Mike Slinn
Mike Slinn

Sony Alpha ZV-E1

Published 2023-09-01. Last modified 2024-01-11.
Time to read: 11 minutes.

This page is part of the av_studio collection.

I purchased a Sony ZV-E1. I am completely blown away by its video capability.

A much better video camera for vlogging than anything else I have seen. Worth it.

There is no need for a Cam Link 4K to provide high-quality streaming video from the camera; the Sony ZV-E1 does that over USB-C and provides audio as well, which the Cam Link 4K does not. I used a USB-C to USB3 adapter to connect the Sony ZV-E1 to my Windows PC and found that OBS Studio immediately recognized the audio and video streams from the camera.

New camera setup perched on an old Roland electronic hand drum.<br>I had not realized that the top handle was undesirable yet.<br>The shotgun microphone had not arrived yet.
New camera setup perched on an old Roland electronic hand drum.
I had not realized that the top handle was undesirable yet.
The shotgun microphone had not arrived yet.

ZV-E1 product page.
ILCZVE1-B - body only
ILCZVE1L-B - with a 28-60mm zoom lens

I also purchased:

  • Sony 50 mm F1.4 GM lens. This is an awesome lens! It gives wonderful detail and color in low light conditions.

    My older Sony A7iii camera, which I keep on a tripod in the studio, has the same E-mount as the Sony ZV-E1. Both cameras can use my older Sigma 28-70 Contemporary f2.8 DG DN zoom lens, as well as the Sony 50 mm F1.4 GM lens.
  • Sony ECM-B10 Compact Camera-Mount Digital Shotgun Microphone. This is a good microphone, however if the camera is handheld by an operator that is moving around, the audio should be augmented by an audio recorder fixed in a carefully selected location, either on a tripod or clamped to a non-reflective object; one of the Zoom handlheld recorders would do the job nicely.

    DaVinci Resolve does an excellent job of combining the audio and video sources.

    It is also important to monitor the audio for the camera, and to test the audio in the external recorder; this requires noise-canceling headphones for best results.

    I would appreciate it if I could connect my Jabra Elite 7 Pro earpieces or my Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones to the camera via Bluetooth – but the Sony ZV-E1 camera does not support Bluetooth headphones. My older Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones can cancel noise when used with a cable while the headphones are powered by the built-in battery.
  • Sony ACCVC1 vlogger kit includes a Bluetooth camera grip (containing remote controls) built into a mini-tripod. This small handle/tripod is versatile and packs into my camera bag without taking much space. Requires one 2032 battery, included. (Online manual.)
  • SmallRig 4268 NP-FZ100 A7S III Dummy Battery Power Supply Adapter Kit. Several other manufaturers make equally good dummy batteries. I purchased this for when I want to use the ZV-E1 in the studio.

    Although the older Sony A7iii camera is compatible with this dummy power supply, the older camera runs off USB power just fine so it does not require a dummy power supply. Not so with the newer Sony ZV-E1; this is a design deficiency because USB-C is capable of delivering far more power than this camera could possibly need.
  • SmallRig 4257 Full Cage Kit with Silicone Grip and Cable Clamp for HDMI. I find the cable clamp is useless; however, the cage protects the camera well and allows many other items to be attached to the camera. The silicone grip is a positive addition to the camera’s useability.



    Unfortunately, I found that the Smallrig cage caused the camera to stop functioning due to overheating after continuously recording for 15 minutes at 4K@60 fps, in a room at 70 degree Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius). The Smallrig handgrip was noticeably warm when the camera shut off. The camera did not overheat before putting it in the cage.
  • SmallRig 4153 adjustable camera top handle for an ARRI-style mount. This was a purchase I regretted. The camera moves around too much when held by this handle. Best not to buy one, methinks.
  • SmallRig Snap-On NATO Side Handle 4017. Using a handle reduces camera shaking when handheld, which allows you to shoot smoother videos.

    I often use this camera to make videos of musicians playing live when the audience is dancing. Because the handle protrudes several inches, it prevents the delicate camera viewscreen hinge from being broken due to dancers jostling the camera operator when the viewscreen is flipped out to the side. The handle protrude just far enough to protect the viewscreen when the camera is handheld.
    The handle protects the camera viewscreen when flipped to the side
    The handle protects the camera viewscreen when flipped to the side

    The handle snaps on and off, but is secure (when properly adjusted)
    The handle snaps on and off, but is secure (when properly adjusted)
    The handle requires the SmallRig 4257 full cage kit mentioned above, and one of the SmallRig quick release NATO rails, discussed next.
  • SmallRig quick release NATO rail to attach the NATO handle to the camera cage. Depending on where the NATO handle is attached on the rail, a micro-HDMI cable or an external audio input cable might not be able to be plugged into the camera. This is not a problem, because you would never need the handle to be attached at the same time as those cables were attached.
  • 25-foot micro-HDMI to HDMI 2.0 cable. This cable allows the camera to be connected to a 4K TV. I tried using a left-angle micro-HDMI connector, but the small doors that cover the camera’s micro-HDMI port interfere with the cable connector. A straight micro-HDMI connector is required.

