Sony isn’t making bad cameras right now, but it is making some incredibly unexciting ones. They’re starting to run together, and I can’t help but look at the last few announcements and find myself just crushingly bored.
For years, Sony created cameras that not only took huge leaps beyond what it created last, but were far and away technologically more advanced than anything its competitors made. That level of output was never going to be sustainable, but perhaps it set the wrong expectation.
Niche is a good word to describe just about every Sony camera released in recent months. But while the Alpha 7R V at least went after an interesting subset of the market, Sony’s other two cameras — the ZV-E1 and the ZV-1 Mark II — are punching down and trying to coax some spend out of a wider general consumer market. I can’t fault Sony for trying this method but I sure wish the company were seemingly more excited about it. It’s somehow more forgivable for a brand like Canon to operate with this same strategy — and it absolutely is with the R100 and the PowerShot V10 — but that expectation that Sony set with its exciting, technological breakthrough-level cameras really makes the disappointment of the entire ZV line hit harder.
These last two camera releases have felt like Sony just going through the motions. While there is something to like on paper about both cameras, those come with some major drawbacks. The ZV-E1 has no viewfinder and the rear LCD is painfully dim, making it feel terrible to use outside. It has a ton of power, but it’s locked in a body that feels like a constant compromise.
The ZV-1 Mark II is even worse. In an effort to give vloggers a wider angle, Sony removed optical image stabilization, resulting in a camera that is worse at vlogging which, as you might guess, usually requires a vlogger to be moving around.
I’d like to point out that this isn’t even the first time that Sony has made a very similar and arguably bad decision with this camera body. The RX100 Mark V, which uses the same base camera frame as the ZV-1 series, was the best point-and-shoot camera on the market (even though that was a pretty low bar to clear since that segment had all but dried up) thanks to its 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens in front of a nice Type 1 sensor. But with the follow-up, Sony decided that the point-and-shoot needed to also be a sports and wildlife camera and swapped that good lens out for the 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens.
That lens and software focus was worse for just about everything anyone who would buy a point-and-shoot would want, and the line only survived for one more generation before being phased out and eventually transformed into the ZV series. I don’t know why Sony continues to make lens-based mistakes with this camera body, but it has happened again.
Even if we pretended the ZV-1 Mark II was a really good option (and hey, it might be for a — once again — niche group), it’s just not an exciting camera. It’s just so boring. Sony really wants to provide an option that’s seen as better than a smartphone, but the options it is providing to get there result in cameras akin to room temperature bathwater.
I really want the Sony we saw six or seven years ago back. I want a camera that knocks my socks off with a combination of hardware and software that really excites me.
Instead, we’ve seen moderate updates to smartphones no one in the United States buys and vlogging cameras hampered by compromises. Even the Airpeak S1 drone that I was very excited about ended up being so much of an unusable disaster that Sony is still trying to fix it with expensive add-ons that I’m not even sure will even allow it to match the performance of DJI drones launched five years ago.
I guess I’m just consistently feeling some level of disappointment in Sony lately. Maybe that’s my fault for having unreasonable expectations, but at the same time, it was Sony that set those in the first place.
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