Having just purchased the Sony A7r III earlier this year, I didn’t expect to add another camera to my collection so quickly. Until… the Sony A7r IV announced it was on pre-order. Typically, I will not invest in yet another body unless something truly monumental comes about, and this was such a situation. The A7r IV is a piece of machinery unlike any other – and I don’t regret a single dime spent. This Sony A7r IV review will explain why.
Mirrorless versus Digital
By now, 2019, many photographers are well aware of mirrorless cameras invading the digital photography market. Just to refresh on some of the key differences in technology between DSLRs/SLRs and mirrorless cameras…
Mirrorless cameras, as the name suggests, does not utilize a mirror to reflect the image to the viewfinder. The way that a digital camera works is that a mirror inside the camera reflects the light up to the optical viewfinder. This is also how you see the image before you take it.
In a mirrorless camera, the imaging sensor is exposed to light at all times. This gives you a digital preview of your image either on the rear LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This allows you to see exposure changes in real-time on a mirrorless camera. The lack of a mirror also aids in the camera’s size, allowing the mirrorless model to be smaller and lighter than a traditional DSLR.
DSLR aficionados don’t trust the digital viewfinder portrayal in mirrorless cameras as this is system-based, while the DSLR uses a practical application to show a true-to-life, through-the-lens optical viewfinder system. This uses a series of mirrors to reflect light to your eye. However, as a new mirrorless user, I can testify that the electronic viewfinder display is extremely accurate to the image I create when clicking the shutter button.
In regards to quality, both can excel in optical quality, image sensors, technical aspects, and adeptness at shooting conditions. Both are equally spectacular, with each model having its own pros and cons (of course). It does come down a lot to personal choice.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to the drool-worthy A7r IV. The specifications of this newest member to the Alpha line is what made me fall out of my seat and need to order this model.
And it has not disappointed.
A true feat of modern technology, it includes the following specs:
- A whopping 61 MP, 35 mm full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS and enhanced processing system. This produces an image sized at 9504 x 6336. For landscape and commercial photographers, the a7r IV features a 240MP pixel-shift mode.
- ISO 100–32000 (ISO numbers up from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 can be set as expanded ISO range.)
- Fast Hybrid AF with Wide (567-points (phase-detection AF), 425-points (contrast-detection AF))/Zone/Center/Flexible Spot (S/M/L)/Expanded Flexible Spot/Tracking (Wide/Zone/Center/Flexible Spot (S/M/L)/Expanded Flexible Spot) The focus modes include AF-A (Automatic AF), AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), Manual Focus.
- Eye-start AF, Lock-on AF [Still] Human (Right/Left Eye Select)/Animal, [Movie] Human (Right/Left Eye Select), AF micro adjustment, and predictive AF control.
- High-speed continuous shooting of up to 10fps12 with AF/AE tracking.
- 5-axis image stabilization with 5.5-stop exposure advantage20.
- 4K video in full-width and crop modes.
- Dual card slots with simultaneous or consecutive recording.
- Silent Shooting Mode.
- You can operate the camera via newly supported wireless PC Remote functions via Wi-Fi.
Much like the other models in the Alpha line, this camera is an E-mount that only accepts E-mount lenses (unless you use an adapter). The awesome thing about E-mount, though, is that many brands (alongside Sony) make lenses for it, including Zeiss, Sigma, and Tamron.
I did not expect a redesign of the A7r IV body. Silly me! I expected a perfect replica of the A7r III with more advanced technology. In fact, the A7r IV has improved upon its predecessor’s body and ergonomics. They have changed the design, proving that Sony listened to photographer complaints and suggestions when redesigning this camera.
Firstly, the grip is different. Sony modified the contour, and the grip has deepened – for lack of a better term. I found it to be much more comfortable, and my hand cramped less during prolonged use (photographers, you know what I’m talking about here).
The camera grip reminded me of my large DSLRs rather than a mirrorless, and I liked that a lot. While I have small, feminine hands, I am sure this new grip design will work nicely with larger hands too.
Sony has also redesigned the buttons. They’re softer and “squishier” to the touch. There is also a redesigned joystick and an amended exposure compensation dial that now includes a lock button (thankfully!).
A big change is the card slot door. The new card door no longer needs a lock lever. Just pull straight back like Canon and Nikon. This provides a much tighter seal as well. Oh, and speaking of cards…Slot 1 is now on the top, not backward like the A7r III (which constantly confused me).
The Sony A7r IV is sized at 5.07 x 3.8 x 3.05″/128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5 mm and 1.46 lb/665 g.
