After the huge success of the Sony a7 III, we all waited with great anticipation for the next iteration of that camera. In October 2021, the wait was over and the Sony a7 IV was introduced. The big question on everyone's mind: was this the camera we hoped it would be or just minor upgrade?
The a7 IV, at first glance, appeared to be a much beefier camera. It boasted a bigger grip and thicker body than the a7 III. I found, overall, that the body felt good in the hands. The grip will be especially nice for those with larger hands. However, I must admit that the previous model did not really bother me in this regard.
The body is constructed with a magnesium frame, offering plenty of protection. The model I was conducting the test with had been dropped before I received it and suffered a dent in the bottom panel. The camera had no functional issues otherwise. At over 2.5 pounds, it is 1 pound heavier than its predecessor. It appears that Sony is not moving to a lighter camera with its newer, full frame cameras.
Buttons, Dials and Switches
First, when viewing the camera from the top, I couldn't help but notice the new layout. Many of the buttons, such as the af-on button are much larger. Next, the exposure compensation dial has been replaced by a configurable dial, completed with a locking button. This was a great addition, that Sony also added to the a1. I can lock my compensation in and not worry about bumping it. That was a major issue for me with the a7 III. I was always knocking that button to another compensation value.
The record button has been moved to the location where normally the C1 button and this button is also re-assignable to any other button or function on the camera. So, essentially it is the C1 button, but now has a primary purpose of recording.
The thumbwheel on the back has the new "toothy" texture on it, we have seen with the a1, and it has been slightly moved. The joypad on the back, which usually brings no one any joy, has been recessed slightly. That is probably a wise move on Sony's part.
Last, but certainly not least, the a7 IV now has a fully articulating screen. I can't tell you how many times, during testing, and even shooting the accompanying video to this article, I used the new articulation. Without a doubt, it is the best new build feature of the camera.
Sony's new menu system is a huge change from the a7 III (above)
In the Field
Although changes are in place with this camera, it still feels and looks like a Sony. Finding the dials and switches in the field, did not prove too difficult. However, if you are used to the a7 III's menu system, expect to be frustrated as you learn the new layout. It is not that the new menu is bad. On the contrary, it is much better, but you still have to learn a completely new menu system and that can take time. My solution was to group my most used menu items into the custom menus.
If you are a hybrid shooter, you have to get used to the new switch on the bottom of the exposure mode dial. I found it to be a little clunky to hold in the button on the other side of the dial and switch among stills, video and S&Q modes.
Next, let me say that autofocus was amazing and even though the a7 III was no slouch, the a7 IV responds much more like the a1. When photographing the hummingbirds, the bird eye AF locked on and stayed locked. No more worrying about it locking on to a wing or foot! To me, as a nature photographer, this was the biggest and most well received feature. Under most conditions, the bird, animal or human eye AF is all you will need! I think we are finally getting close to never missing shots because we have to switch AF modes so often.
I should also note that the human eye AF worked very well, even in video. I used it with both the Sony 16-35mm Zeiss lens and the Rokinon 24mm 1.8 and both had no issues finding the eye. Video eye detection is greatly improved with this model.
The a7 IV also has multiple RAW file shooting options. I could select from uncompressed, lossless compressed and compressed. So, the obvious question is, why wouldn't you just use lossless compressed all the time? The answer, because, if you choose lossless compressed, your frame rate drops from 10 fps to 5. For wildlife or sports photographers, this is a deal breaker. For fast action, I still recommend compressed raw. Just for sake of completeness, I did use uncompressed for my waterfall adventure. That was just to make sure I squeezed every ounce of image quality out of the camera.
The largest disadvantage in the field for me, is not having a stacked sensor. When photographing wildlife, the stacked sensor gives me 20 fps of silent, distortion free shooting. With the a7 IV, you must use the mechanical shutter when photographing fast moving subjects. The last thing you want is to get home and see that your subject is distorted or worse, pieces of him are in different parts of the frame. This can happen with hummingbird wings, for example.
I also feel that 10fps is barely enough for this camera. When you consider that Canon's comparable cameras are 20 fps, it just doesn't make sense.
First, let me say that I love the 33 megapixel sensor in this camera. That is really the sweet spot for me. It offers both great detail and not so large that it takes up all the space on my card. I find that the this size sensor also gives me a decent cropping capability when compared with the a7 III's 24 MP sensor.
The noise was well controlled in all my images and on par with its predecessor. The dynamic range was acceptable and on par with many Sony cameras on the market right now. I also found the noise to be better controlled than the Sony a1, but the a1 a 50 MP sensor. Below are several images taken with the body.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) - Sony a7 IV, ISO 2000, F9.0, 1/8000th, Sony 200-600 at 600 mm.
Soco Falls, Sony a7 IV, ISO 80, 16 mm, f13, 10 seconds, Sony 16-35 mm Tessar T* Zeiss
Exposure Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Shutter Priority, Program
Continuous Shooting: 10 FPS for 828 RAW before the buffer is full. (unlimited jpeg)
Video: 4k at 24/30/60 8 and 10 bit
1080p at 24/30/60/120 8 and 10 bit
Memory Cards: Slot 1 = CF Express Type A or SD (recommend SDXC UHS II V90) Slot 2 = SD only
Connectors: USB-C 3.2, Sony Multi/Micro USB/Remote Input
Wireless: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Stabilization: IBIS/Active Steady Shot It also has Gyro data that can be applied in Catalyst for video
Rear Display: 3", 1 million dot and Articulating
Viewfinder: OLED 3.69 million dot, 100% coverage with diopter
Focus: Continuous AF, DMF, Manual, Single AF
AF Points: 759 Phase Detect
Flash Sync: 1/250th of a second
Weight: 2.53 pounds
Price: $2,498 New, $2,000 used
The Sony a7 IV is without a doubt a huge upgrade from the a7 III. The autofocus system is snappier, and the bird eye AF is stunning. If you are looking for a good entry level bird photography system, look no further than this camera. The 33 megapixels is a perfect balance of resolution and practical function.
The only struggle with this camera is the 10fps (which is terrible) and the silent mode is not as effective as the stacked sensor of the Sony a9/a9 II/a1.
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