Technology

Sony A7 IV review: The power of an almost perfect hybrid camera

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

A lot has changed over the years between the two models. Sony now has to contend with strong competitors like the Canon EOS R6 and Nikon Z6 II. It also released its own high-end new models such as A7S III, A7R IV and A1 loaded with the latest technologies.

Positives

  • Excellent picture quality
  • 4K 60p 4: 2: 2 video
  • Incredible AF
  • Fantastic treatment

Negatives

  • rolling shutter
  • Relatively slow shooting speeds
  • very expensive

With all that said, I was of course curious to see how the A7 IV would stack up in a category that I dominated for a few years. How do you resist competitors, especially when it comes to video? How much new technology from high-end models has made it into the mainstream A7 IV? 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


The Sony A1, A7S III and A7R IV have all undergone substantial changes in the body compared to their predecessors, and the A7 IV follows the same script. It has the same nice big grip, so you’ll never feel like you’re going to drop it, even with the big lens. However, it did gain some heft and size, weighing in at 699 grams compared to the 650 with the AIII. It’s 7mm thicker, too.

It has similar controls to the A7 III, with the biggest difference being that the record button has moved from the back to an easily accessible position at the top. Buttons and dials in general look better and more accurate, and the joystick is stronger and easier to use. It lacks certain dials compared to the more expensive A1, such as shooting mode and autofocus dials. The lockable exposure compensation dial is the same, but it lacks graphics because it’s designed to be programmable.

But in a way, the A7 IV’s body is a step up from the A1. The backlit touch screen can fully articulate and not just tilt outward, so it is more practical for low-angle shooting in portrait orientation. This makes it more useful as a camera for vlogging.

It has the same well-organized menu system as the A1 and A7S III, although some of the controls can be hard to find. As with any other modern camera, it’s time to set up the function menu, custom menus, and manual controls to your liking. Overall, though, Sony’s menus are now among the better and better organized than the Canon EOS R6’s, for example.

Sony A7 IV Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review

Steve Dent / Engadget

The EVF of 3.69 million dots is sharper than the 2.68 million dots on the A7 and on par with similarly priced competitors. However, the rear screen is smaller and has a lower resolution than that of the R6. That can make manual focusing tricky, although the A7 IV has a new feature that can help with that — more on that soon.

The A7 IV has a dual-slot card system that supports both SD UHS II and much faster CFexpress Type A cards. However, unlike the slots on the A1 and A7S III, it only has one dual slot, the other being SD UHS II only. Type A CFexpress cards aren’t quite as fast as regular CFexpress cards, topping out at 800MB/s compared to 1,700MB/s. They are also used in Sony cameras only, so they are relatively hard to find and very expensive.

Other features include a USB-C port that can power the camera during playback, along with a full-size HDMI port, thankfully. It uses a new Sony NP-FZ100 battery that delivers up to 580 shots when charged, or about two hours of 4K video shooting. Finally, the A7 IV can close its mechanical shutter when the camera is turned off, protecting it from dust when changing lenses. This is a feature that debuted in the EOS R, so thanks for starting this trend, Canon.

performance

Sony A7 IV Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review

Steve Dent / Engadget

Sony mirrorless cameras are known for their fast autofocus and AI intelligence, and the A7 IV is no exception. However, Sony has made some concessions that affect performance.

The new 33MP sensor is backlit but isn’t stacked like the one on the A1, so readout speeds are relatively slow. As a result, shooting speeds are as fast as the A7 III in mechanical or electronic shutter modes for compressed RAW photos, dropping to 6 fps if you’re using lossless or uncompressed RAW, as many photographers prefer to do.

This is still impressive given that the accuracy is up by about 50 percent. By comparison, the Sony A1 can shoot 50MP photos in electronic mode at up to 30fps, demonstrating the speed benefits of the stacked sensor.

While burst speeds haven’t improved, you can take more photos at once, up to 1,000 uncompressed RAW photos. If you use CFexpress Type A cards from Sony or ProGrade, you can effectively shoot forever without filling up the buffer.

Sony A7 IV Hybrid Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review Sample Images

Steve Dent / Engadget

Another drawback with the slow A7 IV sensor reading speeds is the shutter rotation. If you want to shoot silently in electronic mode, you’ll need to keep the camera still and your subject won’t move quickly either. Otherwise, you’ll see slashes and other artwork that can be bad enough to spoil your shots. Using crop mode helps a lot, but you lose the advantages of the full frame sensor.

The A7 IV is Sony’s most advanced camera yet when it comes to autofocus. It adds all new Sony AI tricks to make it the easiest to use and most reliable camera I’ve tested in this regard.

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

Whether you’re tracking sports, birds or cars, the tracking spot will stay firmly attached to your target in most situations. All you have to do is touch the subject you want to track and it will take the camera from there.

Sony A7 IV Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Review

Steve Dent / Engadget

The A7 IV’s AF can keep up with the camera’s continuous shooting speeds for sports or bird photography. But most importantly, the nails of the A7 IV are constantly focused on other difficult situations, especially with people. In some messy situations with a lot of complex subjects and lighting, I ended up with very few unusable shots. Keep in mind that optimum focusing performance requires the latest Sony lenses, but it has worked well with newer Sigma models as well.

Focus is only one part of the equation. It continuously stabilizes AE and AE white balance in challenging situations with a combination of lighting. This worked well in a bar with a mix of studio and functional lights, or in front of the famous moving windows of a Paris department store with all kinds of colors of lights.

In-body stabilization improves half-stops over the A7 III to 5.5 stops with compatible lenses, but neither comes close to Canon’s claimed 8 stops on the EOS R6. This is somewhat balanced by Sony’s superior ISO performance. I was still able to get reasonably sharp half-second shots with some care.

picture quality

Gallery: Sony A7 IV review sample photos | 54 photos


There is a significant improvement in image quality with the A7 IV. You would expect more sharpness with the extra precision, and it definitely delivers that. However, you might also think that the smaller pixels would make the A7 IV worse in low light, but no. In fact, by much of its ISO range, the A7 IV performs even better than Sony’s low-light champ, the A7S III.

Images are clean and usable in most low-light situations up to ISO 12800, with plenty of detail even in underexposed shots. In fact, the A7 IV has the lowest noise I’ve ever seen at this ISO range. Correctly exposed images can be used up to ISO 25600, but noise becomes a serious problem after that.

Sony has improved its color science with every new camera lately, and the A7 IV probably has its best setup yet. The green we saw on previous models is gone and colors are more accurate off-camera and easier to balance in the prism than ever before.

JPEGs look great straight from the camera with a nice balance of detail and noise reduction. 14-bit RAW images provide up to 13 degrees of dynamic range, giving you plenty of room to raise shadows and accentuate background shadows. Overall, the Sony A7 IV delivers the best images of any of its cameras, with a great balance of detail, high ISO performance, and color accuracy.

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