Sony introduced Wednesday the ZV-E1, its first pro-level (35mm equivalent) full-frame mirrorless interchangeabe lens camera that comes loaded with a host of AI video processing features optimized for vlogging and independent content creators.

The Sony ZV-E1 will be available for a $2,199 suggested retail price starting in May, with a bundle option including a compact full-frame 28-60mm F4.5-5.6 zoom lens for $2,499.99.

The ZV-E1 includes Sony’s Bionz XR processor and a separate dedicated AI chip. This drives the autofocus system and AI features to support vloggers.

The ZV-E1 body design styling is similar in look and feel to the ZV-E10 before it. This includes a side-opening vari-angle, 3-inch 1.07M-dot LCD with touch-screen functionality while recording and a content-creator-friendly grip. It is equipped with one SD card slot, a microHDMI port (RAW output not supported) and USB-C port.

The camera also shares technical elements from other popular Sony camera models including at its core a 4K/60p (no crop) video system based largely on Sony As7III’s 12-megapixel full-frame image sensor offering low-light benefits. A firmware update to add 4K/120p (no pixel binning) capture is expected in the near future.

For natural light work, the ZV-E1 offers more than 15 stops of dynamic range and ISO range from 80-102,400, which can be extended up to 409,600. Picture profiles with assignable Look Up Tables (LUTs) are available to create specific looks when shooting in modes other than the preset Log modes.

As mentioned, one of the biggest benefits is the camera’s AI image processing system that acts as a self-contained production team.

The camera’s AI-processing technology incorporates new “AI human recognition,” that combines Multiple Face Recognition, Auto Framing, Framing Stabilizer and Auto Microphone directivity.

Real-time Recognition AF system works with AI processing and subject form data to accurately recognize body movement. Sony said human pose estimation technology uses learned human forms and postures to keep the focus on not just eyes, but body and head position with high precision, even as the subject faces away from the camera. The AI processing unit can differentiate between multiple subjects having different postures and faces to reliably track a subject various situations, including where a subject’s face is tilted, in shadow, or backlit. In addition to Human and Animal tracking, the AI processing unit also now recognizes Birds, Insects, Cars/Trains and Airplanes for shooting sharp stills and video under a wide range of conditions.

The camera’s Multiple Face Recognition automatically adjusts bokeh and focus on multiple recognized faces when shooting group selfies or group portraits to prevent issues like faces in the foreground being in focus and faces behind them being soft. Breathing Compensation suppresses image shifts when focusing to maintain a consistent angle of view and achieve smooth focusing effects, Sony said.

“Real-time Tracking can be activated by specifying the subject and half-pressing the shutter button. The camera will then automatically track the subject, leaving the user free to concentrate on framing and composition,” Sony said. “The new camera has a fast Hybrid AF for fast acquisition and tenacious tracking as well detailed AF settings for ultimate precision and control.”

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For shooting on the move, the ZV-E1 includes AI-based Auto Framing for video, which can be used in recording interviews, music performances, cooking and other situations. The subject recognition technology automatically frames and crops the image to a desired level, keeping the subject prominently positioned at all times. Sony said the auto framing will continue to make adjustments even when the camera is mounted on a tripod keeping the subject in center frame as if shot by a human camera operator.

The ZV-E1 also includes five-axis in-body stabilization and gyro sensors with optimized algorithms capable of up to five-step stabilization. The system will work with a wide range of lenses, including E-mount lenses that do not have their own internal stabilization.

Sony said the camera’s Dynamic Active Mode stabilization is approximately 30% more effective than what Active Mode alone provides, for more easily taking smooth, stable footage while moving around. The ZV-E1 offers a Framing Stabilizer with advanced AI-based subject recognition in conjunction with the camera’s Dynamic Active Mode image stabilization to automatically keep constant the subject’s position in the frame.

For audio, the ZV-E1 features a high-performance three-capsule microphone with variable directivity for clear audio recordings. Directivity settings are available for front, all directions, and rear pick up to match different shooting conditions. Also, a first for the camera is automatic direction switching in line with face recognition, to make sound-optimized recordings on the fly. That way front or all direction directivity is automatically engaged in correlation with the subject recognition and tracking status.

Other audio features include a Multi Interface (MI) shoe with digital audio interface and mic and headphone jacks for expanded audio capabilities. The camera also comes with a windscreen to reduce noise from wind and other conditions.

In addition to 4K/60p recording at launch, the ZV-E1 captures up to FullHD 240p resolution (coming via firmware update) shooting in S-Log and in 10-bit 4:2:2 all-intra internally.

For live video streaming and webcam work, the ZV-E1 will support 4K/30p or FullHD/60p over a USB-C connected to a personal computer or smartphone.

To help Vloggers achieve a true cinematic look in their productions, the ZV-E1 has Cinematic Vlog Settings that provide an intuitive way of making videos that look like theatrical movies. Vloggers can choose an appropriate Look, Mood and AF transition speed, to achieve an overall cinematic feel that is further enhanced by a 24 fps frame rate and the widescreen (2.35:1) Cinemascope aspect ratio.

The ZV-E1 even features Sony’s proprietary S-Cinetone feature that produces a cinematic look out of the camera, no post-processing required. This is said to be based on Sony’s Cinema Line technology, and produces natural mid-tones for healthy-looking skin color with cinematic quality.

A selection of new Creative Looks makes it easy to create interesting appearances for stills and video right in the camera. Sony provides 10 “Creative Looks” presets that can be used as they are or customized. Newly added “My Image Style” activates Intelligent Auto or Scene Selection mode shooting, while icons on the touch-sensitive monitor enable direct adjustment of background bokeh, brightness, color tone and Creative Look effects.

Sony said that for in-camera editing, the ZV-E1 can capture 10-bit 4:2:2 using Long GOP or All Intra compression, with support for internal intra-frame recording and XAVC HS format recording with the MPEG-H HEVC/H.265 codec support.

Sony said the ZV-E1 even records image stabilization and camera rotation metadata that can be useful when editing in the free Catalyst Browse desktop application, paid Catalyst Prepare desktop application or plugin to precisely stabilize footage during editing. Lens breathing compensation also can be applied during editing.

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By Greg Tarr

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