Power Consumption

Unlike the Sony A7iii that I have been using for the last few years, this camera does not charge from a USB connection. A fresh battery lasts just under 2 hours when the camera is on, or less if it is working hard. Horrible!

A dummy battery, discussed above, solved the problem.

Manuals

Product registration. I was unable to register using Google Chrome, but Firefox worked.

Default settings.

Sony Callback Support

Web page. Some of the people who answered my calls were patient and knowledgeable, while others were just patiently ignorant.

There is a huge difference between what happens when you are speaking with an American support rep and someone in the Philippines.

The American will say, “Hang on while I get that camera”, and then they will work through the issue with you.

The Filipino will likely never have actually seen the camera or used a similar camera; they can only search through documentation. Obvious things do not occur to them because of their lack of direct exposure to the product, so they say some fairly silly things without realizing it.

Dear Sony:
Yes, customers can tell the difference. You may think you are saving money with cheap labor overseas, but that costs you customers.

Setup

Firmware Update

Download the Creator’s App onto your mobile device. Supposedly, this app requires the camera to have the latest software update; however, this is also how you update the camera.

I was able to go through the update process, which took about 15 minutes; however, the camera firmware still showed v1.00 afterward. I had to insert a fully charged battery, then use the menu to complete the update:

HDMI Display

The camera defaults to overlaying status information on the HDMI output. When this setting is in force, connecting an external HDMI monitor causes the flip-out monitor on the camera to turn off, which means you can no longer control it. Dumb.

To disable the information overlay and restore the functionality of the flip-out monitor:

HDMI-CEC

It appears that a TV remote control can be used to control the camera when a suitable HDMI cable connects the camera with the TV. This uses HDMI-CEC, which Sony variously calls BRAVIA Link, BRAVIA Sync, and Control for HDMI. So far, I have not been able to make this work with my Samsung smart TV. I am using a Sony Bluetooth remote control for this purpose anyway.

HEIF format

By default, the camera stores still images in HEIF format. High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) is a relatively new image file format that was introduced by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) in 2015. It was designed to be a more efficient alternative to the traditional JPEG format, offering improved compression and image quality.

Importing HEIF format using Creator’s App gave me problems on a fairly new iPad and Android phone, so I changed the camera’s default format for stills to JPG.

4K 120p Upgrade License

Enter the camera serial number here.

Camera Grip Pairing

Camera and Camera Grip pairing instructions are shown below:

25GB Cloud Storage

Sony Creator’s Cloud provides 25 GB of free cloud storage and can update the camera firmware. The update works by the mobile device downloading the camera software and then transmitting the software to the camera.

Catalyst Browse

Catalyst Browse is a free, simple viewing and logging tool exclusively for all Sony Pro formats. Available for both Windows and Mac OS X.

Annoying Pixel Mapping

I often see the following message on the Sony ZV-E1 display when it turns on:

According to Sony, failure to perform pixel mapping may cause bright spots in recorded images. Sony recommends that pixel mapping be done every three days.

The camera is not equipped with a mechanical shutter, so it is necessary to manually block the light during pixel mapping (optimize the image sensor). Automatic Pixel Mapping is not possible. Therefore, a message recommending that you perform Pixel Mapping occasionally appears. If Pixel Mapping is not performed regularly, bright spots may appear in recorded images.
 – From Sony Support

The camera will prompt you to perform pixel mapping when required. All you need to do is attach the lens cap and press OK when prompted. The procedure takes about 5 seconds, and then the camera restarts.

Pixel mapping cannot be performed when the battery is low.

Software

The software provided by Sony for this device is:

Imaging Edge Remote

The Windows icons for all of the Imaging Edge applications are identical, which makes selecting the application you want more difficult than it should be.

In order to view or control the camera from a computer, the camera must be set to the PC Remote mode.

To activate PC Remote mode, you must first disconnect the camera from any mobile device apps that it might be connected to. You have three options for connecting the computer to the camera:

  1. Wi-Fi Access Point
  2. USB C
  3. Wi-Fi Access Point
  4. Bluetooth is also possible, however the ZV-E1 manual refers vaguely to the ZV-E10 without providing a URL, page number or section number.

Wi-Fi Access Point

The relevent manual section is here.

  1. Use camera menu
    MENUNetwork1Wi-FiWi-Fi ConnectOn
  2. MENUNetwork3Cnct./PC RemotePC Remote FunctionPC RemoteOn
    Once connected, the bottom of the display will show, in a very small font, the SSID connected to and the camera's MAC address.
  3. Optional: to see the userid and password access authentication, use camera menu
    MENUNetwork7Access Authen. Info

Now Complete the connection.

USB C

The relevent manual section is here.

