The Sony a7 IV mirrorless interchangeable lens camera was long anticipated. When the Sony a7R IV was announced in July 2019, it seemed logical that the successor to the Sony a7 III would be announced soon after. However, the a7 IV announcement did not happen until over two years later, and the a7 IV hit the streets nearly three years after the a7 III was announced.
That said, a 3-year-old camera is not that old, so perhaps we were too eager? Otherwise, the "good things take time" phrase can be applied here.
The Sony Alpha 7 IV is considered a basic, entry-level full-frame camera. However, this camera seems far more than that in use and in print.
Those keeping up with the latest Sony mirrorless interchangeable lens camera models will find the Sony a7 IV to be a roll-up of features and improvements implemented in other models over the last few years, along with some new ones, and remarkable is the a7 IV's the similarities to the flagship Sony Alpha 1.
We expect a Sony Alpha camera with a maturity-indicating "IV" moniker to be a highly refined model, but the difference the extra "I" makes in this model is especially big. Those still using the a7 III will find the a7 IV to be a substantial upgrade, justifiable on many accounts, including the newly developed 33MP, 15-stop dynamic range, back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor, the BIONZ XR processor, the advanced AF capabilities (from the Alpha 1), the up to 10 fps continuous shooting with AF/AE tracking, the ergonomic improvements, and much more.
The outstanding feature set accompanied by a reasonable price makes the Sony a7 IV an excellent value.
That list provides those familiar with Sony's Alpha cameras with most of the information required for a purchase decision, but let's go deeper, starting with the image quality this camera produces.
Headlining the a7 IV upgrades is the new 33 MP full-frame back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor.
Here is a comparison chart featuring primiarily imaging sensor specs.
|Canon EOS 5D Mark IV||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||5.36µm||6720 x 4480||30.4||.71x||100%||f/8.6|
|Canon EOS R3||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||6.00µm||6000 x 4000||24.1||.76x||100%||f/9.7|
|Canon EOS R5||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||4.39µm||8192 x 5464||45.0||.76x||100%||f/7.1|
|Canon EOS R6||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||6.56µm||5472 x 3648||20.1||.76x||100%||f/10.6|
|Canon EOS R||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||5.36µm||6720 x 4480||30.3||.71x||100%||f/8.6|
|Canon EOS RP||1.0x||35.9 x 24.0mm||5.75µm||6240 x 4160||26.2||.70x||100%||f/9.3|
|Sony a1||1.0x||35.9 x 24.0mm||4.2µm||8640 x 5760||50.1||.90x||100%||f/6.7|
|Sony a9 II||1.0x||35.6 x 23.8mm||5.9µm||6000 x 4000||24.2||.78x||100%||f/9.6|
|Sony a9||1.0x||35.6 x 23.8mm||5.9µm||6000 x 4000||24.2||.78x||100%||f/9.6|
|Sony a7R IV||1.0x||35.7 x 23.8mm||3.8µm||9504 x 6336||61.0||.78x||100%||f/6.1|
|Sony a7R III||1.0x||35.9 x 24.0mm||4.5µm||7952 x 5304||42.4||.78x||100%||f/7.2|
|Sony Alpha 7 IV||1.0x||35.9 x 23.9mm||5.1µm||7008 x 4672||33.0||.78x||100%||f/8.2|
|Sony a7 III||1.0x||35.6 x 23.8mm||5.9µm||6000 x 4000||24.2||.78x||100%||f/9.6|
|Sony a7C||1.0x||35.6 x 23.8mm||5.9µm||6000 x 4000||24.2||.59x||100%||f/9.6|
Though not the highest resolution available, 33 is a considerable number of full-frame megapixels, providing significant detail in images.
Using the site's image quality tool, we can compare the a7 IV to the a7 III. You will readily notice this difference in real-world images.
For those also considering the Sony Alpha a7R IV, here is that comparison.
The resolution test chart maximizes a common Sony Alpha image attribute — moiré. The chart details are black and white with any other colors introduced by the imaging pipeline. Fortunately, the moiré is not usually noticed in real-world images.
Like all other Sony Alpha cameras, the a7 IV imaging sensor has a 3:2 aspect ratio. Other aspect ratios available are 1:1, 4:3, and 16:9.
The a7 IV has the ISO 100–32000 range available, and expanded ISO settings from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 are available, with the entire range selectable in 1/3-stops.
Sony did not heavily promote improved high ISO noise level performance from the Alpha a7 IV. While the latest imaging sensors are usually the best available, advances in this regard have been modest in recent years.
Let's take a closer look at noise and dynamic range.
The smoothly-colored Kodak color patches test chart subject combined with no noise reduction processing (this is a key point) makes noise especially noticeable compared to detailed scenes that better hide noise levels. As always, noise reduction processing can improve upon the noise level seen in these images, but noise reduction can be applied to images from every camera, reducing its differentiation. So, avoiding noise reduction in the comparison levels the playing field. Unless otherwise noted, the Sony RAW-captured noise test images utilized the non-lossy compressed RAW setting and were processed in Capture One with the natural clarity method and the sharpening amount set to 30 (on a 0-1,000 scale).
I don't see anything unusual in these results — just the normal outstanding performance we have come to expect from a modern, high-resolution full-frame Sony imaging sensor. As the ISO setting increases from 100 through 800, noise levels grow slowly. Still, noise levels remain quite low and still relatively low at ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, noise levels become noticeable though images retain a high quality at these settings. By ISO 6400, images begin to show noticeable degradation from noise, and by ISO 12800, the noise is bothersome. ISO 25600 through 51200 results look bad unless significantly downsized, and ISO 102400 through 204800 results look terrible (bragging rights only?).
Low-resolution cameras (if I can refer to the a7 III's 24 MP imaging sensor as low resolution) are often referred to as being ideal for low light. With a higher signal-to-noise ratio, the larger photosites on lower resolution imaging sensors produce lower noise levels at the pixel level, primarily noticeable when photographing at high ISO settings and when directly compared at the pixel level, the low-resolution cameras typically show less noise. However, to equalize the comparison, the higher resolution image should be reduced to the lower resolution image's pixel dimensions (or vice versa if the higher resolution is required). Reducing image dimensions brings the advantage of oversampling, a benefit often touted by manufacturers when describing video recording capabilities. The higher resolution camera typically performs at least similar to the lower resolution camera in an equalized comparison, placing it on par with the camera thought by many to be the low light king.
That said, here is the Sony a7 IV vs. III noise comparison. Primarily, it appears the a7 IV's noise pattern is enlarged similarly to its resolution increase.
With the a7 IV, Sony promised a repeat of their very impressive up to 15-stops of dynamic range at lower ISO sensitivity. One way to look at a camera's DR capabilities is to over or under-expose images and adjust them to the correct brightness in post-processing.
Increase the exposure by 3 stops and pull it back by the same in Capture One to get an idea of the dynamic range available. In that comparison, a7 IV appears to deliver the same dynamic range as the a7R IV — excellent performance. The similarities remain in the a7 IV vs. a7R IV dynamic range comparison. Try higher ISO comparisons to see that these cameras produce similar results and retain excellent dynamic range at high ISO settings.
Images from these cameras have lost the color information in the brightest color blocks, with the colors becoming gray, but all appear to have lost a similar amount of color detail. At higher ISO settings in this comparison, notice the reduced noise advantage of this form of oversampling.
View the ISO 50 vs. ISO 100 comparison to see the reduced dynamic range available at the lower expanded setting.
These cameras are all looking outstanding when the chart is overexposed by two stops (impressive ISO 12800 performance).
It is similarly interesting to look at underexposed images with brightness increased by the offsetting amount. In the -3 EV comparison, the a7 IV turns in very slightly higher noise levels than the a7 III, though the a7 IV has additional resolution available for oversampled downsizing.
Underexposing when using the a7 IV involves little noise penalty vs. selecting a higher ISO setting in the first place. A strong advantage of this capability is that shadow details can be pulled out of a very high dynamic range scene that is otherwise properly exposed and when an HDR technique cannot be used or is not desired. Still, getting the exposure right in the first place delivers a lower noise image if a longer exposure and the same ISO setting can be utilized.
"Along with conventional RAW and JPEG, you can choose the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File) format for still-image capture. Smooth 10-bit color depth provides realistic reproduction of skies and portrait subjects where subtle, natural gradation is essential." [Sony] The Sony Alpha 7 IV does not feature Pixel Shift Multi Shooting.
Sony's imaging sensors are among the best available. We expected repeat excellent performance from the new sensor in the a7 IV, and it delivered that. Overall, and like the models preceding it, the Sony Alpha 7 IV produces exceptional image quality, featuring relatively high-resolution, modest noise levels, and excellent dynamic range. From a predecessor upgrade standpoint, reduced noise and increased dynamic range are not differentiators, but the increased resolution is a significant one.
Camera shake directly impacts image quality for both still images and movies, and Sony's 5-axis Optical In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) is a difference-maker, providing up to a 5.5-stop shutter speed advantage, and the stabilized viewfinder is also quite advantageous. Lenses such as the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens and FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens have significantly increased versatility with IBIS available.
Many of Sony's lenses, including the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens, have image stabilization included, and in-lens stabilization can be better-tuned to the focal length in use. However, IBIS also has advantages. For example, in-lens stabilization cannot correct for rotation as IBIS can. IBIS works in coordination with in-lens OSS (Optical Steady Shot) for enhanced overall performance.
Selecting the latest Sony image file format arriving in the a7 IV was a no-brainer for me. As seen in the a1, the lossless compressed RAW file format is again available, delivering a significant file size reduction over the (massive) Sony uncompressed RAW file size, the only non-lossy RAW format previously available. The new lossless RAW file format retains the ultimate image quality while dramatically reducing memory card and drive storage requirements for a big advantage.
Are there downsides to the new Sony lossless compressed RAW format? Smaller files read and write faster from and to memory cards and disk, but compute cycles are required for compression and decompression. The image compression does not appear to challenge the Alpha a7 IV's BIONZ XR processor. In regards to decompressing RAW files, the overall performance difference will depend on the speed of the computer processor. I have not found decompression performance to be an issue.
