Sony Camera Buying Guide for Content Creators

Sony Camera Buying Guide for Content Creators

We live in fortunate times because there are no bad cameras. Modern technology has advanced to the point where practically every camera—from a smartphone to professional mirrorless—can be used to create pro-quality imagery. However, some cameras are better than others for certain purposes. Sony knows this, which is why the brand has developed an extensive line of cameras to cover the needs of different users. Let’s take a closer look at which cameras are best for content creators.

Key Features

Content creation covers an incredibly wide range of productions. It could mean everything from creating short videos for TikTok to working on independent film productions. Fortunately, there is a camera for all those instances. There is also a lot of overlap in needs, so let’s break down the key features to look for in a camera.

  • Video Resolutions and Frame Rates

  • Ergonomics and Control Scheme

  • Creator-Focused Features

There are also some features that provide excellent performance in every camera on the list today.

  • Autofocus

  • Advanced Picture Profiles

  • Image Quality

  • Fully Articulating Screens

Sony’s hybrid autofocus system has been outstanding and with the newer subject recognition features, the system is now incredibly reliable for video. All the cameras have log profiles for advanced color grading workflows and fully articulating screens, make monitoring easy. Although image quality may differ, each camera is among the top of its class.

Let’s simplify this selection quite a bit and focus on these more generalized users:

  • Short-Form Social Media Content

  • Long-Form Online Content

  • Freelance Video Production

This guide breaks down the style of camera users would benefit from, as well as important features to which to pay attention.

Short-Form Social Content

YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, TikTok… you know what we mean by short-form content. For quick hits you could post basically every day, you need a camera that will help you capture high-quality video and be with you almost anywhere you go.

For this type of use we are going to emphasize form factor alongside image quality. Any degree of wireless image transfer will help, since most operations will take place on a smartphone after capture.

The best option is obvious for this one, mainly thanks to its form factor—the ZV-1 II.

Sony ZV-1 II
Sony ZV-1 II

Able to slip into a pocket and still have all the top-level video functions you would expect from a Sony camera, the ZV-1 II is the ultimate vlogging camera. It also checks the key boxes with a high-quality imaging system, compact size, and tons of features that make shooting easy for newcomers and veterans alike.

The 18-50mm equivalent lens is wider than the previous generation, making framing up those selfies even easier. The 20MP 1" sensor is quite large for this size of camera, as well, which can provide some shallow depth-of-field effects at the lens’s maximum aperture of f/1.8. UHD 4K up to 30p is then going to guarantee you are working with sharp, detailed video.

The camera also makes it easier to get common shots and looks. A Bokeh Switch takes the guesswork out of camera settings to optimize for shallow depth of field. Combine that with a Face Priority Auto Exposure and you’ll be sure that your subject is in focus and properly lit. A Cinematic Vlog setting provides a crop that creates that ultra-widescreen effect akin to being at the cinema. Meanwhile, a Product Showcase setting makes it easy to switch focus between yourself and an item you lift up to show the camera.

Having all these vlogger-specific features is what sets the ZV-1 II apart from your average camera.

Other features of the camera include a three-capsule microphone that can help capture a voice or the environment depending on what you need at the time. There is a Multi Interface Shoe that supports external mics without the need for any cables, as well as a 3.5mm mic input.

Sony ZV-E10
Sony ZV-E10

This is a lot of camera in a small package. If you want more, you’ll need to look at something bigger, such as a ZV-E10 mirrorless.

Long-Form Online Content

It is an interesting world where “long form” begins at less than 10 minutes, but your average YouTube video is now much longer than the short clips consumed on social media platforms. This type of video requires a bit more work and, assuming you aren’t doing everything in one long take, some post-production knowledge to get the best possible product. With a different workflow and a slightly more thoughtful process, you’ll want a camera that allows you to do more when you want but stays out of your way when you need something quick.

For this we recommend something that sounds similar to the last pick but offers so much more—the ZV-E1.

Sony ZV-E1
Sony ZV-E1

The ZV-E1 is a full-fledged full-frame mirrorless camera, as opposed to the ZV-1 II’s point-and-shoot-like design. The interchangeable lens system and the large sensor allow for complete control over the look of the image and the ability to create images with dreamy, shallow depth of field. It also has the latest processing, which means you can capture smooth slow motion in high-resolution 4K at up to 120 fps. Another big improvement over the ZV-1 II is that the camera incorporates an advanced image stabilization system.

