mike gray sitting on a tree platform in bali

Cinematic Powerhouse: The Sony ZV-E1

Mike Gray

My name is Mike Gray and I'm a filmmaker from the UK, specialising in travel and tech content. As a filmmaker always on the move, my equipment must be capable of capturing high quality content in demanding situations yet be lightweight and portable.

As a long-term user of the FX3 and Alpha 7S III, I was excited when Sony announced the launch of the ZV-E1 with its impressive specs and compact body. Image quality, in-built stabilisation, low-light performance, and portability are all features I prioritise when choosing a camera, so I was looking forward to shooting with Sony’s latest addition to its Alpha line-up.

Taking the ZV-E1 around Bali was an exciting opportunity to test its features across a range of locations and conditions.

The camera has a compact and lightweight design that makes it easy to handle and fit in my camera bag. I’m impressed with how small the body is, weighing only 483g. This is a key feature for me as a travel filmmaker who needs to be agile and not weighed down. I like the LCD flip screen, which is great for when I’m filming myself, but also gives a full view of what I’m shooting even in awkward angles and tighter spaces making the shooting process more efficient. When shooting at the waterfall, I inverted the gimbal and camera to capture low to the ground shots and used some big rocks as foreground. With the angular and rotational LCD flip screen I could have full view of what I was shooting which made the process easy and fast.

mike gray holding his sony zv-e1 in front of a waterfall

Despite being the smallest and lightest full frame camera, the ZV-E1 makes no compromises on image quality. The high dynamic range and Sony’s S-Log3 captures everything sharply and vividly from volcanoes to rice fields and waterfalls, allowing me to bring my stories to life exactly how I want.

I enjoyed using the advanced autofocus with AI detection which works with accuracy and speed. This means I can focus on capturing the shots I want without worrying about losing focus or missing the action. The AI tracking feature follows the subject’s movements across the frame, ensuring focus is kept no matter where the subject goes - this was crucial for shooting action scenes like the dirt bikes on the beach where there was a lot of fast-paced movement.

mike gray talking to a man sitting on a motorbike

The in-built stabilisation was also great for these scenes. Typically, I use a gimbal when shooting but, in some circumstances, I like to shoot handheld, especially in a fast-paced scene where I want to convey the adventure and energy to the audience. The ZV-E1’s stabilisation capabilities allow me to create smooth, cinematic footage even in the most demanding shooting conditions. To shoot the dirt bikes on the beach, I was sprinting next to the bike, or on the back of another bike riding parallel. Naturally given the speed of the action, there were bumps and unwanted jolted movements, however the ZV-E1’s stabilisation counteracted this to create smooth, cinematic footage.

Throughout the shoot, I used the ZV-E1 with the FE 20mm f/1.8 G, FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM.

I liked using the 20mm for its wideangle perspective. Many of Bali’s locations are vast and best shot with a wideangle view, the lens allowed me to capture all elements of the scene including low-light conditions thanks to its wide aperture. We shot a campfire scene at blue hour to test out how the ZV-E1 can perform in dimly lit environments; paired with the 20mm, the performance was great, and we created an epic blue hour sequence without sacrificing image quality.

I love the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM for its versatility to shoot landscape shots and tight close-ups. This lens allows me creative flexibility and freedom when shooting to capture a range of focal lengths to ensure sequences remain engaging.

And lastly, I used the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM the most; it’s my go-to lens from my camera bag. The wideangle coverage is ideal for landscape and travel shots and it has great low-light capabilities to support the low-light performance of the ZV-E1. This lens is robust and weather-sealed, making it an obvious option for shooting the waterfall where there was water spray and splashing.

mike gray framing a shot of a waterfall with his sony zv-e1

When I'm shooting, I always use ND (Neutral Density) filters. Using ND filters allows me a lot of creative control over exposure, so I can shoot in harsh lighting conditions with a shallow depth of field which helps create a more cinematic look. ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens so I can use a wider aperture, a slower shutter speed or a combination of both without overexposing the image. They are a must-have accessory to achieve a cinematic look.

In summary, I really enjoyed shooting with the ZV-E1. The image quality, advanced autofocus with AI detection and stabilisation makes it a high-performance camera, capable of demanding productions. While the unparalleled compactness, size and light weight make this an easy choice for filmmakers needing a light setup.

mike gray sitting down looking across the balinese landscape

Sony’s commitment to image quality continues to fuel the innovation of their camera ecosystem, while the needs of filmmakers influences the key design features of their cameras. The ZV-E1 encapsulates this game-changing balance between high image quality and portability making it a reliable and versatile camera for filmmakers like me who demand the best image quality in a compact setup.

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