Ease of use
In my brain, Sony Alpha and ease-of-use are synonymous phrases. This camera is quick to set up, even simpler to use, and you can run off and play immediately when the battery is charged. The menu and settings are intended for professionals, but if you’ve been doing photography and understand how a camera works, figuring it out is quick.
I’ve heard complaints about the Sony menu, but I’ve personally not had any problems with it. I easily found everything I needed and do all of my adjustments within about 10 minutes.
This is coming from a Canon user that features an entirely different menu.
I do wish the eye-tracking mode was an actual button on the camera as you can switch between Human subject or Animal subject. It would be convenient to have this as a button rather than having to dig into the menu to change this feature. I find myself continually changing it back and forth (being both a human and a pet photographer).
Autofocus, sharpness, and clarity
Just one word: phenomenal.
I could end the review with just that one word and be satisfied. However, to go into detail…the autofocus is lightning sharp. Definitely the fastest autofocus of all of my cameras – and I have a lot of them! I find the autofocus to be even faster and more accurate than the A7r III – and that’s saying a lot, as the A7r III is very fast as well.
I’ve captured dogs running – high speed – directly at my camera without even losing focus on their eyes for a second. That is how superb the eye-tracking mode is. I see a lot of use for this camera in sports photography if you have large enough cards to accommodate the 61-megapixels, of course! You can bring the camera down to 24-megapixels if needed, but that’s no fun.
The predictive AI focus has truly revolutionized the way you can photograph subjects moving erratically or quickly, and I am living for it. This has made my job much easier with pets, or little humans that love to run away from mom!
In regards to sharpness and clarity, (while much of the final quality and look comes from the lens), in this case, the camera plays a big role. This is where the Sony mirrorless cameras begin to stand out significantly. The images are extremely sharp and clear. To some, maybe even artificially so. The look is very distinct. Professional photographers can quite easily pick out a Sony mirrorless photograph from the rest. The 61-megapixels show an immense amount of detail, excellent for commercial and detail work.
Despite the enormous amount of megapixels, the A7R IV can still fire up to 10 frames-per-second with autofocus and autoexposure active. That’s impressive! The camera can keep at this for up to 68 compressed raw images.
With vivid, vibrant, and deep colors, there is little editing I need to do with this camera. Even in low light, the colors tend to be quite true. The dynamic range is superb with 15-stops of dynamic range. I have been able to pull incredible details, colors, and information from darker images.
Low light capability
The only gripe I have with this model is the low light capability is not improved over its preceding version. That doesn’t mean that the low light capability is bad – it’s just not better. For a camera that has improved in so many ways, I would have liked to see an even better low light sensor in this particular model.
However, the larger megapixel count does allow for significantly more manipulation, and it hasn’t phased me to take care of noise through a quick flick of the Noise slider in Lightroom. Ideally, it would have been nice not to need to do this.
With that said, I have not personally noticed worse noise at the same ISO levels, as some photographers have reported. The autofocus in low light is superb. It’s great for my concert photography endeavors, and even better than the firmware update on my A7r III.
For battery life, my original frame of reference is my many Canon DSLR cameras. The 5D Mark IV, 5D Mark III, 7D Mark II, and 1Dx Mark II are the models I use. In my experience, Sony batteries are not nearly as powerful or long-lasting as Canon batteries. However, this makes sense, as the power necessary to operate a mirrorless tends to be more draining than the DSLRs due to the mirrorless cameras using a digital viewfinder and LCD display.
When I purchased my first Sony camera, I went ahead and bought a second battery. The battery is the same as the one that the Sony A7r IV uses, so now I have two additional batteries for it. I am glad that I did because the battery does not last me all day like Canon cameras. I seldom end up switching to a second Canon battery. Even after shooting a dog agility trial for eight hours without turning the body off. On the Sony, I found myself switching the battery mid-day on all-day shoots.
It is key to note I am not using a battery grip. With a battery grip, the power lasts significantly longer.
However, when comparing to Sony itself, the battery in the newer Alpha series cameras are significantly better and far more superb than previous models. The Sony NPFZ100 Z-Series Rechargeable Battery is no joke – far more powerful than the previous batteries used by the company.
Do you need the power of the Sony A7r IV? Generally, probably not. For specialty work? Absolutely. The specifications are very much overkill for the average photographer, but for those that have found a use for its tremendous amount of megapixels or the ease in which the AI focuses, this is absolutely a worthy investment.
It’s likely great enough to sell prior pieces of equipment in order to buy the A7r IV.
I work a lot in commercial photography, and this camera allows me to better produce commercial imagery for my corporate clients – something I couldn’t pass up.
Would you like to own this camera? Why? Or are you lucky enough to have you tried the Sony A7r IV? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments!