SONY ɑ7 IV
Recently announced by Sony and shown by official reviewers, the α7 IV is the latest (and greatest) full-frame mirrorless camera from the α7 series. And with highly expected upgrades, it's the most advanced camera from the line-up. It looks like a solid successor to the highly-praised α7 III, and brings state of the art full-frame mirrorless technology to an even broader audience. But as you have already guessed, this isn't just a regular upgrade; especially when considering that α7 III was launched in 2018.
Like any good update, Sony α7 IV thickens the plot for content creators like anything else before. In short, we can say that this camera brings core tech and various functions from α1 and α7S III cameras together. And by that, we mean actual core components; like the same BIONZ XR processor that makes α1 and α7S III leaders in their leagues nestled within the new α7 IV body. With that in mind, this camera aims to excel in imaging power for hybrid content creators.
Designed to redefine the "all-around" concept within cameras, Sony α7 IV promises to be an attractive mid-tier entry into Sony's full-frame mirrorless camera system. With special attention paid to advancing photo and video functionality, the α7 IV will tickle anyone looking for something capable of bridging the gap between still images and video with ease.
So without further ado, let's see what this $2,499.99 monster is capable of!
What We Currently Know
Few people have currently accessed this camera, and for the moment we'll have to wait until December 30th to contrast theory with real life shooting conditions. But some things can be securely inferred from Sony's official intel.
Built around a generous 33MP Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor, the α7 IV delivers a distinguishable resolution kick over Sony’s current entry-level full-frame cameras. And that boost is mainly capable thanks to the BIONZ XR image processing engine, Sony’s most advanced system to date. With it, 15 stops of dynamic are achieved, resulting in mighty accurate color rendering for both still and video. Ready for almost any lighting conditions, the α7 IV comes with a native ISO range of 100-51,200, expandable to 50-204,800 when shooting photos and 100-102,400 when recording video.
Out of the box (or the promotional video in our case), what impresses the most is the autofocus capabilities found in this camera. Thanks to Sony’s most advanced subject recognition algorithm (which uses color, pattern, and subject distance to process spatial information at lightning-fast speeds) Real-time tracking locks on and keeps pace with fast-moving subjects.
Autofocusing is so reliable, that in low-light situations, we can compensate down to 4 stops. And if that wasn't enough, the 5-axis in-body image stabilization provides 5.5 correction stops to keep images sharp when shooting handheld. And for highly complex scenarios, AF Assist allows autofocusing to get you in range by tweaking focus manually.
And beyond regular human subjects, Real-time Eye-AF works beautifully with animals and birds (apparently Sony thinks birds are different from animals, so don't judge us for that last piece of information). Oh, and matching α1's 759 phase-detection AF points, Sony α7 IV uses 94% image-area coverage to keep subjects in focus notwithstanding where they are in the scene.
Enhancing the improved autofocusing available in this camera, the Focus Map function provides DoF pre-visualization while selecting the perfect aperture for your shooting needs. The trick happens like this, focused areas are normally displayed, but objects behind the focusing plane are rendered with a blue tint while objects closer to the lens get displayed with a reddish hue. Along with that, another unique focusing function, Focus Breathing Compensation. Which smoothes focus transitions to keep a consistent field of view and composition when constant focusing action.
Some Shooting Information Delivered by Sony
- The α7 IV is capable of shooting bursts at up to 10 fps while using AF/AE tracking in both manual or electronic shutter modes.
- Both memory card slots deliver expanded capture and backup options. Each accepts UHS-II SDXC/SDHC cards, but there's one that also accepts CFexpress Type A cards; making it capable of recording an insane count of 828 uncompressed raw files!
- Featuring a state of the art 3.68m-dot QVGA OLED viewfinder for crisp and clear previewing with a refresh rate that can be switched from 60 fps to 120 fps when recording fast-moving subjects.
- Screenwise, a 3" 1.03m-dot touchscreen LCD with a side-opening vari-angle design which is great for working from various angles.
- Also, 4K 60p video recording is possible at 10-bit 4:2:2.
To overcome overheating, a graphite material has been included in the image-stabilization unit, providing continuous recording for over sixty minutes. And for the creative minds, adopted from Sony’s professional cinema cameras, S-Cinetone! Allowing us to quickly achieve akin colors to the Sony FX9 or FX6 cameras. Embracing its identity as a hybrid photo-video camera, the α7 IV has incorporated a Still/Movie/S&Q dial to change quickly between shooting modes, and a total of 169 functions are assignable over 18 custom keys to further streamline use. Creative Looks are also available for quick application, cutting down on time in post.
Behind the α7 Iconic Look
Indeed, α7 IV looks pretty much like the α7 III with some noticeable distinctions to point at. Subtle nuances aimed to enhance the overall user experience, driving into a much pleasing usage of it. And without feeling strange, α7 IV's grip behaves more firmly than the one installed in version III. Feels better, yes, but won't make us feel uncomfortable nor unfamiliar to previous α7 users.
On the top, the aforementioned insane electronic viewfinder (3.69 million dot res and 120 fps refresh rate). Underneath the mode dial, there's an interesting new mode that will let us choose between motion, stills, and 'S&Q' modes. But what's that S&Q all about? We could infer that it would be useful for slow-motion footage as well as time-lapses. Also noticeable, a new dedicated record red button for video and a lockable exposure compensation control.
