Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 IV
Resolution: 33.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.9mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: 2.50x zoom
28-70mm
(28-70mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 51,200
Extended ISO: 50 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 3.5 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.8 x 3.1 in.
(131 x 96 x 80 mm)
Weight: 23.2 oz (658 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 12/2021
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony A7 IV specifications
33.00
Megapixels
Sony E 35mm
size sensor
image of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7 IV
Front side of Sony A7 IV digital camera Front side of Sony A7 IV digital camera Front side of Sony A7 IV digital camera Front side of Sony A7 IV digital camera Front side of Sony A7 IV digital camera

Sony A7 IV Hands-on Review, Part I

by William Brawley
Originally posted: 10/21/2021

While it's not as long as the gap between the A7S II and the A7S III, it still feels like the photo world has waited quite a while for a successor to Sony's wildly-popular "basic model" A7 Mark III full-frame mirrorless camera.

But finally, we have a follow-up. The appropriately-named Sony A7 Mark IV brings with it a host of new features, upgrades and improvements both inside and out compared to 2018's Mark III. To name a few, we have an all-new sensor, a newer processor, an updated AF system and new AF features, plus new ergonomics and controls, a new LCD screen and more video features. There are a lot of new features and improvements here.

And the fact that we have this array of features and improvements in what is essentially Sony's "base model" Alpha 7-series camera (if you don't count the A7C) is pretty amazing. Granted, this camera isn't coming in at an "entry-level" price point, either, but Sony is calling this camera "the new basic." And "basic" feels like an understatement. This new A7-series camera has a lot of impressive and sophisticated features, many of which are borrowed or derived from Sony's high-end Alpha 1 and A7S III models. And yet, the A7 IV doesn't come with a wallet-scaring price point in the way that the A1 does.

Back when we reviewed the Sony A7R IV, we questioned whether or not it was Sony's "most versatile camera ever," given its combination of high-resolution and performance. However, this new Sony A7 IV is, at least for me, making me reconsider this stance. With the A7 IV, we have a very enticing combination of imaging capabilities, high-performance AF, and robust video features at a decent price point.

Let's dive into the details to see just how Sony's new "basic" A7-series full-frame mirrorless camera performs out in the real world...

Please note: The A7 Mark IV review sample we used for this review is currently running on early, pre-production firmware. Final image quality and performance may differ once the camera has reached final production.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 3200, -0.3EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Sony A7 IV Key Features & Specs

  • New 33-megapixel full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • BIONZ XR image processor
  • ISO range: 100-51200 (expanded 50-204800)
  • 15 stops of dynamic range
  • JPEG & HEIF 10-bit (4:2:2 or 4:2:0) + RAW
  • 828 RAW+JPEG buffer depth
  • 5.5-stop In-body Image Stabilization
  • 759-point phase-detect hybrid AF system (with 94% frame coverage)
  • Improved AF-S speed
  • Real-time Eye AF & tracking for Human, Animals & Birds
  • 4K 60p video in Super35
  • 4K 30p video with 7K oversampling
  • 10-bit S-Log3 support, 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording
  • Digital Audio Interface in hotshoe
  • Updated controls with separate custom controls for Stills/Movie/S&Q modes
  • Improved ergonomics
  • 3.68M-dot OLED EVF
  • Vari-Angle LCD touchscreen
  • CFexpress Type A + SD slots (UHS-II support in both slots)
  • $2500 body-only price

Sony A7 IV Design & Ergonomics: Alpha 1 meets A7S III

Unsurprisingly, at first glance, the new Sony A7 IV doesn't look all that much different from its predecessor or really any of Sony's recent-generation Alpha full-frame mirrorless cameras. The A7 IV maintains that characteristically angular, almost chiseled design with a deep handgrip and a smooth, matte black finish. However, if you look closely or can compare the Mark III and IV side by side, there are several notable differences to this new camera's design, the most prominent of which is the even larger and deeper handgrip. From an overall physical standpoint, the new A7 IV is essentially an A1 and A7S III put together. The A7 IV shares the same slightly larger footprint of the A1 (and A7S III), along with the deeper and more comfortable handgrip. At the same time, the A7 IV uses a similar overall layout of buttons and controls as well as the LCD screen design as the A7S III.

In the hand, the camera feels very durable with excellent build quality, much like I experienced with the A1. First and foremost, when you pick up the camera, you'll immediately notice and likely appreciate the larger grip. Much like with the Sony A1, the new grip design of the A7 IV makes the camera much nicer to hold, especially if you have larger hands. In my hand, the camera feels sturdy and substantial and much more comfortable to hold than the earlier, smaller A7 III or A7R IV cameras that I've shot with several times, for example. Although the A7 III is much improved ergonomically compared to the very first generation model, the camera's grip is still a little on the smaller size.

In particular, when using the predecessor, I noticed a tendency to wrap my pinkie finger under the base of the camera since the grip just felt a bit too small to fit all four of my fingers around it. The larger size of the A7 IV's grip seems to have alleviated that, despite the camera not being much taller than the predecessor. The grip here is wider, and I'm more easily able to get a full hold of the camera. Overall, the camera feels sturdier, more substantial in the hand, and simply more comfortable to use -- especially with larger, heavier lenses -- without having a noticeable impact on the camera's general compact footprint. The A7 IV is still smaller, lighter and more portable than a typical full-size, full-frame DSLR, which I very much appreciate.

The A7 IV also is said to be dust- and moisture-resistant against harsh conditions, and while I didn't experience any rain or bad weather during my time with the camera, the A7 IV feels very well built and reliable. The body feels robust, and the controls and dials feel solid and not at all cheap or flimsy.

In terms of the A7 IV's general control layout, the camera is not drastically different than the previous model, but there are some nice changes and improvements to the dials and buttons on both the top deck and the back of the camera. On the top of the camera, to the right of the EVF, the controls and dials of the A7 IV borrow a similar look and feel to those of the Alpha 1, though with some minor differences. The A7 IV features both front and rear control dials. The front control dial is again recessed into the top of the handgrip on the front, while the rear dial is now fully moved up to the top deck of the camera like on the A1, as opposed to being recessed into the back of the camera. It's not a drastic change, but compared to the A7 III, the rear control dial on the Mark IV is a bit larger and more prominently placed, making it easier to operate.

The A7 IV also has a third control dial with a locking button mechanism, which, by default, controls exposure compensation. This dial, which in the camera menu is named "Rear Dial R" ("Rear Dial L" being the other rear control dial) isn't labeled with exposure compensation dial markings, as we saw on the A7 III and on the A1. On the A7 IV, this locking dial is blank, and within the menu, it can be reassigned to any number of other functions. The functionality of the front dial, both top-deck rear dials, and the Control Wheel on the back can all be customized to suit your shooting style.

Another minor change to the top controls is that now the C1 custom function button has been replaced by a dedicated video recording button, as we see on the A7S III. Instead, the A7 IV has this second C1 button moved to the back of the camera next to the EVF, where the recording button was on the A7 III.

The main PASM Mode Dial on the top of the A7 IV remains similar to its predecessor in that it still lacks the locking button that we see on other Alpha cameras, such as the A1, A7R IV and A9 II. The selectable modes have also been simplified down to just the standard "PASM" modes, an Auto mode and three customizable preset modes. Movie mode, S&Q and Scene modes have been removed from the dial. However, the A7 IV introduces a new shooting mode switch underneath the Mode Dial. This new locking slider control lets you quickly switch between Photo mode, Movie mode and S&Q (Slow & Quick) mode. The locking feature is nice and helps avoid accidentally changing your primary shooting mode. I do wish the main PASM mode dial had a locking feature, as well, like on many of Sony's other, higher-end Alpha models, but the dial feels stiff enough that accidental mode changes are probably going to be rare for most people.

Regarding the Stills/Movie/S&Q mode switch, the camera also lets you customize nearly all the buttons and dials across the camera individually, depending on the shooting mode. For example, you can have controls set up for still photography and then an entirely separate set of button and dials functions customized for when you flip into Movie mode and S&Q mode. The level of customization the A7 IV offers is impressive.

On the left side of the EVF, we once again have a big blank spot. With the A1 and A9-series, Sony adds some additional controls, a dial for Drive mode and another for Focus mode. While I'd ideally love to have these additional physical controls on the A7 IV (and other A7-series cameras), I suppose it's a differentiating factor between Sony's more consumer-focused cameras and their pro models. Nonetheless, it feels like a big chunk of unused space on the camera, and perhaps a couple of additional custom function buttons would do nicely there.

Moving down to the rear of the camera, the A7 IV's button layout is essentially unchanged compared to its predecessor -- with the exception of the aforementioned swapping of the C1 button and video recording button. Several of the button designs are updated and enlarged, matching those of other recent-generation Alpha cameras. The buttons are all slightly larger and generally easier to press. The AF-ON button is notably larger, and the multi-directional joystick control is both bigger and has a new bumpy texture for better grip and operability.

I really have no complaints at all when it comes to the buttons and dials of this camera; having reviewed the new Alpha 1, the overall user experience here is essentially the same and an overwhelmingly positive one. The larger size and the deeper, more tactile feel of the buttons presses are small but pleasing improvements to the A7 IV's usability compared to the previous model. The updated joystick control is especially nice; the texture is great, and the movement of the control feels responsive. I also appreciate that Sony continues to keep a dedicated 4-way directional control, which of course, works for menu navigation. The menus, by the way, in the A7 IV have been completely overhauled, matching the much nicer UI design of the A7S III and A1. The menus are fully navigable via touch and swipe. You can also navigate the menus with the joystick control, but I still prefer navigating menus with a 4-way directional control, as I find that much more accurate and faster to operate.

Continuing with the product tour, the other major new physical design change on the A7 Mark IV is a switch to a vary-angle LCD touchscreen as opposed to the two-way tilting screen of the A7 III. The LCD screen here is essentially the same one as in the A7S III, offering a 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD panel with 1440K-dots of resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. Given the hybrid photo/video nature of the A7 IV and its target customer base, it doesn't surprise me to see Sony switching to this vari-angle screen design. The ability to flip the screen to the side and outward to a front-facing position is excellent for video creators. For stills, I personally prefer the "older" tilting LCD design -- like on the A1 -- as I find that easier to use for shooting from low angles. However, the articulated design of the A7 IV does allow for easier low-down shooting with the camera in a vertical orientation.

In the field, the rear display works very well. Quality-wise, the rear LCD is crisp and sharp, and it performs well outdoors in bright light. Sony states that live view quality, for both the LCD and EVF, has been improved, with attention put on reducing false colors and increasing image resolution. The LCD's touchscreen offers a responsive feel when using tap-to-focus functions and navigating through on-screen menus, such as the Function shortcut menu. You can navigate the deeper main camera menus via touch, and while it generally is useable, the UI feels a bit on the small size, in my opinion, to be easily tappable and scrollable. It's fine, on occasion, and it can be done, but I found it much quicker to just use physical controls for menu navigation.

As mentioned, like on the A7S III and A1 before it, the A7 IV brings over a wholly revamped menu system compared to what's used on the A7 III. Overall, the new menus on the A7 IV are much easier to navigate and find the items you're looking for, despite the expansiveness of the camera's menus. The two-column menu design lets you see at a glance several, if not all, of the related items for a given menu category or section, which I found makes it much easier and faster to find the setting I'm looking for. Further, the way the menu options are categorized is much more intuitive than in prior models.

