An Upgrader’s Guide to the Sony A7rIV

This isn’t a full review: if you want to check out the SNR then Bill Claff’s site Photonstophotos is where you want to go, and for technical analysis of many features of the rIV the Jim Kasson’s series is by far the best resource. Both of these sites are much to be preferred to any of the camera review sites if you have a modicum of technical knowledge.

This article, though, is more of a personal discussion of how much the differences between the A7r4 and A7rIII matter to me: and a spoiler is that while there are lots of technical differences which you can read about in the sites I mentioned, they aren’t the most important ones.

So as you can tell already, I made the plunge. Was it a good idea? that’s what this article may help you decide!

If you end up finding this useful and decide to buy one, using one of the links below will cost you nothing, and will make a small contribution to the cost of this site. None of us does this for a living, we don’t run advertising, and the small commissions just help make it possible to keep the site going.

You can buy it from B&H here

You can buy it from Amazon here

You can buy it from eBay here

Biggest Benefits

The biggest two benefits for me are the upgraded viewfinder, and the ability to make the AF/MF indicator red.

The upgraded viewfinder is great. It’s now about 5mp, and is noticeably crisper than the A7rIII. I find myself rarely or never using focus peaking, and often magnifying a little less in manual focus. This is really nice: it’s much less distracting not having focus peaking. Make sure you have the viewfinder refresh rate set on standard: the resolution drops at the high setting (the high setting is useful though – for example you might use it in  a  memory setting which uses high burst rates to follow action with autofocus. In this situation refresh rate would be more important than resolution).

The second improvement is the new, red colour available for the AF/MF target. This is wonderful! As someone who uses manual lenses maybe 2/3 of the time, my practice has been to move the focus target over what I want to focus on, then use a press of the joystick to magnify (setting initial mag to 5.9x eliminates an extra press you might otherwise need). But so often I would lose the target – it would be quite invisible. So I would have to reset it to the centre, and move it again, in the process losing the shot I wanted. The red target is really easy to see and I would personally pay big money for it. I’d also resent it big time as well, though, because it’s the kind of thing that could easily be made available on the rIII by firmware.

I think the enhanced sealing is also a big benefit. I have hated the way that I have babied the previous bodies in drizzle. Reports on the sealing of the rIV really do seem to indicate improvement – not just on the achilles heel of the riii which was the baseplate (never set an r3 down on a damp surface). The larger buttons which some people love for their ergonomics also are easier to make seals for apparently.

Image Quality

The short answer is that is very similar to the rIII; the longer answer is a bit more subtle.

First, the elephant in the room is the pixels. People seem to be divided into two camps about the megapixel wars. Those who hunger for more, and those who think they make things worse.

On balance I think the boost to 61MP is worthwhile but not something to make big financial sacrifices for.

The first reason is the oversampling benefits. If you take a 61MP image, and downsize it to 42, you see significantly less false colour and moiré. This is because these aberrations occur at the pixel level, so you are in effect shrinking them by downsizing. So in prints of the same size, or images displayed on a monitor of the same size, rIV images show a bit less of these issues. This is nice; not a big deal, but nice.

The second is the large printing benefit. I don’t make large prints that often, but I do maybe once a year, either for friends or myself. I never commit to a print soon after I take an image, rather I might print one a year after I’ve processed it, when I’m sure it deserves a place on the wall or to be presented as a gift. So I can’t decide when shooting that I should stitch, or use pixel shift, or use one of the other methods to make a large print a bit better. The quality has to be the quality that I use regularly. 61mp is not that much more than 42; about 20% linear, but that isn’t nothing. Only last month I was printing this image from last February:

And I was displaying it at various sizes on a 5K monitor to figure out the maximum size I could print it before it would fall apart a little on close inspection. That size wasn’t quite as large as I would have liked. I don’t think that was lens or technique related. An extra 10% or so linear size increase for the same quality would have been welcome. Again this is not a big deal, and not something I would pay the price for without the other benefits, but it’s welcome.

The third benefit is of course the cropping benefit. This next image is cropped to roughly 26MP:

The rIV has a APS-C crop sensor area with 26MP; more resolution than most crop sensor cameras. While I don’t think it makes sense to buy a full frame camera and regularly use cropping as a digital zoom (there are people who buy the 1.4/24 GM and then use it as a 2/35 equivalent in crop mode), the extra pixels mean that when you don’t have longer lenses available, especially for wildlife and other long tele work, you can crop a bit more and maintain decent quality. I really noticed this benefit at a wildlife park recently. The image above is hardly any different in quality at any normal size to this one, which is uncropped:

How much price do you pay for the extra pixels? Very little. Fist lets think about  noise and DR. As you’ll see if you check out the technical links, it’s basically the same overall as the riii. But there are, again subtleties. It’s the same base ISO quality – which is impressive given the resolution boost. It’s actually noticeably better than the r3 at ISO320 to 640, and barely noticeably worse than the r3 above that. At ISO 12,800 I’d say the r3 is at least 1/3 stop better.

This difference is essentially a result of the differential gain design:  these modern Sony sensors have two gain settings, one at the true base ISO, and another at a higher setting, where the noise drops. On the riii the higher gain cut in at ISO640 (which is why 640 was better in quality than 500) after which noise incresases. On the rIV that higher setting is at ISO320, and of course noise increases after that. So Sony have prioritised noise performance at lower ISOs.

