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Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera review

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera review

The new Sony A7 IV is a continuation of the company's line of full-frame mirrorless cameras. It includes a series of upgrades that have risen noticeably in price. Considering how good the Sony A7 III is, we wanted to answer two questions: what is the best camera to buy and does it make sense to upgrade for those who already own a model with the III index?

In this article, we are going to take a closer look at these two full-frame cameras to understand how they differ, and try to help you choose.

Characteristics

On paper, the biggest difference between the two cameras is the resolution of the sensor: the A7 IV received a new 33 MP Exmor R sensor, the designers did not use the already proven and familiar on many models, including in the "alpha" 7 III, a chip for 24 MP. The sensor has a wide range of ISO sensitivity from 50 to 204800. But unlike the Alpha 1 (or A9 series) flagship camera, the sensor inside the Sony A7 IV is not a layered construction.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

Like other models in the Sony A7 series, the new IV also has built-in image stabilization. The combined 5-axis optical and internal stabilization system is a slight improvement over its predecessor's SteadyShot system. It offers up to 5.5 stops of stabilization correction compared to the 5-step system in the A7 III.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The new chip will certainly provide slightly more resolution and cropping options, but it's the move from the Bionz X processor to what's dubbed Bionz XR from Sony's flagship A1 that makes the most meaningful difference between the cameras. Among the advantages of the new Sony, we can also note that the sensor provides accurate color reproduction. The colors reproduced by the camera look bright and realistic.

Images are sharp and detailed with 15 stops of dynamic range, and there's very little noise to contend with. 

Both cameras can shoot at up to 10 frames per second. At the same time, the A7 IV is only capable of shooting RAW with significant losses taken from a 12-bit readout. The A7 III also lets you shoot huge uncompressed RAW files at top speed. However, when you don't need that much speed, the A7 IV offers a lossless compression option for its RAW files, avoiding any risk of weird artifacts that can become visible on high contrast edges with heavy processing. Meanwhile, thanks to the lower burst speed, the camera's buffer depth is incredible, especially when using the faster CFexpress Type A memory card: The A7 IV is capable of processing approximately 828 continuous uncompressed RAW+JPEG images using the CFexpress card. In a real situation, this is, in fact, an unlimited buffer size.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The Sony A7 IV also received a new Creative Look feature. This mode, formerly known as Creative Style, first appeared on the A1 and A7S III. While not exactly the same, presets are somewhat similar to the film simulation in Fujifilm cameras, more specifically, the camera's set of image filter presets.

autofocus

One of the biggest differences between the two cameras is autofocus. The A7 III has a much older version of Sony's autofocus system. It can find and automatically track eyes in a scene using a separate mode that overrides all other autofocus settings, but for other types of subjects it relies on Sony's older, much less sophisticated tracking system, which wasn't very good at focusing on a specified target.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The A7 IV's AF system uses a whopping 759 phase detection AF points combined with 425 contrast detection areas. The phase detection points cover about 94% of the total sensor area and in fact slightly more sensor surface than the contrast detection area. In AF-S mode, the A7 IV system offers low-light focusing down to -4 EV. The earlier A7 III did not use "real-time tracking AF", it was just tracking AF, not as fast as the current implementation.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

Since then, Sony has developed a new subject tracking system that combines pattern recognition, subject color and brightness, face/eye detection, and distance information to provide more reliable tracking. The A7 IV uses exactly this latest version of the AF system and its pattern recognition has been trained using machine intelligence for various types of subjects. So while the A7 III can go out of focus if your original subject is looking away and there is another subject in the frame (another pair of eyes) that it can focus on, the A7 IV knows to look for a face or head where it last locked onto your subject's eyes, keeping the focus on the person you prioritize in shooting.

In addition to people, A7 IV can recognize birds and animals. The result is a camera you can trust to focus on the right subject, which is not the case with the Model III.

With the A7 IV, the A7 series showed a 30 percent improvement in human eye tracking, better animal eye detection, and support for bird eye detection in both video and photos. 

