when it does.

Another option is bypassing the in-camera stabilization to use Sony's "Catalyst Browse" software. The camera records movement metadata from its IS sensors, making it possible to take unstabilized footage into the software and utilize the greater processing power of a computer, rather than expecting the camera to deliver results in real time. With this software, our stabilization results ranged from decent to marginally better. The extra steps to take this route are cumbersome and bring to question the camera's design ethos of steering users toward auto settings to make things quick and easy.

Audio performance

The ZV-1 Mark II has a directional 3-capsule microphone that can be set to auto or manually to capture directional sound from the front, back or all around. It is the same system used in the original ZV-1.

We tried a few simple tests to evaluate how much separation the microphones produce between the audio we want (a person talking to the camera) and the ambient noise in the environment. The results were mixed.

In Auto, the camera does its best in quiet and outdoor spaces but struggles indoors and in noisy environments, such as windy beaches or heavily trafficked city streets. Reverb is an issue with all audio capture, but on the ZV-1 mark II it is particularly bad indoors and gets worse as the distance between the speaker and camera increases. Auto audio mode struggles to discern where sound is coming from in these environments, and it's a guessing game if it will decide to use omnidirectional pick-up, recognize where the speaker's voice is coming from, or get fixated on the reverb source in the room.

We also noticed when rotating the camera 180 degrees, from having a person speaking behind it to in front of it in one continuous take, the auto mic array isn't consistently reliable in switching mic priority from rear to front. Another issue for continuous takes is that the camera also picks up the sound of the lens zoom motor.

When the system works as intended to identify a main speaker and prioritize them over ambient noise well, the results still leave something to be desired. Out-of-camera voice tracks are flat and tinny, and pale in comparison to external audio we captured simultaneously.

If possible, external audio is recommended, however, the Mark II does not have a headphone socket to monitor sound. There are visual levels, but there is no way to know exactly what those levels are measuring without listening.

Autofocus performance

One area this camera shines is the autofocus; it is very zippy, recognizing faces and eyes on people quickly. And once a face is locked in, the camera does a great job of staying on that person, even if other people enter the frame later.

Product Showcase mode demonstrates how effective the camera can be at tracking faces or transitioning to other subjects as required.

Thanks to the Stacked CMOS sensor, readout is fast and aids AF tracking to stay sticky on people and animals. We only noticed the camera losing focus in situations where we were briefly backlit and the focus jumped to the background, such as walking into a dark alley and the camera shifting focus to the trees behind us. In these situations, users can tap to focus on their face again or wait for the camera to recognize there is a face in the frame and start tracking it again.

Image quality

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you'll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

The ZV-1 Mark II uses the the same Type 1 (13.2 x 8.8mm) sensor we've seen in RX100 models and image performance is similar as expected. The new lens is sharpest at the center with some falloff as you approach the corners. Colors and skin tone capture are fairly accurate, and we didn't notice skin tones going too pink for typically lighter skin or too red for darker skin. Greens and yellow are pleasing but not partially punchy using the standard profile. There is an issue with daylight white-balanced images going very blue, an unfortunate stumble in an otherwise capable system.


What we like What we don't like
  • Fast and reliable autofocus with face and eye tracking for people and animals
  • Clean out-of-camera 4K video
  • Touch-controls for selfie mode video
  • Quick boot-up time
  • Very good rolling shutter
  • Tally light and red border on touchscreen to confirm video recording
  • Built-in ND filters
  • Auto modes that make tech invisible
  • Wide lens for selfie videos
  • Lack of IS for stills, digital-only for video
  • Densely packed menus can be challenging to navigate
  • No headphone socket
  • Slow and quick motion drops to 1080
  • Electronic shutter limits lower end to 1/4 sec
  • Difficult to shoot stills in non-auto modes
  • Limited body buttons
  • S-Log3 in 8-bit falls apart easily

The ZV-1 Mark II has many nice video features; it's fast to boot up, auto modes get you shooting quickly, autofocus and rolling shutter performance is very good and there's digital image stabilization for video (no IS for stills however). Users considering a compact vlogging camera or an upgrade to the original ZV-1 would find much to love in this camera, but there are stumbling points and limits that smartphone users and more advanced users may find frustrating. And, unsurprisingly, if you're primarily interested in stills and want manual control, this isn't the camera for you.