Basically I’d say that these noise and DR differences are irrelevant and shouldn’t play a role in your choice. It’s not like the camera is no good at high ISOs. It’s better than many modern ones. Nor is it true that it makes the low ISOs blow away anything. But I have noticed that for my use it’s a small net benefit: ISO320 is so close to 100 in quality that I tend to use it by default when hand holding: the extra shutter speed is almost always a bigger benefit than than any tiny improvement in noise by using ISO 100 as I used to with the riii (until I couldn’t get away with it and switched to 640).

The other cost for the pixels is the file sizes. I haven’t noticed any change in responsiveness on my computer whatsoever: and I am using a fairly powerful computer. It’s a high end laptop— powerful, but not as powerful as the best desktops for editing. The files are, after all, only 50% bigger. If you current setup is not struggling, it shouldn’t be noticeable. If, on the other hand, your current setup is not performing well on the 42MP files, you might want to check. It’s still possible it won’t make much difference. Of course it’s going to take up more storage and backup space. My solution to that is to cull more vigorously, and keep fewer alternate takes on file. That also makes searching and so on easier in the future.

Final small benefit: It seems Sony’s claims of improved IBIS are true; I have a sense that it sees noticeably more reliable, and Jim Kasson’s tests show that it is at least a half stop better than the A7rIII. I have a sense that it is a bit less unpredictable with wide angle lenses, too—but I’m afraid I can’t confirm it because the many many  frames and complex statistical work involved in doing that is more than I’m doing to do for free! And I’m certainly not going to do what some sites do, which is shoot a few dozen frames and look at them and announce “proof” that it’s better.

Will My Lenses Cope?

People some times ask things like “will such and such a lens resolve 61MP” as though somehow a lens might get worse with a higher resolution sensor. This is a serious mistake. The system resolution over the image will improve with *every  lens* no matter how bad. Of course the better the lens, the more significant the improvement. And thus you will get more improvement in the centre than the edge with most lenses, since the centre is usually better to start with. But there will be some improvement everywhere. With poor lenses, there may not be much resolution improvement visible: but there will be some, as well as the moiré improvements. Where does this myth come from? Probably because people are inclined to check images in so called “1:1” on a screen, where each screen dot is mapped to one pixel. The more the pixels, the more you are in effect magnifying the image when you do this, and so the more visible aberrations are. But over the entirety of an image displayed at a fixed size on a screen or print, there will always be (subtle) improvement. The other way in which this might arise of course is that with a poor lens, if you want to use the extra pixels for printing or displaying larger, the lens may not be good enough. But displayed at the same size, to repeat myself, there will always be improvement….

Will diffraction start much earlier?

In many ways this is a myth, in one way it’s true.
What’s true is that the sharpness of individual pixels is maybe less than half a stop (not a whole stop) more affected.

But that’s not relevant at the image level, because there are more pixels. For any given display size for the image, there’s no difference in the effect of diffraction on the image. Of corse if you plan to display the image larger with the r4 because you can, thanks to the extra pixels, then you need to worry about diffraction a bit more. But that would be true if had uprezzed a lower resolution image.

So you are never worse off.

The other respect in which it’s a myth is that there is no magic point at which diffraction starts to affect an image. It starts from wide open. With a perfect lens it’d be diffraction limited from wide open. So it’d be sharpest wide open, and then every time you stop down it’d be less sharp due to diffraction (this is actuall practically true on sone smaller format lenses). What people call “diffraction starting” is usually just that with less than theoretically perfect lenses they improve as you stop down due to aberration control, and so performance improves even though diffraction makes it worse. But eventually more stopping down doesn’t improve it more than diffraction harms it, so you see it starting to get worse. On the best full frame lenses we are already seeing best performance centrally at f2.8 or wider, and then it gets worse as you stop down due to diffraction. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad stopped down (or that it’s worse than a less perfect lens where you might see a pattern of improvement until f8, where performance is best, but possibly worse at f8 than a lens which peaks earlier and declines to a still high value at f8.


There’s no doubt that the AF works a bit better in every way; but keep an eye on other sites that are more AF intensive for that. But there are two things I should definitely comment on here.

The first is the tracking AF; it works so much better than the lock-on AF of the gen 3 cameras. I don’t know if the R4s tacking is as good as the A9 – I’ve never used it. But it is a world ahead of any earlier A7 series, and if you take the kind of action images that need it, it will really work for you. Obviously if action and sports is your main thing then the A9 (or the A9ii due soon) may be a better bet. But if you are a landscape, cityscape and portrait enthusiast who has occasional but real needs for tracking for sports, then that could be a reason to upgrade to the r4 from an earlier generation model.

The second is a byproduct of how good the tracking is—it’s changed how I use AF for the better. What I used to do was use the joystick to move the indicator around to the point where it was over the subject, and then AF. Now what I do is leave the indicator in the centre, AF using expand movable spot with tracking on, and then I can recompose however I want, and the tracking keeps focus glued on the original subject. It’s like old fashioned focus and recompose, only with the focus adjusted. This is just great: it always took time to position the AF indicator the old way, the new way is much faster. But perhaps even more importantly, it means that I’m not stuck with the original composition—I can experiment with different compositions and not worry about focus. Previously I has to either move the AF indicator again to recompose, and then refocus, which was time consuming, or else lock focus and recompose, which made error likely. This discovery has really increased my enthusiasm for the new system.

