Sony Announces the ZV-E10

Okay, what’s Sony up to now?

bythom sony zv10 kit

Another new camera, but probably not the one you were expecting. 

While Sony loyalists have long been expecting something new in the A6### form, Sony instead produced an APS-C body much like the ZV-1: a small camera designed primarily for vlogging and video streaming. 

Other specs that you might want to know are that the new ZV-E10 camera has a fully articulating display, no EVF, the usual 24mp APS-C sensor, and a ZV-1/A7C type design overall. Video maxes out at 4K 30P or 1080 120P, and uses the XAVC-S compression. We get S-Log2, S-Log3, and HLG. To make it more blogger-friendly, there’s a product focus mode, a bokeh button (maximum aperture), a button to swap between Photo/Video (and S&Q) modes, and headphone output. The camera can stream directly via USB-C to a computer. The kit lens is the not-so-great-but-small 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6.

I have no problem with targeting the vlogging market with multiple models (Sony now has the ZV-1, ZV-E10, and A7C). The problem I have is whether or not the differences are meaningful in enough ways to justify more new models. So let me state my issue with the ZV-E10 right up front.

The ZV-1 has a 1” sensor with a solid f/1.8 lens. The ZV-E10 has an APS-C sensor, so 1.7 stops better in theory, but the kit lens with the ZV-E10 gives that all back. In essence, the biggest thing we’ve really gained is interchangeable lenses at the price of some body size gain. Moreover, the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 is about my least favorite APS-C kit lens at the moment (only the Canon M kit lens is worse; the Fujifilm 15-45mm and the Nikon 16-50mm are far better in my testing). Disclaimer: I own a ZV-1. I’m not seeing any reason to own a ZV-E10, particularly given the high rolling shutter on the ZV-E10. And if I were making a decision right now as to which one to buy, I’d probably buy the ZV-1. The only thing about the ZV-E10 that really tempts me is the headphone jack.

It feels to me like Sony is now searching for unit volume via micro-diversity of product. We’ve been down that path before (with both Canon and Nikon), and it ultimately fails and creates a product line mess. Particularly when the approach wasn’t fully rationalized in the first place. Moreover, can Sony really micromanage the chip and parts shortage with more bodies? I’m not sure about that, though at least for many of the key parts, they’re totally in Sony’s control. 

So let’s start again: should there be a lineup of vlogging cameras? Sure, I’ll agree to that. At the low end you have things like the DJI Osmo, at the high end you’ve got people using full frame mirrorless bodies on a gimbal. The ZV-1, ZV-E10, and A7C seem to all be aimed at trying to fit in between those end points. So what’s the model progression that makes sense? Technically, the ZV-E10 should be reasonably equidistant from the other two models. It doesn’t feel to me like it is, particularly given the kit lens.  

Which brings me to another point: if I’m vlogging with a camera, I’m in front of it. Why are all the controls on the back of the camera? Thus, if Sony is making a full line of vlogging cameras now, are they learning from their earlier cameras? Doesn’t really seem like it to me.

The Price is Right

It's time to play a little game. 

Hello audience. Can you guess the price of each mirrorless camera currently available new without going over what the sticker at the dealer says? 

Then come on down!

It's time to play The Mirrorless Price is Right!

Okay, you don't have to really guess. I'm going to fill you in (using current B&H prices as I write this; there are very few active Instant Rebates at the moment, so it's a good time to play the game). I'll be rounding the numbers as best I can. I also can't guarantee that some prices won't have changed by the time you read this, as all the camera companies are micromanaging their inventories right now. 

Still, we're in a pretty calm pricing period right now, and there are no holiday promotions in sight.

First up, let's look at the full frame mirrorless scene:

bythom ffprices

I've made the body-only prices in bold as they're more direct apples-to-apples in comparison. For kit prices, I've used the least expensive body+lens kit each maker lists at the moment; you can find more expensive kits for many of these cameras.

Things that strike me in the above table are:

  • Canon has a widely-spaced spread in body pricing. 
  • Nikon somehow fits five bodies into a tighter US$1700 spread centered around the Z6 II.
  • Panasonic seems to be reducing their lineup (the S1 is technically available, but at a strangely high price; rumors are it is out of production).
  • Sony's using older-generation bodies to look like they have entry units to compete against Canon and Nikon. Because of this multi-generation thing, Sony also appears to have the most bodies available (11; and surprisingly, Nikon is second with 5, for the same reason).

What full frame models would I really consider buying today (i.e. recommend)? 