The lossy compressed file format available on previous Sony cameras is still a good option, and it remains available, as does the massive uncompressed RAW option. "Along with conventional RAW and JPEG, you can choose the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File) format for still-image capture. Smooth 10-bit colour depth provides realistic reproduction of skies and portrait subjects where subtle, natural gradation is essential." [Sony]
The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately high amount of detail captured with the referenced camera.
|Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:||(MP)||100||200||400||800||1600||3200||6400||12800||25600||51200||102400||204800|
|Canon EOS 5D IV||(30.4)||38.8||39.1||39.6||40.4||41.6||43.5||45.5||48.0||51.4||55.1||59.8|
|Canon EOS R3||(24.1)||29.3||30.3||30.8||31.9||32.7||33.8||35.2.||36.9||38.8||40.9||44.2||44.5|
|Canon EOS R5||(45.0)||51.6||53.1||53.6||55.6||57.7||60.1||63.0||66.4||70.5||75.1||79.5|
|Canon EOS R6||(20.1)||24.1||24.7||24.9||25.6||26.4||27.3||28.4||29.8||31.4||33.3||35.5||35.9|
|Canon EOS R||(30.4)||35.8||36.6||37.6||38.7||40.0||41.8||43.3||45.7||48.0||49.6*||**||**|
|Canon EOS RP||(26.2)||30.7||31.3||32.0||32.8||34.0||35.5||37.1||39.0||41.5||43.4||45.8|
|Sony a7R IV||(61.0)||117.0||117.0||117.0||117.0||117.0||117.0||117.0||117.0||82.0||82.0||82.0|
|Sony a7R III||(42.4)||81.9||81.9||81.9||81.9||81.9||81.9||81.9||81.9||82.0||82.0||82.0|
|Sony a7 IV||(30.0)||43.1||43.4||44.1||44.9||46.1||47.7||50.0||52.5||55.9||58.6||60.7||64.6|
|Sony a7 III||(24.2)||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.1||47.2||47.2||47.2|
As shown in the above chart, the a7 IV's non-lossy compressed RAW file format results in smaller file sizes than the significantly lower resolution a7 III produces at the lower ISO settings. The scales tip in the other direction at higher ISO settings as noise detail does not compress efficiently.
Expect the lossy compressed file size to be modestly smaller than the non-lossy compressed file size. However, I do not find this difference large enough to incent selecting the lossy option.
The Sony Alpha 7 IV has dual media slots. Files can be written to both cards simultaneously (for redundancy), alternately (for increased performance), sequentially (for increased capacity), and sorted (by file type). Both slots support SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II) cards, with slot 1 being a multi-type, also supporting CFexpress Type A memory cards.
Compared to CFexpress Type B memory cards, the CFexpress Type A cards available at review time are slower, considerably more expensive, and not available in capacities nearly as high. Still, they are smaller, and the ability to use SD cards in both slots is a huge Type A advantage. The primary advantage of CFexpress Type A cards over SD cards is speed.
Utilizing the highest a7 IV movie recording formats and framerates require fast memory cards. For example, Sony specifies that 7k oversampling movie recording requires an SDXC memory card (V90 or higher) or CFexpress Type A memory card (VPG200 or higher).
A (minor-for-most) Sony memory card performance-related issue I usually complain about is the SD memory card format time. Historically, Sony's card format process is long, taking about 10 seconds to complete in the a1. While 10 seconds is not a long timespan, it seems quite long when inserting a not-preformatted memory card when action is happening.
The a7 IV significantly reduces both the database build time (this happens when a card is first inserted into a Sony camera) and the format time, now taking only 2 seconds and 5 seconds respectively for a 256GB UHS-II V60-rated SDXC card. While those times are still not fast, both are improved.
This is where things get complicated.
Like the a7 III and a7R IV, the a7 IV tops out at a relatively fast 10 frames per second continuous shooting speed. Unfortunately, there are conditions attached.
Per Sony, "Maximum continuous shooting speed is reduced when shooting lossless or uncompressed RAW / RAW+JPEG images. Maximum fps will depend on camera settings." In other words, JPG or the lossy compressed RAW file format is required to take advantage of the fastest frame rate.
In addition, the fastest rate requires the "H+" mode, and the "+" part always means a compromise is in effect. Obivous with the a7 IV's H+ continuous shooting mode is that the viewfinder blackout makes tracking fast moving action, the subject a fast frame rate is most needed for, quite challenging.
The improved viewfinder response alone is worth the compromise of stepping down to "H". 8 fps is still relatively fast — if your settings enable it. My preferred camera settings result in relatively slow, though adequate for many uses, approximately 6 fps performance. Mid (6 fps) and Lo (3 fps) settings are also available.
On paper, the a7 IV's deep buffer enables the continuous frame rate to be enjoyed for a very long duration.
|Model||FPS||Max JPG||Max RAW||Shutter Lag||VF Blackout|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark IV||7.0||Full||17||58ms||86ms|
|Canon EOS R3||12/30||540||150||20-76ms||0ms|
|Canon EOS R5||12/20||350||87/180||50ms||n/a|
|Canon EOS R6||12/20||1,000+||240||n/a|
|Canon EOS R||2.2-8||100||34/47||50ms||n/a|
|Canon EOS RP||4||Full||50/Full||55ms||n/a|
|Sony a9 II||10/20||361||239||20-33ms||0ms|
|Sony a7R IV||10||68||68||20ms||n/a|
|Sony a7R III||10||76||28||20ms||n/a|
|Sony a7 IV||10||Full||1,000+|
|Sony a7 III||10||40||163||20ms|
Per the specifications, with the JPG file format selected, images can be recorded at speed until the card is full, and recording 1,000+ RAW images is adequate for nearly all applications. While it is likely that you will experience that JPG spec, the RAW number is much harder to achieve.