Of course this method would work with central focus: place the central tracking focus indicator on the subject, engage AF, and recompose and the tracking will keep your subject in focus regardless of composition. So do I use a movable spot? It’s because of how much I use manual focus. If you switch to manual focus, you don’t want to use focus and recompose because without tracking it causes focus errors. So if focus indicator is movable you can compose, move the indicator over the subject, and magnify and focus (of course in situations where magnification isn’t required there’s no need to move the focus point.

The AF also seems to improve performance with lenses whose AF is not the greatest. For various reasons I had only the Sony 2.8/50 macro with me when I took this image, and the improved AF tracking workflow, combined with the AF of that lens seeing to work faster than it did on previous bodies, meant I was able to take the image very quickly before the subject began to get self conscious.


Precision and Caveats

There are a few small issues to be aware of, but they are no worse and sometimes better than previous models.

The camera goes to 12 bit precision in continuous shutter and compressed RAW.

But with uncompressed RAW it’s always 14 bit with one exception (LENR, or dark frame subtraction for long shutter speeds, turned on. Just turn it off: it’s not very effective)

Uncompressed RAW means you won’t get the full 10FPS; but it’s about 7 which is plenty for me (and when you need 10 the compression is no real issue). 7 is about the point where the viewfinder keeps up best too.

The read speed of the sensor is a little slower (less than one stop) than the r3. This is the only feature which is a little less good than the r3, and it’s I guess inevitable with the higher resolution. This only really affects you when you are trying to shoot action with the full electronic shutter: it means jello-frame distortion (for example a golfers golf club looking curved) may set in half a stop earlier. Just switch to EFCS or mechanical shutter and the problem is solved. The mechanical shutter has been upgraded (perhaps because of this, or more likely for the A9II) and is quieter and less prone to vibration than the already very good shutter of the R3.

Ergonomics and Physical Changes

A lot of folk love the new ergonomics; the bigger grip and the larger buttons. I don’t care much at all. In fact probably I prefer the r3 because it’s a tiny bit smaller. People with very large hands may prefer the new deeper grip. People who hate it when what Americans call the ‘pinky’ (the little finger for the rest of us) goes under the camera body will be pleased that it can now rest on the grip. It’s possible that if you live in a climate where you can’t take off your gloves to shoot that the new buttons might be a bit better. Otherwise the buttons are probably preferable, but not an improvement I’d pay more than a week’s coffees for.

The new camera is apparently better sealed than the previous ones. The card door is now a bit more robust (and both card slots are now UHS-II which is a relief) and there are more and allegedly better seals everywhere. This is something whose real benefit I’m unsure of—so long as you didn’t set the r3 down in a puddle its sealing was pretty good—but it does make me feel more relaxed in the rain. There’s also a USB-C port, which is welcome both for speed and robustness.

Other small but welcome refinements

There is a range of small refinements not all of which are well known which are pretty nice, here’s just a few of them:

You can set a button to go straight to My Menu. This is great! It’s like having two different function menus. You can also set the menu system so that it goes direct to My Menu when you press the menu button. This saves a button, but has the cost that when you are playing around in the menus, and go back to the camera, and then go back to the menus it won’t go to where you were before: it’ll go to My Menu. So if you have a spare button, I recommend the first method.

You can save your settings to an SD card or a phone. Also awesome. It takes a long time to set up a camera, and if you ever have to perform a general reset, or send it in for repair, or use a hired or borrowed camera this saves lots of time.

You can set a button that takes you straight to one of your memory settings: if you are in a hurry working at eye level this is way faster than moving the mode dial. You can either make the button toggle between current settings and the memory setting of your choice, or you can make it cycle between the memory settings. There are lots of times when I would have liked to do this when landscaping and suddenly wanting to make an image of a person or animal.

There’s a feature called “My Dial” which people coming from Canon will love. This allows you to set alternative functions for dials, and then assign a key which, while pressed, changes the function of the dial. Canon users are accustomed to this as a regular thing: you hold down a button with your thumb while moving a dial. So far I’ve done this this for iso: assign the centre button (which I don’t use) as the button I hold down, and then the front dial will change ISO. A better system, I think, than the default one of pressing a button than using the controller which is a bit clunky, or else setting the control ring on the back to full time ISO control. If you use the ordinary method, you can use the control dials to change ISO in whole stops with the front dial, and 1/3 stops with the rear dial, which helps you change quickly. You can also edit the range of ISO values you have to scroll through.


So should you switch? Of course only you can answer that. Switching from a second generation camera gives a ton of benefits and I think if you afford to move from a first or second generation A7 series camera you should (though you could switch to third generation). But if you are already on the third generation it’s trickier. The benefits are real, and some of them I really like. I absolutley don’t regret it. But if there’s a lens that would really help you, but you couldn’t buy, or a holiday you and your loved ones would miss out on, or whatever—in other words if it’s a real sacrifice—maybe going from rIII to rIV is something that can wait. But writing this guide, putting together all the benefits, has helped me be more sure than I was when I paid for it that upgrading to the A7rIV was a good idea. I hope it helps you.

If you would like to buy an A7rIV, buying from our affiliate links costs you no more and gives us a small contribution to the running of this site.

You can buy it from B&H here

You can buy it from Amazon here

You can buy it from eBay here

This site contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using any of the links marked as affiliate links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps support the creation of future content.

The following two tabs change content below.

David Braddon-Mitchell

David Braddon-Mitchell is a keen landscape and environmental portrait photographer. In the last decade of film he was a darkroom practitioner and worked with Olympus OM SLRs and various medium format cameras. He switched to Canon DSLRs when digital imaging improved, and made a move to Sony bodies as soon as the A7 series was born. He enjoys using a mixture of legacy manual lenses, modern manual lenses, and E mount AF lenses.

Latest posts by David Braddon-Mitchell (see all)

57 thoughts on “An Upgrader’s Guide to the Sony A7rIV”

  1. Argh the AF/MF indicator colour has been causing me no end of annoyance on my A7iii. I shoot only with the CV50 f1.2 and in B&W….and I shoot mainly street, which requires fairly quick ability to find focus. But finding that focus box is just ridiculous, even when I find it, it’s almost impossible to distinguish from the background!

    Surely this can be provided in firmware upgrade!! Upgrading for that alone is silly yet it is very, very annoying.

    Rant over.

    1. Yeah upgrading for it alone is silly, but there are other benefits.
      But like I said, I’d pay a lot for the indicator colour, while at the same time being resentful and angry that I had to, because it surely could be in in firmware!

  2. If I didn’t have to upgrade my computer too, I’d love the A7RIV. But upgrading from an A7iii and then also having to spend a few thousand on a computer means the benefits from the switch would cost 4-5k.

    It still doesn’t mean I read this article and didn’t love it though. Great article and well thought out! Maybe I’ll be buying it in a few years when the R5 comes out!

    1. It might be worth your while getting some IV RAWS from somewhere and trying them out on your computer. My guess is is that if it works fine with your III it’ll be fine with the IV. But of course buying one generation behind makes a lot of sense if your photo budget is constrained! Especially now that the one generation behind models are very good.

      1. It’s a little slow with my III but I make do. It’s a base level MacBook Pro Retina 2013. Not a lot of horsepower, which is what scares me about using a 60mp raw file from the R IV. But that’s a good tip!

        1. Have you used Capture One I downloaded some of there 100 megapixel files and could not tell much of a difference over my 24 megapixel files.

          1. I had the same experience with Lightroom, but of course the underlying speed and memory of the computer will make a big difference

          2. I have C1. I assumed it would be slower with bigger files. Now you’re making me want to upgrade to the A7R3, haha. I really don’t see how a MacBook Pro with 8gb of ram can handle that well though. And I only print large 2 times a year.

        2. Photo Mechanic for ingestion, culling, rating etc…is a utter game changer. 300% faster than LR…no joke. I go from Photo Mechanic to Capture One Pro.

  3. Looks a great camera… but… a A7Rii cost about 2000 less and a A7riii a thousand less … while the A7iii is also much cheaper… Would love the EVF though…especially as I have the A7rii

    1. Sure. The III is pretty refined, and it’s a very personal decision whether the improvements are worth the money.

  4. Thanks for the review Michael!

    So, I have an RII. The only thing that I really want, is a nicer feeling shutter button. Does the IV have that?

    1. Michael? I’m David…

      But your question. Feeling of buttons is a bit subjective. But actually the IV shutter feels very similar to the III: I still have my III on my desk (listing it today!) and while maybe the IV feels a little stiffer, it’s not something I’d pay a penny for I’m afraid. Very similar…

    1. Yes; while not perhaps up there with 12 thousand dollar modern superteles, it’s still excellent (vastly better than most lenses of its day at any FL) and really the best way for someone not shooting super tele for a living to get that look.

    1. In many ways this is a myth, in one way it’s true.
      What’s true is that the sharpness of individual pixels is maybe half a stop (not a whole stop) more affected.

      But that’s not relevant at the image level, because there are more pixels. For any given display size for the image, there’s no difference in the effect of diffraction on the image. Of corse if you plan to display the image larger with the r4 because you can, thanks to the extra pixels, then you need to worry about diffraction more. But that would be true if had uprezzed a lower resolution image.

      Do you are never worse off.

      The other respect in which it’s a myth is that there is no point at which diffraction starts to affect an image. It starts from wide open. With a perfect lens it’d be diffraction limited from wide open. So it’d be sharpest wide open, and then every time you stop down it’d be less sharp due to diffraction (this is actuall practically true on sone smaller format lenses). What people call “diffraction starting” usually just that with less than theoretically perfect lenses they improve as you stop down due to aberration control, and so performance improves even though diffraction makes it worse. But eventually more stopping down doesn’t improve it more than diffraction harms it, so you see it starting to get worse. On the best full frame lenses we are already seeing best performance centrally at f2.8 or wider, and then it gets worse as you stop down due to diffraction. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad stopped down (or that it’s worse than a less perfect lens where you might see a pattern of improvement until f8, where performance is best, but possibly worse at f8 than a lens which peaks earlier and declines to a still high value at f8.

  5. Yeah I’m still good with my RII. It didn’t cease taking great pictures when the RIII came out and I doubt it will stop because of the RIV’s release. I’ll shoot it til it don’t shoot anymore, then perhaps pick up an RIII or RVI a generation or two down the line.

