Sony Announces the New Alpha 7R IV: A Proper Rival to Medium Format

For many photographers, having a high-resolution camera is a must. For some time now the Canon 5DSR was the highest resolution full-frame camera on the market. Sony has now one-upped it with their latest announcement the new Sony a7R IV. As someone who shoots with both Sony and Canon, I have to say I'm really excited about this new camera. 

Several times during the presentation Sony mentioned medium format and described how the a7R IV offers results rivaling such cameras. Personally, I think that's probably the case because considering the kind of lenses you can put in front of this new sensor you would probably be able to produce results that are better than some medium format cameras. Having a camera with 61mp is noticeably more than several notable medium format cameras currently in production.

There is also the fact that this camera can produce images with resolutions up to an astounding 240mp using its pixel shift technology. This is a ridiculous amount of detail coming from a full-frame camera and currently, it's beyond almost all medium format cameras except the Hasselblad H6D 400c; which is priced at almost $48,000. 

The Canon 5DSR was a brilliant camera and one that I regularly used, however this new camera from Sony really does rival medium format on a level which was not previously possible. 

Dynamic range is one of the aspects that medium format cameras tend to excel at and this is something Sony has seemingly worked really hard on. The a7R IV now boasts 15 stops of dynamic range which is extremely useful for a number of reasons. Recovering data is one thing but it's also the natural transitions between highlights and shadows that make images feel more detailed and lifelike. 

If this camera really does have 15 stops of dynamic range then coupled with the resolution it may produce images better than that coming from the Hasselblad X1D II and the Fujifilm GFX 50s. Although there is the GFX 100 which boasts a 100mp BSI sensor, the price of that significantly more than the Sony. For that extra money, you're not really getting a significant improvement in detail especially when you consider the pixel shift capabilities of this new Sony camera. Ultimately, the a7R IV is an incredible new release form Sony, one that may prevent the need to "upgrade" to medium format. This is especially the case when you consider the price and extra features this camera offers. 

Why This is Better Than Medium Format

Some of you will vehemently disagree with this and that's fine but I do believe this camera is a better option than many medium format cameras on the market today. First of all, consider the kind of lenses available for this camera. There is no equivalent for the FE135mm f/1.8 GM available for medium format cameras like the GFX or X1D. This lens is incredibly sharp too, possibly sharper than any similar medium format portrait lens. The fact that this camera also boasts more resolution than cameras like the GFX 50S and X1D also mean that you'll be able to produce sharper more detailed images with it. If it's just image quality you're looking for then more than likely this new Sony camera will offer better results than several medium format cameras that still cost more. Sure, you may want to bring up the GFX 100, which I do think is an excellent camera for a number of reasons. Although considering the price points, these two systems sit in very different market segments. Ultimately, the R IV might be the best camera you can buy when it comes to image quality up to a certain price point. 

Enhanced Autofocus

The autofocus features of the a7R III are fantastic and I've personally found them to be extremely reliable in many situations. For imagery, eye detect autofocus has been an incredible feature that has made shooting much easier for me. The R IV has improved on this by including real-time eye AF. This can be extremely useful for tracking moving subjects and prevents you from losing them when continuously shooting. This new sensor now has 567 focus points that cover 74% of the sensor. That wider coverage can really help with composition and may prevent the need to focus and recompose. This is especially useful if you're shooting with wider aperture lenses where the depth of field can be extremely thin. 

Better Video Features

During the presentation, there was no mention of frame rates and bit rates and for that reason, I'm assuming that they remain unchanged. What has improved are the AF features and video quality for super 35 crop mode. In crop mode the camera will downscale 6k footage down to 4k producing more detailed footage. The fact that the camera will not be pixel binning in crop mode could also help improve things like moire and low light performance. 

The autofocus improvements for video are very attractive. The R IV now offers eye detect tracking for video which is incredible.  Although the example shown in the presentation was of a very short clip, I think this could be one of the best features of this camera. 

The other improvement this camera has over previous models is touch to track focus. on the a7R III when you touch to focus on the back screen, you couldn't actually track your subject. This is something I've requested multiple times and I'm really happy this has now been included. For video shooters, this could be extremely useful, especially for those of us that film using gimbals.  

Specifications

  • Unprecedented Highest Resolution and Widest Dynamic Range for α - Alpha System, Combined with High-speed Performance and a Lightweight, Compact Body 
  • World’s first[i] 35mm full-frame 61.0 MP[ii] back-illuminated Exmor R™ CMOS image sensor with latest-generation BIONZ X™ image processor
  • 15-stop[iii] dynamic range at low sensitivities, resulting in smooth, natural gradations ranging from deep shadows to highlights
  • High-speed continuous shooting at up to 10 fps[iv] with full AF / AE tracking for approximately seven seconds [v] in full-frame mode with an increased buffer memory, and approximately three times as long in APS-C mode
  • 567 focal-plane phase-detection AF points covering 74% of image area and 425 contrast AF points 
  • Debut of Real-time Eye AF for movie recording[vi] and advanced Real-time Tracking[vii] plus Real-time Eye AF for still image recording
  • Features an APS-C crop mode delivering stunning high-resolution images of 26.2MPii
  • 5.76 million dot UXGA (Ultra-XGA) OLED Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder with outstanding detail, brightness and contrast
  • Upgraded connectivity and operability including high-speed Wi-Fi support, wireless PC remote connectivity[viii], FTP wireless transfer, faster data transfer via USB and more
  • Professional 4K movie recording functionality including full pixel readout with no pixel binning in Super 35mm mode[ix], S-Log3, HDR workflow support
  • Multi Interface Shoe™ with digital audio interface delivers the high-quality sound recording with Sony’s new microphone and XLR microphone adaptor 
  • Additional enhancements to the body design include an improved grip and button layout for improved control with compact, lightweight body

