The Sony a7 IV: What's Coming Next

The Sony a7 IV: What's Coming Next

We now know that the Sony a7R III and a7 III have sorted out many of the major complaints with mirrorless cameras, such as battery life, overheating, and autofocus, but there are still so many more features that we didn’t get. What does the next generation of Sony mirrorless cameras have in store for us?

I’m excited, you’re excited, we’re all excited about the just-announced Sony a7 III. It joins the a7R III in making a groundbreaking generation of mirrorless cameras. These cameras certainly earned their praise by squaring up to the drawbacks of mirrorless and tackling them head on.

Taking a step back, however, this isn’t the perfect camera. There are features that have been strongly requested for years that still haven’t made their way to the Sony a7 series. These are things that could have been included in the third generation of a7 cameras — things that are technologically possible today (and some that were possible yesterday). Here’s my list of what could, and should, be coming to the Sony a7 IV.

In-Camera Time-Lapse and the Return of PlayMemories Apps

The Sony a7R III and a7 III are great cameras for video work. One thing that they are missing though that other brands offer is the ability to shoot in-camera time-lapses. The strange thing is that the a7 series used to be able to through a PlayMemories app. However, Sony removed PlayMemories from their latest cameras and hasn’t replaced the missing features with anything.

The new Sony a7 III.

Two UHS-II Slots

This one may be outdated by the time the a7 IV rolls out, but it is forever a strange decision to offer two SD card slots in the a7R III and a7 III, but support for UHS-II in only one of them. Other brands seem to have no problem keeping up with the times and offering two UHS-II slots, or one UHS-II and one XQD, or even two XQD.

Unlocked Touchscreen Capability

The touchscreen has arrived to the a7. It can be used to set focus points and flip through photos in playback. Sony has gone through all the trouble to get to this point, why not take it all the way and unlock the touchscreen for use everywhere in the camera’s software? The menu wasn’t designed for touch you say? Well…

Revamped Menu System

If this were a numbered list, this would probably hit somewhere near the top spot. For years I’ve heard Sony users complain about the endlessly long and confusing menu system. Sony took that complaint and gave us colored tabs and a My Menu slot for customized options. What’s coming next has got to be a complete redesign of the menu system, and hopefully with touchscreen in mind this time.

Articulating LCD Screen

As I said before, these latest a7 cameras are great for video and would be absolutely killer with the inclusion of an LCD screen that can be flipped and rotated so that it can be seen while in front of the lens.

Personally, I think there is a fairly good chance we'll see this come to the a7S III. We’ve seen the sweeping improvements to the third-generation a7 and a7R cameras, and the a7S III really needs to bring it in order to clearly stand out. This is one of those stand-out video-centric features.

Sony a7R III's tilting, but not articulating, LCD screen.

Improved Weather Sealing

As previously reported by Lens Rentals, the a7R III still has issues when it comes to weather sealing despite Sony saying they beefed it up. The problem area with that camera in particular is the bottom, and it will be interesting to see if any changes were made for the a7 III once it’s cracked open. Seeing as how the bodies appear identical, I’d bet they unfortunately share the same weak point.

The a9 Focus Mode and Drive Mode Dial

People love the look of Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, myself included. They have character. Part of this is the physical dials on the top of the camera that are both nostalgic and highly useful. The Sony a9 brought an extra stacked dial to the left of the EVF that controls the focusing mode and the drive mode. I would love to see this make its way to the a7 IV series.

Added dial on the Sony a9.

4:3, 1:1 Aspect Ratios

With Sony’s uber-expensive compact camera, the RX1R II, one can set the image aspect ratio. This feature would be far more useful in a7 bodies where photographers are actually using them for commercial shoots every day and need their images to fit with the final look on the page.

sRAW

The Sony a7R III can shoot big and beautiful 42-megapixel raw images, but do we always need that kind of resolution? Even the a7 III’s 24 megapixels can be seen as overkill to some. Having the option to scale down the captured raw file could be helpful for shooting events where full resolution isn’t doing anything but killing hard drive space and slowing transfer times.

Sensor Protection

This is one of those areas that DSLR shooters have an upper hand. On DSLR cameras, the mirror acts as a shield to the precious sensor behind it. On the a7 mirrorless cameras, the sensor is exposed directly to the outside world once you pop off the lens. Some sort of curtain mechanism that can be activated could make changing out lenses in less than favorable conditions a better experience with less dependency on rocket blowers to clean things up.

Shutter mechanism for the Sony a7R III.

This is my humble list of requests for the Sony a7 IV. It appears quite a few of these could probably even be firmware updates for the current generation; however, that kind of feature release rollout hasn’t seemed like Sony’s style in the past. Either way, Sony has taken great strides to get to where they are at today, and the speculation for what’s up next continues.

What are your thoughts? What about electronic neutral density filters, 4K 60p, RGB live view histograms? Add your reasonable feature requests that the a7 series still hasn’t scratched.

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42 Comments

Previous comments

And they claim that people didn't really use it in the 2-series, which I can't believe is true.

Did Sony hire a bunch of ex-Contax guys? Because their cameras are starting to look VERY Contax. From the collar switch around the shutter release button, to the diamond knurled knobs with a center "depress-to-turn" button, to the deliberately inorganic chiselled looks of the bodies, these cameras are exactly what someone will expect 2018 Contaxes to look like if Kyocera had not pulled the plug on the brand. It's not a bad thing really, but one wonders!

David Candlish's picture

Not sure I see it personally but maybe it's just an example of convergent evolution?

What the A7 family need is a worthy WALKABOUT lens that is superlative optically and compact.

I strongly recommend that they do a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 3.3/25-50 that is about the size of the 1.8/55. 25 is wide enough for most scenics. 50 is perfect for street photography. Keeping it a 2x zoom and keeping the aperture modest allows it to be small and optically exceptional. Keep it simple and without the totally unnecessary optical IS. This will also make a very usable 3.3/38-75 for the APS-C line.

A family of compact bodies like the A7/A9 deserves a compact and optically superb lens. The 2.8/24-70 defeats the purpose of a compact mirrorless body. The 4/24-70 and 4/16-35 Vario-Tessars are EMBARASSINGLY BAD optically for a Zeiss. Speed is irrelevant. If you really care about speed, you'll be carrying a bunch on Batis primes and the 1.4/50.

No builtin GPS is holding me back from Sony a7.

I'd like the 30 minute (29 minute?) video recording limit lifted for non-EU users, much like Panasonic has done. This should be doable via FW.

Along with that, I agree on all of your points- especially a new Play Memories app. We need that back in the III series.

I'm a 10 year Canon user (Advertising/commercial pro - http://kevinwinzeler.com) and have been transitioning to Sony for the last year now. I'm copying and pasting Cody Tolmen's post again also below my list:

These are the big ones for me:
1. No LAG between EVF and Subject. I shoot action and sports professionally and there is still the smallest bit of lag from what the EVF is showing and what is actually happening that my timing is off just enough from using an OVF. It isn't huge and this is leaps and bounds better than former EVF's, but it's still there and this is the MAIN reason I have held onto all of my Canon gear. I'm not yet 100% confident in being able to get that precise moment that sports work demands. I do a lot of tethered shooting commercially as well so I'm not just talking about sporting event work. I'm talking about shooting athletes in a controlled environment and dialing in that perfect moment of action.

2. Weather, weather, weather Sealing!!! I was just shooting in Hawaii and had to Gaff tape my camera all around in addition to using a towel on top during shooting in light-moderate rain. I don't trust this thing (A7RIII) for any type of weather related shooting. This has to be #1 for working pros.

3. Improve Speed. The camera is still too slow everywhere. It's a huge improvement from the A7RII, but if that was horrific. If you want to be pro, look at the speed of operation of the Pro bodies by Nikon, Canon and at least hit that mark, if not exceed it. Does it need a second processor? Everything is just too slow for a working pro: Reviewing images, punching in to see focus, formatting cards, moving around menus, moving through menus while camera is buffering, moving between focus points (This is a big one for me - see below), etc. When I'm reviewing images, why can't I scroll/jump 10 images or 100 Images (Customize) at a time using the top scroll wheel (Like Canon) instead of scrolling through every image?