  6. I bought it last month, and it was a happy upgrade from A7m3 so far. Here’s what I like;

    EVF-denser pixel, faster refresh rate. good for precise manual focusing and better true-to-eye experience.
    No record limit, no crop on 4K30p
    Better ergo, even if I have fairly small hands.
    Reliable tracking af-c, eye-af on video.

    But there’s some I don’t like;

    Slower camera boot time compared to A7m3
    Need faster, larger SD cards
    Slower processing time.

    I’m a tech guy and I have a very powerful workstation grade desktop for processing, but it is still not fast enough for dealing with a 1.8 GB pixel shift multi shot ARQ file seamlessly. I know it is gimmicky and not useful for ordinary pictures, but it is still fun and useful for macro photography and product photography I do for most time. I’m thinking about “upgrading” my Sony 90 F2.8 macro to Voigtlaender 110 F2.5 for just this task.

    1. I haven’t tried the 16 shot pixel shift yet, but see very limited use for macro photography unless of circuit boards and stuff. Botanical subjects will vibrate and move too much, even in the studio!

      The boot time has been measured as rationally faster than A7rIII but that’s compatible with it being slower than A7III I guess.

      I wouldn’t bother upgrading the Sony 90 to the CV just for macro work unless you much prefer it’s haptics. While the CV is a better lens from 1:4 up to infinity, at true macro distances the Sony, )or at least I should say my copy!) is at least as good as the CV (or at least my copy of that)!

      1. I guess slow sensor readout + pixel shifting delay cause inevitable motion blur to multi-shots. But I’m the kind of guy who take pictures of those circuits ;).

        I’m hoping cameras use more powerful processors for faster operations, but those will cost more and drain battery considerably faster. I feel slightly worse battery performance of my A7R4 compared to A7M3, so I understand trade off between battery performance over faster operations. Good to hear it is better than A7r3.

        I found some videos support what you said. I can’t say Voigtlaender 110 is sharper than Sony 90 for macro use. So, I’ll stick with my Sony 90 then. Thanks for your advice.

  7. Hi Philipp & all

    Does it make sense to use the Voigtländer 40mm F1.2 at the Sony A7R4 in the APS-C mode ?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback 🙂

    1. This really depends on what you mean: the lens is especially good central, so it’ll perform better than many in APS mode, and you’ll have 26MP.
      So if you mean “I like 40mm, but if occasionally I need to crop to 60mm equivalent, will that make sense?” then sure: it’ll work well, and better than on any other camera on the market.

      But if you mean “I want a 60mm eqivlalent lens, does it make sense to use the 40 in crop mode for that” then, like Bastian says, why would you do that when the 65mm Apo Lanthar is so good, and will give you much higher IQ?

      Of course maybe you mean you basically want a two lens kit: 40 and 60; can I save weight by taking only the 40?
      Well, yeah, of course you can. But of course your 40mm images will have full FF IQ, and your 60mm eq. images will be APSC quality. It will be more or less as good as any APSC camera, so if you are happy with that, sure. But if you take a lot of 60mm images, it sort of seems you should either get a 60mm lens for more weight, or get an APSC system for less…

  8. The 3rd main benefit in my view is the colour science that is updated to match that of the A7III – this was always a weakness of the A7RIII, which can produce a slight green tint that is undesirable when shooting portraits.

    1. Good to know. I haven’t shot JPEG at all, and don’t intent to check (I know that JPEG shooting is great and indeed essential for certain kinds of uses, just not mine). So the colour from all cameras I use comes out the same, since I make standard colour checker profiles.

      1. It’s not just JPEGs – there’s a significant difference with RAW files too. I noticed the benefit when moving from the A7II to the A7III.

        1. Most of the colour factors in a developed RAW image come from the RAW converter’s interpretation of the RAW data.
          Of course the developers of RAW converters to some extent try to emulate the colour of the camera makers’ JPEG colour “science” in their conversions, so that may have changed in C1 or LR as the new JPEG colours were rolled out in the third gen A7 models. (depending which profile you choose)
          Personally I profile my cameras/lenses so that the colour looks pretty much the same regardless of the camera and lens combination. It’s not always the most pleasing out of the box, but it’s a predictable base from which to edit colour, so it speeds up getting exactly the colour you want.

  9. thank you for the article David.
    referring to the “Will My Lenses Cope?” paragraph.

    Although i doubt it makes much sense to use a $60 lens on a $4000 body (it should rather be the other way around), i’ve also heard many people say, old manual lenses can’t resolve a high megapixel sensors.
    I’ve often been very impressed by the sharpness of some old primes (even cheap ones), which in my opinion are much sharper (in the corners) than many of the modern zooms.
    I mostly see weaknesses of those lenses in other areas than sharpness.
    So i actually think e.g. the Canon nFD 2.8/35 might deliver impressive sharpness on an A7riv even in the corners.

      1. MD 50/2 is going to lose.
        On the new high-mp sensors I expect it to lose hard.
        Minolta is a decently a sharp lens, but tales of it sharpness are a bit overblown.

        Nevertheless I agree: it would be an interesting comparison.

  10. I’m glad to see the my dial menu. Changing ISO on my sony a7r II irritates me. If it’s set to the rear dial where no buttons are pressed, it is easily jogged (and I’m not the sort to accidentally touch dials, but the back one is extremely easy to move). If it’s set so you have to tap a button and then move the rear wheel to change the ISO, I find it slow. Being able to hold down a button and use a front dial is way faster for me because I don’t have to contort my hand.