A brief note about stills

I've spent the bulk of this review examining the video capabilities of this compact, but if you noticed that 18-50mm equivalent F1.8-4.0 lens, stacked sensor and small form factor and thought, "This might make a great compact point-and-shoot," you're not alone. It's certainly not a thought that didn't occur to me during this review. The image quality is pretty decent; during our studio scene, we found minor softness in the extreme corners. However, while the ZV-1 Mark II is capable of stills, it's a camera aimed at vlogging and using it for stills isn't the most enjoyable photographer's compact.

"Video needs to be your primary need... making things using mostly auto modes and features."

The design philosophy of the ZV-1 Mark II is one built on automatic settings, aimed squarely at solo video creators. There's no need to know what an aperture is, what the lens is doing, the difference between cardioid and omnidirectional mics, or why Hollywood uses 24fps; the resulting look is the key here and Sony has tried to make it simple.

For all these promises, the ZV-1 Mark II is held back by a few glaring issues that prevent it from meeting the needs of its target users. Out-of-camera audio is better than most other cameras but isn't good enough to fully rely on: we don't recommend using it if you have other options. Then there is the issue with the jerky IS, which struggled to travel around corners, grabbing and releasing the frame. Coupled with color going too blue in some outdoor daylight scenes and an anemic battery run time for video, and it becomes hard to recommend the camera for users seeking a pocketable video-centric camera.

The biggest question to ask with any vlogging camera is whether the dedicated device is better than the smartphone we already carry daily. In this regard, we don't think the ZV-1 Mark II is up to the task.

The camera's excellent autofocus, subject tracking and rolling shutter performance are all leagues ahead of most smartphones. The addition of aperture control and memory cards that make it easier to transfer files is also appealing, but its over-reliance on auto modes, audio issues, terrible battery (I can't overstate this enough) and price point make it a product we would not recommend for users already meeting their needs with a good smartphone.

For smartphone users hoping to find manual controls a smartphone can't provide, I'm afraid here too, the ZV-1 Mark II does not fit the bill. It does have manual controls, but using them is punishing as you have to navigate menus and virtual buttons on the touch screen, and it's very easy to errantly adjust a setting with a misplaced finger. Manual focus is a non-starter here, as in: it's available, but we don't advise ever trying to use it.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.

Sony ZV-1 Mark II
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The video-centric Sony ZV-1 Mark II has excellent rolling shutter, industry-leading autofocus and a very nice selfie-friendly zoom lens, but runs into issues with short battery life and flat out-of-camera audio. The camera thrives in auto modes, making it best suited for users seeking a simple-to-use camera.
Good for
Video creators seeking a feature-packed dedicated device without a large learning curve.
Not so good for
Video creators desiring manual controls and still photographers seeking a pocketable compact.
Overall score

Compared to its peers

Amongst Sony's ZV line of vlogging-centric cameras, the closest competitors to the ZV-1 Mark II are the Sony ZV-1F and Sony ZV-E10.

The ZV-1F is the lowest-priced alternative to the ZV-1 Mark II, something it accomplishes by cutting features. The most notable 'cut' is that the camera only has contrast-detect autofocus. This isn't an issue for stills but will make videos, particularly selfie videos, an exercise in regularly having footage with missed focus and focus hunting. The camera also suffers significant rolling shutter, making it further unsuitable for video. We don't recommend it over the ZV-1 Mark II. Saving $400 (MSRP) may seem appealing, but don't do it.

On paper, Sony's ZV-E10 looks like a better buy, but it also pales next to the ZV-1 Mark II. Although the ZV-E10 has a larger APS-C sensor, dual dials and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, the ZV-1 Mark II's faster readout gives smoother video from a more compact package. If your main use case will be selfie videos on the go, we prefer the ZV-1 Mark II.

Canon's closest competitor is the PowerShot G7 X Mark III, but it is the worst vlogging option among the cameras highlighted here. Video quality is significantly lacking compared to the ZV-1 Mark II, and contrast-detect autofocus introduces notable bouts of focus hunting. If you don't see yourself ever capturing video, then the Canon's ease of manual operation makes it an appealing option for stills.

Nikon's Z30 captures lovely video and has a low-light advantage over the ZV-1 Mark II thanks to its larger sensor. Rolling shutter performance isn't as good as the ZV-1 Mark II and its stacked sensor, but it's not terrible either. The autofocus is also less dependable.

We recommend Nikon's Z30 over the ZV-1 Mark II for vloggers who can accept a less pocketable option. A kit with a 12-28mm F3.5 can be had for cheaper than the ZV-1 Mark II. The only thing really holding this camera back is a limited selection of lenses (there are 5 own-brand and a few third-party lenses at present).

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