Bigger numbers are always better, right? Well, it certainly seems to be the case with the just-announced Sony Alpha a7R IV and its 61MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor. Somewhat of a surprise launch (I’m sure many were expecting another a7 to be updated sooner), but it is a welcome one. Not only is the a7R IV bringing with it a higher resolution—fitting its “R” designation—but also tons of quality-of-life improvements to make operation and handling even better.
Resolution, Resolution, and Speed
The a7R IV is now the highest-resolution full-frame interchangeable lens camera on the market. The world’s first 61MP full-frame sensor brings it nearly 50% more pixels than its predecessor and about 20% more than its nearest competition. It even surpasses many medium-format offerings. Using a back-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor, designed as an Exmor R in Sony’s lingo, the a7R IV isn’t sacrificing much in its quest to improve the resolution dramatically. Images should be clean at high sensitivities and data will be offloaded with excellent speed. The new sensor and BIONZ X processor will even deliver 15 stops of dynamic range, making it an even better choice for landscape photographers.
If 60MP wasn’t quite enough, Sony has announced an upgrade to the Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode that captures up to 16 frames, allowing for the creation of insanely 240MP images with full color data at each pixel. This system uses a 5.5-stop SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system to move the sensor precisely and capture as much detail from the scene as possible.
With more pixels comes more autofocus pixels. The a7R IV jumps up to 567 phase-detection points with 74% coverage. Up to 10 fps continuous shooting is possible with full AF/AE tracking in full resolution for up to 68 images in a single burst. Real-time Tracking and Eye AF are available in stills and movie for humans and animals. One other benefit to the high resolution is that, in APS-C crop, the camera will still offer 26MP with a 325-point phase-detection AF system that covers nearly the entire area.
A Better Body
Sony is still a relatively newcomer to the professional camera scene, and with that have come some growing pains. Early a7 models were lauded for their image quality and features, but usually there were a few complains about handling and controls. The a7R IV represents another significant leap for the company and should be greatly appreciated by Sony shooters. The buttons have been redesigned for a better feel and response, the dials have been made larger and a couple have gained a lock to prevent accidental bumps from ruining your photos.
Gained with the a7R IV are dual UHS-II SD card slots. This is very welcome and ensures consistent performance no matter what media settings you choose to use, whether that is mirroring, overflow, or sorting. Other ports have been changed to either optimize position and/or make them more durable. The a7R IV is now Sony’s most weather-sealed camera body. A little bit of rain or dust shouldn’t be a problem. These ports should be familiar to most: a USB Type-C, micro-USB, micro-HDMI, and PC sync.
One of the most important upgrades is the use of a higher-resolution 5.76m-dot UXGA OLED electronic viewfinder. It is notably sharper and clearer than previous models. It can be set to either 60 or 120 fps refresh rate to suit the shooting situations. The grip has been redesigned again for improved ergonomics. Wireless tethering is now possible via 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi, a faster USB Type-C connection, and more under-the-hood changes.
The Other Details
Now, Sony has made other cameras more video-centric, though the a7R IV can certainly hold its own. It seems similar to its predecessor—UHD 4K at up to 30p and 100 Mb/s—with some nice improvements. It still achieves its greatest quality in the APS-C/Super35 crop mode where it down-samples the entire 6K area into a final 4K image. S-Log-2/3 and HLG HDR modes are present. Touch Tracking is an option for more easily tracking subjects via the touchscreen. It also is worth mentioning again that Real-time Eye AF now works during video recording.
Audio has been completely revamped with a new digital audio interface that will dramatically improve the quality of sound recordings. Using a new Digital Microphone that sends a digital audio signal through the redesigned Multi Interface Shoe, shooters can achieve incredible quality with their audio for video. The ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone uses eight mic capsules to achieve a super-directional pickup in a compact form. It has adjustable directionality and plenty of other controls directly on the rear of the device, which mounts on the a7R IV’s Multi Interface Shoe.
New accessories are coming along with the camera, including a VG-C4EM Battery Grip, which matches the camera’s controls and dust and moisture resistance. A revised XLR-K3M is on the way, too, with a built-in Digital Audio Interface to send high-quality audio to the camera. Version 2.0 of the Imaging Edge desktop software is on the way, as well.
The Sony a7R IV is scheduled for a September 2019 release and is impressive. Are you excited for this release? Enough changes to make you upgrade? Sound off in the Comments section, below!