    I’d still like to see the exposure compensation dial be a freely customisable and infinitely rotating dial, so it could be used for ISO instead. The same can apply for the PASM dial & adding an OLED on the left. I’m not sure why they strengthened the mount on the a9ii but not the sony a7r iv either, and I’m sure they could have added that extra dial on the top too. That said, it’s a huge improvement over the camera I currently have.

    In regards to editing photographs. I’ve edited 150MP images and I’ve not seen a difference compared to 42mp, when using capture one. When using lightroom, the differences are huge on my computer(s). From what I can tell, this is mainly because lightroom tries to render the entire photograph whereas capture one renders what’s shown on the screen (so if you’re pixel peeping, it’s only a small portion of the photograph).

    I guess there’s a reason the capture one & photoshop workflow is now industry standard amongst world class retouchers.

    Unlike Tony Northrup’s criticisms of the camera, I am glad to see they are sticking with SD cards over his SSD suggestions. I know he said he worked for microsoft. I’m not sure if he brought the technicians coffee, but most people in the I.T industry know that SSDs fail. In a phone, it is rare for you to fill the SSD up and then format it and then fill it up, again and again. With a camera, you do that repeatedly. I really hope Sony stick with SD cards as opposed to cfast as well (at least for now). They are fast relative to their price, they are reliable, lightweight and easily obtained. These things matter to someone who cannot afford to spend £3k on memory cards.

    Wireless transfer functions don’t have to be perfect with a phone either. You can simply use a USB card reader and plug that into your phone. I’m more interested in wireless FTP — which it has. Programs to connect with the phone could be better (my sony a7r II doesn’t let me exposure bracket when using the phone to control it… it’s really annoying), but his vague idea of having everything internal & wireless seems silly given the current limitations & security vulnerabilities with WiFi.

    I understand your review has nothing to do with his but I really value your honesty and how you’ve approached this review, rather than illogical nonsense. Thank you!

    I will definitely buy this camera but I’m going to wait a bit. Sony’s pricing strategy is a bit of an insult to loyal customers i.e. high price, then a few months later it’s a lot cheaper.

  11. For me ergonomics are the single most important improvement in this camera. I love using heavy lenses, I own D810+24-70mm Vr, a 2,2kg combo. I actually carried this while recording movie WHILE cycling 🙂 But that brings me to ergonomics. With light weight lenses, A7RIII is all fun, and the ergonomic pain doenst really arrive. But with heavy lenses, i’m sure it will, if not after 3 or 6 hours, it will after 12. And when i travel, i often never put camera down. For instance, i hand held, after dark, in light up room, handheld (succesfully) the 100-400mm GM + A4RIV. Pretty sure my hitrate would drop with A7RIII. In fact for 3 days i didn’t realize my Image Stabilisation was not on, on the nikon 24-70mm VR, yet i got almost as sharp images as my primes. It then got me why: The heft of the lens stabalizes a lot (if hold succesfully). And there ergonomics is big play. Like i know i will love the Sigma 35mm F1.2 art, the R4 will simply handle it better.

    Also the middle finger (grip finger), is now véry articulated. This makes holding camera in any direction ultra save from accidently dropping. It fact it’s so save, that i risk more during my shooting. It’s a burder/stress going away, that lets you shoot.

    So for me that is the Mark 4 biggest improvement. I’m surprised to meet people who don’t feel any difference. Either you hold camera different or have smaller hands (or use small lenses) xd no clue 😀

    AF tracking is also amazing. Makes focussing from one mode without ever changing much easier (something i wanted a lot coming from my D810, where i do AF-C+ af-on button + center and recompose technique.

    1. I think he extent to which bigger lenses are a problem with a smaller body depends how you hold them. Any lens more than say 500g I always support by the left hand, and basically am holding the lens and camera by the lens. My right hand is just operating buttons and not taking weight. That’s how we did it back in the OM film days, and earlier Canikon bodies. I think with the Canon T90 and when the Canon and then Nikon FF dslrs came out, the ergos encouraged taking the weight in the right hand. If you do that, you’ll prefer the ergos of the R4 a lot. Otherwise less so, though I agree they are better.

  12. Hi David, thanks for the article!
    I do a lot of long exposure shots… is there any chance to see a timer on the screen of the camera of the time passed in bulb mode? Or is still dark like my A7RIII?

  13. Hi David. Very good article. Most of the comparisons have been between the A7rii and the A7riv. I’m really interested in getting thoughts/input (aside from cost) in a comparison with the A7iii. Especially auto focus and the viewfinder. Thanks in a advance.

  14. Firmware Update 1.10 – do you know what “Enables use of ‘My Menu’ to save or load custom camera settings” means please?
    I’ve been searching around and really can’t find anywhere or anyone that explains this!
    I’ve upgraded the firmware and I can’t see any difference in the My Menu section.
    Is it a new feature or a fix of a problem I never had?!

