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Sony A7 IV Review

Sony A7 IV review
Review

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Our Verdict

The Sony A7 IV makes a solid upgrade on the A7 III. In fact, it’s one of those rare cameras that makes a significant enough jump to warrant upgrading from one generation to the next. All of our requests for the A7 IV have been granted apart from 4K 60p incurring a crop. Its handling and versatility are significantly improved while the autofocus system is one of the best around at this level.

It might not have quite the same eye-catching price as the A7 III, but things move on and Sony packs a lot into the A7 IV for the money.

It’s a great all-rounder and in no way an entry-level camera. And while it doesn’t have the depth of video features as the Sony A7S III, it’s still very capable is significantly more affordable. We’re just hoping that the price of CFexpress Type A cards drops over the next few months.

For

  • Good combination of speed and resolution
  • Vari-angle touchscreen
  • Excellent AF system

Against

  • CFexpress Type A card required to get the full feature range
  • Video options could be clearer
  • Super 35 crop for 4K video at 60p

What is the Sony A7 IV?

The Sony A7IV is the replacement for the Sony A7III which at launch in February 2018 was the company’s entry-level full-frame camera. At the time, Sony pitched the A7III as the all-rounder full-frame mirrorless camera that was designed to appeal to enthusiast photographers.

Today, the Sony A7C is the entry-level model in Sony’s full-frame mirrorless camera line-up and the A7IV sits above it, again aimed at enthusiast photographers, but also having features that could see it in the hands of professionals too. The 61Mp Sony A7R IV sits above it while the A1 is at the top of the tree and the 12Mp Sony A7 S III is the video-centric model.

The Sony A7 IV is available to pre-order from Wex Photo Video in the UK and Adorama in the USA.

Sony A7 IV review

Specification

  • Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless
  • Announced: 21st October 2021
  • Sensor: 33Mp full frame (35.9 x 24.0mm) BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: FE
  • Sensitivity range: Stills: ISO 100-51,200 (expandable to ISO 50 to ISO 204,800), Video: ISO ISO 100-51,200 (expandable to ISO 100-102,400)
  • Still Image format: Jpeg, HEIF, raw (Sony ARW 4.0)
  • Video format & compression: XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC HS: MPEG-H HEVC/H.265
  • 4K Video (XAVC HS): 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit, NTSC): 60p (150 Mbps / 75 Mbps / 45 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps / 50 Mbps / 30 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10bit, PAL): 50p (150 Mbps / 75 Mbps / 45 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, NTSC): 60p (200 Mbps / 100 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps / 50 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, PAL): 50p (200 Mbps / 100 Mbps)
  • 4K Video (XAVC S): 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, NTSC): 60p (150 Mbps), 30p (100 Mbps / 60 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps / 60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, PAL): 50p (150 Mbps)5, 25p (100 Mbps / 60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, NTSC): 60p (200 Mbps)56, 30p (140 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, PAL): 50p (200 Mbps)5, 25p (140 Mbps)
  • 4K Video (XAVC S-I): 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, NTSC): 60p (600 Mbps)56, 30p (300 Mbps)6, 24p (240 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10bit, PAL): 50p (500 Mbps)5, 25p (250 Mbps)
  • Movie functions: Audio Level Display, Audio Rec Level, PAL/NTSC Selector, Proxy Recording (1280 x 720 (Approx. 6 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (Approx. 9 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (Approx. 16 Mbps)), TC/UB, Auto Slow Shutter, Gamma Disp. Assist
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid AF with 759 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points, Still images: Human (Right/Left Eye Select) / Animal (Right/Left Eye Select) / Bird, Movie: Human (Right/Left Eye Select), sensitive down to -4EV
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
  • Viewfinder: 0.5-inch 3,686,400-dot EVF with 100% coverage and up to 0.78x magnification
  • Screen: 3-inch 1,036,800-dot vari-angletouchscreen
  • Image stabilisation: 5-axis giving up to 5.5EV compensation
  • Storage: Dual: 1: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II) & CFexpress Type A slot, 2: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II)
  • Battery: NP-FZ100 rechargeable Li-ion battery giving 610 images with the screen
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 131.3 x 96.4 x 79.8mm / 5 1/4 x 3 7/8 x 3 1/4 inches
  • Weight (including battery & memory card): 658g / 1 lb 7.3 oz

Features

Like all recent Sony mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7IV has a huge list of features with many making a step up on what is offered by the A7III. The most obvious of these is the move from a 24Mp sensor to a 33Mp back-illuminated Exmoor R CMOS sensor. It’s worth mentioning at this point that unlike the Sony A1’s sensor, the A7IV’s does not have a stacked construction.

As the A7IV makes a 37.5% increase in pixel count on the A7 III, it’s not surprising that Sony has paired the sensor with an upgraded processor. In this case, it’s the same Bionz XR processing engine as is seen in the Sony A7S III and A1.

