On July 17 Sony announced the 4th generation of their Alpha 7R camera. This came a bit as a surprise because everyone expected any of the new A7SIII, A9II or A7000 models first. Instead, Sony surprisingly launched the A7RIV. Yes, we all know what is the “big deal” of this new camera – the 61 Mpx, which gives us better details, ability to print bigger, better opportunities for crop, and may be the new sensor will give us better dynamic range and lower noise, despite the higher resolution. The technology changes, right?
You can find the specifications everywhere, so I will not waste your time by listing all of them here again. For those who want to read them, here is a link to the Sony official Product specifications page. Instead, I would like to share with you my own thoughts about this announcement, the overall Sony strategy, and of course if I think A7RIV is a worthy upgrade over the A7RIII. Stay tuned… start in 3, 2, 1…
I have been following Sony Alpha cameras since the beginning. I had several A-mount models, and also several E-mount ones. When they first released the A7R I tested the camera, but although I liked the image quality, I didn’t like the slow responsiveness, ergonomics, and the lens selection at that moment. Long story short – this repeated with A7RII, before finally A7RIII was released. It hit many of my previous requirements – features I wanted to see in these cameras before I am fully convinced to switch my professional gear to Sony. So I purchased it and I have been happy overall for the last two years I’m shooting with it.
Being x-CaNikon shooter I never turned back and never regretted my choice. Yes, there were a few things I liked to see in my Sony cameras, and I still do, but overall I feel happy with my current gear. Shooting professionally weddings and other events I slowly built my new wish list of features I wanted to see in a future firmware release or new models. Let me go quickly through it, starting with the features which Sony already addressed in the A7RIV.
Change AF point color from grey to Sony orange color
This one feature may looks so insignificant to most people but it is very important for me. The color of the autofocus point is grey when the AF is not locked. Then it turns green when the AF lock is confirmed. The big problem is that the grey color is very hard to see. You can move it around and not see where it is for a few seconds. It happened to me multiple times to search for the focus point while shooting, trying to find more contrasty background to see the grey square, and I missed multiple shots for that reason. I am really happy that Sony addressed this in the new A7RIV and I also hope they can add this feature to the next firmware update for the other alpha cameras, especially A7III, A7RIII and A9.
Switch between faces/eyes in AF
Without having the chance to play with the camera yet, it seems we will have the opportunity to choose face or eye priority. And then option to select default eye. I think the implementation will not be like in the Nikon Z. And I personally like it – to show arrows from the sides of the AF square in the direction you want to switch the faces. Let’s hope Sony has an intelligent solution for this as well.
Make the grip deeper
It needed just a touch… and it received it! Bravo Sony! Very intelligent approach on making the camera more ergonomic. They changed the top angle of the grip to be more straight, rather than facing down. This allowed them to add few mm to the overall height and we will now fit more comfortable the pinky finger.
Improve weather sealing
I never had issues with the weather sealing of my A7 and A7R bodies. But I agree it is good to have some more weather sealing for the moments that you will really depend on it. Even if this is not a feature you need on a daily basis (except if you have some extreme style of shooting), it is a piece of mind.
Add intervalometer and/or timelapse
Sony added the intervalometer with firmware update earlier this year to A7III, A7RIII and A9. It was mysterious of why Sony omitted this function in the initial firmware but a good thing they have added it afterwards. THe new A7RIV has this from v.1.0. We still wonder why they do not add the integrated timelapse feature. Yes, it is not as “professional” but in many cases it is what we need.
Add two UHS-II cards or XQD/CFexpress
This one is a biggie. Again, I do not understand the logic behind Sony’s decision to put one UHS-II and one UHS-I card especially on A7RIII. I tried to optimize my SD card setup, looking for the fastest UHS-I cards available. I also tried to put UHS-II cards in that slot, hoping that this will allow the camera to use the maximum speed of the card slot. But there is almost no difference. I ended up using Lexar 128GB Professional 1000x UHS-II U3 SDXC Memory Card as a second card. Yes, it is still UHS-II card, but it does not break the bank, and it is rated v60 – I think it gives the camera opportunity to use the maximum speed of the card slot.
The buffer of the A7RIII is clearing very slow. Although you can take images while that’s happening, some of the features are locked. For example, I have set up a C-button to switch from full frame to crop mode. This will not work while the camera is recording the pictures on the cards. Many times on dark receptions, when I use prime lenses to capture the entrance, I switch from full frame to crop mode as the couples come closer to me. With the slow cards this is practically impossible or I need to make sure I don’t shoot 3-4 images beforehand and need to wait for the buffer to clear out.
Another example is when I want to preview images. Sometimes my clients want to see (or I want to show them) the image after I take it. Well, again, while the camera records on the card this is not possible. It is quite confusing to wait with them for the camera to clears out cache. This brings us to the next wish…
Ability to switch to crop mode while buffer is clearing
I don’t know if Sony addressed this with the A7RIV. If the issue was coming from the slow second card slot, then may be that is automatically fixed too. When I have the opportunity to play with the camera I will update the article.
Make camera slightly bigger
Not one of my priority wishes but I would still like to have the camera slightly bigger. Few millimeters here and there, some more space around the grip, some more space to help cooling the camera, and better weather sealing. From what I see so far, I think Sony addressed this “problem”. Their very intelligent touch on the grip, allowed them with very minimal changes to achieve comfort of the hand that holds the camera.
So here you go, the new Sony A7RIV fulfilled 7 of my wishes. May be even 8, if we count the buffer issue that still needs to be confirmed.
My new Sony wish list.
- Icon indicator when the camera is in APS-C mode (A7R series)
- Fully articulated screen (A7S series)
- Back-lit buttons (A9, A7R and A7S series)
- Integrated ND filter (A7S series)
- 4k 60p 4:2:2 internal recording (A7S series)
- Increase video bit-rate from 100mbps (A7S series)
- Front Fn button/s (A9, A7R and A7S series)
- Bigger battery or optimise the current to be more power efficient (all models)
- Top LCD screen (A9, A7R and A7S series)
Please, share with me what you would like to see in the future iterations or firmware updates from Sony. Don’t forget to visit my WISH LIST page, to see the updated features I would like to see in the Mirrorless cameras.
So, is it worth to upgrade?
At this point you may have guessed it – it is. And it is not. It all depends on how you use the camera and what do you need in a camera of this class. If 42Mpx are enough for you, and you only shoot landscape or images that do not require speed, then A7RIII may be absolutely enough for you.
If you shoot events and you need fast buffer, or you like to crop a lot, or your hands a re big and you suffer with the A7RIII, then may be you should have a serious conversation with your wallet.
For me – I love some of the features – like the new AF point color, the 2xUHS-II slots and the bigger and deepr grip. But I will most certainly wait to see what the upcoming A9II, A7SIII and A7IV will offer. Then I’ll decide how to invest my money wisely. How about you?