Sony was the first to market full-frame mirrorless compact cameras through its popular A7 series a decade ago, helping it overtake Nikon to become second only to Canon in volume of units sold. Although it’s comfortably remained in second place for years, recent reports suggest that Fujifilm’s fun and affordable Instax instant cameras have allowed it to usurp Sony in the popularity stakes. Nevertheless, the Sony remains a respected force in photography and videography, with its latest full-frame mirrorless in the Alpha A7 IV building on its Mark III predecessor from three years ago and reaffirming the seriousness of the intention of its manufacturer.
Thankfully, for all its bells and whistles and rock-solid build quality, the Sony A7 IV has remained relatively affordable – at least compared to rivals’ offerings in our best mirrorless camera guide – putting it at a premium. the reach of enthusiasts as well as the professional looking for a smaller, lighter and more versatile camera than a DSLR.
At the heart of this latest offering is a generous 33-megapixel full-frame sensor that Sony says was newly developed for this model. Once again the device is presented to both photographers, who will appreciate the resolution provided if they need to produce large prints, and those who also record video, with 4K video up to 60 fps . In the era of the “content creator”, it’s the camera that serves as the jack-of-all-trades, and master too, without either feeling compromised, or in second place.
Sony A7 IV review: Design and handling
For the casual observer, the look and design of Sony’s A7 series has barely changed since its inception, although there have been slight incremental changes. We again get a sturdy build and a design that resembles a scaled-down DSLR. It comes with a shooting mode dial, command dial, and various buttons and switches that will make anyone swapping in an old DSLR and upgrading to this mirrorless system feel on fairly familiar ground as soon as they takes the body of the Sony A7 IV out of its box.
Rather than an optical viewfinder, the Sony has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) above the now fairly standard flip-up, twist-on touchscreen LCD, meaning the latter handles much the same way as the screen of our smartphone; pinch and flick captured images to enlarge them, for example. With the camera raised to our eyes, it’s easy to forget that we’re composing our framing without the use of an optical viewfinder, so detailed and lag-free is the EVF.
Incidentally, videographers also benefit from the 3-inch LCD screen and 1.03 million dot resolution which consumes two-thirds of the rear space of the Sony A7 IV’s rear plate, like on any what a compact digital camera. Its flexibility when using the screen as a live viewfinder allows for the unlimited number of creative shooting angles – such as low to the ground or above the heads of a crowd – that it would been difficult, if not impossible, to monitor otherwise. We also found it useful when shooting in the winter sun, as the angle can be adjusted to increase visibility.
Sony A7 IV review: Features
Along with a newly developed 33MP chip, the Sony A7 IV has the latest generation Bionz XR processor to cope with all that extra data processing. Autofocus speed and accuracy has been an area developers and engineers have focused on – pardon the pun – lately. And here, Sony says the AF capability is based on the performance of its high-end 50-megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera, the Alpha 1.
Although the Sony A7 IV itself offers as solid a range of features as any semi-pro Alpha camera to date, a boast this time around is the ability to record 60P video in 4K quality. continuously for over an hour. Most digital cameras have traditionally operated just under 30 minutes. This may be useful if we attempt a single-shot project similar to Chris Nolan’s so-called “one take” in 1917, doubling the recording time we would have typically achieved in the past with this type of camera.
Luckily there are two removable SD memory card slots under a sliding flap on the camera grip, which if we were to use the Sony on a tripod could still be easily accessed without having to remove it from the plate basic. Incidentally, one of these slots is also multitasking by alternatively providing support for a CFexpress type A card, if that is the preference of the photographer/videographer.
While not a shooting feature as such, another thing for environmentalists to note is that the Sony A7 IV’s camera body uses recycled plastic – something which Sony calls “Sorplas” (Sony Recycled Plastic?) which was also used for the packaging. for the camera. You certainly wouldn’t see any difference with the handling of the camera – which is as well designed and solid as it gets.
Sony A7 IV review: Performance
Hit the on/off switch ergonomically surrounding the shutter release and we’re almost instantly ready to shoot. Essentially, if we consider a potential image in our mind when the Sony A7 IV is off, chances are we can still capture it before the scene changes or our subject moves.
The camera’s menu screens are well laid out and easy to navigate, meaning that settings can be located and adjusted to the user’s wishes in fairly quick order. In short, there’s little we found annoying or distracting about the Sony A7 IV. Those who have used a DSLR or mirrorless camera before won’t have to shoot a different way or rethink the process at all. So we could focus our attention on our subject – and not be distracted by what the camera was doing.
Incidentally, we’re happy to report that Sony’s autofocus, whether trained on human or animal subjects – two of the most likely subjects for users of this camera, let’s be honest – was often spot on, so that there is the option to tap the screen and move the focus point manually if desired. As we said, everything here is at our fingertips as we want it. The grip is also comfortably textured and large enough that we could wrap three fingers around it and hold the camera steady when shooting one-handed, with the thumb positioned at the back and the forefinger hovering over the trigger. This will also be useful for those shooting with heavier telephoto lenses.
It’s worth mentioning that battery life is good for around 600 shots, which while not on par with a larger DSLR in this price range, is nonetheless respectable for a camera lighter and slightly more compact mirrorless.
Sony A7 IV review: Sample images
A camera body costing £2400, or £2600 with lens, isn’t cheap, and for that price, with the new 33-megapixel sensor factored in, we expected to be knocked out with Sony’s results. A7 IV.
The 14mm “G” model lens we had to play with was a bit of an unusual choice from the PR who sent it to us, as it’s a specialist ultra-wide lens – and the Sony G series is the manufacturer’s premium range – best suited for shooting landscapes, which is what we mainly did. That said, thanks to the fast/bright f/1.8 aperture provided, it also proved useful for throwing out background blur when attempting close-ups. At other times, the wide field of view has resulted in what are known as convergent verticals – that is, when the vertical lines lean towards each other, which is especially noticeable when we have trees and buildings in our shots. This is obviously less pronounced when shooting naturally wide views, such as open fields and parks.
Although on occasion we did notice some loss of focus towards the extreme edges of the frame, images were as detailed and rich in color as we expected from Sony. Most of us won’t need the full 33 megapixels for day-to-day shooting, but wedding, portrait and fashion photographers – as well as landscape photographers looking to do some wall art – will certainly find the usage specification. Like vacation insurance, it’s good to know it’s there, even if we don’t use it.
Sony A7 IV review: Verdict
The Sony A7 IV sees the manufacturer stick to a proven winning formula – a ruggedly built camera that delivers fast, accurate responses and color-accurate, detailed images, with the ability to expand the system beyond of the camera body and lens we bought to start with, thanks to the very extensive manufacturer and third-party accessory offerings.
As we noted when talking about DSLRs, by buying an A7 IV we were not only investing in a single camera, but in addition we were going with a whole system of lenses and accessories. Fortunately, due to the popularity of its A7 predecessors, this is currently one of the most comprehensive ranges for photographers, into which the Sony A7 IV fits like a glove.