Last but not least, the electronic viewfinder on the A7 IV gets a bit of an upgrade over the previous model, upping the QVGA OLED screen resolution from approximately 2.3 million dots to 3.68 million dots. The refresh rate also gets a boost, with the camera offering both a normal 60fps frame rate as well as now a faster, smoother 120fps for improved usability when tracking fast-moving subjects. In use, much like with the camera's overall design and controls, I really have no complaints about the EVF on the A7 IV. It's bright, sharp and offers a large, clear view of the scene. The 0.78x magnification factor makes it a fairly large EVF amongst several competing full-frame mirrorless cameras, but it's not the largest -- nor the highest-resolution EVF out there. However, it gets the job done and does it quite well.

FE 100-400mm GM: 100mm, f/4.5, 1/100s, ISO 400, +0.3EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Sony A7 IV Image Quality: New 33MP sensor, Faster processor

At the heart of the new Sony A7 Mark IV is an all-new 33.0-megapixel full-frame Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor, paired up with Sony's newer BIONZ XR image processing engine that we see inside the Alpha 1 and A7S III. Unlike the flagship Alpha 1 camera (or the A9-series), the sensor inside the A7 IV is not a stacked CMOS sensor design. Nonetheless, the camera's imaging pipeline offers impressive fine detail capabilities, an expansive ISO range and very good dynamic range, and the camera overall has very impressive performance capabilities, despite not having a sensor with a readout speed as quick as the A1 or A9-series.

In terms of specifics, the new A7 IV, despite its newer sensor and updated image processor, offers the same, albeit expansive, ISO range as its predecessor. The native ISO range spans ISO 100 up to ISO 51,200, while the sensitivity can be expanded down to a low ISO 50 and up to a whopping ISO 204,800. Sony also states that the camera offers approximately 15 stops of dynamic range, which is, again, the same as with the previous A7 III. However, seeing as the camera uses the same image processing engine from the A7S III and A1, Sony also states that the A7 IV gains the improved image processing capabilities of these higher-end cameras, which are said to provide improved color accuracy and more natural-looking tonal gradations.

FE 100-400mm GM: 268mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 1250
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

The A7 IV offers a variety of image quality settings and image file modes. In addition to RAW capture, of course, the A7 IV features both JPEG and higher-quality HEIF image formats, in both 4:2:2 HEIF and 4:2:0 HEIF. Both JPEG and HEIF formats each have four levels of quality settings, ranging from Light up to Extra Fine -- as well as Image Size settings (large, medium, small). Meanwhile, with RAW, the camera offers uncompressed, lossless compressed and compressed RAW formats.

In addition to the standard Picture Profile presets, which offer a wide range of in-camera image adjustment parameters, such as black levels, saturation, detail (as well as the movie-specific Profiles like S-Log3, HLG and S-Cinetone), the A7 Mark IV also gains a new Creative Look feature. These Creative Look presets, formerly known as "Creative Style," first appeared on the A1 and A7S III. Though not exactly the same, the Creative Looks presets are in some ways similar to Fujifilm's Film Simulations or rather a set of in-camera image filter presets.

FE 100-400mm GM: 130mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 500, -1.7EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

The A7 IV includes 10 pre-made Creative Looks, including a multi-purpose "Standard" look, a Black and White look, a Sepia-tone look, one for Portraits, a more neutral look with reduced saturation and sharpness, and more. There are also 6 additional preset slots for allowing for customized versions of these Creative Look presets. Here you can adjust several different parameters, including contrast, shadows, highlights, sharpness, clarity and more. You can, however, also tweak the parameters of the existing set of pre-made Creative Looks. As expected, these Creative Looks are all used for in-camera image processing for JPEGs (or HEIF) images and do not affect RAW files, which is handy. You can shoot RAW+JPEG using a certain Creative Look, but then have the full RAW file available for full post-processing and editing adjustments.

For some reason, Sony uses rather confusing and nondescript two-letter abbreviations for these Creative Look presets. The standard default preset is "ST," which makes some sense, as does "PT" for the portrait-centric preset. But then there's an "NT," which the camera describes as "expresses a relaxed mood with reduced saturation and sharpness." I guess NT stands for "neutral?" There are also two "VV" presets, a VV and a VV2, which I assume stand for two different "Vivid" preset styles? It's just rather strange and confusing if you're not already familiar with the naming. Fortunately, you can tap on the little "?" icon or press the trashcan button to see a description of all the presets. Still, it seems just a little clunky.

