It’s been a wild past year for the camera industry. After years spent focusing on DSLRs or smaller-sensor mirroless cameras, Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic have finally all entered the full-frame mirrorless market with their EOS R, Nikon Z, and Lumix S1 camera lines. However, despite all these new challengers, Sony remains the leader in the full-frame mirrorless segment, with the A7 III outselling both the EOS R and Nikon Z combined in Japan. Now, with the new A7R Mark IV, it looks like Sony could extend is lead even more.
The A7R IV’s standout feature is a super high-res 61-MP sensor, which Sony claims is a first for a full-frame mirrorless camera), with 10 FPS continuous shooting speeds and 15 stops of dynamic range. That’s more pixels than you get on some medium format cameras (not too mention all of its competitors). The A7R IV has a boatload of other sophisticated upgrades including a special 240-MP pixel shift photo mode, 567 phase detect focus points, and a grippier, redesigned weather-resistant body.
But what might be even more impressive than the A7R IV’s sensor is everything Sony has done to improve its industry-leading autofocus system. Sony says it’s upgraded its eye-tracking autofocus so now you can track both humans and animals in real-time, including while recording video. Sony says its tracking has a new algorithm that should help the camera more reliably follow subjects even when they make sudden movements.
In total, the A7R IV features 567 phase-detect focus-points in full-frame mode, which covers 74 percent of the camera’s sensor. For those who want even better autofocus coverage, the A7R IV also comes with a 26.2-MP APS-C crop mode that uses 325 focus points for nearly 100 percent AF coverage.
Sony remapped the camera’s button layout to put more dials and wheels within reach, and added a new, larger focus select joystick, a new exposure compensation lock button, and a redesigned navigation dial.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the A7R IV is the much larger grip, which if you’ve used previous full-frame Alphas, makes the A7R IV much more pleasant to hold. Weighing in at just under 1.5 pounds, the A7R IV is already a pretty hefty camera, so the more substantial grip is a very welcome addition.
But for me, the thing I took away from my brief time with the camera is just how damn easy it is to use. Sony’s menu system is still as hard to navigate as ever, but just turning on Eye AF and slamming the shutter button yields impressive results. Sometimes, it feels like the camera is just shooting on its own, which I appreciate because then you can focus on more important things like composition.
At Sony’s launch event, which included several professionally lit demo scenes, Sony even brought in a model dog so that press could test out Sony’s Eye AF on animals, and it totally works. While you can tell that animal Eye AF tell isn’t quite as quick or rock-solid as Eye AF on humans, the A7R IV still had no trouble detecting the dog’s eyes even as it chased after a steady stream of treats. Also, even when standing next to a human model, the camera never once tried to lock back on to human eyes. In short, Sony’s autofocus has gotten even better, and remains the biggest advantage it has over pretty much any other player in the full-frame mirrorless camera market.
The A7R IV’s last major upgrade comes in the form of two new microphones accessories: the $350 ECM-B1M microphone and the $600 XLR-K3M XLR mic adapter. Both accessories come with built-in analog-to-digital audio converters so that instead of sending analog audio to the camera, the A7R IV can embed digital audio right into a video file. And if you want to use these accessories with other cameras, both include a switch that lets you output an analog signal too.
So for portrait, wedding, or landscape photogs, the A7R IV might just be your next full-frame camera. Really the only types of photographers that might not be interested are those that regularly shoot sports, as the A7R IV’s 10 FPS continuous shooting isn’t quite high enough for that.
But you better be a pro, because, with a price of $3,500 (body only), the Sony A7R IV definitely ain’t cheap. Or I suppose you could start saving up now before the camera official goes on sale in September. Regardless, back in 2018, we called this camera’s predecessor the new king of mirrorless cameras, and with the A7R IV, Sony might have just passed to crown over to something new.