With a V60 UHS-II SDXC card loaded and the lossless compressed RAW file format selected, only about 16 images are captured at the H+ frame rate mode (about 6 fps) before the full buffer impact slows the frame rate modestly (short pauses in the continuous rate). A CFexpress Type A should improve that experienced number.
Up to 1/8000 to 30 seconds is the shutter speed range available, including with the electronic shutter.
The full (first and second curtain) electronic shutter has advantages and disadvantages.
A significant advantage is that the electronic shutter is silent, ideal for use during quiet events such as weddings, when photographing skittish wildlife, and any time movies are being recorded nearby with audio. With no mechanical shutter in use, there are no moving parts, shutter failure is improbable, and there is no shutter vibration to be concerned with.
Certain light pulsing can influence electronic shutter-captured results, potentially resulting in banding. Also, defocused highlight bokeh circles can become clipped when using an electronic shutter.
The downsides of an electronic shutter are primarily related to the line-by-line reading of the imaging sensor. Fast side-to-side subject or camera movement can result in an angular-shifted image with vertically straight lines becoming noticeably slanted (with the camera in horizontal orientation). The second curtain of a mechanical shutter chasing the first curtain can produce the same effect. However, the difference between mechanical shutter (with electronic first curtain shutter) and electronic shutter performance in this regard has historically been quite big.
To this point, the Sony a7 IV's imaging sensor readout speed is quite slow, and the rolling shutter effect is very strong. During fast panning with the a7 IV, elements in the frame, especially vertical lines, will appear to lean strongly.
What is the Sony Alpha 7 IV's flash X-sync with the mechanical shutter? A relatively fast 1/250 X-sync is that answer (1/320 in APS-C mode).
Like the other Sony Alpha cameras, the a7 IV's mechanical shutter sound is audible but subdued.
In the Alpha 7 IV press release, Sony informs us that this camera model gets the "advanced AF capabilities from the flagship Alpha 1." A significantly lower-priced camera model having the AF capabilities of a high-performance model is remarkable and a strong selling point.
he imaging sensor is not the same, so identical performance cannot be assumed. However, the a7 IV's AF system is a huge upgrade from the a7 III AF system, where eye detection AF was just arriving on the scene.
Since then, the high-performing Sony AF systems, especially eye AF, have attracted photographers to the Sony Alpha series cameras. This technology, especially that seen in the Alpha a1, gave designers a solid baseline to build upon. With the new, extremely fast BIONZ XR image processing engine providing eight times more processing power than the BIONZ X (in the a9 II), along with AF algorithm improvements, the a7 IV's AF system performance is quite good.
This camera focuses very fast. Historically, Sony cameras in AF-S (single shot) drive mode defocus the lens before focusing, even if focusing on the same subject at the same distance. All current Sony Alpha current models do this. Positive is that the time spent refocusing has been reduced, greatly improving the total focus lock time. The behavior goes away in AF-C (continuous) drive mode.
The a7 IV's focus accuracy is excellent.
The a7 IV (and a1) AF system has 759 phase-detection AF points and 425 contrast-detection areas with 94% coverage, focuses in light levels as low as -4 EV (really dark), focuses with an f/22 aperture opening, and performs 120 calculations per second. It is critical to get the eye(s) in focus when photographing living subjects. Real-time Tracking of humans (even when the subject’s face looks away), animals (primarily designed for cats and dogs), and birds (eyes, second in an Alpha series camera) is featured in still photo mode, and the same are tracked in movie modes.
The a7 IV's eye AF system has selectable subjects, with human, animal, and birds as the options. An "Auto" option would be a welcomed inclusion as it is common to have only one subject type in the frame. The face memory and registered faces priority feature enables the photographer to focus on a preferred face when multiple are present.
Animal subjects' eye distinction ranges from that of a sheepdog (essentially no eye visible) to that of a mountain goat (black eye on white coat), and current AF systems are not able to discern all eyes. However, this camera performs remarkably well in this regard. Spending a very cold hour with thick clothes and gloves on under a dark afternoon sky shooting a running dog resulted in mostly eye-sharp images. No surprises here.
Portrait sessions seem to not challenge this camera.
Like the Alpha 1, the Alpha 7 IV "... features AI-based Real-time Tracking that automatically maintains accurate focus. A subject recognition algorithm uses color, pattern (brightness), and subject distance (depth) data to process spatial information in real time at high speed." [Sony]
The Sony Alpha 7 IV's Focus Area options are Wide (all points active), Zone (9 selectable large AF areas), Center Fix, Spot (S, M, or L point size selectable), Expand Spot (uses focus points around the spot as a secondary priority area for focusing), and Tracking (with the full range of AF point selection options). Having tracking available in all focus area options is advantageous for specifying which subject's eye should be focused on when more than one is present. Still, it seems that tracking should be an independent option that can be enabled or disabled. When not using a tracking feature, I most often use Flexible Spot (S) and sometimes wish that an even smaller (XS) spot was available.