  1. Use the camera menu to connect to the same SSID as the computer is attached to:
    MENUNetwork1Wi-FiWi-Fi ConnectOn
  2. Use camera menu:
    MENUNetwork1Cnct./PC RemotePC Remote FunctionPC RemoteOn
  3. If a message about access authentication should appear on the camera, select [Access Authen. Info].
  4. If no access authentication message appears, verify the following settings:
    MENUNetwork7Network OptionAccess Authen. SettingsAccess Authen.On
    MENUNetwork7Network OptionAccess Authen. Info
  5. Complete the connection.

Wi-Fi Direct

I prefer connecting via a Wi-Fi access point or a USB C cable. I am generally unwilling to use Wi-Fi Direct because it disconnects my computer from the Internet, unless the computer also has a wired Ethernet connection, or it supports two simultaneous Wi-Fi connections.

The only time I would use Wi-Fi Direct is when no Wi-Fi access point is available, and a USB C cable would be impractical.

  1. MENUNetworkCnct./PC RemotePC Remote FunctionWi-Fi Direct Info.
  2. Click the network icon on the computer screen (bottom right on Windows, top right on Mac) and select the SSID displayed on the camera from the list that is displayed.
  3. Use the SSID and password displayed on the camera to establish a Wi-Fi connection between the computer and the camera.
  4. Complete the connection.

Completing the Connection

Regardless of how you connect the computer to the camera, you must launch Imaging Edge Remote at this time and double-click on your camera from the list of cameras that appears.

If the name of the camera does not appear, click Refresh.

For both types of Wi-Fi access, you will need to authenticate using the user name and password displayed on the camera.

Confirm that the fingerprint displayed on the computer matches the one displayed on the camera, then click [Connect].

Once the menu is displayed, pressing the Fn button moves to the next menu item.

  • Push to the right of the round wheel to select a menu item.
  • Push the center button within the round wheel to view options.
  • Push the at the top of the round wheel to move to the preceding choice, and push at the bottom to move to the next choice.
  • Push to the left to back up.

Wow!

💕

The Sony ZV-E1 is a much better video camera than the Sony A7iii and the Lumix S5ii. The prime lens is not hurting things either.

Chroma Subsampling

Chroma subsampling is a type of compression that reduces the color information in a signal in favor of luminance data. This reduces bandwidth without significantly affecting picture quality.

A video signal is split into two different aspects: luminance information and color information. Luminance, or luma for short, defines most of the picture since contrast is what forms the shapes that you see on the screen.

For example, a black and white image will not look less detailed than a color picture. Color information, chrominance, or simply chroma is important as well, but has less visual impact.

Chroma subsampling can reduce file sizes up to 50%.

Maximum Video Length

Sony shows the video data rates for various camera settings in the ZV-E1 help guide.

The Sony help guide is written in a highly compressed format, so it is hard to read. The next 2 sections show an expanded version of the relevant details.

Mbps is approximately "a million bits per second", while MBps is approximately "a million bytes per second". The difference between bits and bytes is approximately a factor of ten (one order of magnitude).

256 GB means 256 million kilobytes, not 256 billion bits.

To be completely accurate, when kilo is used as a prefix for digital units of measure, it means 1024, not 1000. Similarly, mega means 10242 (1,048,576), and giga means 10243 (1,073,741,824).

So, 150 MBps is about ten times the data rate of 150 Mbps, and 256 GB is about ten times more storage than 256 Gb.

The following settings can be established as documented in the Sony Help Guide.

3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8-bit)

  • 59.94p (150 Mbps)
  • 50p (150 Mbps)
  • 29.97p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps)
  • 25p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps)
  • 23.98p (100 Mbps/60 Mbps)

3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit)

  • 59.94p (200 Mbps)
  • 50p (200 Mbps)
  • 29.97p (140 Mbps)
  • 25p (140 Mbps)
  • 23.98p (100 Mbps)

Computing Maximum Recording Time

I was interested in knowing how long a video recording could be before it filled the SanDisk 256GB Extreme microSDXC UHS-I memory card that I put in the camera.

Currently, my ZV-E1 camera is set for XAVC S 4K (3840x2160) at 59.94 fps (150M bits per second; color 4:2:0 8-bit), with 48 kHz stereo audio at 1519 kbps. A 41-second video used 832 MB, which means each second of video consumes approximately 20 MB.

The longest video the camera could shoot before this memory card becomes completely full is therefore 213 minutes, or 3.5 hours. However, if the Smallrig cage is used, this would have to be done as videos no more than about 10 minutes long, with pauses to cool down the camera.

I tested shooting at 30p/100 Mbps/30 Mbps, and found no heat issues after a 30-minute recording. This was set from two menu items under MENU / Shooting / Image Quality/Rec / Movie Settings:

  • Rec Frame Rate: 30p
  • Record Setting: 100M 4:2:0 8bit

Flexible ISO slog LUT

I am interested shooting with 10-bit color and the flexible ISO S-Log LUT. The Sony Help Guide does not say too much. More to come...

Videos

Really great Sony ZV-E1 tutorial videos on YouTube:



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