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High resolution meets speed

The Sony a7R IV is the latest high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera from Sony, as is evident from its R suffix. It is targeted more at portrait, commercial and wedding photographers.

For this review, I used the camera with a Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens.

Major improvements over its predecessor, the a7R III, include an image sensor with a 61 megapixel count (up from 42.4 megapixels), an electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a resolution of 5,760,000 dots (up from 3,686,400 dots) and an updated autofocusing (AF) system that is better at tracking faces and eyes.

Previously, only one of the two SD card slots supports the faster UHS-II format. Both support the format now.

Otherwise, the a7R IV still offers the same 10 frames per second shooting speed, 4K 30p video recording and in-body image stabilisation of its predecessor.

The design also does not differ much from its predecessor's, especially in terms of button layout.

This is a good thing, as the buttons and dials are within easy reach of your fingers, making it easy to operate the camera. For instance, the joystick, sited just above the rear command dial, allows you to move the AF point quickly.

But the grip is more pronounced and contoured than its predecessor's, which makes it a joy to hold the camera. On the flip side, if you are using a big lens, your fingers might rub against the lens when using the grip.

Still, it provides superb handling.

Operation is pretty swift. The camera starts up in 1.1 seconds and shuts down in 1.3 seconds. Most mirrorless cameras take around two seconds for each operation.

Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 299MB per second, it was able to shoot 124 RAW images in 7.7 seconds before the buffer ran out. This shooting speed and buffer capacity put many high-end DSLR cameras to shame.

The a7R IV also achieves sharp focus on subjects almost instantaneously under bright sunlight. In dim lighting conditions, it takes at most one second to secure a focus with the aid of the AF assist light.

The Eye AF feature works superbly, even with animals. I was able to capture a stray cat in sharp focus even though it was moving around.

 

As you might expect from an a7R series camera, the still image quality is excellent with sharp rendition of details. Colours are vibrant and skin tones are accurate.

To take things up a notch, there is its Pixel Shift Multi-shot mode, which combines 16 shots to create a 240-megapixel image. But the subject has to be absolutely still or you will get artefacts caused by moving subjects.

  • FOR

  • • Superb high-resolution still images

    • Outstanding video output

    • Great handling

    • Quick autofocusing

    • Swift operation


    AGAINST

    • Expensive

    • Pixel Shift mode good only for still subjects

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $4,999 (body only)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 61-megapixel full-frame CMOS

    DISPLAY: 3-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 1,440,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 5,760,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 50 to 102,800

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 10 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 665g (body with battery and memory card)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 4.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5

    OVERALL: 4.5/5

Noise performance is on a par with its predecessor, which is stellar. Image noise is non-existent until ISO 3,200. At ISO 6,400 and above, detail loss is more evident, especially in dark areas. But even at ISO 12,800, images are still good enough for social-media use.

However, images shot at above ISO 12,800 look washed out with distinct detail loss and clear chromatic noise artefacts.

Using the a7R IV with Sony's ECM-B1M shotgun microphone ($479) to record interviews for a recent story I was working on, I found the movie and audio quality to be top-notch.

On a full charge, the a7R IV can shoot around 530 still images - around the same as its predecessor and better than most mirrorless cameras, which average around 300 shots.

I also like that the camera can be charged via a USB-C port, which means one fewer charger to take along for your travels.

The a7R IV costs $300 more than its predecessor, which is not much considering the improvements. Still, at nearly $5,000 for the camera body alone, it is a serious investment. But if you can get past its hefty price tag, this is one camera that will not disappoint.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2019, with the headline 'High resolution meets speed'. Print Edition | Subscribe