I wish Sony's focus indicator in the viewfinder was not as thick. While it is very obvious, the focus indicator (and the viewfinder level) graphics covers too much of the subject.
AF point/area selection can be made using the joystick, or, if using the rear LCD for live view, touching the LCD will select the focus point, overriding the AF area to Flexible Spot tracking until the focus cancel button (center of the rear dial) or joystick is pressed. Unlike some other recent Alpha cameras, the a7 IV's rear LCD cannot function as a configurable AF point/area selection touchpad during viewfinder use.
Modern interchangeable lens cameras have outstanding video capture capabilities. Describing those features succinctly has become the challenge.
The a7 IV can record up to 4K 60p movies. This capability includes full pixel readout and without binning (cropped).
"When recording 4K movies at up to 30p, full-frame 7K oversampling [not cropped] is possible, resulting in high-resolution, highly detailed 4K." [Sony]
If you have read any of the site's lens reviews using the current format, you understand that most lenses have focus breathing. The angle of view changes, usually a modest amount, as focus is racked between extents. While the subject framing can usually be adjusted (if necessary) for still photos, the scene change is not welcome when racking focus during filming.
"The a7 IV leverages our parallel lens and camera development to provide innovative Focus Breathing Compensation, exclusively for Sony’s E-mount lenses." [Sony]
When a compatible lens is used (most Sony GM lenses at review time) and Focus Breathing Compensation is enabled, the camera will determine the narrowest angle of view provided throughout the focus range and crop the frame to that view at all other focus distances.
Another innovative a7 IV feature is the Focus Map. "Answering a request from professional creators, the brand-new Focus Map feature lets you easily visualise depth of field when you're shooting. In use, focus (depth map) information is overlaid on a display of the live view in real time, so you can easily see which areas are in or out of focus." [Sony]
The a7 IV supports S-Cinetone, Creative Look, and S-Log. "The S-Cinetone colour matrix, based on technology acquired through development of CineAlta cameras such as the VENICE, produces an impressive look with beautiful skin tones without post-editing. The Creative Look presets create other interesting visual moods in-camera, or you can use S-Log3 gamma to access the camera's full dynamic range (15+ stops) for smoother post-production workflows." [Sony]
Real-time Eye AF and Real-time Tracking for movies are supported with the BIONZ XR engine providing significantly improved detection, accurately tracking human, animal, and bird eyes, a massive upgrade from the a7 III.
Would you prefer to leave the gimbal behind? Active mode IBIS is designed for video recording while in motion. Additionally, "When using Sony’s desktop applications Catalyst Browse or Catalyst Prepare for post-production, an accurate image stabilization function is available which utilizes metadata generated by camera's built-in gyro." [Sony]
"Inherited from the Cinema Line FX6, the AF Assist function smoothly switches between auto and manual focus. Rack focusing is possible by rotating the focus ring to switch into MF and shift focus to a different subject, with AF resumed when ring rotation stops. Fine-tuned focus features, also used in higher-end models like the a1 and the a7S III, enable creative movie options like rack focus, quick switches of AF target, and highly customisable subject tracking sensitivity." [Sony]
"Using newly developed signal-processing technology, when wind-noise reduction is set to "Auto" and wind noise is detected, the noise will be greatly reduced without affecting other sounds." [Sony]
Do you want outstanding USB live stream video quality, such as for video meetings? The a7 IV has this feature built-in, supporting UVC (USB Video Class) / UAC (USB Audio Class) USB camera standards. Simply plug the camera in and select the "Live Stream (USB Streaming)" option from the pop up menu for up to 4k resolution (15p at 4k).
The a7 IV gets a Multi Interface (MI) Shoe, enabling cable-less digital audio signal recording from a compatible mic, with the camera powering the mic.
Extremely high video recording performance is what Sony Alpha cameras deliver. However, after seeing the slow imaging sensor readout for stills, I feared a significant rolling shutter effect when recording a7 IV movies. Fortunately, the a7 IV's rolling shutter performance appears normal.
Review the full Sony Alpha 7 IV movie capabilities here.
All current Sony Alpha cameras calculate exposures relatively accurately, and like the a1, the a7 IV features 1200-zone evaluative metering at EV -3 – EV 20, with +/- 5.0 EV exposure compensation available.
The a7 IV features anti-flicker shooting with the mechanical shutter (only) selected.
Available metering modes are Multi, Center, and Spot (standard and large), Entire Screen Average mode (stable auto-exposure through composition changes), Highlight (detects the brightest area in the frame to (strongly) avoid blown highlights). When the Focus Area parameter is set to Flexible Spot or Expand Flexible Spot, the metering spot location can be linked to the focus area.
The a7 IV features a 0.5" (1.3 cm) OLED electronic viewfinder with 3,686,400 dots, the same size and dot count as the Sony Alpha 9 II's EVF. The extra million+ dot increase over the Sony Alpha a7 III's 2.36 million dots is noticeable and advantageous.
