Sony A7 IV review: an almost perfect hybrid camera powerhouse

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Almost four years after Sony released its highly successful A7 III mirrorless full-frame mirrorless camera, it’s finally launched a follow-up. The A7 IV brings a host of new features and improvements such as a high-resolution 33-megapixel sensor, improved video specs and updated AI-powered autofocus. However, at $2,500, it’s also $500 more than the A7 III at launch.

Much has changed over the years between the two models. Sony now faces tough rivals like Canon’s EOS R6 and Nikon Z6 II. Itself has also released new high-end models like the A7S III, A7R IV and A1 with the latest technologies.

Advantages

  • Excellent image quality
  • 4K 60p 4: 2: 2 video
  • Amazing autofocus
  • Excellent handling

The inconvenients

  • Roller shutter
  • Relatively slow shooting speeds
  • High price

With all of that, I was of course curious to see how the A7 IV would rank in a category it dominated for several years. How does it compare to its competition, especially when it comes to video? How many new technologies from high-end models have been incorporated into the mainstream A7 IV? And is it suitable for professional use? Let’s dive in and find out.

Design and handling

Gallery: Sony A7 IV Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review | 28 Photos


Gallery: Sony A7 IV Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review | 28 Photos

Sony’s A1, A7S III, and A7R IV have all undergone substantial body changes from their predecessors, and the A7 IV follows the same script. It has the same good grip, so you never feel like you’re going to drop it, even with a big lens. However, it gained a bit of weight and size, weighing in at 699 grams compared to 650 with the AIII. It is also 7mm thicker.

It has similar controls to the A7 III, with the biggest difference being that the record button is moved from the back to an easier to access position on top. The buttons and dials are also generally better and more precise, and the joystick is more grippy and easier to use. It lacks some dials compared to the much more expensive A1, like the shooting mode and autofocus dials. The lockable exposure compensation dial is the same, but it lacks the graphics because it’s designed to be programmable.

In a sense, however, the body of the A7 IV is a cut above the A1. The rear touchscreen can be fully articulated and not just tilted, so it’s much more convenient for low-angle shooting in portrait orientation. This also makes it much more useful as a vlogging camera.

It has the same well-organized menu system as the A1 and A7S III, although some controls can be a bit difficult to find. As with any modern camera, so it’s time to configure the function menu, custom menus, and manual controls as you like. Overall, however, Sony’s menus are now some of the better and better organized than on the Canon EOS R6, for example.

Sony A7 IV full frame mirrorless camera review

Steve Dent / Engadget

The 3.69 million point EVF is much clearer than the 2.68 million point EVF on the A7 and on par with similarly priced rivals. However, the rear screen is smaller and has a lower resolution than the R6. This can make manual focus tricky, although the A7 IV has a new feature that can help with this – more on that shortly.

The A7 IV has a dual slot card system that supports both UHS II SD cards and the much faster CFexpress Type A cards. However, unlike the A1 and A7S III slots, it only has one dual slot, the other being SD UHS II only. Type A CFexpress cards are not as fast as regular CFexpress cards, reaching 800MB/s compared to 1700MB/s. They are also only used in Sony cameras, so they are relatively hard to find and quite expensive .

Other features include a USB-C port that can power the camera while in operation, as well as a full-size HDMI port, thank goodness. It uses Sony’s new NP-FZ100 battery which provides up to 580 shots with one charge, or around 2 hours of 4K video recording. Finally, the A7 IV can close its mechanical shutter when the camera is off, protecting it from dust when you change lenses. This is a feature that first appeared on the EOS R, so thank you for starting this trend, Canon.

Performance

Sony A7 IV full frame mirrorless camera review

Steve Dent / Engadget

Sony mirrorless cameras are renowned for their autofocus speeds and artificial intelligence, and the A7 IV is no exception. However, Sony has made a few compromises that affect performance.

