If the extensive marketing for the Sony ZV-E10 is anything to go by, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a camera suitable only for vloggers and people making high-quality TikTok dance videos. Well, it is but it’s also so much more than that. Sony took a lot of the most desirable stuff from their Alpha line of high-end, professional cameras and shrunk it down into a compact form factor that isn’t much bigger than your average gaming mouse.
I’m no expert in cameras and I’m certainly not a vlogger but after spending a reasonable amount of time with this ZV-E10, I can’t deny the proposition and value that it offers content creators of any kind. I’ve also learned so much more about cameras, photography and video concepts and workflows that have indeed made me a better content creator.
Starting at $1089 for the camera body alone and $1289 with a 16-50mm kit lens, the ZV-E10 isn’t cheap. But for context, my iPhone 13 Pro Max costs $800 more and is perfectly suitable for vlogging too though it can’t match the picture quality coming out of the ZV-E10. That’s thanks to an APS-C sensor which is ten times the size of what’s in my iPhone as well as better lenses that do a better job of gathering light.
Of course, you can’t make phone calls or text inappropriate emoji’s to your friends from the ZV-E10 like you can with a smartphone not to mention you won’t always have the camera with you like you do your phone. So for most people, a high-end smartphone will be a better purchase but for everyone else who wants to take content creation seriously, there are a lot of compelling reasons to get the ZV-E10.
Design and build
It’s quite amusing how small the ZV-E10 is, especially when you realize what it’s capable of. It measures just 4.6 inches wide, 2.6-inches tall and 1.8 inches thick and weighs just shy of 400gms. It fits easily in most handbags or even large trouser pockets and I was concerned about how easy it would be to hold since I have large hands. Turns out that was never a problem thanks to the overall ergonomics. This includes a textured handgrip on one side that you hold with your right hand, leaving your left hand free to hold the lens for stability. It’s still heavier than even my gargantuan iPhone Max but in a reassuring way that made me more deliberate in my use.
The small size also makes it easy to hold backwards in true Vlogging style, whether you are holding it by the edges or cradling it in your palm. However, this can get tricky depending on the size of the lens and whether the articulating screen is flipped out but you get used to it with practice. I still feel really self-conscious vlogging myself out in public but I’m just camera shy.
Sony also sells a $200 add-on grip/ tripod accessory that makes holding the camera so much easier. It screws onto the bottom of the ZV-10 and has varying tilt and swivel angles to help keep you in the frame. What’s nice is that it’s got a Bluetooth remote with key functions for recording, shooting still photos or activating the background blur. It’s also a mini-tripod stand for when you need your hands free to say, demo a product.
I mentioned lenses and that’s significant because, unlike your smartphone which has fixed lenses, the ZV-E10 can swap out its lenses depending on what you need. As an interchangeable lens camera using Sony’s patented E mount system, with a simple twist and turn, you can use over 60 different Sony lenses. That means you can have separate lenses for Zoom, portraits, landscapes, optical stabilisation, and close-up macros – whatever your creative vision requires. I should note that some of these lenses cost more than the camera but you can look for third-party lenses that meet the E Mount spec.
My review unit comes with the bundled 16–50mm variable focal length lens with an F3.5-5.6 aperture and Optical Image Stabilisation. Those numbers won’t mean anything to a lot of people but suffice to say, it’s a very effective lens to learn the basics. The focal length determines how close or wide the picture can get while the aperture determines how much light and conversely, how much creamy background blur you can achieve.
Additionally, the much larger APS-C sensor inside the ZV-E10 in combination with the right lenses produces gorgeous 24MP stills and video up to 4K 30fps. A smartphone does all of these things using fancy AI and computation but the result will never be as smooth and natural as what the ZV-E10 can achieve when used correctly. As you can imagine, I had a lot to learn in order to get great pictures out of the ZV-E10 compared to the ease of just whipping out my phone, pointing and shooting.
It’s clear that our phones do a lot to compensate for our lack of photography skills. Sony is aware of this and the ZV-E10 mimics modern smartphones with some built-in tools like the instant Bokeh at the touch of a button which does all the hard work of setting the camera in the right way to capture blurry background images. It also has a lot of smart autofocus, tracking and processing features that do a lot of what modern smartphones can do as well if not better.
When it comes to video, the ZV-E10 also shoots in HDR video with a number of Sony picture profiles for you to choose from. If 4K is too rich for your blood, the camera deftly handles 1080p FHD at 24, 30, 60 and 120fps. So whether you are shooting a vlog of yourself in a park or capturing your kid smashing a pinata in slow motion, the camera’s got you covered. You can access the dedicated slow-motion mode, or S&Q, with the touch of a button as well.