  • Canon R5, R6; really nice cameras (ignore the nay sayers)
  • Nikon Z5, Z6 (barely), Z6 II, Z7, Z7 iI; a totally solid lineup in the middle of the market
  • Panasonic S1H, S5; both really good cameras that get overlooked a lot
  • Sony A7 III, A7C, A7R IIIa (barely), A7R IVa, A7S III, A9, A9 II, and A1; current generation bodies are all varying degrees of good, plus the older A9 is still a very viable camera for certain tasks (action)

I'd pass on the Canon R and RP, the Panasonic S1 and S1R, and the Sony A7 II and A7R II. These cameras are showing some age or seem to be going out of production.

Now let's turn to crop sensor cameras. The table looks a more cluttered, and with more competitors:

bythom csprices

Things that strike me here are:

  • Canon is cramped into the low end with few (4) choices.
  • Fujifilm is trending higher price now with the X-TA# and X-T### models out of the picture. 
  • Nikon is targeting higher than Canon, but also currently has few (2) choices.
  • Olympus (now OMDS) has a pretty nice and broad range of choices (7) if you count the previous generation bodies left on sale.
  • Panasonic has a broader line (9) than most give them credit for, but realistically, in terms of sales volume, it's the G9 or GH that get the most attention.
  • Sony's lineup has narrowed (4) from the NEX days. The newest of those cameras are now two years old, the oldest is seven!

What crop sensor cameras would I consider buying these days (i.e. recommend)?

  • I like the Canon M6 II. Solid camera with a top sensor, bit pricey with the EVF, while the native lens selection is poor.
  • Fujifilm's lineup confuses me a bit. I like the X-S10 and X-T4, not so much the others. Lenses are solid in the 10-200mm lens range, a bit weak beyond that.
  • Nikon's lineup is fledgling, but people underestimate that Z50: it's a really good camera and competitive at its price point. Somewhat like Canon, the appropriate lens lineup is not great.
  • With Olympus, I really like the E-M10 IV, plus the E-M1 II/III. The former coupled with the smaller lenses and primes, the latter with the f/2.8 and f/4 PRO zooms. Nothing terribly wrong with the rest, but the three cameras I mention are Olympus' most competitive bodies. And lenses? m4/3 has you covered.
  • If you're into video, you already know how good the GH5's are. The rest of you? The G9 is probably your camera. Again, m4/3 has the lens side covered.
  • Nothing wrong with any of the Sony bodies, but the A6100 is the value proposition here, with the A6400 being my second choice. Lens choice is probably third in the crop sensor world (m4/3 is first, Fujifilm second). Crop sensor doesn't get the love at Sony that full frame does.

I'd pass on the low-end Canon's, the other Fujifilm bodies, the Olympus E-PL10 and older E-M10 models. and I think the Sony A6600 is too much money for too little beyond the A6400.

Finally, you probably want to see the whole enchilada put together (including Fujifilm's MF entries):

bythom allpricing

Android Cameras are Back

Both Nikon and Samsung experimented with an Android-based camera. Both failed spectacularly. Now we have Yongnuo showing an m4/3-based Android camera in China. Will it fail, too?

Probably. The issue is the same one that makes SnapBridge and the other camera-to-mobile platforms problematic: too much manual customer labor to get the desired result. 

bythom yongnuo yn455

Although the Yongnuo YN455 has cellphone capability built in and thus can send images out directly (if you're willing to pay for an extra line), the problem is that Android cameras have up to this point been very modal: you can be in the camera mode or in the phone/tablet mode. In the camera mode you take images that go to the Camera Roll, but you typically still have to change modes and then pull those images off the Camera Roll via your preferred mobile social networking program. This really doesn't go beyond the SnapBridge modality, unfortunately, though it does it on one device.

At the other side, are you going to still carry a phone if you have a phone/camera? If not, the phone in the camera body becomes somewhat cumbersome, and it's not going to slide into a shirt pocket, so you're likely to not have it as accessible. 

Do I believe that a camera/phone combo can be made correctly? Absolutely. You'd tend to still have that second problem I refer to if you designed it as an ILC (accessibility), but you can certainly get rid of the modal issue if you understand the problem well enough and want to devote enough resources to get it right and keep it up to date with most recent social network APIs (ah, there's the rub). 

Convergent devices have long been sought after in the high tech world. Convergent means that you take two or more dedicated devices and combine them into one integrated device. To date, the primary ones that have managed to successfully do that in the consumer space are some form of the receiver/amplifier/player/speaker, the printer/copier/fax, and the phone/computer thing we call a smartphone. 

The problem with convergent devices is that they have to fully integrate all the devices to truly break down the barrier in using two or more different devices. If all you've done is move two different devices into the same box and have to control them separately, that's not enough. And the modality that Android has tended to enforce—you can get around this, but then you have the added issue of syncing to Android releases and security patches—makes it tough to totally combine that camera and phone. Even within the best smartphones you still find a small layer where you have to do something manually to share out of the Camera Roll. In iOS, that's the share icon (arrow up out of a box). In essence, the camera apps are trying to bridge the modality by giving you that shortcut icon. 

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