A Review of the Sony a7R IV Based on What Matters to Landscape and Travel Photographers

A Review of the Sony a7R IV Based on What Matters to Landscape and Travel Photographers

Two months since its release, the Sony a7R IV has been getting quite a wonderful acceptance from photographers across all fields of photography, and that’s no surprise. For this review, let’s take a look at how the camera performs based on the needs of a landscape and travel photographer.

Every genre of photography has varying requirements in terms of gear. Some genres require faster shooting capabilities than others. Some are more particular with resolution and image quality. For travel and landscape photography, the spotlight, of course, is on image quality and ISO performance. Generally, these kinds of photography do not ask so much for speed and continuous shooting, but requires that the images are of the best image quality and viable for large format printing. Of course, along with a capable sensor, durability and ergonomics are equally important to be able to cater to the workflow of a landscape photographer. 

Grip, Built, and Weather-Proofing

The Sony a7R IV has pretty much no big differences from the a7R III at first glance. But the overall feel of the camera has improved markedly due to the minimal bulking-up of the grip area and the overall increase in friction offered by the skin. Sony claims that the slide-out mechanism of the memory card door also offers more resistance to moisture and dust. Given that landscape and travel photography entails being exposed to different weather and environmental conditions, this would, of course, be beneficial. Personally, I haven’t tried out how the camera would fare in very cold weather conditions (85 degrees Fahrenheit is considered cold in the Philippines), but I did encounter a bit of rain that was easily handled by the camera. 

Power Efficiency

The a7R IV is rated at 670 shots per charge, but may vary of course depending on how long the exposures are and/or how long the live view is on. Generally, battery performance is not a big concern for landscape and travel photographers, but getting to do more with just one battery can go a long way. With the 670-shot rating, a photographer could do a day-to-night time-lapse or star trails with less than two batteries consumed. It is a huge plus that USB type-C charging is enabled in this camera, so charging in-between or even during shooting is possible. 

Monitoring and Focusing

The a7R IV packs an all new viewfinder with a display of 5.76 million dots. From my experience shooting with an a7R III that has 3.6 million dots, this was quite an impressive upgrade. Having a clearer viewfinder, especially on a camera with much more resolution, gives you a better preview of the output that you get after the shot. We all know that having a better glimpse of the result allows us to revise and improve what we still can, and this is a plus for workflow efficiency — less photos to discard for missed focusing or wrong composition. Considering that the camera produces a 122 MB uncompressed raw file, it really does matter to get your shot precisely in less tries. 

Shot with a Sony a7R IV with 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens

Focus accuracy is a very important factor for landscape photographers. Generally, we use small apertures in shooting wide scenes, but of course, even a slight misfire can ruin what could be such a good photograph. The a7R IV has 425 contrast autofocus points that can be selected manually through the efficient AF drag on the touchscreen. The focus points cover about 99.7% vertically and 74% horizontally. In actual use, landscape photographers mostly place their major foreground elements about a third off the vertical axis, and that would be covered by the focus point area. 

Image Quality

Shot with a Sony a7R IV with 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens

Let’s get straight to the point. A 61-million-pixel resolution is no joke and unquestionably what makes this such a good camera. Landscape and travel photographers require the best image resolution. Most of the time, especially for landscape shooters, every single corner of the frame has to be as detailed as possible. We follow the principle that we would rather have everything sharp, then just reduce sharpness on certain parts of the frame in post-processing for visual design purposes. I would have to say that the 19-megapixel jump from the a7R III to the a7R IV is visibly evident even through the live view preview. Personally, I use a Canon 5Ds, which (by the numbers) still has a higher resolution than the a7R III . But coming from that (11 megapixels difference), the difference is still very significant. 

1:1 crop

Having such a big output gives us more flexibility. It may be very obvious, but with a 61-megapixel image, there is so much room for cropping. You can even produce multiple images out of cropping just one actual photo. This comes in handy for professional use of landscape photos or even in architectural photography. Many clients that I’ve shot for actually aim to crop images, especially for use in advertising the properties. Being able to provide such a huge image gives you the assurance that your work is still top notch in quality even after a massive crop. 

Shot with a Sony a7R IV and 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens

As a bonus, the availability of Sony’s Pixelshift technology allows for even sharper output. The Pixelshift function makes use of multiple exposures, combining them into a much higher resolution output. 

