Sony ZV-E1: Initial Thoughts & Review

How Small is Too Small and How Hot is Too Hot?
By Nirupam Nigam

The Sony ZV-E1 is Sony's smallest full-frame camera ever, designed for video shooters. In many ways, it is equipped with much of the same functionality of the Sony A7S III and Sony FX3 for half the price. With a camera body retailing for $2198, the ZV-E1 will eventually be capable of shooting 4K/120p (after a firmware update) and it is designed with many of the same recording options found in the A7S III. However, the smaller form factor produces limitations in heat dissipation, reducing recording times. Could this be a deal breaker for underwater shooters? 

Sony ZV-E1 Key Specifications

  • 12 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 4K/120p recording capability
  • 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization
  • 15 stops of dynamic range
  • S-Log3, S-Gamut3, S-Cinetone recording and built-in user LUTs
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording
  • AI autofocus processor with af subject tracking
  • Made from recycled materials
  • No mechanical shutter (for photography)
  • Low light autofocus down to -6 EV
  • Size: 121 x 72 x 52mm
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs

Sony's Smallest Full-Frame Camera

As we mentioned, the Sony ZV-E1 is Sony's smallest full frame camera. The newly designed body is clearly made from cheaper materials, but it is also made partly from recycled materials. Although underwater housings for the ZV-E1 have not been announced - we do hope that Ikelite and Nauticam will product a housing from this camera. We do not anticipate housings from other brands. The small form factor of the camera allows for it to fit into APS-C style Nauticam ZV-E1 and Ikelite ZV-E1 housings

Will the ZV-E1 Overheat?

However, the small form factor of the ZV-E1 presents a challenge that we have frequently witnessed with modern underwater video cameras - the camera could overheat. Sony suggests that the camera can film 4K/60p for 30 minutes at room temperature. If the camera is confined to a small space like an underwater housing, this could exacerbate the overheating affect and further reduce the time. We are looking forward to getting in the water with the ZV-E1 to see how long recording times can truly be - and whether or not the camera is a viable option for underwater shooters. It may not be for those looking for film for long periods of time. 

The Sony ZV-E1 for Underwater Video


There are, of course, plenty of benefits to shooting the Sony ZV-E1 if overheating does not become an issue in underwater housings. As we mentioned before - the ZV-E1 is basically a mini version of the Sony A7S III (without the photo capabilities). While the ZV-E1 can take photos, it can only do so with the electronic shutter. We highly recommend you read our review and watch our underwater videos from the A7S III to see what the ZV-E1 can do

Other than being able to film in 4K/120p, the ZV-E1 is capable of recording with log picture profiles that provide up to 15 stops of dynamic range. A log profile allows you to capture additional data from your highlights and shadows for more details in your video after the clip is color graded in post processing. For accurate color grading, the camera has chroma subsampling up to 10-bit 4:2:2. This makes filming underwater much easier - where white balance and mismatched colors can often mess with your footage due to light attenuation underwater. 

Surprisingly, the ZV-E1 is equipped with an in-body image stabilization system (IBIS), even with a small form factor. Combined with high frame rates, the ZV-E1 is capable of extreme levels of stabilization, necessary for filming fast moving, three dimensional underwater environments. 


The Sony ZV-E1 is a very exciting camera with some rather worrisome limitations. When we take the camera underwater for our review, if recording times are indeed 30 minutes at 4K/60p, then the ZV-E1 will be our recommendation for an underwater video camera. However, if the light form factor of the camera does present limitations to recording times (as we anticipate it will), it will likely still be worth considering the A7S III or the FX3 instead. So stay tuned - when an underwater housing for the ZV-E1 is released at Bluewater Photo, there's no doubt we will be in the water to test it out!


Nirupam Nigam is the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo - the world's top underwater photo & video retailer. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. After receiving degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, Nirupam worked as a fisheries observer on vessels in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. Since then, Nirupam has been a full time underwater photographer and photo gear head. Check out more of his photography at!


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