Making the vlogging experience even better is the vari-angle articulating 3-inch LCD TFT screen on the back that acts as your viewfinder. This screen not only flips out so you can see yourself as you vlog but can also rotate and tilt to a great degree which makes shooting from high or low angles a breeze. The screen isn’t the sharpest thing in the world but it’s perfectly adequate for taking and reviewing shots.
Controls and usability
And speaking of the learning curve, one thing that wasn’t as easy to figure out was the myriad of buttons and knobs littered on the ZV-E10’s grip. Spoilt by the simplicity of my iPhone, the ZV-E10 seemed like operating a WWII B-52 Bomber. But after a couple of days, I did get the basics though I was aware of a whole layer of customization that I never got into.
The two most prominent buttons are the Photo and Movie recording buttons on top of the camera. I didn’t like that there were two separate buttons for essentially the same thing and I often started recording video instead of taking a still. I did like that a light press of the photo shutter initiates automatic focusing which you can then follow by a full press to snap the picture.
There’s also a handy zoom lever and a Still/Movie/S&Q button that lets you easily switch between still images, normal videos and Slow & Quick Motion modes. And one of the key buttons is the C1 background blurring — colloquially called ‘bokeh’ — which makes your subject stand out from the background similar to portrait mode on phones.
The back of the grip has even more buttons and dials that give you access to a wealth of camera functions and the main menu. However, navigating the menus is a truly tedious experience which is further exasperated by the lack of touch controls on that big flip-out LCD screen. You are forced to endure a number of button presses to navigate the menus and just backing out of one page can be a nightmare.
I have no idea why such a modern consumer camera wouldn’t have a touch-enabled menu where competitors from Canon and Fujifilm have it. The most you can do with it is touch to focus on subjects when taking stills or recording video. It seems to me that the thought process is you will venture into the menu almost never after setting up the camera with all your preferences because returning to change anything can be a long-winded exercise.
Storage, Battery and connectivity
Unlike my iPhone, the ZV-E10 doesn’t come with built-in storage which is something that you should be prepared for when you buy. It’s a thing with most of these mirrorless cameras though I’m not entirely sure why in this day and age. So, you’ll need to shell out some more cash for an SD card which isn’t terribly expensive and offers you several different sizes from 2GB to 1TB. I had a 16GB card that worked for the purpose of testing but if you are serious about 4K video, you need at least a 128GB card or you’ll keep running out of space mid-shoot.
After you’re done shooting, transferring your media is as easy as removing the SD Card and plugging it into your computer. You can also just plug the camera into your computer using a USB Type-C cable which by the way, is also how you can charge the camera’s battery. Transfer speeds were decent and the camera appears on your computer the same way a USB flash drive would. Alternatively, you can use wireless transfer to your smartphone using the Sony Imaging Edge app for your phone. This allows you to quickly post content.
The connection can be finicky though, often cutting out or just refusing to connect to my phone. Restarting the camera would fix the issue but it was often frustrating for the connection to fail midway through copying files over. The Imaging Edge software also allows you to control your camera remotely via your computer or smartphone. There’s an obvious latency between what you see on your device but it’s still pretty cool to be able to keep the camera at a distance and use your phone to start recording.
In terms of battery, the ZV-E10 uses small, removable batteries that Sony says last for up to 125 minutes of continuous video or 440 shots. I never used the camera that long in a single sitting but I did notice that when shooting video, the battery drained uncomfortably fast. If you’re into vlogging, keep some spare batteries on hand. Sometimes 20-30% battery is depleted after just 15-20 minutes of shooting 4K video and taking photos.
Photos and video
The Sony ZV-E10 is squarely aimed at content creators who want to shoot great 4K video on the go with little fuss and it delivers on that promise and then some. I am somewhat of a creator myself, building my tech-based Instagram profile (shameless self-promotion). While I don’t vlog, short-form video is booming across social media and the production quality is getting insanely high. This makes the ZV-E10 truly attractive because of the quality it delivers. If you look closely at my feed, it’s really easy to see the content created with the ZV-E10 vs my iPhone. Shots just look so much more professional and filmic, if you get my drift.
I put that down to the much larger sensor, better lens and supreme auto-focus. Sony is renowned for its Autofocus and the ZV-E10 has all the goodies. Real-time Automatic Eye Autofocus, Face-priority auto exposure, Product review mode, AI-based subject recognition tracking algorithms. All this really means is that the ZV-E10 will always keep your subjects in focus when shooting video. It’s impressive how fast the camera can focus, shifting from one object to another or how sticky it is in tracking a moving subject.
