UPDATE 16 July: The Sony A7 IV price and specs have been officially announced! Pre-order the Sony A7R IV from Park Cameras in the UK, or from B&H Photo Video in the US.
Sony announced the full-frame A7R III on 25th October 2017. That means it’s not yet two years old, but it’s facing increasing competition from the likes of the Nikon Z7, Panasonic Lumix S1R and to some extent, the Canon EOS R. Sony will be keen to continue its growth in the full-frame digital camera market, so a new camera could be on the cards sooner than usual.
There are also rumours circulating that Sony will announce the Alpha 7R IV in the next few months, possibly as soon as September.
Furthermore, Sony Alpha Rumours has reported that Sony has two new sensors in development, one with a resolution of 60Mp. That would seem a good choice for a high-resolution camera to replace the 42Mp A7R III. It would put it well ahead of the 45Mp Nikon Z7 and 47Mp Panasonic S1R.
Sony A7R IV 8K Video?
Theoretically, a 60Mp sensor would enable 8K video recording. But that’s a huge leap from 4K. It’s not just about the number of pixels, 8K video demands huge amounts of processing power. And let’s not forget the heat it would generate! Sony’s A7 III and A7R III already generate lots of heat in 4K mode and they’re prone to shutting down because of it.
There are also only a few 8K monitors around. That means that few of us are able to get the benefit of 8K recording. Consequently, the main use of the 8K would be for selective cropping down to 4K, or another lower resolution.
If Sony does boost the A7R IV’s video resolution, I think 6K recording is more likely.
In NTSC, the A7R III’s 4K (3840 x 2160) video recording tops out at 30p and 100Mbps. In PAL it’s 25p and 100Mbps. Perhaps Sony will want to take this up with the A7R IV. Could we see 4K at 60p or even 120p for high-resolution slow-motion playback?
Sony gets a lot of stick for its menu systems. But when you have a camera with a huge range of features, the menu is going to be long and complex. However, there are a few features that could be better located in the A7R III’s menu. For instance, the Silent Shooting option is in the fourth screen of the second tab (called Shutter/SteadyShot).
It might be more logical to put this and the e-Front Curtain Shutter feature with the Drive Mode and Bracket settings on the third screen of the first tab (Shoot Mode/ Drive1).
However, Sony is quite enthusiastic with its provision of customisation options. The A7R III’s My Menu screen, for example, can accommodate up to 30 menu features in your preferred order. And the Function Menu is customisable. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sony were able to make the entire menu of the A7R IV customisable.
This would mean you can arrange the menu exactly as you want it. Of course, the easiest way of doing this would be by touch control. Which brings me to another improvement that I’d like the A7R IV to make over the A7R III.
The A7R III has a touchscreen but Sony doesn’t really make much use of it. There’s an increasing number of cameras available now that let you adjust just about everything via the screen. It’s about time that Sony did that too.
Dual Function Menus
Sony’s Function (Fn) menu is very useful. It’s also customisable so gives you a quick way to reach the parameters that you adjust most often. However, if you switch between video and stills shooting on a regular basis, you have a decision on your hands. Do you set it up for stills or video, or a mixture of the two?
It would be great if there could be dual Function menus, one for stills and the other for video shooting.
The A7R III has a tilting screen. That’s great when you want to shoot low-level images in landscape format, but it’s no help with portrait format images. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a vari-angle or dual tilt screen that is helpful whichever orientation you shoot in.
Although the A7R III is listed as weatherproof, Sony has always been a bit cagey about the degree of weatherproofing. It has a reputation for not being especially water-resistant, particularly the base. It would be nice if Sony could beef-up the A7R IV’s weatherproofing.
You can shoot in one of two aspect ratios with the Sony A7R III, 3:2 or 16:9. It’s about time that Sony added 1:1 (square) to the mix. And while they’re at it, perhaps the engineers could add 5:4, 4:3 and 65:24.
These non-native aspect ratios are only applied to Jpeg images and they’re useful for perfecting composition or if you want to share images on social media quickly.