I took Sony’s best pocket camera on vacation and regretted it

sony zv 1 alongside samsung galaxy s21 fe

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

From Sony to Xiaomi, smartphone brands are increasingly dabbling in inches camera sensor hardware. But as someone who doesn’t buy flagship smartphones, I’m resigned to accepting that it will take years before the technology seeps into my pocket. That is until I realized I could skip the wait and buy a more capable point-and-shoot camera instead. For example, the Sony ZV-1 uses the same 1-inch sensor as the latest $1,799 sensor Xperia Pro-I And it costs less than half that.

If you look at Sony’s marketing for the ZV-1, it’s clearly aimed at aspiring content makers and videographers. But it’s also equally capable in non-video modes. Sony packs the same 1-inch sensor in its photography-focused RX100 camera. In other words, even though it lacks some extra features like an electronic viewfinder, pop-up flash, and mode dial, the ZV-1 still has the same capable shooting hardware.

In fact, the ZV-1’s 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 arguably offers better low-light performance than the zoom-biased 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 on the RX100 VII. The brighter aperture also means the ZV-1 can produce stronger peach behind your subject.

Little did I know that a point-and-shoot camera would be one of my most frustrating tech purchases of 2022.

Ultimately, though, the turning point for me was Sony’s asking price. At $749, the ZV-1 is $450 cheaper than the latest RX100 and a lot less than the Xperia Pro-I. This factor was enough to convince me and before long, I had Sony’s best portable camera. But little did I know it would end up being one of my most frustrating tech purchases of 2022.

About this article: I purchased the Sony ZV-1 for my personal use in early 2022 and have been testing it for the past year.

Mobile does not mean convenience

Sony zv1 peeking through bag pocket

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

I spent the first few weeks with the Sony ZV-1 brushing on the basics manual photography. I learned how to balance quickly ISOshutter speed and aperture using the camera’s buttons and dials. It didn’t turn me into a skilled photographer but these basics allowed me to take better pictures than the camera’s automatic modes.

Fast forward a couple of months ago and I found myself planning an impromptu trip to Vietnam with my partner. This was my first real opportunity to use the Sony ZV-1, so naturally, I picked it up with enthusiasm. Just days before I left, I also traded in my LG Wing for Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. The former had a notoriously mediocre camera system, so I was curious how well the 2022 flagship smartphone would fare against Sony’s best.

Within the first day of landing in Hanoi and checking out the local sights, we were inundated with tons of sightseeing recommendations. Almost every traveler we met sang about Hà Giang Province in northern Vietnam, so we decided to rent a motorbike and explore the area. But here I ran into my first roadblock with the ZV-1—we only had enough room in our backpack to fit three days’ worth of clothes and daily essentials. I wasn’t particularly keen on strapping an expensive camera to the back of a dirt bike, either. So in the end, I had no choice but to leave the camera in our bag at the hotel.

Without water resistance and dust protection, getting the ZV-1 off the beaten path made little sense compared to using my phone.

But I soon discovered that even if I held the camera somehow, using it would be a risky business. On the first day, we drove through a misty mountain pass and eventually encountered heavy rain. The ZV-1 isn’t airtight, so I wouldn’t have been able to shoot anything without risking the camera. I had no such concerns about my country IP68 rating In the meantime, his cameras were used at every viewing point. I even clip it to the handlebars for commuting all the time.

By the end of that first day, the ZV-1 was little more than an afterthought in my mind. I’ve seen some of the most stunning scenery in my life and the S21 FE captured it all, often performing better than I expected. And with limited daylight hours, I also appreciate being able to hit the shutter button and quickly get back on the road — without any fiddling with necessary buttons or dials.

I often found myself looking for the ultra-wide lens, which is something I would never have been able to do with my camera. The ZV-1’s minimum focal length of 24mm is a good starting point, but it lacks the grandeur offered by the FE’s wider 13mm field of view for landscapes.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Smartphones have taken over the point-and-shoot camera market precisely because of their convenience and versatility. But the big thing here is that I never felt like the ZV-1 would have produced a significantly better picture. This meant I continued to rely on my smartphone for most of the trip, even after I had access to the camera again. Just see the shots from the Galaxy S21 FE below.

