Few cameras generate the kind of hype that the Sony a7R IV did at the time of its launch. The latest generation of Sony’s flagship high-resolution full-frame shooter comes with a 61.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, which is literally a huge deal for a professional camera like this. For reference, the Sony IMX686 image sensor that powers some of the smartphones touting today’s 64-megapixel cameras is a meager 0.22x its size, and grouped pixels or others, which should give some perspective to the power of the a7R IV.
But prosumers looking at the Sony a7R IV will likely know that making the comparison laughable. After all, a camera whose body itself costs Rs 2.99,990 would certainly have stronger competition than smartphones, which it does. But, where the Sony a7R IV impresses most is in the way it flexes its muscles, in the way it makes its power felt. Sometimes it almost feels like it’s an almost invincible camera, which is almost the case until you look at some things very closely.
So what makes the Sony a7R such a beast of a camera? Beyond its technical sheet, here are your answers.
Immediately, the benefits of resolution will be well reflected with users who need this type of power when turning, for example, fashion wallets or billboard hoses. Sony has combined this with a new real-time AF tracking feature that has been enriched by machine learning to show real improvements over its predecessor, the already excellent Sony a7R III. While most expect such a high resolution camera to keep up with continuous shooting speeds, the Sony a7R IV does the opposite – it takes up to 10 frames per second, though ‘with certain restrictions.
It also offers Pixel Shift – a feature where, in static shots, the a7R IV can take four or 16 shots, where on the basis of a central point, the camera shifts the sensor by half a pixel to take four photos, and continue to shift the sensor until 16 of these photos are taken. The advantage is that users can manually assemble these shots to create massive 240 megapixel images. In addition, Pixel Shift mode means that all of the red, green and blue data is captured to the maximum, and there is no need to dematerialize or reconstruct the details in color. However, this also has its own problems – Sony’s Pixel Shift still doesn’t account for motion correction in post-processing, so if there is all no movement during shooting, you will have no way to delete it on the editing table. Most importantly, the Sony editing tool you should use to stitch the images is incredibly heavy. Even for a professional photographer who is more used to such heavy workflows, it will certainly be a huge pain.
However, when it comes to the basics, the Sony a7R IV can take stellar off-camera JPEG photos with brilliant dynamic range and, as the sensor suggests, offers super impressive reproduction of fine and coarse detail. Added to this are splendid and precise white balance performance, which also offers manual micro-control of white balance settings and multiple configurable manual presets that become really handy when shooting in repeated scenarios, such as sports arenas. Results lead to excellent color accuracy, wide dynamic range, good noise performance at most ISO levels, and no annoying over-sharpening, banding or accidental artifacts, making life so much easier. The only problem I encountered is the occasional running-in with moire, but the compression behind closed doors seems to keep the details, despite some inconsistencies.
Regarding sports arenas, what is impressive to note is the depth of the buffer despite this super high resolution sensor. With focus lock, the Sony a7R IV can take up to 10 frames per second, which is really impressive. However, there are a few things to note here – at full speed the Sony a7R IV only manages to save JPEG files or compressed RAW files with 12-bit playback, which reduces the amount of post-processing flexibility that you would have on hand. For full flexibility of the dynamic range and resolution benefits of the a7R IV, you will need to take 14-bit RAW readings, which reduces the overall shooting speed.
The next important element to address is the autofocus system – Sony has a 567-point wide phase-detection autofocus unit, with a 425-point hybrid AF contrast mechanism. What’s more important here is the real-time AF tracking system, which not only offers a touch-assisted layout that you can select and activate, but also locks onto faces very precisely . This is particularly useful when shooting videos in spontaneous conditions, or in photography, photographing portraits at weddings or parties. The new autofocus system is not only super precise, but also precise and very stable, and is one of the most remarkable features of the camera.
Some compromising factors can be the slightly delicate high ISO, the low light noise generated in the photographs, which seems a bit odd here. He always behaves very strongly in low general light conditions, but feels compromised when he is at large. Apart from that, the Sony a7R IV is a beast of camera which has the impression of being able to conquer any scenario which is launched to him. With such a high resolution sensor, the depth of the buffer is impressive and the autofocus system greatly improved, coupled with its ease of use, its excellent colors, its excellent white balance adjustment and its splendid range dynamics certainly make it one of the best cameras you can buy today.
Thanks to the incredible new sensor, the Sony a7R IV can produce a full sensor width, 4K videos undersampled at 30 frames per second or 1080p videos oversampled at 120 frames per second. The a7R IV offers maximum focus, which, combined with the splendid screen, allows you to save lives when shooting in bright conditions. The A7R IV offers 8-bit 4K sequence transfer via HDMI and now has the excellent real-time AF tracking functionality in videos, making life even easier. Low noise performance is particularly evident, especially when using the entire sensor area. It also offers users several shooting modes, which once again makes the life of a somewhat amateur videographer like me easier.
An example of a teaser film, shot at 4K 30fps oversampled on the Sony a7R IV, and edited on Final Cut Pro X without any color gradation.
Overall, the video performance of the Sony a7R IV seems as detailed, crisp, noiseless, color accurate and white balance precise as I would have hoped for. This is coupled with multiple logging modes to get better color grip, and I particularly like 1080p oversampled high frame rate videos for my normal workflow, as this helps to effectively manage file sizes while keeping whatever videos I would like to.
Construction, ergonomics and battery life
The Sony a7R IV is built to last and there is no doubt that its weather resistance is solid. Being a rather heavy mirrorless body, it is important and comforting to see that the Sony a7R IV has such an important grip. It also has great button customization options and lets you select a whole bunch of buttons with which you can configure almost any frequently used setting, both for photos and videos.
However, I’m still not a fan of the Sony interface. Although it seems organized, it takes a long time to determine all the parameters. This can get a little irritating, even in practical areas such as configuring the camera buttons. Sony should consider introducing a simpler menu layout like that of Canon, which significantly contributes to making a camera easier to handle.
The camera has an electronic viewfinder of 5.76 million points, which is excellent in its work, but consumes a good amount of battery. The a7R IV unit we received also had a strange problem with a faulty proximity sensor, due to which the camera sometimes continued to switch between the EVF and the live display itself, repeatedly. This created a little embarrassment, but it is safe to assume that this is a defect in the device, and cannot happen with too many retail units. However, while EVF is excellent, Sony needs to understand why it simply cannot deploy its touchscreen support across its entire interface. Despite its tactile support, its limited implementation hinders the flow of use of the a7R IV.
In terms of battery life, the Sony a7R IV offers a decent backup battery for a camera of its kind. That said, its photo cycle of around 600 photos means that you will have to recharge it every day during the holidays and several times during projects.
All things considered, the Sony a7R IV is a camera that can do practically whatever is asked of it. It has the advantage of resolution which automatically translates into excellent noise and detail performance, its colors and dynamic range are superb, videography is always first rate, and with the exception of some inconsistencies with a high ISO noise and continuous shooting at peak RAW, there is little fault of the Sony a7R IV with. If Sony sorts the layout of its menus and corrects the touch screen support, the a7R IV automatically becomes, hands down, the camera to beat on the market today.