    1. I don’t know for sure…but I assume it just means you can assign the function for saving custom settings to a card to My Menu, which presumably you couldn’t before. So it won’t be in my menu unless you put it there…

  15. I think the red color highlighting of the AF target area alone should be worth the extra 1500 $. It took the programmer at least 2 min. to enter the different RGB value! 😉

    No, seriously, I’ve got another question: I was outside today with my A7r II to take some lake and forest landscapes. I should mention that I prefer glass viewfinders because I love to see the image in the VF as close as possible to what I see with bare eyes (and what the sensor “sees”).
    What annoys me each and every time with the A7r II EVF is that the saturation of fine-structured greens like distant foliage collapses as soon as this subject is in focus. Everything is shown with correct saturation (as set up in the “creative style”, WB etc.) as long as it is outside of the focal plane. But as soon as I focus on, say, a row of trees, the saturation of this item in the EVF drops to something more gray than green. This happens regardless if AF or MF is used. The final image (including the review in the EVF or on the display) is correct but not the EVF preview once in focus.

    Is there any explanation for this behaviour? Is the EVF designed to emphasize edges/structures at the expense of colors? I really hate it to the point that I consider giving up on EVF cameras altogether. Is this effect equally ugly in the A7r IV EVF? I know it exists at least to some extent also in the A9 which I tried.

    1. Could you have focus peaking set to white and turned on? That would produce the effect you describe.

  16. Hi, great images and ideas for my a7r4 how did you manage to get your signature and camera settings on your image, I’ve managed signature but no settings, regards

  17. Late to the party, I know, but I’ve just got my A7RIV – after reading reviews, including yours which I found really helpful. Thank you.
    One question please, you mention a button can be set up to instantly switch to, or toggle, a choice of saved memories M1 to M3 instead of using the mode dial. I can’t find this option listed for any of the customisable buttons that I’ve checked on.
    There is an option to button activate Recall Custom Hold (1 to 3) for saved settings, which is a similar thing but not as good; have I missed something or is this what you were referring to?

  18. Hello David,

    thank you for this thoughtful and instructive essay! It is still very useful now that the prices for a used α7R IV have dropped somewhat. I am using a α7R II, and wanted to know if it would be worth switching to the new model. Of course the differences in the specs are obvious, but what about practical use in everyday life? This is where your article was a great help for me – your remarks about the improved viewfinder, about the question whether lenses will cope or not etc. are very helpful!

    So thank you again, best, Roman

  19. wonderful review although i might be too little to late to the comment section haha. i was just wondering what did you mean by AF/MF indicator red. is that? a a red box will turn on to confirm when your manual focusing is this only for native sony lenses or you can use it as well via mc11 adaptor using zeiss lenses ?

  20. Hi All

    I am pretty late to the upgrading my camera game and wanted to know what you think about the new A7IV vs A7RIV?

    Here’s my objectives:
    1. Better AF for taking pics of my young kids – EYE AF is key feature
    2. At least the same experience with manual focus lenses – I have a bad collecting habit and have a lot of older glass.
    3. Scanning of Film – Been shooting a lot of 120 and 4×5 lately and been scanning the negatives with A7II and Tokina 90mm macro.
    4. Getting into astrophotography – want better sensor performance.

    I was thinking that I would go with the RIV to get the higher MP to get more details out of my negative scans and superior sensor performance for astro but it seems that the AF is as good if not better for the IV and that may help with Pics of my kids.

    Your thoughts?

  21. Nice article David and thanks! Good info on the ISO break point being 320. I had assumed it would be 640 just like the II and III. Here’s some of my user opinions as an a7rII owner with around 50,000 shots on it and now the a7rIV with around 6,000 shots on it.

    Absolute resolution difference between the IV over the II is subtly observable. Your commentary on debunking some of the diffraction mantra I really liked. I don’t do chart tests but rely on visually comparing real scenes by shooting the same lenses on the rIV and rII. Having over 400 lenses I can shoot on both cameras gives me a large optical field to test in and compare. Which I do. Even at f11 I consistently see better resolving with the rIV than the rII. That small but noticeable difference is not enough degree to warrant upgrading from an rII or rIII to the rIV.

    What makes the biggest difference for me between the rIV and my rII is cropping in post. Someone else can quantify the technical aspects of only slight improvements in visual resolution versus large improvements in post crop ability. The crop side of the equation is a constant while the visual resolution in each image would be lens dependent and a changing factor per each lens. Maybe that one statement there is a simple enough explanation. No matter what total resolution the image has captured, between the rII or rIII and the rIV, you always have 31% more pixels in post with the rIV. I can’t tell you how many times this has benefitted in creating a better final post processed image. But it’s been a lot. Which is why between my rII or rIV, it’s a very large and beneficial reason for upgrading.

    BSI sensor bias set point. In the past I did a lot of testing with my rII to try and quantify the headroom and footroom baseline for the rII’s backside illuminated sensor. I’m old. I shot film for years and I often pre flashed film when I knew I would be shooting dark scenes. A BSI sensor does exactly the same principle in real time as pre flashing film did. Which means it doesn’t really give you more dynamic range, but shifts the amount of dynamic range that is there downward. Why would Sony go to the trouble of adding BSI technology if it doesn’t extend the dynamic range? Flashing in film is done to retain more detail in the dark areas. I’m sure Sony is happy when this applies in digital and we get more detail in the dark areas. But that’s not why they do it. Sony implemented BSI sensor backlighting because it allows for better noise performance. Simply put, it makes their BSI sensor cameras perform better in noise comparison tests. That said, after shooting with my rII for quite a while it left me with the impression that the cameras headroom and footroom were not equal as highlights tend to wash out quicker than blacks would clip. Of course that’s the exact result you’d expect from light biasing a sensor in the up direction. The sensor only has a given amount of dynamic range. When you bias it up with backlight as BSI does, you shift the dynamic range downward giving a bit more range to the lowlights and taking a bit of range away from the highlights. In my testing, I found the rII has about 1 to 1.5 stops more range in the lowlights than in the highlight. Which explains why highlights seem to clip more quickly on the rII. This has led me when shooting fully lit dynamic scenes to underexpose by that same 1 to 1.5 stops and rescale in post. You do fall off the optimum noise curve that way but also are shooting in the most linear portion of the sensor.