Smartphone vs. point-and-shoot: Does a dedicated camera win?

When I was finally unencumbered by weight and weather-related restrictions, I took the ZV-1 to a theme park and pitted it against the S21 FE. I fully expected the camera to come out on top in a side-by-side comparison, but it was often difficult to pick a winner.

Looking at the samples above, it’s clear that Samsung’s post-processing tends to oversaturate and sharpen a bit, especially in sections with thick papers. However, the ZV-1’s out-of-camera dynamic range can’t compete with multi-frame HDR processing modern smartphones. You can remedy some of these problems if you Shoot in RAW With either device, but the last thing I want to do while on vacation is curl up around my laptop and edit photos.

The ZV-1 has the potential to deliver better shots, but who wants to edit photos on vacation?

Zoom was the one rare area where I always preferred to have the ZV-1 on hand. But I expected that since the S21 FE only has a 3x medium telephoto sensor. I anticipate the periscope devices you will find in the Pixel 7 Pro or Galaxy S22 Ultra for much better performance. However, I still found smartphone zoom useful at times, like when I wanted to read text on a museum exhibit from afar.

Galaxy S21 FE on zoom for a museum exhibit campaigned by the US Armed Forces during the Vietnam War

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

I’ll also admit that selfies taken with the ZV-1 almost always looked better than my smartphone’s compact camera, and proper framing was possible thanks to the fully articulating screen. Likewise, videos look noticeably better with more detail, depth of field, and no over-sharpening. The ZV-1’s vlog heritage means that it is Electronic image stabilization (EIS), a feature many of Sony’s cheaper cameras have been lacking for years.

Selfies and videos taken with the Sony ZV-1 look better than on my smartphone.

But at the end of the day, none of these gains help justify the ZV-1’s $750 asking price. For context, I bought the Galaxy S21 FE for just $500 on sale. it’s not The best camera phone on the market, but I am more than satisfied with it. Looking back, I would have gladly done the $200 or so for a Pixel 7 If only I knew how much I would use her cameras.

Point and capture is not for everyone

Camera app P30 Pro, RX100 and Pixel 4

My biggest disappointment with the ZV-1 is that even though it’s one of the smallest cameras on the market, it’s not very comfortable. It doesn’t even always fit in your pocket. You could probably achieve this with a coat or shorts, but I’ve found it borderline impossible while wearing jeans—even without my grip accessory. This is an instant compromise because you are forced to carry a bag around at all times. And at that point, why not get a slightly larger APS-C camera instead? For example, the legendary Sony A6000 is not only more capable but also much cheaper.

See also: Best photography cameras for beginners

The ZV-1 makes some compromises on usability, too. There’s very little grip compared to, say, larger cameras, which means it sits precariously in your hand. I’ve since added a third-party grip, but it greatly inflates the size and weight of the camera. When you also consider the lack of water resistance, the Sony smartphone companion app, and the outdated micro-USB charging port, you’ll feel like the extra hassle isn’t worth it.

Point-and-shoot cameras end up in an awkward situation; Not as portable as a phone or as powerful as an APS-C camera.

This is not to say that the Sony ZV-1 is a bad camera. I am sure someone more skillful and patient could extract more value from it than I did. But in a world where Computational imaging Exists, you can get nearly the same results out of a phone without breaking the bank. And if you can improve your shot composition, you’ll achieve a lot even with a mediocre smartphone camera.

Looking back now, I probably should have bought action cam Or a drone instead of the Sony ZV-1. Either of these have added a whole new dimension to how I look back on my journey. Or maybe it’s best not to buy any dedicated photography equipment and a travel lighter. Either way, I now have a newfound appreciation for the cameras in modern smartphones.

Sony ZV-1

Sony ZV-1

Strong price • Good focus

A solid starter or vlog camera, though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.

The ZV-1 offers a one-inch 20.1MP sensor, eye autofocus, and even a YouTuber’s Product Show setting.

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