Other Improvements

Sony has really improved the build and design of this new camera too. It looks as though this new camera might be a little thicker than the previous model which I think is definitely a positive point. Having a slightly larger body can help prevent overheating which is something that plagued older models like the Sony a7R II. The R IV also weighs slightly more than than the previous model the a7R III but by a negligible amount. The grip was also discussed as being improved based on what many photographers requested. I too felt that the grips on previous models were a little uncomfortable so this is a great new improvement.

The R IV also now offers two UHS II card slots which may prevent the bottleneck that the R III had. On the previous model due to the second card slot being limited to UHS I, anytime you were shooting with two cards, the camera would slow down or entirely stop when writing data. Thankfully this may not be a problem now. 

The higher resolution viewfinder is a very welcome addition. That extra resolution really does make a difference and having shot with several cameras with high-resolution viewfinders I have to say it's extremely useful. It not only helps you to see what you're photographing more effectively but also you can preview your images properly. 

Better Color? 

Image by Ryan Mense

One of the biggest criticisms that Sony has had is how it renders color. This has been especially true for skin tones and in some tests and comparisons that I've done, I found Canon to be definitively better. It would seem the R IV might be better when it comes to color and skin tones. This is mostly speculative right now as no side by side comparisons have been done, however, the skin tones in the image above look pretty good. Those strange green-ish tones aren't visible and this is making for a much nicer looking image. I personally found Sony to have trouble with darker skin tones, yet the R IV seems to be doing a pretty good job in the picture above. Of course, some proper testing is required before any actual conclusions can be drawn. 

Expected Features That Are Missing

Based on the rumors that were going around prior to the announcement many people were thinking that Sony was going to release a camera with the ability to shoot 8k video. Of course, this is not the case and honestly, I'm not disappointed about it at all. What I am a little, tiny bit disappointed with is the fact that video features remain mostly untouched. The camera still shoots 4k 30p and only 8-bit 4:2:0. Personally, I think 4k 60p even if only in crop mode would have been brilliant. A full HDMI slot would have been beneficial for many video shooters too. Having said that I'm aware that this camera is more for photographers and Sony has always differentiated the R series and S series of cameras. Even still, I think that giving the ability to record at higher bit rates via an external recorder could have been sufficient. 

Final Thoughts

Sony is really pushing for that number one position in the photography industry. New cameras are a regular thing for them as a company and they're making it rather difficult for others to compete. I think this new camera is a brilliant addition. Sure, I'm ever so slightly disappointed about the lack of improvements when it comes to video frame rates and quality, however, this is a photography specific camera first. This also could mean that Sony is saving all of its high-end video features for the potentially upcoming Sony a7S III. Ultimately, it's a great time to be a photographer because cameras like these are making our jobs much easier. I can't wait to see how this camera performs in real world situations. 

The Sony a7R IV will be shipping in September this year for $3500, preorder yours here. 

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256 Comments

Dose it still have bad colors? 🤔

Usman Dawood's picture

Not sure but they look like they might be better.

You can get nice colors and skin tone with Sony. I think Canon colors iis not good for portraits, but I mostly work with light skin.

It is a matter of taste I guess, but Canon's skin colours are far too warm/yellow for my taste. I might be a regional thing though.

Someone claimed Americans prefer skin warm while in Europe a more neutral skin color is preferred. For my part that is true, I think skin color gets muddy and looks bad if image is on the orange side of Kelvin. I did not feel good about colors on m2 versions of A7 but now I think it's the best. Did not test out Nikon.

Eduardo Francés's picture

I have been shooting with Canon cameras for over 18 years, and I have to agree with you, TBH I always tone down the red and yellow in the skin because the color looks unnaturaly fake.

Funny thing the Canon EOS 5D (the first one) didn't had that vibrance/saturation, skin colors were more natural straight out of the camera, Mark II introduced funky colors on the skin.

Bad colors = bad editing.

Yavor Kapitanov's picture

You mean better colors.

Ryan Stone's picture

Tiny mount, build quality, short grip, inferior flash system, and odd colour/tonality are why I don’t shoot Sony. I kinda still want an A7R4 though for the positives. I’m gonna wait to see what canon does for a high MP R body first, which will likely coincide with a Sony price drop.

Usman Dawood's picture

The grip, build and colors seem to have been improved in this one.

