Billed as a “full-frame hybrid camera” the Sony A7 IV certainly lives up to its potential. Be it for high-quality stills, high-quality video shooting or streaming and connectivity it’s all there. This of course brings with it a certain level of complexity, so it takes some investment in time to understand and take full advantage of all the versatility that Sony has built in. This is time well spent though and the camera repays this effort in an abundance of functionality worthy of its status as the flagship of the A7 series.
- Excellent stills image quality
- Smooth high-quality movie shooting
- Bionz XR Processor
- Dust and moisture resistance
- 5 Axis SteadyShot
- Human, animal or bird Eye/Face AF tracking
- Low noise
- 10fps shooting
- Very complex menus that are not always intuitive
- Full manual online only
Sony has an extensive array of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, both in full-frame and APS-C formats. To their credit, new models can exist for some time alongside the older versions that they replace, enabling also a variety of price levels and options. The A7 range does not have the highest resolution of the options available but has instead consistently offered a bias towards movie shooting and low noise stills shooting. Technology is now such that the edges of demarcation are blurring and we can expect satisfactorily high pixel counts (33MP in this case) alongside fast frame rates (10fps) and huge buffers (up to 800 shots). Couple this with a very sophisticated set of movie specifications, and we have a true hybrid camera that can satisfy the needs of a wide range of photographers.
The review sample has been provided with the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM zoom lens, fully reviewed separately, so let’s take this heavyweight duo out into the field and see what it can do.
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The A7 IV is a robust, impressively well-made camera body with dust and moisture resistance, inbuilt SteadyShot (5-axis, up to 5.5 stops) and a sturdy 658g in weight, including SD card and battery. The lens provided, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, fits smoothly and without any hint of rotational movement when mounted. One interesting improvement is that when the lens is removed the sensor is actually covered rather than being fully exposed.
The camera is slightly bulkier than the A7R III that we usually use for reviewing Sony lenses. This can be accounted for by the deeper grip, which works well, and the vari-angle rear monitor that enables a forward view that vloggers will appreciate should they wish to film themselves.
Much of the button placement remains similar to previous models, but there are a few significant tweaks to the layout. The top panel has gained a rotational dial beneath the mode dial to select stills, video and S&Q (Slow and Quick). The exposure compensation dial has lost its engraving, gained a locking button at its centre and gained a full range of adjustment from -5 EV to +5 EV. The rear command dial has become a top operating dial. There is a new actuation switch, marked with a red circle, which starts and stops video recording.
The rear of the camera is no surprise, with the usual control dials and buttons, with a vast array of customisation possible for every one of them. This brings us to the menus which are quite complex by necessity, but perhaps not as intuitive as the previous style. This is, of course, a very personal choice and no doubt with continued use everything will become more familiar and much easier to use.
The Quad VGA OLED EVF (1.3cm, 0.5 type) has no less than 3,686,400 dots, gives 100% coverage and offers 0.78x magnification with a 50mm lens at infinity. The EVF has truly come of age, offering a superb, flicker-free view that is totally usable without any trace of eye fatigue. The only clue as to its electronic nature is that we have to switch it on to use it, unlike an optical viewfinder.
The 7.5cm (3.0 type) TFT touch panel monitor has 1,036,800 dots and is equally useful. Menus are crisp and clean. If the touch screen facility is not required then it can be switched off.
Metering has a wide range of sensitivity, from -3 EV to +20 EV. Base ISO values are ISO 100-51,200 and this can be extended to ISO 50-204,800. The ISO performance is excellent, as mentioned later.
AF is a hybrid system using phase detection and contrast detection. It operates from -4 EV to +20 EV and works very well indeed, being sharp, fast and accurate. There is an AF illuminator that is effective from 0.3m to 3.0m. Eye and face recognition AF works beautifully, and now we have the option of selecting Human, Animal or Bird.
Media are accessed through the usual side panel and this has gained an additional locking switch. The camera accepts SD cards (including UHS-I and UHS-II) and CFexpress cards type A. Some video functions are dependent upon using the highest specification cards, be it SD or CFexpress.
There is no doubt that the A7 IV is a highly specified and highly effective tool for both stills photographers and videographers.
- 33MP Full-Frame (35.9mm x 23.9mm) Exmoor R CMOS Sensor
- Shutter speeds 1/8000s to 30s (stills)
- Shutter speeds 1/8000s to 1/4s (movie)
- ISO range 100 – 51200 (50 to 204,800 extended)
- Metering range EV -3 to EV 20
- Vari-angle 7.5cm (3.0type) TFT touch panel monitor with 1,036,800 dots
- Quad VGA 1.3cm (0.5 type) OLED EVF 3,686,400 dots, 100% field of view, 0.78x magnification with 50mm lens at infinity
- 4:2:2 10 bit 4K, 7K oversampling and UHD Video, H.264 and H.265 formats
- Streaming/webcam capability
- Bluetooth Ver 4.1
- Wireless LAN 2.4GHz/5GHz
- Hybrid AF – phase-detection/contrast detection
- AF range EV -4 to EV 20
- Media: SD card (UHS-I and UHS-II compliant), CF Express Type A
- 10 fps, buffer up to 800 shots
- SteadyShot (5.5 stops)
- 658g with SD card and battery
- Fully adjustable picture profiles
- Creative looks: Standard, Portrait, Subdued, Vivid, Vivid + Enhanced clarity, Moody, Monochrome, Sepia, Custom
Handling is pure Sony and from a slow start as cameras morphed from Minolta to Konica Minolta and finally, to Sony, the learning curve and development have been intense, relentless and very, very successful. We now have state-of-the-art performance, design and handling and with so many alternative models something for every style of photographer.
The A7 IV is the pinnacle of a line of development that has looked to cater for those who wanted low noise and the ability to effectively shoot movies, as well as the general need for stills. Thus we move ourselves, perhaps from being pure photographers or videographers to being content creators, a hybrid that needs a hybrid choice of cameras. It’s all in the A7 IV, including a plethora of connection and communication options. With a 33MP sensor, there is plenty of resolution for stills as well.
The only points I would raise are the menus and the instruction manual. The menu system may well be liked by many, but in my opinion, I find it not particularly intuitive, although as with all things this improves with use and familiarity and of course once a camera is set up then the process does not need to be repeated. The instruction manual for an undeniably complex set of options would be helpful in printed form as the online version is not perhaps the most convenient way of getting the information across.
However, to be fair, once set up for stills, and then set up for video, the actual operation is smooth and hazard-free.
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