Despite the increase in pixel count, the boost in processing power enables the A7 IV to have a native sensitive range of ISO 100-51,200 for stills with expansion settings taking the range to ISO 50-204,800. Sony also claims that noise is better-controlled by the new camera.

For movies the standard sensitivity range is ISO 100-51,200 with an expanded range of ISO 100-102,400.

In addition, the maximum continuous shooting rate of the A7IV is 10fps (in continuous Hi+ mode), the same as the A7III’s, when shooting compressed raw images. According to Sony, when shooting Lossless raw or uncompressed raw files, the shooting rate ‘may be slower’. However, the A7IV can shoot continuously for up to 828 images when shooting uncompressed raw and Jpegs simultaneously when a CFexpress card is in use. If you select any other file type, the bust depth is unlimited.

When I shot with a 300MB/s V90 SDXC card in place, I was able to shoot at 10fps for 197 Extra Fine Jpegs. Switching to Uncompressed raw files and Extra Fine Jpegs simultaneously, dropped the rate to around 6.5fps for 32 images while shooting Lossless compressed raw files enabled a rate of around 6.7fps for 54 images.

Although the A7IV doesn’t have the same sensor as the flagship Sony A1, it has the same autofocus (AF) system and there are 759 phase detection AF points. It’s also possible to set Eye AF to detect Human, Animal or Bird eyes and there’s Real-time tracking. What’s more, the Eye AF (for all three subject types) and Real-time tracking work in both stills and video mode.

Sony has also introduced three new features to help with focusing issues, AF Assist, Focus Map and Breathing Compensation. AF assist allows you to use the lens manual focus ring to shift the focus before releasing it to return to using the AF system and subject tracking.

Focus Map is like a more advanced version of Focus Peaking as it overlays the image with colour according to the focus. The point of focus is clear while the area in front of the point of focus is red and the area behind is blue. The size of the clear zone varies depending upon the selected aperture, helping the photographer to visualise the depth of field.

Finally, Breath Compensation uses data for compatible lenses (there are currently around 15) to apply a slight crop so that the framing of the image won’t change with the focus distance. This could be helpful for photographers looking to focus stack as well as videographers.

Provided you’re happy to shoot in Super 35mm mode (ie with an APS-C crop), the A7IV is capable of shooting 4K video at 60p. If you want to use the full sensor area then the frame rate for 4K video drops to 30p, but this can be shot with 7K oversampling.

There’s also 10-bit depth 4:2:2 colour sampling, XAVC S-I intra-frame encoding for more efficient editing workflows and XAVC HS for better compression efficiency.

According to Sony, thanks to the A7IV’s heat-dissipating design, it’s possible to record 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 video continuously for over an hour.

The 5-axis image stabilisation system which is claimed to offer 5.5EV shutter speed compensation also has an ‘Active Mode’ that is designed for use when shooting video and crops the image slightly.

Videographers who want to nail the look of their movies in-camera can make use of the A7IV’s Creative Look presets or S-Cinetone mode while those wishing to grade their video post-capture can use S-Log 2 or S-Log3 to maximise the dynamic range of the footage, but there’s no raw recording option.

Like the A7 III, the A7 IV has dual card slots but one can accept CFexpress type A cards or SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II cards while the other is for SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II cards.

One area where the A7IV seems to make a step down in comparison with the A7 III is with its battery life. It uses the same FZ1000 battery but in CIPA testing its life drops from 710 shots to 610 shots when the screen is used. CIPA testing tends to underestimate battery life in real-world shooting though.

Sony A7 IV review

Build and handling

Aside from a few key differences, the Sony A7IV looks almost identical to the A7III. However, it has the deeper grip that’s familiar from the  A7R IV, A7 III and A1. This enough room for all but my little finger when my forefinger is poised on the shutter button, but those with large hands may wish for a battery grip to give a bigger hold.

As we hoped, Sony has given the A7IV a vari-angle screen that can be flipped face forward or be angled to help compose low- or high-level shots in either landscape of portrait orientation. It’s great to see that the A7IV’s mic port sits above the screen on the side of the camera so the screen should still be able to move freely when an external mic is plugged in.

Sony A7 IV review

Also, as expected, Sony has given the A7 IV the revised menu system that was debuted on the A7S III and then appeared on the A1. This makes it easier to find the features that you want, but it can still be a frustrating business trying to wok out which combination of video features can be used together. Some form of grid or hierarchical menu that allows you to select the key aspect you want and then change other settings to enable it would make life easier.

As on the Sony A7S III and A1, the A7 IV’s 3-inch 1,036,800-dot screen is touch-sensitive and the menus can be navigated and settings selected with a tap.

The screen is paired with an upgraded 0.5-inch 3,686,400-dot viewfinder that shows 100% field of view and has a refresh rate that goes up to 120fps.

Sony has made a few changes to the A7IV’s control arrangement in comparison with the A7III. For example, the new camera has a switch under the exposure mode dial to switch between stills, video and S&Q (slow and quick mode). This makes it easier to switch between exposure modes when you’re shooting video as you don’t need to dip into the menu.

This switch is a little fiddly to use at first as there’s a button that faces forwards and that needs to be pressed before the switch can be moved. However, after swapping between the three modes a few times, I got the hang of it.

The record button, which is on the back of the A7III has also be relocated to the top of the camera, which makes it a little easier to locate.

Another change of note is that the dial that adjust exposure compensation on the A7III is unmarked on the A7IV as it’s customisable, but by default it adjusts exposure compensation. It also has a lock button that you can elected to use or not.

Sony A7 IV review

Performance

My first impression of the A7IV is that the Eye AF is more responsive than the A7 III’s. It spots eyes more quickly and stays with them a little better. I also had the opportunity to try the Animal Eye AF with a fairly uncooperative cat and again, it was quick and accurate.

Sony A7 IV image quality

Currently, the only way to process raw files from the Sony A7 IV is using Sony’s Imaging Edge Desktop software and I’m not convinced that it’s the best option for handling high ISO raw files. There’s good detail visible in ISO 12,800 images for instance, but ISO 25,600 images look rather painterly. For the time-being, I’d aim to stick to ISO 12,800 or lower, but I may revise this up when other software is updated. It will be interesting to see what can be achieved using DxO’s PureRAW noise reduction software.

At the other end of the sensitivity (ISO) scale, detail levels are very good but you can expect to see noise or the impact of its removal making itself known at around ISO 800 if you’re pixel-peeping.

Exposure and colour

Sony doesn’t have the best reputation for its colour rendering but it’s improved it over time and there a healthy range of colour options for both stills and video. However, raw files are still the best option to ensure you get photographs looking exactly as you want them.

One issue is that the Auto White Balance (AWB) setting is prone to making scenes look too neutral, especially when there are large single-tone areas in the frame. When photographing a deer surrounded by grass and bracken for example, he looked a russet colour, but as he got closer to the camera and the framing was tighter, his fur became less saturated and more grey. Scenes can also look very drab when there’ no sunshine.

This makes a preset white balance setting a better choice in many circumstances, however, if you have to keep changing because the sun continually pops in and out from behind cloud, you wind you with images that vary in hue.

Turning to the exposure, the A7 IV’s 1200-zone metering system puts in a solid performance in its Multi-segment setting. It handles scenes that you might think would trick it with ease and doesn’t require exposure compensation to be applied in situations that you wouldn’t expect. It’s a solid performer.

Of course, it’s supported by the viewfinder and screen which do a great job of previewing the scene. Naturally, the ambient light conditions play a part in how the image appears on the screen, so it’s best to put more trust in the viewfinder, but generally they can both be relied upon to accurately portray the captured image or video. Consequently, there are few occasions when you need to switch away from the camera’s Multi-segment metering mode.

Autofocus performance

Having photographed relatively slow-moving people and portraits at the press briefing, I was keen to see how the Sony A7 IV handles faster-moving subjects, so I took it to a local football match. Initially, I set the Focus Area to Wide, which puts it in charge of the subject selection, with the Face/Eye Priority in AF on and the Face/Eye Subject set to Human.

If only one player was in the frame, the A7 IV did a great job of focusing on him, however, when players passed between my intended target and the camera, or they were closer to the camera, the focusing system tended to become distracted – you can see this happen in the video further down. To narrow down the target area, I switched to Zone AF, but this also proved a bit too large and there were too many distractions in the area. Also, for the most part the eyes and faces were too small in the frame or too fast-moving for the camera to detect them. The solution was to switch the AF-area to Tracking.

In Tracking AF mode you’re able to select one of any of the other AF-area modes as the starting point and the camera will look for the subject within that area, putting a green box with a green line on either side when it’s decided what it is. Whatever it latches onto, the camera does a great job of sticking with it, but if it’s a busy scene when Wide or Zone is selected, the camera may not focus on your intended target at the outset.

For football, I found Tracking: Spot L(arge) works very well. This enabled me to quickly shift the focus area using the joystick on the back of the camera and then half-press the shutter release to get the subject in focus and for the A7 IV to start tracking it.

Tracking: Spot L(arge) also proved to be the best option when I was photographing rugby and with all the diagonal runs and crossing of players, it was helpful to reduce the AF Subject Shift Sensitivity from the default setting of 3 to 2, so that it was programmed to be more locked on to the selected subject.

While the Eye AF isn’t especially helpful for fast-moving sport when people are constantly twisting and turning, it’s a bonus for portrait photography. It’s also useful for wildlife photography and it’s capable of recognising an animal’s eye from the side as well as front-on to the camera. However, it’s not quite as quick to spot an eye, or as sticky as the Canon EOS R6.