On the back, a new vari-angle touchscreen with firm swivelling capabilities, with an expanded face direction, is perfect for vlogging purposes. Dive into the menus and Sony's latest user interface for a way friendlier and intuitive shooting experience. This is important if you are a former α7 shooter, so you no longer need to attend a NASA course to use it properly.
A high-quality handling joystick for precisely choosing autofocus points, a noticeable AF-On button for back-button focusing, and a rear scroll wheel with useful resistance to stop us from accidentally changing our shutter speeds. But wait, there's more! It also comes with the latest Sony's Multi-Interface hotshoe, meaning that we can plug in external microphones like Sony's ECM-W2BT and ECM-B1M without extra cables nor power sources.
How Would it Perform?
Sony and official reviewers promise that this camera pushes visual capabilities beyond the imaginable. The α7 IV is an advanced hybrid mirrorless camera with powerful resolution and AF performance. Perfect for serious photographers, filmmakers and modern content creators alike.
With a state of the art and newly developed 33MP Exmor R full-frame sensor, the α7 IV benefits from a back-illuminated design that increases clarity and color vibrancy while keeping noise close to the unnoticeable. With it, working in low-light situations won't be a problem across the broad sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200. And as mentioned before, it achieves an impressive dynamic range of 15 stops, so don't worry about recovering shadows and highlights from misfortunate exposure settings.
By using the α1 class BIONZ XR engine, image processing capabilities are unbelievably fast for continuous shooting, 4K video recording, and advanced AF tracking performance. Agile processing indeed, which helps to decrease rolling shutter and other motion distortions for high-quality and crisp rendering of moving subjects. Not to mention how well this copes with the shooting rate of up to 10 frames per second, which can be achieved when using either the electronic or the mechanical shutter with enabled AF/AE. Just take into account using mighty big CFexpress Type A cards, or you'll fill them fast with that insane buffer that allows recording up to 828 consecutive uncompressed raw + JPEG frames when using them.
Even the purest of photographers eventually finds it useful to shoot with the aid of a modest flash. From fast-moving subjects to poor light situations and everything in between, they all get benefitted from a subtle sparkle of light. The updated flash control system packed inside the α7 IV helps to reduce flash trigger lag, uses precise Auto White Balance information for natural color rendering, and also supports adjusting flash and transmitter units directly from the camera.
What About the Video Recording Performance?
In short, Sony α7 IV records 10-Bit video at 4K 60p, but let's see what else this camera delivers in terms of video as well:
- By making full use of the high-resolution 33MP sensor and fast processing capabilities, UHD 4K 30p XAVC HS 10-bit recording is possible while using the full sensor's width, offering 7K oversampling for impressively vivid results.
- Also available, oversampled 4K recording via a 4.6K capture area, with a Super 35 crop that delivers UHD 4K output up to 60p in 10-bit.
- By freeing it from time recording limits, the camera is virtually capable of unlimited clip lengths. And if like ourselves heat is something worrying your mind, the α7 IV body design comes with an efficient and substantially improved heat-dissipating structure to promote longer recording times without imposing stress on the internal electronic components, allowing us to record for more than an hour in continuous 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording.
- Last but not least, the α7 IV uses a pair of codecs to suit different workflows: XAVC HS, which uses HEVC/H.265 encoding to retain more detail at smaller bitrates and XAVC S-I, which is an intraframe codec for consistent performance at up to 600 Mb/s bit rates.
S-Cinetone can be used to achieve precise yet unique colors and natural-looking skin tone rendering that matches the cine FX9 and FX6 cameras, along with the α1 and α7S III. And interestingly enough, it is also based on technology from the pro-Cinema Line cameras, such as the almighty VENICE! So we can expect natural mid-tones, soft colors, and well-controlled highlights.
Shooting frames available:
- NTSC Mode: 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 120 fps
- PAL Mode: 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 25, 50, 100 fps
The Hybrid Log-Gamma support allows recording within an impressively wide color gamut for HDR-ready content directly from it. S-Log3 is also available for reaching a ±15stop dynamic range with improved grading control in the shadow to mid-tone zones of the frame.
It is all about the Ports
As the respectable tool this is, a mention to available connections is a must:
- Both 3.5mm headphone and external microphone ports allow achieving greater control over audio recording.
- Full-size HDMI A port offers a trustworthy and reliable connection when working with external devices.
- One USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port has been added, in addition to a micro-USB port, for faster, more reliable tethering support. And the USB Type-C connection allows the camera to be powered or charged. It also can be paired with an optional Ethernet wired LAN adapter to provide 1000BASE-T connectivity, wired remote shooting, or FTP transferring.
- And as mentioned before, the Multi Interface Shoe supports working with the optional ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone or the powerful XLR-K3M XLR Adapter Kit for improved sound audio recording.
Who Should Buy this Camera
This might sound like a dream camera for contemporary content creators. And in some sense, it is such a device. But with that price tag we won't lie to you, it could scare off some new-comers to the field. We are certain that former α7 shooters (especially those still squeezing the juices out of the α7 II system) would consider investing in this device. Also, pro DSLR shooters who finally are willing to step into the mirrorless universe.