This is not a blackout free EVF implementation, and tracking a moving subject in the viewfinder is very challenging in H+ continuous shooting mode. Slowing the frame rate down to H provides a big improvement, but the blackout is still noticeable, reflecting a slow imaging sensor readout.
The a7 IV's 2.95" (7.5cm) rear LCD provides decent image quality, though the 1,036,800 dot resolution is relatively low.
New is the vari-angle feature, enabling rotation of nearly 180° horizontally and 270° vertically, making hard-to-get shots and unique perspectives (including selfies) easy to capture.
This feature has especially great appeal for vlogging, but note that the LCD can interfere with L-brackets and wires plugged into the ports.
I have not found Sony's camera menus easy to navigate, and Sony addressed this issue with the a1 and a7S III. "Touch-responsive main and function menus with menu tabs on the left of the display, and related parameter groups and parameters on the right, make for easy navigation and tracking control." [Sony] Until recently, Sony's LCD touch capabilities were limited to touch AF point selection when the rear LCD was active and touchpad functionality for AF point selection when using the EVF. While the a7 IV does not feature the AF touchpad, full touch capabilities are otherwise included. Tap, pinch, swipe, etc., to navigate the camera.
Change requires acclimation, and I've now used the new menu layout in the a1 for a significant amount of time, long enough to become accustomed to it. I find the new menu system to be a modest improvement but still somewhat daunting to navigate.
A significant a7 IV improvement is: "For easy customization, a subset of the camera’s shooting settings now changes according to the selected shooting mode, making it easier than ever to use different aperture, shutter speed and other settings for shooting stills and movies." [Sony] This feature makes switching between stills and movie modes especially efficient.
I find the viewfinder graphics, especially the level indicator's two large superfluous semi-circles, consuming too much space. These features sometimes cover subject details. For example, it is sometimes difficult to see if a catchlight is present in an animal's eye. A thinner border on the AF point square would be another improvement.
An opportunity for improvement: when reviewing an image, pressing the shutter release does not start an exposure. A second shutter release press is required to capture the picture. I've been using Sony cameras for a long time, and this requirement still catches me expecting an image capture with nothing happening.
Those familiar with Sony's Alpha series cameras will readily familiarize themselves with the a7 IV as Sony maintains similar camera designs. Similarity reduces the acclimation effort required and makes using multiple Alpha camera models easier.
That said, the a7 IV's subtle changes, many from the a1, are significant over the a7 III.
As you review the images of this camera and contemplate using it, keep in mind that the controls are extremely customizable.
To compare the Sony Alpha 7 IV with many other camera models, use the site's camera product image comparison tool. The a7 IV vs. a7 III comparison is preloaded in that link.
At first glance, the back of the a7 IV appears mostly unchanged from the a7 III. The record button was swapped with the C1 custom button, and the LCD pivots to the side in addition to tilting vs. tilt-only movement.
A closer look shows four of the top buttons raised more prominently, the AF-ON button is enlarged, and the joystick has a new texture. These changes make the camera easier to use.
A recessed area at the bottom corner of the LCD facilitates opening, even with gloves on.
Did you notice the stacked mode dial on top of this camera? You'll see the release and lever used for this adjustment in the top view. The movie and S&Q modes were moved to this dial from the mode dial, a positive change that works great.
The rear control dial is a useful feature; however, I will offer a minor complaint about Sony's implementation. The edges of the control are not as grippy as I'd like (perhaps the surrounding plastic is raised too much), the dial presses in all directions (like a joystick) but only has 4 accepted press directions, and the clicks are not as reassuring as they should be.
Overall, a solid set of easy-to-find back of the camera controls is provided in a mature layout.
The top of the a7 IV also resembles numerous other models, but there are some changes to talk about.
Sony has been moving the rear dial out of the housing, making it easier to access, and that design improvement has been repeated for the a7 IV. The rear and front dials have soft-click positions.
New is that the exposure compensation dial lost its labels, opening this feature to other functions via customization. The downside to this change is that easy visual confirmation of the current setting is foregone (the viewfinder provides this piece of info). Featuring a toggle lock, the exposure compensation dial is the only lockable dial on the a7 IV.
Obvious is the record button's new position in the C1 button's former location. The top positioned record button better facilitates use from all sides of the camera, including for self-recording.
I mentioned the stacked mode dial. In this view, the lever and release button are visible. These function very nicely.
The modes that professionals (and anyone serious about photography) have come to expect are included: M, S, A, P. Those who want to take advantage of a great camera without a learning curve (and those who need the camera to decide what settings are required in an instant) have the intelligent auto mode ready for immediate use.
Three custom mode options are again provided, ready to store your most-used settings for immediate recall. Note that the a7 IV is also capable of saving and reading camera settings to/from a memory card.
S&Q mode, referring to the opposites "S"low and "Q"uick, is used for Slow and Quick Motion movies. Just counter-clockwise to the S&Q mode is the standard movie mode.
A single programmable custom button is provided within convenient reach of the grip hand's index finger. This button, along with the record button, is noticeably raised and easier to find than on the a7 III and earlier designs.
The a7 IV's power switch, surrounding the shutter release, is conveniently positioned, allowing the camera to be powered on with the grip hand's index finger while the camera is in hand.