With animals, I found that Tracking: Zone and Tracking: Spot L(arge) worked well, with the Spot option being better when the camera struggled to spot their eyes as it enabled me to target them a bit more precisely than the Zone option. However, there were times when I was wishing there was an area sized between the Zone and Large Spot.

Sony A7 IV Image Stabilisation (IBIS)

Sony claims a 5.5 EV shutter speed compensation factor for the A7 IV. Shooting with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8GM lens mounted and at the 70mm end, I was able to get about 20% of my images completely sharp at 100% on a computer screen when using a shutter speed of 1-second. That’s a compensation factor of around 6EV. Dropping to a shutter speed of 1/2-second raised my hit rate to about 40% while at 1/4-sec my hit rate was about 60-70%.

Video performance

While it doesn’t offer raw recording, the A7 IV has a healthy array of options for video, probably more than enough for anyone who doesn’t shoot on a frequent basis. Pressing the delete button while the video File Format and Movie Settings options are visible in the menu reveals a little information about each of the settings but in some cases it merely repeats the setting information rather than explains it. Inexperienced videographers would probably appreciate a bit more guidance.

The good news, however, is that the Sony A7 IV is capable of producing excellent results. With the colour and exposure settings selected guided by the view the viewfinder and/or screen with the shutter speed taking into account the frame rate, the autofocus system has the next biggest impact upon the quality of the results. And here it really depends upon what you are shooting. With a slow, steady subject, you’re likely to be able to use the advanced AF features in their default set-up and stick to using Wide or zone area AF with the Face/Eye Priority in AF on and the Face/Eye Subject set to the appropriate subject (human, animal or bird). However, with faster-moving subjects surrounded by lots of distraction, it’s worth tweaking the settings. The Touch Tracking system works very well and with the AF Subject Shift Sensitivity moved towards Locked on it does a great job of staying with the subject.

With Active SteadyShot activated, the handheld recording is pretty good from the A7 IV if you’re standing still. There’s still a little shake, so it’s not a replacement for a video tripod, but it’s watchable. If you walk with the camera you still need a gimbal to get decent footage. Although you can force the issue, rolling shutter isn’t a major problem when you’re shooting 4K video.

The Sony A7 IV is available to order from Wex Photo Video in the UK and Adorama in the USA.

Sony A7 IV sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Sony A7 IV. Please respect our copyright.

Sony A7 IV image gallery

The images below are Jpegs straight from the camera and were captured using different white balance settings – hence the colour variation. Follow the link to browse and download these full-resolution images from the Sony A7 IV.

Sony A7 IV Football image gallery

Sony A7 IV sample video

This video was shot on the Sony A7 IV in XAVC HS 4K at 50p and 200M 4:2:2 10-bit. The audio was recorded using the onboard mic and there was only a light breeze. The camera (or rather the mounted Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS lens) was supported on a video tripod.

Initially, we left the autofocus system to its own devices in Wide-area mode with Continuous AF and Face/Eye priority selected and the Face/Eye subject set to Human. We then switched to using Touch-Tracking to select a specific subject and reduced the AF Subject Shift Sensitivity from the default setting of 3 to 2 to make it more inclined to stay with the selected subject.

Thank you to Henley Hawks Women for allowing us to shoot at their recent match.

Verdict

Sony has delivered all the improvements we were hoping to see the A7 IV make upon the A7 III. It’s clearly capable of focusing quickly and delivering sharp images with a high level of detail. In the default settings, the colour and exposure are also good with only occasional need for the exposure compensation control.

While there are some that may have wished for a higher maximum frame rate than 10fps, the greater burst depth is arguably more useful, especially when paired with the more advanced AF system. However, to get those burst depths and shooting rates consistently, you need to invest in a CFexpress Type A card and a card reader, neither of which is cheap.

The only real disappointment is that the 4K video at 60p operates with a Super 35 crop rather than at full frame.

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Denis RT
8 months ago

For current sony A7 iii users that shoot wildlife or action and they need to crop or they need the better af system it is a nice update. For me the biggest disappointment is the image stabilization and the fact that you cant shoot 10 fps lossless raw.

Denis RT
8 months ago

Pros: 10 bit video, better AF, less sensor dust (i hope)
Cons: Rolling shutter, mediocre image stabilization, 10 fps without lossless raw

Pierre
Pierre
7 months ago

Yes indeed, compared to the competition, the IBIS sucks and the color rendition is not up the the level of the competition. For the rest its an nice toy.

shannon
shannon
6 months ago

hi what lens did you use? it would be helpful to state which lens you used for your video and picture footage. i am trying to decide whether or not the kit lens can produce good videos and pictures. it seems easier to get the kit lens package than the body only because the body only is sold out