Menu

Both cameras have long and complex menus, as you would expect from models that offer so many modes. But we think the updated A7 IV menus are a lot easier to navigate.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The A7 III menu consists of a series of horizontal tabs, each with many sub-sections. These subsections have section headings, but you need to scroll to the relevant page to see the headings for those sections. The tabs of the A7 IV are arranged vertically, the first seven subsections are displayed on the screen when entering each tab. This greatly speeds up the search without having to remember its number. 

Touch screen and setting

Another major change in the Sony Alpha 7 IV is the switch to a tilting LCD touch screen, as opposed to the A7 III's tilting screen. This is handy for waist-length video and shooting, and means you can tilt the screen towards the camera to protect it from scratches. The A7 III's LCD screen tilts up and down, but cannot be rotated towards the user for selfies.

The LCD screen is the same as in the A7S III - a 3-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1440k dots and a 3:2 aspect ratio. Given the hybrid photo/video nature of the A7 IV, the ability to flip the screen towards selfies will be appreciated by vloggers.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

In the field and in bright light, the rear display performs very well. The LCD display is responsive to touch for focusing and navigating through the OSD menus. Although it's much faster to navigate just using the physical controls.

The A7 IV also makes much better use of its touch screen, allowing you to use menu navigation and the Fn button to access them. The A7 III doesn't let you do that and leaves the touch screen for setting the AF point and some functions.

Ergonomics

At first glance, the Alpha 7 IV doesn't look much different from Sony's other mirrorless cameras in the latest Alpha generation. It retains its characteristic angular design with a sleek matte black finish. However, the handle is larger and deeper. The camera is much more comfortable to hold than the earlier A7 III.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The A7 IV is still smaller, lighter and more portable than the typical full frame DSLR. It is also considered dust and moisture resistant and appears to be very well built and solid. As far as the overall control layout of the A7 IV is concerned, the camera does not differ much from the previous model, but there are some changes and improvements to the dials and buttons on both the top and rear panels, as well as a dedicated exposure compensation dial and a small thumb dial on the back. side of the hull. It also has an autofocus joystick, which was not available on earlier models in the series.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The front dial is recessed into the top of the grip at the front, while the rear dial is now fully relocated to the top of the camera like on the A1. A third command dial with a default lock button mechanism controls exposure compensation.

Another change to the top controls is that the C1 custom button has swapped places with the video record button like on the A7S III. The main PASM mode dial on the top of the A7 IV remains similar to its predecessor in that it still lacks the lock button found on other Alpha cameras.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

The AF-On button is larger and better positioned, and the rear joystick is also larger and flatter, making precise movements easier. Both cameras allow you to customize their Fn menus so that the 12 functions you want to quickly access are always at hand, but the A7 IV lets you create separate Fn menus for photos and videos so you can access shooting profiles (including ) and video modes without options that you might need for photos.

The A7 IV lets you specify which settings (from white balance to shutter speed) are and are not carried over from photos to movies, allowing you to set the camera to quickly change modes.

These are all small details, but they form the first and general impression of the camera.

Video capabilities

Video is another area where the A7 IV stands head and shoulders above the A7 III. The A7 III was one of the first full-frame cameras to capture 4K video and gained a lot of features from the video-centric A7S II, but technology has advanced since then and modern cameras are capable of more.

Sony A7 IV has a wide range of advanced video recording features. Among other things, this video resolution up to 4K 60p, 10-bit and 8-bit recording, Full HD 120p slow motion, S-Log3, 4:2:2 10-bit sampling and improved video autofocus functions. 4K at 60 fps doesn't take up the full width of the sensor (Super 35 crop). When using the full width of the sensor, the frame rate of 4K will be 30 fps.

In 4K full-frame recording mode, the camera uses full pixel readout without binning and uses 7K oversampling to create 4K resolution. And in Super 35 mode, the camera still uses full pixel readout without binning, but with 4.6K oversampling. Several video recording modes include XAVC S (H.264, Long GOP), XAVC HS (H.265, Long GOP), and XAVC SI (H.264, ALL-Intra).