As usual for Sony Alpha cameras, the a7 IV provides a considerable number of controls, availing quick setting changes. Once acclimated to the Sony control positioning and feature locations, this camera is easy to use. This camera's controls (except the rear control dial) have a high-quality overall feel.
Sony does not include a top LCD on the latest Alpha camera models. However, while I like the top LCD, I don't seem to miss it when using these cameras.
Ports on the left side of the camera from the top-right, moving clockwise, are: mic and headphone (3.5 mm Stereo minijack), SuperSpeed USB Type-C (USB 3.2 Gen 2), multi-terminal USB (Micro), HDMI Type-A (full-size port). A flash sync terminal and 1000BASE-T Ethernet connector are omitted from this model.
Noticeable on the camera's right/grip side is the new memory card door release, including a slide lock like the a1. I was initially concerned that I would break this door before I acclimated to the lock release, but that acclimation happened quickly.
One of the big attractions to the Sony MILCs is their small size and light weight. Small is great in many respects, but too small has a potential downside regarding the grip of a frequently-used camera.
When you want to have full control over something, you grasp it with your entire hand. You don't hold a baseball bat, tennis racket, or golf club with just your fingertips. The same is true for a camera grip. While I'm not swinging my camera in the same way as those sporting implements, I still want total control over my camera and an attached lens.
The initial Sony Alpha camera grips were too small for me. Despite its grip being about 2.5mm deeper than the II's, the a7R III grip didn't seem much improved. The a7R IV grip iteration was a significant improvement. The increased palm swell was immediately felt when picking up the camera.
The a7R IV grip extends forward noticeably farther than the a7R III grip, providing the depth needed to fill fingers, and many will find their pinky remaining on the grip vs. sliding under it. While the a7R IV's grip is much more secure and comfortable in hand, the lens clearance issue was not addressed in this update. I've often complained about Sony's larger lenses uncomfortably impacting my first two fingers' (non-cushioned) joints (I have medium/large hands). With the grip not being moved outward away from the lens, the a7R IV still has that issue.
The a1 grip measures an additional about-1.6mm in depth (varying slightly depending on where measured) from the a7R IV grip. While this difference is slight, the lens impact pressure difference is noticeable. I'm not ready to call the issue completely resolved, but it has significantly improved.
The a7 IV's grip feels identical to the a1's grip, bringing it up to the best Sony grip available.
|Model||Body Dimensions||CIPA Weight|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark IV||5.9 x 4.6 x 3.0"||(150.7 x 116.4 X 75.9mm)||31.4 oz (890g)|
|Canon EOS R3||5.91 x 5.61 x 3.43"||(150 x 142.6 x 87.2mm)||35.8 oz (1015g)|
|Canon EOS R5||5.5 x 3.8 x 3.5"||(138.0 x 97.5 x 88.0mm)||26.0 oz (738g)|
|Canon EOS R6||5.5 x 3.8 x 3.5"||(138.0 x 97.5 x 88.4mm)||24.0 oz (680g)|
|Canon EOS R||5.4 x 3.9 x 3.3"||(135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm)||23.4 oz (660g)|
|Canon EOS RP||5.2 x 3.4 x 2.8"||(132.5 x 85.3 x 70mm)||17.3 oz (485g)|
|Sony a1||5.1 x 3.9 x 3.3"||(128.9 x 96.9 x 80.8mm)||23.7 oz (673g)|
|Sony a9 II||5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"||(128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm)||23.7 oz (673g)|
|Sony a7R IV||5.2 x 3.9 x 3.2"||(128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm)||23.5 oz (665g)|
|Sony a7R III||5.0 x 3.9 x 3.0"||(126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm)||23.2 oz (657g)|
|Sony a7 IV||5.2 x 3.8 x 3.1"||(131.3 x 96.4 x 79.8mm)||23.0 oz (650g)|
|Sony a7 III||5.0 x 3.8 x 3.0"||(126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm)||23.0 oz (650g)|
|Sony a7C||4.9 x 2.8 x 2.4"||(124.0 x 71.1 x 59.7mm)||18.0 oz (509g)|
Overall, aside from the a7C, there is little size and weight difference between the Sony Alpha full-frame camera models. All are small. All are light. Those are features few will complain about, especially when carrying, either in a case or in hand, for long periods.
The Sony Alpha 7 IV is a modestly-sized DSLR camera that feels comfortable in my hand.
Built on a lightweight, high-rigidity magnesium alloy chassis, the Sony Alpha 7 IV is solidly built with a high-quality feel – very similar to the a1. Most of the buttons, dials, and switches have nice haptic feedback, and the fun-to-use factor is very high.
The a7 IV is dust and moisture-resistant (though not waterproof), though I have not seen Sony indicate the level of sealing provided.
A closed shutter improves dust resistance during lens changes.
"Sharing and connectivity with Sony's Imaging Edge Mobile app is now even easier and more powerful. Quickly configure camera Wi-Fi settings using the low-power Bluetooth connection, and enjoy greater control over automatic image transfers." [Sony]
The a7 IV's wireless LAN functionality includes the faster 5GHz band in addition to the conventional 2.4GHz band. The IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards are supported.
Background FTP file transfer enables sending files to a remote FTP server over a wireless LAN, high-speed wired LAN (compatible USB Type C to Ethernet adaptor cable required), or a USB-tethered smartphone.
Mirrorless cameras are not yet competing with DSLRs in the shots per battery charge spec. Still, their specs have risen high enough to be adequate for a significant percentage of needs, especially with a spare along. Highly convenient is that the a7 IV shares the Sony NP-FZ100 battery pack power source with many other recent Alpha series models. This relatively compact battery is rated for approx. 520 shots (viewfinder) or 580 shots (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard). Real-life experience is that battery life usually exceeds CIPA ratings and dramatically exceeds CIPA ratings when shooting in continuous modes.
As usual for Sony Alpha cameras, the battery door is spring-loaded, but the switch is not. It must be manually slid into the locked position after closing the door.
USB PD (Power Delivery) is supported, and the battery can be charged in-camera via the USB port and a USB wall adapter, with a 2' (.6m) USB cable provided. Not so nice is that a battery charger is not included. The Sony BC-QZ1 Battery Charger is optionally available and recommended.
Like the a1 and a7R IV, the a7 IV is compatible with the Sony VG-C4EM Vertical Grip.
The vertical grip provides improved handling, especially with larger lenses and especially in vertical orientation, where it provides the same grip and controls as the built-in grip. The VG-C4EM permits the use of two NP-FZ100 batteries, doubling the number of shots per charge.
Aside from the purchase cost, the biggest downside to the grip is the size and weight it adds to the camera. The grip is easily removable, creating flexibility in its use. Remove the battery door via a spring-loaded switch to enable the grip to mount. As with most battery grips of this type, the removed door clips into space provided on the side of the grip area that inserts into the battery compartment.
The VG-C4EM features magnesium alloy construction with dust and moisture resistance matching the a1 (minimally equivalent to the a7 IV). This accessory is well-built and well-matched — I have one in my kit. If I'm photographing people or wildlife, the grip is usually installed.
If two installed batteries are not sufficient for your needs, get the Sony Multi Battery Adaptor NPA-MQZ1K. That device holds four batteries.
When deciding which camera brand to purchase, consider the entire accessory system available. If your needs are light, a few good lenses may be totally adequate. However, professionals with more complex needs are not as easy to satisfy. In this regard, Sony covers far more than the basics and regularly adds impressive models to their E-mount lens lineup.
A high-quality lens is required to take full advantage of the camera's image quality. So what is the best lens for the Sony Alpha 7 IV? The lens is a required accessory, and most will find the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens or the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens to be the best general-purpose lens option for the a7 IV. For the longer focal length needs so often encountered, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens is a great choice, and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is an excellent option for wide-angle needs.
The site's Best Sony Lenses page is a great starting point for more advice, including more affordable options. The Best Sony General-Purpose Lens, Best Sony Telephoto Zoom Lens, and Best Sony Wide-Angle Lens pages feature recommendations for these top 3 lens types.
The Sony Alpha 7 IV comes with a significantly higher price than the a7 III, the only drawback to the newer model. Looking solely at the increased resolution, the a7 IV is priced at $75.70 per megapixel vs. $83.25 per megapixel for the a7 III at review time. If that advantage doesn't help the a7 IV price look like a good value, the huge list of other a7 IV improvements will.
Keeping a review of the incredibly-feature-laden a7 IV concise but complete is a difficult balance to find, and this review is not a complete description of every a7 IV feature available. The owner's manual highlights all of the features found on this camera and explains their use. Read the manual, use the camera, repeat.
The a7R IV used for this review was online/retail acquired.
Is the a7 IV the right camera for you? Those looking for high-end features and midrange speed in a modest-priced camera will likely find that answer to be "Yes!"
Should I upgrade to the Sony a7 IV from the a7 III? Definitely. Unless the higher price, the only significant downside in this comparison, is unobtainable.
Here is a summary of the a7 IV's advantages:
Again, unless the price difference is insurmountable, get the a7 IV.
While it has been fun to equate the Alpha 7 IV to the considerably more expensive flagship Alpha 1 throughout this review, and they do have many commonalities (comparison), the a1 is a considerably higher performance model. Especially the larger blackout free viewfinder and considerably higher frame rate stand out. There are reasons why the a1 has a much higher price tag.
As I said in the beginning of the review, the Sony Alpha 7 IV is considered a basic, entry-level full-frame camera. However, this camera seems far more than that.
The Sony Alpha 7 IV arrived just in time for the Christmas holiday, a time full of family events — and pictures. Being the new member of the camera family, the a7 IV got the call for this year's holiday duties. With significant control similarities to the models preceding it, including the flagship a1 model, the a7 IV camera made the transition simple, and for the general-purpose use, I didn't miss the a1's advantages.
Here, the full-frame imaging sensor and Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens team to blur the background away in a portrait.
The a7 IV is a roll-up of the latest technologies available, including the outstanding, critical-for-image-quality AF system, and this camera is a substantial upgrade to the III preceding it. To remain a lower-priced, basic model, deficits exist, and they are primarily related to viewfinder size and blackout, resolution, and frame rate. Otherwise, the outstanding feature set and solid performance accompanied by a reasonable price makes the Sony a7 IV an excellent value.
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