4. Improve ergonomics All Round
- Make grip a little taller. I can't use this camera anymore without the Grip Extension (GP-X1EM). Once you use the grip extension you'll realize your pinky finger has been hanging in no mans land forever. However, what I don't like about adding the grip extension is that A) It uses the only place to mount a tripod plate (screw hole) B) it covers the batter door so changes take slightly longer and C) When the camera is resting on a table or ground it sits tilted to one side so level shooting at ground level and or sliding off of a table make me more nervous. The big one here is the loss of tripod use. Make the grip just slightly taller (JUST LIKE the grip extension) so we can hold this camera like the pro body it's supposed to be (and no, that doesn't mean making it the size of a DSLR or anything).
- Scroll wheel needs to be bigger! Split the different between Canon's and this scroll wheel for quick and confident aperture changes. The current scroll wheel is so small that the slightest bump changes a setting at a critical time instead of just making the aperture adjustment needed. I've missed multiple shots because i accidentally end up in the drive mode or ISO instead of just changing the aperture.
- Menus....yes, sigh so complex and confusing
- Move the Lens attachment release button to other side. Seriously who thought this button position was natural?
- Tethered shooting; redo the plastic doors covering the USB-C port, so that when using the little piece that holds in place there isn't a piece of plastic poking you in the face. (small but annoying).

4. Faster Joystick movement. Thank goodness they added the joystick, but it still takes too long change focus points and there is a delay every time you initiate a movement instead what should be an immediate snappy move. Please provide a custom option to decide how many focus points you want to move between. I dont' want to move the joystick across every single focus point in order to get from the lower right corner of the frame to the upper left corner. I want to choose which focus points I want to use and move across/around so that I can speed up the process of getting to the right point.

5. GPS. Syncing the App, with my wifi when I'm running to catch that perfect sunset at some far off destination is ridiculous.

5B. Intervalometer. Firmware update??

6. Full Articulating screen. Yes, this would awesome and welcome. The fact that this screen flips up as compared to my Canon 5DSR is a game changer for me though so I'll give Sony credit for that.

7. Opening to EVF Larger! Yes.

And now Cody's list again just to reiterate his points. Are you listening Sony??

My wishes for the A7RIII and beyond.

Problems to FIX
-Fix control dial lag, and all other lag. I feel like I'm using an 8 year old android phone. NO other camera on the market has lag like Sony cameras.

-Fix the problem that we can't change minor settings like drive speed or silent shooting when the camera is buffering.

-When changing some settings in menu, the camera jumps out to the shooting menu interface where that setting also resides. Then when you change the setting and hit ok, you have to go back into the menu again... Leave the setting in MENU while "in" the menu.

-When focus hold button or back button focus is used, don't continue to show image preview after photo is taken! You can't see anything except the image preview. Keep live view running when half pressing shutter.

-When using the setting to remember focus point by orientation - there is huge lag when flipping from landscape to portrait or the other way around! It makes it completely unusable in an action or wedding environment. Fix it. This is one thing that I was super excited to finally see on the mk III but it's poorly implemented

-There is a lag when shooting continuous focus. It's tiny, but it's there and the only way I've found to take care of a little bit of the lag is to turn the setting from balanced to release in focus setting.

Things to ADD via firmware
-PLEASE add 4x3 and other ratios! Does every other camera and phone do this? EVEN the RX100? Come on Sony! Nikon just added 4x3 in the d850 and the viewfinder even blacks out the side bars! That's pretty amazing. With an EVF this would be such an easy change. Fix it

-The exposure scale in the viewfinder should go from -3 to +3 or more! It's just grayed out? Why? Cameras like the Fuji GFX go from -5 to +5 and it's really helpful in some environments, especially when shooting with flash when the camera is no longer showing true exposure.

-Skip over grayed out items in settings. If I change focus area, why do I have to click over every grayed out area? It's a waste of time. Maybe studio people don't care? Did you build this camera to live on a tripod? Also allow all settings to be changes in the menu! Why do you gray out settings just because you are not shooting in that mode right then? Freaking ridiculous

-PLEASE add focus tracking for whatever size focus area I'm shooting with! On Nikon d850, when shooting 3D tracking, if you have only one point selected, the camera tracks only that one point. I don't want to be distracted by a giant green ever changing rectangle! Keep the focus point size.

-Allow the focus point rectangle to be completely customizable. On Fuji cameras, when selecting focus point, you can turn a dial to make the point larger or smaller. Do something like this!

-Add an intervelometer for people who want it.