The new 33-megapixel sensor is backlit but not stacked like the A1’s sensor, so read speeds are relatively slow. As a result, shooting speeds are 10 fps like the A7 III in mechanical or electronic shutter mode for compressed RAW photos, and drop to 6 fps if using lossless or uncompressed RAW, such as many photographers prefer to do this.

It’s still impressive considering the resolution has increased by almost 50%. By comparison, the Sony A1 can shoot 50 megapixel photos in electronic mode at up to 30 fps, showing the speed advantages of a stacked sensor.

Although the burst speeds are not improved, you can capture more photos at a time, up to 1000 in uncompressed RAW format. If you are using CFexpress Type A cards from Sony or ProGrade, you can effectively shoot indefinitely without filling the buffer.

Sony A7 IV full frame mirrorless mirrorless camera reviews sample images

Steve Dent / Engadget

Another downside to the A7 IV’s slow sensor read speeds is the roller shutter. If you want to take quiet photos in electronic mode, you’ll need to keep the camera steady and your subject won’t be able to move quickly either. Otherwise, you’ll see slanted lines and other artifacts that can be bad enough to ruin shots. Using the crop mode helps a lot, but then you lose the benefits of a full frame sensor.

The A7 IV is Sony’s most advanced autofocus camera to date. All of Sony’s new AI tricks add up to make this the easiest to use and most reliable camera I have ever tested in this regard.

Unlike the A7 III, face, eye, and body tracking works in all focus modes for animals, birds, and people. Unless you turn it off, it will automatically pick up your subject’s eyes, face, or body and track them even if they rotate or disappear from the frame.

Whether you are tracking sports, birds, or cars, the tracking point will stay firmly locked on your subject in most situations. All you have to do is touch the subject you want to track and the camera will pick it up from there.

Sony A7 IV full frame mirrorless camera review

Steve Dent / Engadget

The A7 IV’s autofocus can easily keep up with the camera’s burst speeds for sports or bird photography. But more importantly, the A7 IV consistently focuses in other sticky situations, especially with people. In some chaotic situations with lots of subjects and complex lighting, I found myself with very few unusable shots. Keep in mind that optimal focusing performance requires the latest Sony lenses, but this has also worked well with recent Sigma models.

Concentration is only part of the equation. It has always succeeded in automatic exposure and automatic white balance in tricky situations with a mixture of lighting. It worked well in a bar with a mix of studio and practical lights, or in front of famous Parisian department store windows bustling with all kinds of light colors.

In-body stabilization improves a half-stop compared to the A7 III at 5.5 stops with compatible lenses, but none come close to the 8 stops claimed by Canon on the EOS R6. However, this is somewhat offset by Sony’s superior high ISO performance. I was still able to get pretty sharp shots down to half a second with a little care.

Photo quality

Gallery: Sony A7 IV Reviews Sample Images | 54 photos


Gallery: Sony A7 IV Reviews Sample Images | 54 photos

A big improvement with the A7 IV is the picture quality. You’d expect more crispness with the extra resolution, and that’s definitely what it delivers. However, you might also think that the smaller pixels would make A7 IV worse in low light, but no. In fact, over much of its ISO range, the A7 IV even performs better than Sony’s low-light champion, the A7S III.

Images are crisp and usable in most low-light situations up to ISO 12,800, with great detail even in underexposed shots. In fact, the A7 IV has the lowest noise I have ever seen in this ISO range. Properly exposed photos can be used up to ISO 25,600, but noise becomes a serious problem afterwards.

Sony has been improving its color science with every new camera lately, and the A7 IV has perhaps its best setup yet. The green cast we saw on previous models is gone, and colors are crisp right out of the camera and easier to balance than ever before.

JPEGs look great right out of the camera with a good balance of detail and noise reduction. 14-bit RAW images offer up to 13 stops of dynamic range, giving you plenty of room to cast shadows and recapture highlights. Overall, the Sony A7 IV offers perhaps the best images of any of its cameras, with an excellent balance of detail, high ISO performance, and color accuracy.

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