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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227 Comments

Previous comments
Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Life cycle is what you make of it. I still have the a7rII. I don't upgrade just for the sake of upgrading.

I think you may have a condition called G.A.S. :)

Jan Kruize's picture

Sony just wants your money. Every two years.

Eric Salas's picture

If Canon or Nikon put this out today the news would be exploding. This is flying under the radar because Sony has been murdering the competition for the last two years straight.

Kinda sad to see happen but I guess we can wait for the next, "Is it time to switch to Sony mirrorless?" articles.

michaeljin's picture

Well Nikon is buying Sony sensors so there would be no way for them to beat Sony to the punch in that field. Canon's been running a generation behind for the better part of a decade so barring some quantum leap in sensor technology that Canon stumbles onto or some other gigantic corporation playing ball in the sensor arena (maybe a Chinese company since they may have the financial resources?), I highly doubt that this pattern will change in the foreseeable future.

Eric Salas's picture

I completely agree it won’t be changing any time soon. Especially with the A9ii and A7Siii due out in the next few months.

Spot on. The A7R4's specs is what Canon/Nikon loyalists have been dreaming about - insisting that their brand would be releasing something like this soon - but then Sony beats them to the punch and everything is downplayed. Too bad.

David Love's picture

Well let's just wait and see what Canon does.

Louie Novotny's picture

Good lord there are a lot of insecurities flying around here. It's a great camera, so is basically every modern camera that comes to market. I shot Canon, it was great. Now I shoot Sony, which is great. If I got a Nikon I am sure that would be great. Trying to put this thing down because if makes you second guess your loyalty to your brand is laughable. Just enjoy what you have and enjoy the next camera that comes out and be happy for people who pick it up. Don't worry, another camera will pass this one up pretty soon. It's called progress.

michaeljin's picture

I think something that a lot of people are overlooking here is that with this camera, you get more resolution in APS-C mode than a lot of current high-end full frame cameras and every APS-C camera. That's enough cropping ability that you legitimately argue that you have two lenses for every single lens in your bag without significant quality loss when shooting in APS-C mode as compared to other full frame cameras... That kind of versatility is a pretty big deal in my book.

Yavor Kapitanov's picture

I got great lenses for my A7iii so this new camera will be great addition, I almost got the A7Riii, so lucky that I didn't. Definitely getting this.

dale clark's picture

I'm excited about the new model. As a Sony user for the last 4 years, switching from Canon, one thing I think Sony needs to address. The high megapixel cameras need at least a "medium Raw" function. I have some jobs where ultra high megapixels is overkill. Yes, I could shoot crop mode, however, I would be using different lenses for some, especially wider, focal lengths. The one advantage of the old 5Ds/r I had was the ability to go to medium raw. Basically, the medium raw mode turned the camera into a 5D3.

When I purchase a new camera, I always keep the previous generation as my backup (R2 is my current backup). When I get the A7R4, I'll probably use R3 for jobs where 60Mp is overkill.

Francisco B's picture

This is a pure photographers camera, I think the video features (or lack thereof) are irrelevant, and they will build a lower pixel alternative with killer video. I use Nikon but am pretty impressed with how Sony is listening to its consumers.

It looks like Sony is going to continue beating Nikon/Canon to market with better spec'd bodies as well as competitive pricing that borders on undercutting. Their control of state of the art sensor production gives them a huge edge. The natural trend here is that people will continue migrating over to Sony because of this. I may be wrong but Nikon/Canon are really going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to continue holding onto the market.

David Love's picture

Why, they can let Sony do all the innovation and then just copy it and their users will have the same stuff and we'll be right back to where we are right now.

Jan Kruize's picture

Can anyone tell me why only a few sony fanboys in here have piccies on their profile? Their camera’s must be heaven.... so that’s not the problem i think.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Well, since you actually took the time to take a detailed tally in here, maybe you can provide some info:

Canon fanboys: ### Canon fanboys with piccies: ###
Nikon fanboys: ### Nikon fanboys with piccies: ###
Sony fanboys: ### Sony fanboys with piccies: ###
Fuji fanboys: ### Fuji fanboys with piccies: ###
Other fanboys: ### Other fanboys with piccies: ###

*Just replace the ### with the count you did.

Jan Kruize's picture

Not necessary.... the sony fanboys hardly upload pics in here. To busy with talking about their great and glorious gear maybe?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Same can be said with any group of fans of their gear. Man, Sony's popularity just gets under your skin, doesn't it. lol

Jan Kruize's picture

It doesn’t... sony fan boys just aren’t photographers :-)

Usman Dawood's picture

What if you're a fanboy for multiple brands?

Jan Kruize's picture

I think youre a thief of your own wallet then :-)

Usman Dawood's picture

you don’t have to own everything you’re a fan of lol.

Or people don't post their pictures on this website. You're pretty ignorant huh?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Oh, I dunno, I get the sneaky feelin' you're a closet Sony fanboy, from what the internet reveals to me. Abracadabra. Bwahahaha.

Jan Kruize's picture

Oh yes if it’s on the internet than it’s true. I’m a big fan of jason lanier. This master photographer learned me that there’s only sony. The rest is big shit. Oh.... wait....

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Unless someone hacked your FB and NL model page, yes, it's true.

Jan Kruize's picture

Aaaahhhh out of a fools mouth that’s a compliment. Because i have a sony my photos are better. Manomanoman. You’re really a fool just like this jason lanier guy. Nowadays he’s using a canon because sony kicked him out and they are after him because he can’t gets his hand from his models. I hope you’re not the same with your clickclack sony.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Relax. Don't get your panties in a bunch. Your hair will start to recede and you'll look 30 years older.

Lol, what does Jason have to do anything with this.

For someone (you) that hates Sony, you sure like to promote them outside of Fstoppers. That's all I was saying. There's no shame in that. You can calm down. Everything will be ok.

Jan Kruize's picture

hey pssssst..... i like sony camera's. But i hate the fact that when i buy one in less than two years there will be a new one. And why is there a new one? Well it has 20MP more, ok nice. But....... the did something against the moisture and dust problem. What? yes we did something against the dust and moisture problem. They should beeing ashamed by saying that. A professional camera.... 3300 dollar....... this problem had to be solved in the past. And for the handling..... we invented a grip... what? Sony invented a grip.... wow... and yes you can put some batteries in it. Wow.... what an idea. 400 dollar for a grip. Must be a great thing... i think the grip for an eos5d-mkiv is worthless, 250 dollar... must be a worthless thing. And what jason has to do with this? One year ago he was singing hallelujah sony and canon and nikon make worthless shit. Only fools using this brands. But Sony kicked him out. And now he is using canon....

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