    A lot of long windedness just to make a point. As you say the ISO breakpoint for the rIV is 320, not 640 like the rIII; I think the same goes for the BSI sensor bias point. In all my comparative shooting, I don’t think the rIV is light biased as strongly as the rII is. Don’t have an rIII so I can’t speak to it. But in my opinion the rIV doesn’t clip whites quite as aggressively as the rII. I do a lot of lowlight photography and similarly, I don’t think the rIV has quite the lowlight ability that the rII does. When I compare the rIV to the rII in dark scenes, the rIV tends to lose definition about a stop quicker. Which aligns exactly with your comment that the ISO breakpoint is one stop lower on the rIV. Result is, when I know I’m shooting dark scenes, I invariably reach for the rII and when I know I’m shooting full scaled scenes I tend to use the rIV.

    Image Stabilization: I’ve always been a steady shot. Back in film days I always seemed to be able to shoot a half stop or stop slower than most. Even turning 70 this year I still routinely shoot my rII hand held down to 1/10th second and get perfectly usable images thanks to the 5 axis sensor stabilization. That said I have learned not to go below about 1/30th second shutter with my rIV. No matter how careful, I just can’t hold it down to the shutter level of the rII.

    Color: The rIII may be closer to the rIV than my rII is but I definitely see improvement in overall color scaling with the rIV over my rII. I also see improved reds with the rIV and less red over gamut than I encounter with my rII.

    Noise: My real world use thoughts on the rIV’s noise goes hand in hand with the BSI and sensor bias point ramble. I think the rIV’s sensor bias point is about a stop lower than my rII. I believe I see that difference when shooting dark scenes. My rIV seems to lose lowlight detail a bit quicker than my rII and when I shoot dark scenes at the same settings, the rIV does appear to show more noise than my rII. However in shooting full scale scenes I prefer the rIV as it appears to have a slight headroom advantage, has slightly better color and with full scale lighting you’d be hard pressed to find noise differences between the rIV and the rII.

    I shoot many lenses on my Sony cameras. Most are vintage lenses and because of such I’ve long gotten in the habit of leaving my cameras on M, setting aperture on the lens itself and wheeling shutter speed with the top thumb wheels. When using a modern auto focus lens I’ll still shoot on M and whell the aperture with the front top grip wheel. Viewfinders are so damned good now and scale so well that I rarely even look at metering. I pre set the lens aperture as desired, look in the viewfinder and wheel shutter speed with my thumb and shoot when it looks scaled right in the viewfinder. If I’m concerned about scene dynamic range I’ll generally shot a + and – bracket as well as the initial mid shot. All that to say that camera features mean very little to me and others can speak to them where I am mostly ignorant. The one feature I use a lot and rely on are the Custom White Balance settings. I shoot lots of vintage lenses and many of them have suffered in the color department. Almost all old lenses have color shifts due to lubricant outgas depositing on the lens elements. Many vintage lenses have some residual level of fungus on elements. Others, especially early coated lenses have color shifts due to coating oxidation and chemical synthesis reactions causing adjacent chemicals in coatings to synthesize into a new combined chemical with altered properties. To this, I rely on the Custom White Balance 360 colorimetry shift ability to re-balance vintage lens color. For novices, when using Custom White Balances, what you are doing here is dialing in a color offset that gets applied to the cameras normal white balance. Meaning the camera will still do a white balance function and the Custom White Balance offset is applied to that.

    Long ramble and sort of Johnny come lately info I guess since Sony will probably supersede the rIV soon. But I like hearing other users learned experience and I’ve shot a lot, which has led me to my own opinions, hopefully of some value to someone.

    best to all … Kevin

    1. Thanks for that extra info Kevin. I’m still coming to grips with the R4 after upgrading from the original R, and it sounds like we use these bodies in similar ways so it’s useful to me. Particularly I still need to work out the best parameters for using the 4 low light situations. I have enjoyed using the original R in those situations but subjectively find the R4’s noise to be much less attractive and film-like than the R’s. The colour of the 4 is more realistic and objectively better, but to be honest I prefer the way the R’s files look on import. I’m not chasing realism. Still in the process of working out whether what I’m seeing is a function of how I’m viewing these files with their different resolutions or a real difference in the grain of the noise.

      In daylight at low ISO’s there’s not much to talk about, the R4 just is a higher res version of the R in a body that feels more professional and robust to handle.

      Setting up custom white balances is something I hadn’t considered yet, given I never shoot anything but RAW format anyway, but it does sound useful enough to look into.

      Thanks for taking the time to add your experiences with the 4.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *