I am going to begin this Sony a7R IV review by telling you that I have read a dozen other reviews of this camera prior to writing this one. I know what they are all saying. Those other reviews suck. In my opinion of course. My review isn’t going to be another band wagon complaint stating that I won’t be buying this camera because the file size is way too big. You won’t hear me crying about the Sony’s different menu system. Why? Because I don’t really think the menu system is that bad. Nor do I believe the file size too big—there is a very specific reason I feel this way, now read on.
Need Sony Menu Help?
Then - Photographer Colby Brown gives you 34 tips to help you set up your new Sony a7R IV.
Sony a7R IV Rulebook
Since I haven’t really done a camera review for a while, remember, I test cameras in the field, in real-world scenarios. No, I am not walking around town shooting pretty pictures of trees in street lights or of my kids doing their homework. I put a camera right into the thick of things. If it works and has me getting the shots I need for a paying client, then we are golden. It’s basically, a drive-it-like-I-stole-it concept.
The Sony a7R IV was no different. I took it on a 14-day assignment to Baja, Mexico. It was the only camera I had with me. Along for the ride were Sony’s FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM, FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS, and FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lenses. I also had Sony’s FE 1.4x Teleconverter, but I never took it out of the bag.
Sony a7R IV Baseline
Let’s start with the Sony a7R IV body. Unlike many of the reviews that I have read, this camera is NOT a Sony a7R III with some minor upgrades. Though the body looks like it predecessor, it is far from it. Sony designed the Sony a7R IV from the ground up. The body has an all new construction with the best weather sealing Sony has produced to date. They have redesigned the grip, raised all of the buttons out of the body, have added a new multi-selector controller, moved all of the buttons around so they feel better in my gigantic hands, and even put a lock on the exposure compensation dial.
The hardware upgrades don’t stop there. The Sony a7R IV has a new 61MP full-frame, backside illuminated, CMOS sensor. The mechanical shutter is brand new as well and designed around vibration reduction, so those 61MP photos don’t highlight the smallest movements from the photographer or the camera. There’s also a new viewfinder, two SD UHS-II slots, and new auto focus. Oh my god the auto focus. It just fucking works.
Sony a7R IV Sensor
So let’s talk about that Sony a7R IV sensor. Other reviews that I have read stated that you shouldn’t buy this camera because 61MP is overkill. Photos from this camera are just going to fill your hard drives unnecessarily quickly. Yes, there is some truth to this. HOWEVER, this camera does something amazing. With the push of a button the Sony a7R IV will go into APS-c crop mode. Giving you a 26MP cropped file. This is like having a built in teleconverter!
This sensor also has a 15-stop dynamic range for stills and a 14-stop dynamic range for video.
One note of importance here is that this camera will also shoot 10FPS for 68 RAW frames WHILE auto focus tracking. That right there folks, is an action photographer’s wet dream. Ok, one more bit of info… If you are shooting in the APS-c crop mode, your buffer increases to 210 RAW frames. If you can’t catch your owl dropping out of the tree with those types of numbers go back to your paltry Wall Street job.
Photo shot at ISO 6400.
Zoom @ 100% - No Noise Adjustments.
100% - Noise Adjustments in Lightroom
Sharpening @ 60
Luminance @ 60
All other settings at Lr Default.
Sony a7R IV Sensor Noise
I was convinced that this camera was going to fail at sensor noise, but surprisingly it didn’t. The noise generated at 12,500 was easily controlled using just Lightroom. Now I probably wouldn’t go out and start shooting everything at that ISO, especially something that I was going to print at 40 x 60, but you could potentially prove that Sasquatch does exist on a dark evening with this camera. The photo would easily be publishable. The noise suppression is BETTER than what I noted when testing the Sony a7R III.
Sony a7R IV Sensor Dust
I have also read a lot of complaints about sensor dust. Sensor dust is inevitable in all but one of the mirrorless cameras that I have tested thus far. The sensor is exposed to the open air every time that you change lenses. Listen people, it doesn’t matter what mirrorless you shoot, there will be dust. You have to become religious about using a sensor brush before EVERY shoot. You know what happens if you do??? Your sensor has less dust on it!
My all-time-favorite sensor brush is made by Visible Dust. Do not, under any circumstances, buy any other brand. I have used another only to end up scratching my sensor in the process. That was a $2500 mistake.
