Vlogging Basics with the Sony ZV-1 Digital Camera

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Vlogging—video blogging—has become a powerful way to share your personal experiences with people around the world, and the Sony ZV-1 has established itself as one of the most powerful tools for vloggers who want sharp video and clean audio to reach their followers. Designed for the vlogger, the ZV-1 is tiny and lightweight, which makes it ideal for a vlogging camera, but within its small chassis lives a powerhouse of image capture for video and stills that won’t leave you wanting. Combine high-quality image capture with ease of functionality, and a sweet flip-out viewscreen that allows you to concentrate on your subject matter and not get lost in the technical aspects of your camera, and you end up with the ZV-1—built for vlogging.

Sony ZV-1 Digital Camera
Sony ZV-1 Digital Camera

The Basics

Vlogging isn’t talking into a webcam or being part of a remote meeting for work. It is, in many ways, a personal diary of your life and thoughts that you are sharing with friends and people you’ve never met. While you could easily turn on your camera and capture your life and thoughts as stream of consciousness, it is more than likely you are going to spend some time editing your “video blog” into something more coherent and, hopefully, creative.

Schedule

One important aspect of keeping an active blog of any kind is keeping to a release schedule, and having fresh content to release as you expand and maintain your audience. So, it becomes important to have a fair bit of content ready to go because, as we all know, life happens and gets in the way of our plans. Granted, you will want to keep your content timely, but ensuring you can deliver to your audience a new episode, especially when there is nothing topical going on, is a key to success.

Editing

The ZV-1 records 4K as MP4 using the XAVC S codec with a data rate up to 100 Mb/s, and HD in AVCHD at up to 24 Mb/s, both of which should be easy for your NLE (non-linear editing) system to handle, so you aren’t going to need any special hardware to work with your footage. It captures to SD cards—SDHC, SDHC, or Sony’s own Memory Stick Duo Hybrid cards.

Production Value

Another key to success with vlogging is going to be the quality of your picture and your audio. High-quality picture and sound are of utmost importance here, especially if your segments are longer. Someone may be willing to tolerate five seconds of bad picture or sound, but it becomes very difficult to keep my attention for several minutes if I can’t see what you are showing me or, worse, I can’t hear what you are saying. I’ve got too many things competing for my time. This is where the ZV-1 and its 4K resolution and nifty shooting features really shine. If you want to see an example of what I am referring to, check out this video made entirely using the ZV-1 by B&H’s Jake Estes.

Lens

An integrated 35mm equivalent 24 to 70mm lens is built into the camera and covers a popular focal-length range. Fast at f/1.8 at the wide end, it is a little slower at the long end, but not a bad tradeoff considering how small and lightweight the lens is. The lens features a manual zoom ring that lets you step between five common focal lengths—24, 28, 35, 50, and 70mm—by rotating the zoom control ring, so you don’t have to stop shooting to get to the focal length you want. Additionally, the lens supports the camera’s autofocus system, and works in conjunction with the camera’s more creative functions such as background defocus.

Audio

Built into the top of the camera is an unassuming microphone. Hard to see, it offers a fair amount of rejection of background audio so you can clearly hear your on-camera subject, usually yourself, clearly. A windscreen is included, to help prevent distracting audio artifacts caused by the wind rushing over the microphone. Surprisingly, or perhaps not considering the amount of time Sony put into making this camera, this built-in mic delivers excellent audio, and you can always use external mics using the built-in 3.5mm mic jack.

4K

Yes, 4K is everywhere these days, and for digital cine production, even higher resolutions are being used, but with vlogging, your video blog will most likely be streamed over the Internet and Wi-Fi, so 4K origination really is more than enough—especially since, in many places, streaming will be limited to 1080p or lower resolution. The ZV-1 does shoot in 4K UHD, as well as Full HD, and its sensor has more than enough resolution to shoot in 4K UHD, plus it has an unlimited record time, so as long as you have battery power and space on your memory card, you don’t have to worry about recording time limits.

Storytelling

When you come down to it, vlogging is just another form of storytelling, and not all storytelling takes place at 24 (or 30) fps. With vlogging, you aren’t sitting around a campfire under the stars, with your audience paying close attention because there isn’t anything else to do. Nowadays there are lots of distractions, so it is important to have as many storytelling tools ready as possible. Here is another area where the ZV-1 excels. In addition to 4K 30, you can shoot in HD at 120 fps. However, when you want to slow down the action even more, the ZV-1 has a high frame mode, and you can shoot stunningly sharp images at 240, 480, and even up to 960 fps, which means if you normally shoot at 24 fps, you are slowing the action down 40 times. The images are clean and the motion almost agonizingly slow, and incredibly smooth. It’s an amazing tool that is literally in the palm of your hand.

Background Defocus

This is a truly impressive feature, and it does exactly what it says. Set up your shot, and normally the camera will make adjustments to keep you and the background in focus, but when you want, a simple press of a dedicated button will adjust the camera to render the background out of focus while leaving your camera subject in focus. It is a pretty cool trick and can really add to the production value of your vlogging segment.

Accessorize

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity would seem almost a requirement for vlogging, and it’s such an advantage to be able to transfer your footage on the fly, or set your camera on a tripod so you don’t have to hold it while talking. Of course, a handle to hold the camera while you record yourself would be nice, as well. Sony has taken a Bluetooth remote control and built it into a comfortable handle that also works as a tabletop tripod. The Sony Vlogger Accessory Kit includes an SD card with the remote handle, just to sweeten the pot.

Sony Vlogger Accessory Kit
Sony Vlogger Accessory Kit


Signing Off

Remember to thank your viewers for following you and watching, and that you hope to see them next time. Thanks for reading, and if you are looking to get into vlogging, I hope this article has given you some useful pointers to get you off on the right foot.

Please share your experiences with vlogging in the Comments section, below.

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