Almost four years apart, the all-new A7 IV was introduced. Will the new camera make any new dents from the solid ground captured by its predecessor – the A7 III, which was one of the best selling Sony Alpha cameras? We bring you the review, read on.
Before we dig deeper, too often, we can’t help but do a comparison of what is the closest competition on the market today to head-on with the A7 IV, which is considerably more expensive at around RM11,499 for the body. We found the Canon EOS R6 which costs about the same (RM11,999) but its 20MP sensor may not be a strong choice for many photographers. There are not many sideway choices to compare but to look slightly higher up, such as the higher pixel counts like the 45MP Nikon Z 7 II (RM12,044), or action-packed stacked sensors Sony A9 II (RM18,999) and the 50MP Sony A1 combines both of those features for RM27,599.
If we compared it to its last version A7 III, there isn’t any quantum leap in terms of a full-frame game changer. However, its upgrade brings the A7 IV close to its nearest competitor, the Canon EOS R6. This will place the A7 IV at a level of choices for everyone from wildlife shooters to event and wedding photographers.
The heart of the A7 IV is the latest Bionz XR processor, which is the same as the one in the Sony A1 – minus the stacked sensor. The strong processor has improved the performance of the autofocus and improved buffer depth when burst-shooting. Give and take a little, with the high pixel count at 33MP, the high burst-shooting at 10fps is actually the same speed as the A7 III. It can go even lower with finer raw files at as low as 5fps.
When testing its burst shooting with JPEGs, the A7 IV consistently writes at almost 10fps for more than a minute. Then we changed to RAW files to see the same write speeds for the first eight seconds and then dropped down steadily to around 7fps thereafter until Sony’s claimed 828 shots (for CFExpress cards) or when we are out of card storage.
The A7 IV has leapt in AF upgrade from the A7 III with its latest AF system, which means you get Eye AF for humans, animals and birds, in both stills and video. It is one of the most reliable AF systems in the market today. This makes the A7 IV focusing system at the top of the AF food chain for now for still photos.
For filmmakers, the 10-bit 4:2:2 colour sampling in the A7 IV is like candy in their eyes, this camera can churn out a maximum video bit-rates to 600Mbps, pairing with 4K/30p video maximising the full width of the sensor. The additional feature to shoot 4K at 60p is only available in Super 35mm crop, this is like shooting using an APS-C camera. A few minuses point here but if you are a seasoned videographer, you can always work around it using the lenses. There are many more video features for advanced videographers who may appreciate the extra creams on the cake. Overall, the Sony A7 IV is just as good at shooting videos as it is in still photos.
Build and handling
At a glance, conservatively, the build of the A7 IV is just like the regular A7 series, unlike the A7C which was built on a brand new platform. Just don’t be fooled by its look as under its hood there are quite a subtle of upgrades. On the bulging top, an improved electronic viewfinder with a 3.69 million dot resolution and 120fps refresh rate was upgraded from its predecessor, giving you almost real-time feedback optically especially when you’re trying to track moving subjects.
The A7 IV’s grip feels more secure and comfortable compared to the A7 III. If you look closely, you may notice a new dial beneath the mode dial for your convenience to change photos and videos made just with a flick. The ‘S&Q’ mode is also for your convenience to shoot slow-motion time-lapses. The red record button for shooting the video is now placed isolated “far” away from the other buttons to enable us to feel it better when we are not looking at it. The rest of the buttons and the selection joystick for AF is nicely-balanced at the back of the camera
The new vari-angle 3-inch touchscreen LCD screen is also new in the A7 series. You can now twist and turn it around in all the directions to fit your shooting angle need, especially useful if you are a one-man team. The A7 IV is now built with a CFexpress Type A slot for users to choose to have a faster writing speed of up to 700MB/s which virtually comes unlimited buffer during continuously shooting. The second card slot support SD cards.
Data ports are abundant. You get to charge the battery using the USB Type C cable from a power bank or share the cable with your smartphone’s charging accessories (although it is not advisable from their manual, it still works). You will also get the headphone and microphone ports, a full-sized HDMI port and a multi-port to chain your camera into your existing digital eco-system.
