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Sony ZV-E10 vs Nikon Z30: which is the best vlogging camera?

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Introduction

The ability to shoot good-looking photos and top-quality video are essential for anybody looking to create content for social media, and camera makers understandably feel they have something to offer.

Nikon’s new Z30 is the latest model to be explicitly created for creators, and it hits a lot of the same notes as Sony’s existing ZV-E10. Both are compact, relatively affordable interchangeable lens cameras designed to be valuable tools whichever side of the lens you work from.

There are a lot of similarities between the two models, but also some important differences: we break down their strengths and weaknesses, so you can decide which would work for you.

Similarities

The Nikon Z30 and Sony ZV-E10 are both vlogger and content-creator focused cameras with APS-C sized sensors, fully articulating rear screens and stereo microphones to capture better audio than most cameras. Neither has a viewfinder, neither has in-body image stabilization and both have a small red tally lamp on the front so that you know when you’re recording yourself.

There are slight differences: the Sony has a better battery life rating for both stills and video, the Nikon has front and rear command dials, rather than having both on the back, as the Sony does. The final major difference is that while both cameras have microphone input jacks, only the Sony has a headphone socket.

Video

The video specs of the two cameras appear broadly similar, but the differences add up as you look more closely. On paper both shoot UHD 4K video at up to 30p and 1080 at up to 120p, to provide a slow-mo option. But what may not be apparent from the specs is that the Sony has to apply a 1.23x crop to shoot 30p and 1.1x to shoot 120, whereas the Nikon never has to crop in.

The other difference is in terms of rolling shutter. The Z30 has a shutter rate of in the low 20-something millisecond range in both its 30p and 24p modes: not great but not too dreadful, either. The ZV-E10 meanwhile delivers a tolerable 27ms performance in its cropped 30p mode, but a pretty miserable 33ms in 24p, it doesn’t take much lateral movement to prompt visible wonkiness at that rate.

Nikon says the Z30 can shoot around 35 minutes of 4K video or 125 minutes of 1080 before having to stop (at 25°C/77°F). Sony quotes 30 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively, if you set the ‘Auto Power Off temp’ setting to its most relaxed ‘High’ value.

Audio

We haven’t found there to be a dramatic difference between the quality of the stereo mics set into the tops of both cameras. The Sony comes with a wind screen, whereas it’s a $10 accessory for the Nikon. The Nikon accessory incorporates a ‘cold shoe’ to allow you to mount other accessories when it’s clipped into the camera’s flash hotshoe, which is a nice feature.

However, the big advantage of the Sony over the Nikon is the ability to connect headphones. If you’re recording yourself this is useful for checking your volume levels and for background noises you might not have noticed, before hitting record, and when you’re videoing something or someone else, it lets you monitor for distractions or unexpected interruptions that might crop up as the camera’s running.

Stills

Both cameras use sensors we’ve encountered many times before, and which still perform very well (there haven’t been any major breakthroughs in image quality since they first appeared). They’re both APS-C sized chips, which can deliver very good image quality and continue to give respectable results as the light levels drop.

Neither camera can shoot and combine super-fast groups of images, as the best smartphones now do, so the image quality won’t be as big a step up as it would have been in previous years. But the great appeal of an interchangeable lens camera is that you can mount long lenses or wide-aperture lenses to give attractive portraits or shallow depth-of-field (without the risk of mistaken blurring that smartphones’ simulated processing can give). In fact you can choose a lens to suit pretty much whatever you’re trying to shoot, if your pockets are deep enough, allowing you to capture perfect social media images for your needs.

We don’t see a meaningful difference in detail between the Nikon’s 21 megapixels and the Sony’s 24. So in terms of image quality, there’s little to choose between them.

Autofocus

Autofocus is another area in which the two cameras differ. For stills, the Sony has the edge: its subject tracking system is simpler to initiate and it automatically tracks faces and eyes if that’s what you ask it to focus on. The AF tracking on the Nikon isn’t quite so quick and easy to engage, and the face/eye detection system is a separate mode so you’ll need to turn off the tracking mode if you want to focus on faces.