The ability to use a ton of different lenses is a game changer compared to a point-and-shoot, but honestly, that topic is too large to mention here. The vast selection that Sony offers is enough to make sure that nearly any use case is covered by something. Third-party lenses flesh out any other needs.

A reason we like the ZV-E1 for this use is that it takes the helpful functions of the ZV-1, such as the Product Showcase mode, and kicks things up a notch with its AI processing. AI-based Framing Stabilizer and Auto Framing, combined with facial recognition, take the guesswork out of your shooting. The camera can track and capture a subject automatically, even as they move through the frame—all without needing to handle the camera. Breathing Compensation and in-camera Time-lapse creation make this feel like a professional tool, as well.

Compared to a more traditional mirrorless camera, the ZV-E1 is much more compact. Considering the full-frame sensor, this camera is tiny. It’s nice to have a camera that is easy to always have on you without being weighed down.

An alternative worth mentioning here is the a7 IV. This camera offers many of the same benefits of the ZV-E1 with its 24MP full-frame sensor and mirrorless design. However, it comes from a photo-centric background and the DSLR-like design with EVF allows it to be used for photography much more easily than the ZV-E1. If you switch between photo and video more often, you might want to consider the a7 IV instead.

Or, if the ZV-E1 is a bit too expensive for your budget you can go with the smaller ZV-E10, which revolves around an APS-C sensor to split the difference between a compact camera and full-frame system. It does give up the higher quality 10-bit formats but is an outstanding performer.

Freelance Video Production

The stakes have been raised if you made it to this section. Freelance video production means you are getting clients and work and therefore need something a bit more than Sony’s ZV line. While those are very capable cameras, they are tuned to the needs of more everyday content creators and not the needs of a serious production. Considerations like reliability, shooting times, advanced functions, and audio capabilities become critical components and not just nice-to-haves.

When it comes to professional video, you can’t go wrong with anything in Sony’s FX series of cinema cameras, although we would recommend two in particular—the FX30 and FX3.

Sony FX30
Sony FX30

These two cameras make the cut to provide a couple of different budget options and your other equipment. The FX30 is the more affordable option with its Super35mm/APS-C sensor and the FX3 is the high-end choice, with its full-frame sensor. They both have in-body image stabilization for smoother handheld footage.

These cameras look exactly the same, which is great since they offer precisely the same features with differences only in the imaging pipeline. The FX3 has a full-frame 12MP sensor and the FX30 has a 26MP APS-C sensor. Both offer similar specs, with the video quality of 10-bit 4K up to 120p along with raw output over the full-size HDMI port and plenty of additional features.

Among the real reasons to go with the FX series is that it is designed for video production needs. These cameras have full-sized ports, there is an array of 1/4"-20 threads around the body for directly mounting accessories, and they can come with a very secure top XLR handle for professional audio.

A big distinction of the FX line compared to the ZV and Alpha cameras has to do with the resolution and frame-rate options. The FX3 and FX30 (and now the a7S III via firmware V3.00) can record in DCI 4K at 24.00 fps. This is a cinema frame rate and format that is found on the higher-end FX6, FX9, BURANO, and VENICE cameras. It makes the FX3 and FX30 better suited for use in productions where other cameras and formats are already being used and can be critical for maintaining a proper workflow.

Another change comes with active cooling. The FX line has a built-in fan that will ensure extended long times are possible without overheating. Long shoots and unpredictable weather can ruin a shoot if your camera can’t keep going, so this is a huge boost for reliability.

These are outstanding cinema cameras and are a popular choice for many professional film productions.

Sony FX3
Sony FX3

While the FX30 and FX3 are the ideal options, nothing should stop you from choosing other cameras in Sony’s lineup. The Alpha series brings a hybrid design, should you also need a strong photo camera as well as stellar video. The a9 III even offers a global shutter that will help deal with challenging lighting conditions and action much better than the rolling shutters of the FX and other Alpha cameras. The a1 and a7R V offer 8K resolution if you want the most detail possible. You can’t go wrong with practically any camera today.

If you still need help finding a camera that is just right, please feel free to reach out to our expert sales staff via chat, phones, or by stopping by the B&H SuperStore in NYC. Or feel free to share your own thoughts or questions in the Comments section, below!