Dynamic Range and ISO Performance

A single exposure image salvaged through shadow recovery

You never read a camera review for landscape photography that doesn’t mention dynamic range. Of course, outdoor photography, which encompasses landscape, travel, nature, and other types of photography that deal with the environment all have to deal with the huge difference in luminance of the bright daytime sky and the barely reflective ground or maybe the strong artificial lights of the city against the barely lit pavement. The a7R IV boasts of its Bionz X image processor that allows it to capture 14.7 stops of light in one frame. Virtually, the almost 15-stop DR performance is close to the 20 stops that can be perceived by the human eyes. In application, the most tangible difference in shooting with the a7R IV is the number of Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters I use for daytime shots. For very bright situations, I often use either a 4-stop GND or a stack of two 3-stop GND filters just to balance out the exposure. With the a7R IV I found no need to do so, and in the brightest situation, I only used one 3-stop GND. I usually prefer using filters for such challenges rather than blending two exposures for a balanced output, but both methods just might be rendered obsolete by the fact that camera sensors are getting closer and closer to the 20-stop DR performance of the human eyes that basically dictate what we deem as “natural looking.” 

Before and after shadow recovery

With that dynamic range rating also comes impressive shadow recovery in post-processing. In one of my test shoots, I was shooting the sunrise behind some clouds, all behind two edges of hills and a river in-between. Originally, I intended to shoot two exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground. In post-processing, I tried maxing out the shadow slider to see how much information would be recovered and how much noise would come out. Suffice to say that I was surprised that blending wasn’t even necessary. I ended up just processing one exposure. 

Before and after shadow recovery

Personally, ISO is what I think about least in landscape photography. I barely ever have to bump up my ISO since I can do longer exposures instead. However, on certain occasions, of course, being able to use higher ISO without having to worry about noise is a big advantage. 

What I Liked

  • Massive image resolution
  • Good grip
  • Outstanding EVF
  • 15-stop dynamic range

What Needs to Be Improved

  •  Still no horizontal tilt on the screen

You can purchase the Sony a7R IV here.

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14 Comments

It's not a party until someone goes to +100 Shadows, +100 Blacks, and then pushes exposure to +1 or +2, ...and find some faint banding noise or color cast issues. :-P

For me the most exciting part about the a7rIV is that the cost of a7riii's will start going down. I think that's where they hit the sweet spot with this line... while the resolution is well above what's needed for many applications, it's still manageable enough that the camera can be used for everything. The a7rii is a great landscape camera but dreadfully slow for tasks that require a faster pace. Plus, that battery. The "riii" improved all that stuff so it can be used for everything from landscapes to events.

The a7rIV feels like it's starting to diverge into more a specialized direction, which to be fair is probably what they were aiming for all along. It'll be interesting to see what the base a7 line does next, whether it leapfrogs up into a7riii territory or goes in a different direction altogether. But as the price of the "riii" continues to go down it'll make it much easier to pick one up as a backup to another riii rather than having to get a cheaper camera to serve that task.

Rk K's picture

Actually it's less specialised than ever - it's a high-res landscape/architecture camera, a high-end sports and wildlife body, awesome for portraits, a decent video camera, finally durable, sealed and with good battery life. It's a FF camera that's also pretty much the best apsc body out there when used in crop mode. What else could you possibly want?

"Actually it's less specialised than ever"

Than ever? The riii is already perfect for all of the things you listed AND its files don't require as much storage or processing power, plus you can get one for a full $1k less. So yeah, the primary reason to get an rIV would be for a more specialized case than what you could do with the riii.

"it's a high-res landscape/architecture camera"

Exactly! Specialized. I'm not saying it's the most custom-built camera in history, designed for a singular task... but it's certainly at a strange price point for a "jack of all trades" camera.

"...a high-end sports and wildlife body, awesome for portraits, a decent video camera, finally durable, sealed and with good battery life. It's a FF camera that's also pretty much the best apsc body out there when used in crop mode."

...All things the riii can do for $1k less. The same isn't true between the rii and riii due to the slowness of the former. The riii is a great crossover camera, in that it does pretty much all things well (due in large part to fixing some pretty serious shortcomings from the earlier iterations). But any shortcomings that are fixed with the RIV are only going to apply to some pretty specific use cases. Hence, specialized.

"What else could you possibly want?"

I dunno, save a thousand dollars? Get a body and a lens (or 2) for the price of the rIV body alone? Save $1700 if I don't need 42MP and get an a7iii? Save money on storage & computer specs because I don't have to process 122MB files (guessing 61 compressed)? Lightroom already does a pretty poor job with 42MB files, especially in a high capacity workflow.