Ryan Stone's picture

The grip depth is improved but not height. Pinky dangle is real. I think the battery grip would mitigate this but then you’re larger and heavier than an EOS R or Panasonic S1.

Can’t really say if colour response is better until raws are able to be interpreted. Any samples are OOC jpgs so far and still seem to have those electric greens and magenta grays. Haven’t seen any skintones yet.

Weather sealing doesn’t necessarily mean better build, only drier inside.

Still, I’d probably fack with this and the upcoming sigma 35 1.2 if it dropped in my lap.

Actually, the IV's grip height HAS been increased. Previously, the grip was angled downward at the top, but it's more level, giving you more room for your sausagefingers. Depending on how the new body is shaped, the old palm grip may still fit, keeping size and weight down, but giving enough room for Shaq to fit all his fingers on.

RAW color is meaningless. You're at the mercy of the RAW editor for colors, not the camera. RAW is near-infinitely flexible, and you can easily make your own profiles for under $100, or spend $$$$ for perfect color reproduction.

As far as JPGs, good shot they're using the default settings. Sony has a ridiculous amount of in-camera color profiles (Creative Styles) to use, along with their video Picture Profiles. All are adjustable,and the Picture Profiles have 20x as many adjustments as the basic Creative Styles.

Canon is lightyears behind. Have fun waiting 5 years.

Ryan Stone's picture

Why wait? I’m making six figures a year shooting canon mirroless now.

https://i.imgur.com/Q3Xll1m_d.jpg?maxwidth=6400&shape=thumb&fidelity=high

Fetching image ...

That's probably the difference between a working photographer that buys equipment when needed vs a person that enjoys the latest gear. Nothing wrong with either.

Marc Perino's picture

Just out of interest:
What kind of stuff do you photograph with 5 bodies ? 🤔

No irony: I am really interested.

Ryan Stone's picture

We shoot events, mostly weddings. Two shooters each shooting two EOS R bodies. The fifth is a backup 6D. We have a couple Fujis for fun too. Multiple bodies also save on lens switching in the field and is useful for video interviews as well.

Marc Perino's picture

Thanks for the inside look.

A) nobody gives a shit how much you make and from what I can see, nobody asked... not sure how its relevant?

B) his point stull stands... Canon are easily the furthest behind in terms of mirrorless tech. Might help if they didn't purposefully handicap their cameras to protect their cine line.

Ryan Stone's picture

While I didn’t care for your crass reply that nobody asked for (because nobody was talking to you), I’ll say you’re wrong about Canon being behind on mirrorless. They already have the best mirrorless glass available, and the EVF, back LCD flippy screen, ergonomics, low light/back light autofocus, flash system, and customer support are all class leading, currently. The 30MP sensor has the best dynamic range in any canon camera (and a whopping 0.9 stops less than the best full frames available) and there is no banding from extreme shadow pushes since firmware 1.2 (which also improved autofocus). I get so many critically sharp, high res photos with superb colour and gorgeous rendering from the RF lenses and EOS R. The camera itself is a joy to shoot with, very comfortable and gets out of your way. EF adapting has been flawless. And all of this with a first revision. It took Sony 3 generations to make a body reliable enough for paid event work and there’s still major compromises. The A73 EVF and back screen aren’t great and their ergonomics are trash for 8-10 hour events. Their lenses are overpriced, have sample variation issues and have generic, sigma art-like rendering: Sharp but busy bokeh and chromatic aberration. Their flash system is basically non-existent. Their build quality is suspect. As for Nikon, well, the Z6 is basically an A73 that can’t focus properly, the F mount adapter looks like a Chinese knockoff and the best lenses available are f4 zooms.

As for my income, it shows that I actually make photographs instead of just arguing online over hypothetical specs of cameras you’ll never own.

You're probably the only person I've seen talk this high of the Canon EOS R. Calm down man, you're getting a bit worked up.

Eric Crudup's picture

Because you read stuff online from people that drool over specs but take their cameras out twice a month.

That's a pretty generic statement.

Ryan Stone's picture

That’s because canon doesn’t pay Russian troll bot farms to seed photography forums, blogs, and FB groups; unlike some other company that rhymes with blow me.

You're so wrong about that hahaha. You don't think they're capitalizing off people like Peter McKinnon and Matti? Also to work with Cannon the photographer has to have over 50,000 followers on Instagram. Why are you so angry?

Ryan Stone's picture

Those are public brand ambassadors, not viral marketers whose sole job is to pretend to be photographers on photography forums, blogs, etc. Sound familiar?

Darren Loveland's picture

Long time Canon shooter here, refreshing to see someone bring up solid facts and arguments against the generic "Canon is behind, Canon holds back features on purpose" rhetoric. This new Sony looks great, but I'm also interested to see how Canon responds. The only thing I can really see lacking vs Sony is the Dynamic Range.

Jan Kruize's picture

I see man.... your sony pictures on this website are much nicer than my canon ones.

Video features on this Sony camera are bad.

It only records video in the lower quality 8-bit 4:2:0 mode. Plus, the camera has to be set to crop mode, or you'll get pixel binning (jagged edges.)

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