The A7 IV is also weather-proof for most shooting conditions when you pair it with compatible FE lenses that are also weather-proof. The body weight is almost the same as its predecessor at 659 grams.
The A7 IV uses the same NP-FZ100 battery as the A7 III. It’s the most efficient battery around for Sony’s Alpha full-frame mirrorless cameras in terms of its durability. When it comes to the A7 IV, it gets a little bit short-changed out of the battery due to its newer tech being a little bit more power-hungry. Expect shots from 520 to 580 depending on the use of EVF or LCD.
For a 33MP resolution camera, its 10fps is decently fast taking into account its pixel-hunger processing. The A7 IV’s top speed varies based on which file format you choose to shoot, for example, the 10fps with compressed JPGs, HEIFs, or Raw files, but just 6fps if you go for lossless compressed or uncompressed Raw.
Although the A7 IV doesn’t shoot photos as fast as those high-end options, its autofocus system filled its shortcomings. The A7 IV deploy Sony’s Real-Time Tracking feature, a continuous focus mode that locks focus on identified subjects. The focus system can track anything, and has specialized modes to track people, animals, and birds. Animal detection has already made its way to other A7 models such as the A7C and Bird detection was previously exclusive to the high-end A1, all the valuable features are all packed in the A7 IV.
The A7 IV’s in-body image stabilization (IBIS) comes as a standard feature in all the recent Alphas. Its Active Stabilization mode, which adds a steadying electronic hand to its mechanical IBIS, is certainly decent and helpful for handheld shooting or vlogging. Sony’s Active Stabilization mode will sacrifice the image a crop of around 15%, creating a much tighter field of view depending on the kind of lenses you use.
Since it’s a photographic camera in mind, let’s talk about the image quality. That 33MP resolution is definitely abundant for those who like to regularly crop into their photos. More megapixels mean smaller photosites on the A7 IV’s sensor, so Sony has used software to help in areas like low-light situations. You cant differentiate a photo quality for shots using ISO below 6400, it is rather clean. Noise becomes fairly visible beyond ISO 6400.
A7 IV’s improves on their dynamic range which gives you plenty of room to work on the highlight and shadow areas in the raw files. If you are a confident JPEG shooter, the straight out of camera (SOOC) shots in JPEG are mostly satisfying with their close to reality colours, especially skin tones.
The A7 IV is also a great video camera. Its 4K resolution is not something we shout about in the present day, but the 10-bit 4:2:2 colour sampling you get with its internal XAVC HS 4K codec is a notable upgrade from A7 III. The a7 IV supports full-frame recording at up to 30fps and can go to 60fps in a Super35mm crop mode as we mentioned earlier. Several colour profiles are available, including the S-Log for colour grading and an HLG profile for HDR displays.
The S&Q setting comes in a hard switch below the mode dial. You can record 4K footage at 2.5x slow motion for 24fps projects and can get recordings up to two times slower at 30fps, both using the Super35mm portion of the sensor. If you’re working at 1080p, you can slow it down to a decent 120fps and maintain a full-frame view. The best part is, that it is limitless recording just to be capped by your card’s capacity.
The workflow for your content is very streamlined. With their Sony Imaging Edge applications for desktops and smartphones, you can do live broadcasts connecting the A7 III to the laptop to act as a webcam, download and edit contents on our smart devices and upload to our social media instantly and easily through the camera’s built-in wifi & Bluetooth.
PRO & CONS
New powerful 33MP sensor
Great video features
Flip-out LCD screen
Good AF performances
4K cropped video
Slower burst rate from the nearest competitor
Sensor: 33MP full-frame
Processor: Bionz XR
AF points: 759-point hybrid phase/contrast-detect
ISO range: 100-512,000, expandable to 50-204,800
Video 4K: 4K/30p, or 4K/60p with Super35 crop
Viewfinder: 3.69 million-dot Quad VGA EVF
Memory card: 1x CFexpress Type A/SD UHS-II, 1x SD UHS-II
LCD: 3-inch fully articulating touch screen, 1.04mil dots
Max burst : 10fps, up to 828 raw+JPEG
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Size : 131.3 x 96.4 x 79.8mm
Weight: 658g (with card and battery)
Buy for RM11,499 (body) at your nearest dealer.