Sony a7 IV Review: The Best Hybrid Camera for the Money!

Sony a7 IV Review

What if there was a camera that was nearly identical to the a7S III, but with 33 megapixels, the Sony a1’s autofocusing system, ergonomic improvements and all for $1000USD less than the aforementioned a7S III? Well, that’s not exactly what this camera is, but it’s darn close. Let’s get undone. What’s happening everybody? I’m Gerald Undone. And in an alternate universe, I review wooden furniture. Alright, disclosure. Sony lent me this camera to make this review. This is a pre-production model. I don’t get to keep it. No money changed hands, and Sony does not get any input on this blogs production or get to preview before it’s posted. This blogs does have a sponsor, though, and that’s Storyblocks. Normally when you do camera reviews, you talk about all the strengths of a product and then balance that with the drawbacks. This time, I’m going to flip it and start with my complaints about this otherwise nearly perfect camera. 4K60 has a crop. Recently, I made a blog with Josh Yeo listing all the things we wanted in the a7 IV.

And while Sony did achieve pretty much all of them, I suggest that perhaps they should keep the resolution at 24 megapixels and work instead on achieving an uncropped 4K60 and reduce rolling shutter. Instead, we have 33 megapixels and a crop 4K60 mode. Now that APC crop does have decent rolling shutter performance, which you can also enable at other frame rates if you so choose. However, the regular full frame modes for 24, 25 and 30p are all doing a full 7k oversampling, which, while it creates a very sharp image, has terrible rolling shutter performance. But this is where it gets interesting. If you’re the current owner of an a7 III and don’t have a problem with the rolling shutter on that camera, then this new camera is nothing but upgrades for you because the rolling shutter is pretty much identical to the a7 III, except now you have a 33 megapixel photo camera as well. If, however, you’re coming from an a7S III or an a1 and you wanted a second camera, please know that this camera is a major step back in rolling shutter. The same goes for the flip screen and the EVF.

If you’re coming from an a7S III, these displays are worse, but if you’re coming from a7 III, they’re a bit of an improvement and the panel is now fully articulating and there’s no 4K120 mode, but I really wasn’t expecting that, so I’m not docking any points. There’s also the bug in the pre-production models that I’ve already reported to Sony, but I’ll document it here as well for transparency and to ensure it gets fixed. It has to do with this new selection dial added. On this camera, you have a separate selector for photo, blog and s and q modes, which I think is great because it removes those functions from the top of the mode dial, making the modes independent and faster to access. However, if you swap batteries while the new selector is set to blog, most of your buttons don’t work when you turn it back on. Unless you switch the dial to photo, then back to blog.

If you start in photo, it’s fine. It’s just if you start in blog and re-seat the battery that the problem occurs. This is obviously a pre-production bug, and I’m confident it’ll be fixed. Speaking of that battery, same as usual, it’s an FZ100, which should get you over two hours of recording time in regular frame rates in just under two hours in 4K60. And it also features USB-C power delivery, which can charge the camera or extend your runtime indefinitely if recording. It didn’t seem to have an impact on overheating. In fact, overheating was not really an issue in any reasonable scenario I tried. If you follow the standard practice of opening the screen up, keeping it clear from surfaces and setting the auto power off temp to high, I don’t think you’ll experience overheating on this camera in moderate temperatures or regular studio use in any of the modes, even 4K60. In fact, I recorded for three hours in 4K60 with USB power provided before getting bored and shutting it down.

I will say, though, that the camera does get quite hot when you do those long 4K60 tests, probably too hot to comfortably hold in your hand. So that kind of prolonged use is better served for tripod work. But I suppose most people will only be shooting handheld 4K60 in shorter bursts anyway, and I was able to get it to overheat if I close the LCD screen or if I rested it on a cushioned surface. So don’t do that. The only other difference physically I could spot between this camera and the a7S III is they’ve changed the exposure compensation dial into a multi-use one that can be programmed in the menu so you can set it to EV if you want. But it can also be set to ISO or white balance now, et cetera, and you can lock it. This is great and has made a noticeable impact on handling, and they’ve added the closed shutter option from the a1 when you turn the camera off to keep dust off your sensor during lens swaps.

Big fan of that function. We’re getting the same new menu system from the a1 and a7S III, including the additions like S-Cinetone. Even the variable shutter option from the a1, which lets you fight off flicker in blog mode by using a slightly adjusted shutter integer similar to Synchro Scan on the Panasonic cameras, but this camera also has new features that aren’t in those other two bodies yet. And I say yet because Sony, you better be adding these to the more expensive cameras, especially the a1. Those features include animal eye tracking and blog, which work quite well in my tests. It might not be as good as human eye detection, but it’s respectably sticky and performed well. Only time I ran into issues is when there were two cats in the frame. It didn’t seem to know who to track in those situations, but the regular autofocus picked up the slack there, and the shot was still fine, and the autofocus speed was good. So overall, I’m happy. this was using the new 70-200 II, by the way.