-Please add the ability to add continuous focus TOGGLE to a custom button. If I'm shooting single focus and then a bride is walking, I want a button to toggle continuous focus. This can be done on Canon 5D and I love it.

-Add auto review of 1 second and also .5 seconds in menu. Fuji GFX does this and it makes auto review in EVF great. I can see if someone blinked in .5 seconds and then preview is gone.

-Add ability to have auto review on LCD ONLY. So it would act more like an OVF camera. For instance - when shooting, auto review wouldn't show in EVF but if I pull my eye away from the finder, the auto review is on the LCD. This is how Canon and Nikon and everything else functions without an EVF. Make this an option. Fuji just did this for the GFX via firmware update...

-Please add the ability to remove things from the finder. On Fuji GFX you can literally add or take out everything and have a blank slate if you want, or show just aperture and shutter speed, or battery life... Whatever. It's a beautiful thing.

-Add seconds in the time menu. Have you guys ever synced cameras before? Or heck have them sync with an NFC tap?

Things to add in next body
-Add a bloody top plate OLED! Fuji implemented this beautifully in the GFX

-Add a second processor? Why in the crap is there still lag in these cameras!?!?!? You can process 10 42megapixel images a second and throw them onto an SD card, but you can't make a dial respond instantly?

-Add an ISO Dial?

-Move to XQD for rIIII and a9II?

-Add drive mode dial to rIV

-Make opening to EVF LARGER!! EVF is gorgeous, but when shooting with glasses on, I can't see the edges of the frame! What the heck?

Anonymous's picture

I've heard from Sony users of focusing problems related to 'stop down focus' issues on the a7riii and a7iii, namely that when using a small aperture the eye auto focus struggles, this is due to phase detection needing plenty of light to function efficiently and the fact that Sony cameras do not open to the widest aperture before the shutter is pressed is the reason this happens. DSLR's do and strangely enough Olympus mirroless as well so it's obviously not an impossible thing for Sony to remedy, (although impossible to do via a firmware upgrade), ive also seen extensive reporting of this on dpreview where there are also supposed work around solutions but it appears these are not effective.

Tom Herriman's picture

sRAW - What?
Who wants fewer pixels? Instagrammers?
One of the major attractions of the A7R III and D850 is the ability to make highly detailed large prints; larger than ever!

Cass Cassim's picture

So, just a couple of requests for the next ones...

For the next A7iii, please match the single shot-to-shot speed of the A7Riii and A9. Currently, when capturing individual shots using the shutter button, it is not even possible to fire two shots per second, making for a poor response when that second or third moment needs capturing quickly; feels so unresponsive. Imaging Resource clocks it as 0.57s per shot, where as most DSLRs, the other A7 models, and even the latest Fuji's all fire quicker than 0.3s per shot. For those of use to prefer shooting in single rather than high-speed continuous, where we choose our moments to shoot, this would be great.

For the next A7Riii, yes, please give us phase-dedect AF points covering the whole frame.

For all the next A7 models, please allow us to use all AF modes and tracking as per normal, and when we release the AF-ON button, let us immediately be able to manually adjust focus on the lens - full time manual focus override. This has always been possible on Nikons, and would be great in the Sonys.

Many thanks for listening... ;)

Tom Herriman's picture

Sensor Protection: just turn off the power and let the shutter close.

All specs, technical stuff and numbers aside.. It's all about the practical stuff as a user!
My biggest wish is more of a software issue: please do overexposure blinking in full screen playback mode, and not only in that ridiculous small image in the corner of the levels mode! Why is it designed this way, and why am i the only one missing this? This is the truly important stuff (being able to check your composition, the models expression, the total feel AND being warned if you manual flash is overexposing ALL AT THE SAME TIME. You can't tell these things in that "levels mode". Almost impossible to live without.

More software: it would be only logical to program the electronic shutter for certain situations (no electronic shutter for flash, because of the 25% black frames rate with Godox, and neither with high shutter speeds).
Same goes for IBIS auto shut off on a tripod.

On the hardware: it won't happen, but i can dream of best of both worlds. I wish Sony would add a shutter and ISO dial like Fuji has and/or a top lcd display. It's a big frustration not being able to see my settings without turning the thing on / waking it up.
I wish my camera would "wake up" from touching the playback button as well, and not only from the shutter button. These things slow me down. There is space on the left side to improve this "being ready" issue.