The Sony A7 IV is built with a "heat dissipation structure" of graphite material with excellent thermal conductivity. This internal structure is built into the image stabilization unit and helps dissipate heat from the sensor. So the camera has no problem of 29:59 video recording limitation, A7 IV can continuously record 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 video for over an hour.

There's also a nifty and brand new "breath compensation" setting. This mode is only compatible with select Sony lenses and helps to compensate for "focus breathing" issues. Setting this feature uses Sony's Clear Image Zoom technology and crops the frame slightly to help mask or minimize the "breathing" effect for this lens.

Sony A7 IV supports UVC/UAC video and audio streaming. This allows it to function as a webcam when connected to a computer or smartphone via USB. Video streaming is supported up to 4K at 15 fps, Full HD at 60p and 30p, and 720p at 30p. You can also stream video and record internally at the same time.

Autofocus in video

Everything we've said about autofocus for photos is even more important for video. The A7 III's habit of "drifting" when shooting video to focus on a different subject is a big problem. The A7 IV has a greatly improved subject detection system (including eyes/face) for video shooting, and the user interface for using it is much more consistent in the two modes, making the A7 IV one of the few cameras that can be safely used in autofocus mode when shooting movies with moving objects.

A simple tap on the screen on the A7 IV is enough to trigger autofocus, while you need to turn on a separate "Center Lock-On AF" mode on the A7 III. You have control over whether the camera will focus quickly (to maintain focus on one subject) or slowly (if you want the camera to smoothly move focus from one subject to another), but that's pretty much all you need to adjust in order to use camera for video.

The A7 IV includes many brand new features related to video focusing, including a new focus map overlay. It helps the blogger visualize depth of field by showing objects in front of the plane of field in red and objects behind it in blue. The area in sharp focus is displayed without ink overlay.

Electronic viewfinder

The QVGA OLED viewfinder on the A7 IV is a slight improvement over the previous model, with 3.68M-dot resolution compared to the 2.36M-dot panel on the A7 III. This is a transition from 1024 x 768 to 1280 x 960, resulting in a 25% increase in linear resolution in each direction. Both cameras seem to use the same optics in front of the viewfinder panels, so the size of both finders (0.78x magnification) and the distance you can see them from is the same. 

The viewfinder refresh rate has also been increased, with a smooth 120 fps now available for improved convenience when tracking fast-moving subjects.

By default, none of the cameras use the full resolution of the viewfinder. Both have "High Quality" modes that provide higher resolution previews, but the resolution reverts back to standard levels when autofocusing. On a positive note, the A7 IV's "standard" resolution is more similar to the A7 III's "High quality" setting, but without any of the changes in detail levels or moire in AF.

Connections

The A7 IV features a full-size HDMI Type-A port. The camera also has 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, two types of USB ports - micro-USB and USB Type-C upgraded to 3.2 Gen2, offering data transfer speeds up to 10Gbps, as well as power delivery.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

On the other side of the camera, there is a dual memory card slot that supports two UHS-II SD cards. However, the top slot now also supports much faster CFexpress Type A memory cards. In terms of wireless connectivity, the A7 IV includes updated Wi-Fi with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz connectivity. There is also Bluetooth Low Energy.

Sony a7 IV mirrorless camera

Conclusion

Ultimately, it all comes down to money. The A7 IV is superior to the A7 III in almost every way. Not only in its performance, but also in the convenience of everyday use. If you're looking to buy a new E-mount camera and plan to keep it for a few years, we think the extra expense spread over those years is appropriate.

But is it worth it to upgrade if you already have an A7 III? The A7 IV is by far the best camera in the class, and you might want something better if you've been using the Model III for the past three years. But the A7 III remains very competitive. You'll get the most out of the upgrade if you plan on shooting fast moving subjects (especially people): no matter how well you use the A7 III, the A7 IV will perform better and make your job easier. Similarly, if you find yourself shooting a lot of video, the A7 IV offers clear advantages in this regard. But if you don't often use your camera in either way, perhaps an extra lens can add more value to your photography than upgrading to the latest model.

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