The autofocus and blog on this camera is Sony’s best right up there with the a1, which will be a huge upgrade for a7 III users. And you can also leverage the touch tracking as well, which will be new to a7 III users but familiar to S III and a1 owners. Another new menu option is a lens correction for focus breathing. It only works with certain lenses, mainly those G master primes that I gave such a hard time for their terrible focus breathing like the 35mm F1.4 or the 50mm F1.2. It works by knowing the extent of the breathing and then applying a crop to hide any of that breathing while shooting, basically you end up with a tighter shot that doesn’t breathe. It’s extremely useful and again, is something I want to see added to those other two cameras as well, along with the Animal Eye AF.

There’s also this new thing called Focus Map, which gives you a colour coded display of what’s in front of focus on the focal plane and what’s behind. But I find it busy and hard to look at and don’t really care to use it. When it comes to image quality, I already mentioned that you’re getting a seven K oversample in the full frame modes. But due to the increased resolution of the sensor, you’re also getting a slight oversample in 4K60 as well around 4.6 K, I believe. Giving this camera the sharpest image and blog available for Sony save for the 8K mode on the a1. This oversampling also reduces the impact of noise in your low light scenes, which contributed to this camera scoring a 12.8 in my dynamic range test with Imatest AMaZE 21.

This is using the new, more challenging scoring method that CineD helped me with, and in that it actually scored about a third of a stop better than the a7S III, putting it right in line with the a1, which again is a huge upgrade for an a7 III owner. I was actually quite impressed with the noise performance on this camera. If we move through the ISO range in S-Log3, which starts at the base of ISO 800, we can see the second native ISO kick in at 3,200 and then remain impressively clean up past 12,800. I’d feel comfortable using this camera as high as 25,600 in many situations. However, at 32,000, it completely falls apart, but still overall very impressive, and the colour matches nicely with the a7S III and a1 as well as usual when you’re dealing with a new sensor, tere’s slight differences in the white balance. The a7S III, leans a bit green, the a1 a bit magenta, and this new camera is somewhere in the middle.

But these are very minor shifts, and if you custom white balance each camera separately, they turn out to be extremely close colour wise, and mixing the footage shouldn’t be a problem. And because it offers all the new Kodak options as well, including 10-bit 4:2:2 you can comfortably shoot in S-Log3 and not worry about the image falling apart like it did on the a7 III. Speaking of those codecs, this camera has H.264 and H.265, and it even has All Intra recording, which is something I wasn’t expecting and was pleasantly surprised with. The card slots are slightly different though, there’s only one of the a7S III’s dual bays that feature both a CFexpress type A and SD slot. The second bay is just an SD card slot, but both of them are UHS-II. The 4K30 mode is much improved as well, if you’re coming from an a7 III, first off, there’s no crop and your autofocus isn’t affected, and they’ve even increased the bit rate when you increase frame rate, which makes sense and is much better than the previous generation of cameras.

And although 4K60 has a crop, you can still enable active stabilization in that mode, which is nice as this camera features the same great stabilization modes of the a7S III. And if you’re coming from an a7 III. Rest assured there’s none of that silly HDMI stuff where your face detection stops working or one of your screens goes black if you dual record, but it still does have the issue that I think all Sony cameras have where you lose the camera screen, if you output your onscreen display info onto an external monitor, I wish they would fix this. A couple of smaller improvements I’ve noticed that actually make a pretty big difference. This is the first Sony camera I’ve used that you can effortlessly bring up your battery life if you’re running a minimalist display. On every other camera, the battery icon disappears after a few seconds, and there’s only a couple of ways that you can bring it back up, either by cycling through your display modes until you get the one with all the stuff on it or what I do enter and exit the menu quickly. This camera, you can bring it up by half, pressing the shutter or pressing AF-ON or a bunch of other much easier ways, and I really appreciate this. And they’ve also added an AF assist function in blog mode that feels a lot like a DMF mode in photo.

Basically letting you manual focus override at any point during continuous autofocus or blog. This is a handy tool, but it does bring with it one interface change compared to the a7S III or a1. On those cameras, if you turn on focus peaking, you only see it when the lens is in manual focus mode. On this camera, when focus peaking is on, you see it in both modes manual or auto focus. I assume this is to help with that new AF assist override function, but it took some getting used to. And if you’re looking to use this camera as a webcam as well, the whole experience has been upgraded. So first off, when you plug in USB cable to this now, it will bring up a prompt so you can choose what kind of USB mode you want to use and whether it’s data transfer or not. And one of those options will be to use it as a webcam. And as soon as you choose that it is a hassle free universal webcam device recognized by your computer, and then the resolution and frame rate modes have been improved as well.

I think on the previous Sony webcam versions, it was a 720p cap. Now you can shoot 1080p all the way up to 60 fps, and 4K at 15 fps if you plan to use that, but that 1080p 60, and the ease of use makes this actually a really viable webcam now. So as you can see for blog, this camera is literally nothing but upgrades compared to the a7 III, and it matches or beats the a7S III, in colour, dynamic range, detail and autofocus performance and due the lower second native ISO It offers a much cleaner middle ISO range of 3,200 to 6,400 compared to the a7S III, and it offers added versatility with an APS-C crop mode. The only areas where the a7S III takes back big wins is in the high frame rate modes, which are uncropped and go all the way to 120p on that camera. And of course, in the rolling shutter, which is terrific on the a7S III, and kind of lousy on the a7 IV, which, of course had me a bit worried about the vlogging capabilities of this camera.

So earlier this week, I took it out for a vlog test, and here’s how that looked. I’ve got the camera set up with an ND on because we’re going to go outside. I’ve got the ISO set to auto ISO and I’ve put exposure compensation to plus 1.7 stops because we’re shooting in S-Log3. And I think that usually gives you the best balance between, you know, noise reduction and also have auto white balance on. This is the 20 millimeter– Sony 20mm f 1.8. And I’ve got the camera’s focus breathing compensation turned on, so it’s a little bit tighter so that the 20mm doesn’t focus breathe and it’s doing a really good job of that. Stabilization right now is just set to standard. I’ll switch it to active a little bit later on. So I’m going to walk through the studio and see how it adjusts to the changing exposure and white balances. Over here I’m being lit by just some, you know, household tungsten coloured fixtures and the ISO jumped up to 10,000. And then I’m going to jump through here and go through the studio, which is daylight balanced, and we’re getting about a 2,500 ISO because again, I have a two stop ND on while on the variable.

And then if I walk over here, I’m going to be lit by a window which should have kind of a cooler light today, and it’s ISO 3,200 and this is window light from outside. Now let’s go outside and see how it works. Okay, so we’re outside now, and I’ve got the five stops on the ND now, and the ISO is ranging between 800 and 1,250, depending on, you know, whether I’m covered by a tree or not. And I’m using the Eye detect auto focus and again, standard stabilization. So far, so good. Again, this camera does have sort of a rolling shutter problem, so we’ll see if the stabilization is enough to compensate for that, you know, somewhat not great rolling shutter. If I kind of, you know, move it around a little bit, obviously don’t do that, but it’s probably pretty Jell-O-y. Okay, let’s switch it over to active stabilization and just sort of monitor everything all at once while I tell you about today’s sponsor Storyblocks.

All right, we’ve got the complete package now. Active stabilization, autofocus, auto ISO, auto white balance. Here we go, sponsor read. Have you ever found yourself in a position where you could really use some footage, but shooting it yourself was either budgetarily or logistically unfeasible? Well, Storyblocks has you covered with an impressive collection of stock footage covering a wide range of subjects with unlimited downloads and 4K blog. They’re also amply supplied with backgrounds, overlays, and after effects templates. And the interface is easy to use and navigate, and the clips are royalty free for both personal and commercial use so you can use them as much as you want, wherever you want. So if you think you could take advantage of a fantastic library of quality stock footage and effects, check out Storyblocks using the link in the description below.

So reviewing that footage, it was better than I expected. The rolling shutter issues were there, but the improved stabilization, I think, did make a difference compared to how these types of shots used to look on the a7 III. But I’ll leave that final opinion up to you. What I can say, though, is that if you never had a problem with rolling shutter on a7 III and enjoyed vlogging with it, there’s nothing but upsides moving to this camera. But if you have the extra money, I still think the a7S III is the ultimate vlogging camera. And since I spent most of my time testing the blog features of this camera. I’d like to throw to someone who had more of a chance to inspect the photo capabilities of the a7 IV, so let’s see what portrait photographer Miguel Quiles has to say. Thanks, Gerald. There’s a lot to talk about with this new camera when it comes to the photography side of this conversation. If you are coming from the a7 III, there’s a lot to love with the new a7 IV. First would be the improved ergonomics. I found the original a7 III to be a little uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, mainly due to my pinky not really having anywhere to comfortably rest. Because of that, I would end up using a battery grip any time that I used the a7 III since it improved the ergonomics considerably.

With the a7 IV it has the same body style that I love from the Alpha 7R IV and the Alpha 1, which gives you a bit of a chunkier battery grip. This new body style was the first in the a7 lineup where I didn’t run out and buy a battery grip right away. Since I was able to comfortably hold the camera in either landscape or portrait orientations, the next thing that really stands out to me with the a7 IV is the benefits that come with the inclusion of the new Bionz XR processor. This new processor that was introduced with the a7S III, and the Alpha 1 gives you access to some awesome benefits that photographers will enjoy. Things like improved real time autofocus tracking could be a game changer for portrait photographers, especially those who rely on the eye autofocus feature like I do. Using wide area continuous autofocus with some of Sony’s latest lenses really show how far mirrorless technology has come.

Shooting portraits on location and in a studio at a variety of apertures gave me solid results. When you can leave a camera to take care of the technical side of taking a photo, especially when it comes to focusing. It’s going to open you up to focus on the more creative elements that can make a photo really stand out. I’ve been able to use Sony’s cameras for over six years now, photographing people with a wide range of skin tones. When the a7R IV came out, there was something about the colours that I don’t know that felt different than any other Sony camera that I had used up to that point. Skin tones in my RAW files look richer, and they seem to require a little bit less work in post-production, and I’m seeing the same benefit here with the a7 IV. Depending on the type of photography you’re into, this benefit alone might be worth the upgrade. These days, I mainly use the Alpha 1 as my main stills camera, so I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to my expectations of what a stills camera can do. With that said, though, I think that photographers get many of the benefits in the a7 IV, that the more expensive a1 offers. Things like the improved buffer speeds, faster and more accurate autofocus.

The inclusion of the faster CFexpress Type A card slot, the improved JPEG engine and colour science overall, You’re really going to see the performance increases when you pair up the a7 IV with some of the newer lenses, like the Sony 70-200 GM version two and they’re 50mm F1.2 GM. All of the benefits that I mentioned earlier with the increased 33 megapixel resolution and smaller file sizes compared to the R IV and the Alpha 1 make this a great value for anyone that’s looking to get into full frame photography without compromise. The original a7 III really set the standard for what a basic full frame camera can offer, and here they definitely step things into a whole new territory. If you want to hear more about using the a7 IV for stills and specifically portrait photography, come check out the full blog on my YouTube channel. Big thanks to Miguel for providing that segment. Make sure you check out his blog when you’re done here. So I have played around a little bit with the photo mode on this camera, and I did notice a couple of differences when compared to the a1 that’ll be familiar to a7 III users. The shutter is loud again when on mechanical mode. [loud clicking] I forgot how loud these shutters were. I’ve become accustomed to the new flagships, I guess, but I also like how they’ve gone back to separating the mechanical shutter from the electronic front curtain and from the silent shutter mode on this camera. On the a1, those first two are combined. I prefer having them as separate options, and I like how they did that here. Of course, expectedly, the drive speed isn’t as fast in this camera as the a1.

This camera tops out at 10 frames per second, regardless of the shutter mode. I’ve also enjoyed having the flip screen for low shots in portrait orientation, which is something that I can’t do too well on my a1 and that I’ve kind of missed. Summarizing this camera is difficult. I’ve been spoiled. I have an a7S III and two a1s. That’s not a flex. That’s just me pointing out that my opinion is probably warped. This camera doesn’t offer me much that I don’t already have, and in some cases, it’s just plain worse. I don’t even have my original a7 III anymore, but I know a few things. I know that many of my viewers found the a7S III too expensive or they could afford it, but wanted more of a photography emphasis for that money. I know that when I reviewed the Panasonic S1, which is also $2,500USD, the same price as this new camera. I said that the S1, which also has a crop in 4K60, was just one Sony autofocus system away from being the perfect camera for a lot of people. And finally, I know that if you’re someone like me who got the a1 to get 8K oversampled footage for locked off tripod shots at lower ISOs, but that wanted the versatility of using that camera for high resolution stills with great autofocus when needed.

Someone for whom rolling shutter and 4K60 doesn’t play that big of a role, then this camera could actually easily replace both of my a1s, saving me $4,000 each. On top of that, I’d gain the focus breathing correction, which is useful for this type of blog. In fact, I’d even say that if you need good autofocus and shoot on a tripod, this camera offers the best image quality you can get for the money right now, period. So my summary would be the a7 IV, while not quite perfect, is a huge upgrade over its predecessor, worthy of its increased price tag, and in many practical usage scenarios, has enough tools to supplant even the flagship a1. But that’s going to be it for me. I hope you found this blog entertaining or at least helpful. And if you did, make sure to leave it the old thumbs up and consider subscribing if you haven’t already.

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