I prefer the pictures to do the talking and please forgive the nerd that I am who spent most of the time taking beauty shots of different tech I’m reviewing. I think the results speak for themselves and I noticed a gradual improvement in my photos the more I learned different aspects like aperture, focal distance, ISO and shutter speed.
Sony ZV-E10 Sample images
And speaking of recording video, it’s disappointing that the camera can’t do 4K 60fps like my iPhone 13 Pro but 30fps is sufficient for vlogging. When you start digging into the Sony picture profiles, you can very quickly mimic the feel of something produced by professionals with no fuss. Of course, with support for profiles like S-Log, S-Cinetone and HLG, you get even greater control for colour grading in your own particular style. However, the camera doesn’t do a very good job of exposing these profiles and how to use them. Thank God for YouTube.
Sony ZV-E10 Sample Video
As good as the video capture on the ZV-E10 is, it’s all mute (pun intended) if the audio sucks. The ZV-E10 comes with an impressive Directional 3-Capsule Mic on the top of the camera that does a great job capturing voices even in windy situations. Sony includes a cute, furry windshield that helps cut out background noise. Impressively, whether you are in front of the camera or behind it, the microphone performs excellently. If you need something more precise, you can either plug in an external mic using the audio-in port on the side or mount a compatible one on top using the Multi Interface shoe.
Have you seen all these streamers using expensive, pro cameras for their streaming setup? That usually requires a whole lot of shenanigans with fancy Elgato 4K capture cards, HDMI inputs and audio mixers to set up correctly. Thank heavens then that the ZV-E10 can stream video with a simple USB-C cable and no additional software or hardware interfaces.
Just head into the menu, activate USB Streaming, plug it into your computer or laptop via the USB cable and you’re good to go. It’s amazing that such a thing has taken so long to appear on a modern camera. You get crystal clear 4K video with the same blurry background feature at the touch of a button and unlike the software blur, this one won’t create wonky artifacts when you are wearing headphones or moving about; something streamers obviously do.
I tested this on my work Apple MacBook Pro 16 and it worked flawlessly. Sony clearly recognizes that anyone who vlogs would very likely be interested in doing live streams of some sort and this function alone makes the ZV-E10 a smart buy. There’s been a huge surge in gamers buying webcams from Dell, Razer and Logitech but those simply can’t compete with the image output of the ZV-E10. What’s more, you can change the lenses to craft your very own flavour of stream — something webcams just can’t do.
What you won’t find in the manuals
Something you won’t find in any of the documentation around the ZV-E10 that I learned over my time with it is the mindset shift required to work with a dedicated camera. Smartphones have pretty much spoiled us with their accessibility, convenience and computational magic that smoothes out many of our amateur skills. But using the ZV-E10 required a different level of intentionality and presence of mind. Sure, you can also just point it and shoot but to get really great results, you need to slow down and plan before executing.
Hell, even starting it up requires patience as the camera powers up and extends the lens which you’ll then need to remove the lens cap. Then, you have to put the camera in the right mode by turning one of the physical dials, making sure your settings are right and flipping out the screen to use as a viewfinder. That whole process feels truly snail-paced compared to using your phone. So initially, I wasn’t so keen to use the ZV-E10, especially for those quick, spur of the moment shoots. Additionally, trying to record vertical video for Instagram or Tiktok was more challenging given the camera’s ergonomics. Even with the handle accessory, it still wasn’t as comfortable as holding my phone in portrait mode.
But at the end of the day, the ZV-E10 forced me to really think ahead of time about what I was creating. By dedicating a conscious effort to use the camera, I made sure it was worth it by planning my shots, ensuring a good composition, and ensuring proper lighting before I even turned the camera on. This has had the net effect of making me a much better photographer. And even now having returned the camera to Sony, I am still very mindful when shooting on my iPhone.
Should you buy it?
The Sony ZV-E10 isn’t just a vlogger’s camera. This is a camera for content creators of any kind, be it a social media influencer, a YouTuber or a Twitch streamer. At $1200 and with the power of AfterPay, this is truly a fantastic semi-professional camera to upgrade from your smartphone. The secret sauce is in the lenses and with so many great options available, you can start creating some truly stunning work. And as your needs grow, you can move to a bigger camera system like the Sony Alpha 7 line and carry over the lenses you were using on the ZV-E10.
I like that it can be a simple point-and-shoot camera or a pro beast with the more complex settings and S-Log profiles that you can custom colour grade to cinematic standard. Either way, you’ll get excellent results though you’ll eventually learn as I did that mastering the wider concepts and features will make your content go through the roof.
As I said, I’m no camera buff but the results speak for themselves. I’m convinced that this is one of the best beginner mirrorless cameras to learn and hone one’s skills before moving to something like the flagship Sony Alpha cameras. It’s definitely one that I would get for myself.