The camera tracked through sequences like this one without issue.
The Auto Focus
The auto focus of this camera is spectacular. In the 10,000 photos that I shot in Mexico, the camera struggled with acquiring auto focus twice. It nailed impromptu shots of people belly flopping into the ocean unannounced, and tracked riders through cactus and bushes like it was reading my mind.
There are 567 auto focus points in the viewfinder and those points cover a whopping 74% of it. Sony has also builtin a new feature called Real Time Eye Tracking. When the auto focus system detects a person, the camera immediately locks onto that person’s eye. This functionality also includes the option to switch between human and animal eyes. I cannot even begin to understand how the camera does this, but it did it automatically on every portrait I took in Mexico. They have also added this feature to the video side of the camera.
The View Finder
The EVF in the Sony a7R IV is an updated UXGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF, which has a 5.76m-dot resolution. The EVF also has a dedicated High Quality setting which enables a 120FPS refresh rate. I can’t make this shit up. If you have read my other Sony camera reviews you will know right away that the view finder has always been my nemesis. NOT ANY MORE. This is currently the highest resolution EVF in the mirrorless industry, tied with Panasonic and the new Leica SL2.
I have discovered that if you keep the auto focus running through your shutter release, the view finder goes somewhat haywire with the refresh rate, thus creating a greater pixilated look. This pixelation does seem to get worse in lower light conditions as well.
**UPDATE–During my recent Yellowstone Trip a client discovered that I turned on the “Anti-Flicker” option, which is specifically designed to control light flicker when shooting under fluorescent lighting. If you are shooting under daylight conditions, the camera flickers back at you in the view finder. PROBLEM SOLVED.**
Sony a7R IV Other Features of Note
The Sony a7R IV has an upgraded Pixel Shift function now too. With this functionality enabled you can create a massive 240MP photo. The camera combines 16 separate photos into one massive beast of a photo. This is great for capturing colors and exposure subtleties in landscape and architecture shots. It’s definitely not for action or handheld shots.
There is also the new wireless tethering. Not sure how you tether without a tether? You can set up a 5GHz wireless network within the camera, connect your laptop, and shoot RAW files at 10FPS.
Sony a7R IV Photographer
So who is the beast for? I know, with the file size, you immediately think studio photographer. However, the builtin crop function has me shooting wildlife. The 10FPS, 68 image buffer and auto focus has me shooting mountain biking, and skiing. I feel like this camera is kind of for everyone. It is the device that the DSLR photographer should look at when thinking about mirrorless. No it is not as fast as the new a9 II, but still fast enough.
The price is also right. You get a 61MP, 10FPS auto focus tracking, 68 RAW photo buffer for $3498.00. Attach this to one of the 34 full-frame lenses from Sony and you have a complete professional system at your finger tips. Nikon and Canon beware, there is a storm on the horizon.
Sony a7R IV Switch-a-Roo
I got back from Mexico and immediately ordered the entire system that I was using during that trip. The Leica SL was sold and every single remnant of Canon gear is now gone from my office as well. I am finally almost to the point of a successful photo gear pare down and it’s pretty liberating.
What is most important though, is the fact that the Sony a7R IV allows me to capture shots that other cameras haven’t to date.
In my opinion the reviews of the Sony a7R IV are a result of pure laziness. Menu difficult to navigate—read the owner’s manual. Dust as an issue—clean your sensor BEFORE the shoot. Large megapixel files—well your screwed, spend more money, but hard drives are relatively cheap these days. A 24TB drive from Lacie is $1999. If you need less, then you spend less. Come on people, get with the program. The Sony a7R IV is one of the best cameras on the market for the money. Put that in your Nikon and Canon pipes and take a massive hit. I’m going out shooting.
Massive file resolution allows for in-camera crop to 26MP
Price is below market value for features
Improved design for big finger guy
10FPS while auto focus tracking for 68 RAW files
5.76 million dot viewfinder
Almost all camera function stops as photos write to a full buffer – even the menu options freeze
Pixelation during auto focus tracking in viewfinder **Fixed read above**
Massive file size needs more storage
Menu – if you still roll like that after reading this article
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Sony a7R IV
Get your very own Sony a7R IV from B&H Photo/Video.
These are a few of the accessories I use with my Sony a7R IV.