The point is that the significant step forward for Sony came with the ii-to-iii upgrades. Before that the cameras were decent (good, even) but they had significant shortcomings. Since the "iii" versions don't really have significant shortcomings, the only reason to fork out the extra $$ right now would be for very specific (read: specialized!) reasons.

Rk K's picture

The improvements from the 3 to the 4 are not as obvious at first glance, but they are there. I use both regularly and, while both are amazing cameras, the 4 created a whole new category. The af in the 3 is good. In the 4 it beats the D5. The 3 is kind of sealed, but with the 4 I actually feel confident shooting in the rain. Finally, the 61mp sensor means the crop mode is an awesome 26mp (like the xt3). A digital camera this universal has never existed before - it's a master of all trades. The only compromise is the faster computer you need to deal with the files.

You just keep proving my point. Nowhere am I arguing that it’s a bad camera or it’s not “better” than the riii. The point is that the things it’s better at are only going to be worth the extra $1k to a few people.

The a7rii felt like a specialty camera because its strengths (image quality/resolution, form factor, etc) stood in stark contrast to its woeful shortcomings (dreadfully slow buffer/playback, autofocus quirks, clunky workflow with poor menu/button layout, awful battery life). It was great for landscapes, architecture, product photography, etc, because its flaws, while annoying, weren’t necessarily deal breakers for these genres. They were dealbreakers for anything involving action, events, efficient portrait workflow, etc. The a7riii fixed all of the things that prevented it from being useful across the board, which makes it a great all-around, high resolution camera. But there’s a difference between fixing things that *are* broken vs. improving things that already work. That’s the difference between the rii-to-riii and riii-to-rIV upgrade. Which, again, is why I think it veers a little more into the specialty realm again. I’m not saying it doesn’t do all things well, I’m saying that the thing it does best compared to the riii (resolution / image quality) makes the improvements necessary for only a few people. The rest are still perfectly fine with the iii and riii.

Again, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it just is what it is… an incremental, not revolutionary, upgrade.

Rk K's picture

I'm saying that it's only with these latest incremental upgrades that the camera reached a true 'pro' level in some of these genres (wildlife/some sports, being a top of the line crop body and in terms of weather sealing). The 3 works well, but not on a pro/flagship level in these areas.

cant wait until the Z8 from nikon comes out with the same sensor. sony wont even talk to me when i wanted to review a camera for wildlife and pro sports,.

Burt Johnson's picture

The 7R4 DOES have a built in intervalometer. It is called "Interval Shoot Function." It is limited to 60 sec between images (no idea why such a limit??), but that has allowed me to pretty much never need an external intervalometer any more.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

oh you're right. i guess i wasn't able to find that. thanks!

Is this the same A7RIV that just about every poster on the DPReview forum says isn't worth the upgrade and just generally sucks? Weird

I just got the a7r4 three weeks ago after using the a9 for last year. af on a9 is superb. a7riv is suprisingly inferior and coupled with 61megapixel the focus issues are even easier to spot.

i am using all gmaster lenses and 35/1.4 and 50/1.4. if subject is not moving it's great. i guess that's why landscape photographer's love it. a9 just keeps on impressing me.

Perhaps it is time for a "Five Things A9 and Capture One Can Do That ar7riv with Lightroom with Can't DO" sponsored article describing the advantages of a9.

When the a7riv af hits the spot, the results are superb especially with the 50/1.4 Planar. I just processed some photos of my dad shot with a7riv, godox ad200 with barebulb profoto modifier on a a Profoto 1x3 stripbox and the tonal range/detail is astonishing. However, I was having issues with the eye-focus working in a room that had decent lighting. I have shot in this room before with a9 and had no issues.

Jacob Jexmark's picture

I've had my A7RIV for a few weeks now and I must say that I have yet to have any trouble at all with my eye AF or AF in general. Sure, I haven't used the A9 but coming from a couple of A7III's the A7RIV feels just as, if not more capable when it comes to AF.

John Wayde's picture

This is one of the worst review I have read, very subjective and not even well thought. The photographs used are amateurish and does not even provide justice for the word landscape used in the title. Most of the photos are cityscape and I assume a dam or man made waterfall. The quality of articles and writers Fstoppers are using now are getting poorer, hope this changes.