The Sony A7r IV: Is It the Best Camera Available?

It seems like this has been the year of camera releases. Since last year (around this time), some of the best cameras on the market have been released. We have seen Nikon and Canon’s first mirrorless cameras, a big Panasonic upgrade, Fujifilm’s state of the art medium format mirrorless camera, and more.  Well, last week Sony capped off the year with a huge announcement – the monster 61 megapixel Sony A7R IV. R is for ‘Resolution’, it seems!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumors have been circulating for the past few months about the specs of the new model and just when it might be released. It is now official, the Sony A7R IV is real and is slated for a September release. I could be biased, but judging from Sony’s announcement, the A7R IV will be the best camera available (definitely in terms of specs, but some might still prefer the ergonomics of DSLRs). And maybe I am not biased since I shoot Nikon! Let’s dive into this camera and Sony’s press release. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sony A7r IV – $3,500
Camera Highlights

  • 61MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
  • 567-Point Phase-Detection AF System
  • UHD 4K30p Video with HLG & S-Log3 Gammas
  • 5.76m-Dot Tru-Finder OLED EVF
  • 3.0″ 1.44m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Up to 10 fps Shooting, ISO 100-32000
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 240MP Pixel Shift Multi Shooting
  • Bluetooth & Wi-Fi, Dual UHS-II SD Slots

R is for Resolution
The Sony A7r IV is packed with a whopping 61-megapixels of resolution. With Sony’s pixel shift technology, you can go even further and produce 240 megapixel images. It is amazing how much resolution is packed into such a small camera body. This camera is going to be fantastic. Even when shot in APS-C mode, you are still able to set 26-megapixels. 

The sad thing is, few of us out there actually need this much resolution for large printing, as many of us showcase our images on web, and worse, mobile phones. However, the added power to crop and still retain a super high resolution image will be awesome for landscapes and wildlife. 

To go along with industry leading resolution, Sony is also reaching new limits in terms of dynamic range and ISO. Sony’s latest BIONZ X image processing engine works with the front-end LSI to maximize high-resolution sensor performance, the result is 15 stops of dynamic range at lower ISO values (wow!). The additional pixels do not affect ISO capabilities either (generally more pixels can mean more noise). The A7r IV is expandable to ISO 32,000 and offers great noise handling at lower ISO values. 

Updated Autofocus System
Like almost every element of this camera, autofocus received an improvement update as well. The new Fast Hybrid AF system uses a blend of 567 phase-detection points, which cover about 99.7% of the height and 74% of the width of the frame, along with 425 contrast-detection areas for precise and quick autofocus and subject tracking performance (did I mention low-light focusing capabilities down to -3 EV). Sony has excelled when it comes to focusing and the system employed here should most likely be the standard for the industry. The inclusion of phase-detection points also allows the use of A-mount lenses via the optional LA-EA3 or LA-EA1 lens mount adapters with full continuous AF/AE tracking compatibility.

Although sporting a massive resolution of 61 megapixels, the A7r IV is still fast. It can achieve 10 fps at maximum resolution, which is really, really impressive. Real Eye-AF is back as well and out of the big 3 (Canon, Nikon, Sony), Sony seems to have the best and most accurate Eye-AF. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Body Design
An updated UXGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF is featured and has a 5.76m-dot resolution, that is an 1.6x improvement over the A7r III. The LCD should be bright and vibrant.  In addition to the EVF, a 3.0″ 1.44m-dot rear LCD is also accessible, touch commands can be used for changing settings as well as focusing. Like previous models, the screen is tiltable for the utmost flexibility in shooting situations. 

This is a professional build body, with magnesium alloy chassis, which ensure a rigid, durable, and stable frame…while also being super lightweight. Sony did improve the lens mount to support heavier lenses (like their new 400mm f/2.8 prime) and the grip was also changed from the A7r III. It should be more comfortable to hold in hand. 

Another model update and another increase in weather sealing. This is great because many of the first Sony ‘R’ models were lost to water damage. Sony has improved the sealing and reinforced certain joints to make sure this thing is totally weatherproof and dust resistant. I always welcome improvements in this area because we all spend a lot of time shooting in nature, where the conditions are not always favorable. 

The A7r IV is sticking with the same NP-FZ100 battery and you can expect about 530 shots per charge with EVF or 670 shots with the rear LCD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sony did not take the path of Nikon and a XQD/CFexpress slot is not included. Instead, we get dual SD memory card slots. It appears the tradeoff is dual slots or faster transfer speeds with a XQD/CFexpress slot. I am interested to see what Nikon’s comparable release will offer in terms of storage. 

If you are into tethering, a new USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port has been added, this comes with the standard micro-USB port from earlier models. The USB Type-C connection allows the A7r IV to be charged from the connection, the Nikon Z7 has this as well and I really like it.

Image Stabilization
Image stabilization is a key feature of mirrorless cameras and Sony went all out to make sure the stabilization of the A7r IV is exceptional. There is a 5.5-stop effective 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system that compensates for five different types of camera shake and vibration. Sony states they have done a lot of research into pitch and yaw adjustments as well as horizontal and vertical shift compensation, which make this in-body stabilization system their best yet. 5.5 stops is great and can make the difference between a sharp shot and a blurry shot. 

Closing Thoughts
I just recently bought a Nikon Z7, but I am ecstatic about this camera. It looks like an absolute powerhouse. Sony has also worked to improve their menus system, which in my opinion, is one of the worst out of major camera brands. I will not be switching to Sony, but I don’t think there can be any argument that the Sony A7r IV is the best camera available (in the current prince range). Huge resolution, pixel-shift technology, dual card slots, great autofocus…the list goes on for a long time. I am super impressed with this camera and would recommend the A7r IV to anyone who is currently in the market and looking for the best of the best.

I know Canon and Nikon will responding to this soon, as rumors have been floating around about their new models as well. I am guessing the Nikon ‘Z8’ will also be around 60 megapixels. What an awesome announcement by Sony though. You Sony users have to be excited, and for those of you on the bend of switching, this might be what pulls you over. Sony also just recently introduced some long-range telephotos that even the playing field for wildlife shooters. Let us know what you think of this camera!

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image. Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world. As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals. You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com

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