These differences become more pronounced in video mode. The Sony is significantly more dependable if you ask it to focus on a specific subject. The Nikon is good at sticking to faces, and we’d trust it to do a good job with vlogging to camera, but can tend to drift off the selected subject in other circumstances.

Video options

While the broad video specs of the two cameras are similar, there are distinct differences in terms of what the footage looks like.

The Sony offers the ‘Picture Profile’ system of response modes that originally came from its pro video cameras. This includes the option to shooting using Log curves and wide color gamuts designed to provide footage that can have its color and tone significantly adjusted at a later stage. This can be really useful, but adds a significant color grading step to the process. Notably, the ZV-E10 only outputs 8-bit footage, which isn’t great at retaining all the flexibility that Log capture is supposed to bring.

The Nikon instead offers a ‘Flat’ color profile which isn’t as flexible as Log footage can be, but provides a way of capturing a little more dynamic range than usual (for shooting in high-contrast conditions). On the plus-side, punching-up the Flat footage to make it look good is arguably easier than working with Log, which could be used as a simpler workflow for the vloggers these cameras are looking to attract.

Lenses

Both cameras are available in kits with a 16-50mm zoom lens. The Sony version is a power zoom, which can then be controlled from the optional selfie handle, but it’s not a very well regarded lens, to put it politely. Particularly if you plan to shoot still images, the Nikon ‘kit’ zoom is a much better lens. However, if you plan to buy other lenses, the Sony is at a major advantage.

The ZV-E10 uses lenses from the better-established ‘E’ mount system, giving access to a wide choice of own-brand and third party lenses, if you need something better than the (not great) 16-50mm power zoom that often comes with the ZV-E10. There are plenty of wide-angle options, to allow a suitable wide view for vlogging, even with the footage cropped-in to provide digital image stabilization.

The Nikon uses the much younger ‘Z’ mount, for which fewer lenses are currently available. Nikon doesn’t allow other lens makers to produce Z-mount lenses, so if you want a fully-compatible autofocus lens, you’re heavily reliant on Nikon to produce it. F-mount lenses, designed for Nikon’s DSLRs can be used, with the aid of an adapter, and there are also adapters to allow the use of ‘E’ mount lenses, though don’t expect the autofocus to be as fast or dependable as with native lenses.

Connectivity

The Z30 and the ZV-E10 both have Wi-Fi capabilities for sharing content to smartphones or tablets. Both apps will let you transfer videos, as well as still images but the Sony won’t maintain a constant Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, so there are a few more steps you’ll need to go through, to re-connect your phone, each time you want to upload your videos or photos.

It’s always difficult to be definitive about these things, as some brand’s apps can work well on Android devices but less well on Apple, or vice versa, but we’ve found Nikon’s Snapbridge to be one of the simpler and more dependable apps. We’re not alone in this, with user reviews giving the Nikon app 4.2 and 4.4 out of 5 ratings on the Google Play store and Apple App store, respectively, compared with Imaging Edge’s 2.1 and 1.7 star averages.

Summary

The Sony ZV-E10 and Nikon Z30 are very similar cameras in many respects, which makes it a little hard to choose between them.

If we were primarily shooting stills, we’d probably opt for the Nikon. The better kit zoom and smoother sharing experience with Snapbridge definitely count in its favor, as does its front-and-rear dial control setup. Its full-width video if you want 4K/30 is also a distinct advantage.

However, the Sony’s better battery life, the inclusion of a headphone socket, and the much wider choice of lenses are all compelling benefits, if you plan to move beyond using the 16-50mm power zoom. It exhibits a lot of rolling shutter effect in video, which is a major black mark against it. But it’s the ZV-E10’s autofocus that gives it the edge for us. It’s easier and quicker to use when shooting stills and that bit more reliable when shooting video, and we don’t think the Nikon has enough to counter that.


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