Like other Sony A7-series models, the new Mark IV also includes in-body image stabilization. The 5-axis combined optical and in-body image stabilization system is upgraded slightly compared to the SteadyShot system in the predecessor, offering up to 5.5 stops of stabilization correction versus the 5-stop system in the Mark III.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 320
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Image Quality Performance

With a new 33-megapixel sensor, the A7 IV is now the highest resolution model of the "basic" Sony A7-series cameras, finally getting a boost in resolving power compared to the previous models' 24-megapixel sensors. In fact, the new A7 IV approaches the resolution of the original A7R model, which used a 36MP sensor. When you look at competing full-frame cameras on the market, the 33MP A7 IV stands out among a crowd of 20-24-megapixel cameras, such as the Canon R6, Panasonic S1 and Nikon Z6 II, making it one of the highest-resolution "enthusiast-oriented" full-frame cameras on the market.

For a vast majority of users, the previous A7 models' 24MP sensors are plenty sharp and detailed for all but the most demanding high-resolution photo needs, while at the same time offering easily manageable file sizes and storage requirements. However, I think the 24MP resolution level is now getting a bit stale. Computers are much faster, and media storage, both in terms of memory cards and external or internal drives, continues to get more affordable. The modern digital photography workflow for more and more users is able to comfortably handle higher-resolution images. Still, 33MP, I think, strikes a good balance between excellent resolving power and manageable file sizes. Uncompressed RAW files are around 70-75MBs, while the Compressed RAW format creates around a 35-40MB file.

Overall, in my time with the camera so far, I'm extremely pleased with the image quality of the A7 IV, at both low and higher ISOs. That said, given Sony's legacy of fantastic image quality with their full-frame Alpha cameras, I wasn't expecting a poor showing this latest camera. From a sheer detail perspective, there is a lot to like from this new 33MP full-frame camera, even with just JPEG images. Images straight-out-of the camera are crisp and sharp with lots of fine detail and well-controlled noise when shooting at higher ISOs. Colors look vibrant yet natural and not overly saturated when using the normal picture profile or the default "Standard" Creative Look.

FE 100-400mm GM: 303mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 3200
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Most of my shooting time so far has been during the daytime, so I haven't yet really pushed the higher ISO performance of the camera. That said, trying to photograph wildlife and birds in heavily forested locations and with overcast weather conditions, the high did have to rise somewhat to get properly exposed shots. At mid-range higher ISOs, between ISO 3200-12800, the image quality remains very good. Images pulled straight from the camera look sharp and detailed, and the default "Normal" setting for in-camera noise reduction did a surprisingly nice job at retaining fine detail while removing background noise. Looking closer at higher ISO JPEGs, you can certainly see evidence of noise reduction processing. However, it doesn't feel overly aggressive to my eye. Yes, you can see some smoothing and softness from the NR processing, but fine detail is still clearly visible, and it doesn't appear mushy or overly processed. Beyond noise, colors also remain rich and vibrant at these ISO levels, as well, which is great to see.

RAW files, of course, will give you much more fine-grained control over noise reduction and sharpening. I wasn't expecting to be able to edit RAW files given how new the camera is, but Capture One does appear compatible with the A7 IV raw files already. (Adobe Camera Raw is not comparable with A7 IV raw files at this time, however.) I plan to explore raw file flexibility and higher ISO performance in a follow-up Hands-on Review Part II.

Like many of Sony's high-res full-frame cameras, the sensor in the A7 IV lacks an optical low-pass filter (OLPF), enabling you to capture more extra-fine detail. Many higher-resolution cameras these days are doing away with the OLPF in order to eke out just a bit more per-pixel detail out from the sensors, at the risk of capturing moiré and aliasing artifacts however. In most day-to-day shooting, you likely won't encounter issues, and indeed in my time with the A7 IV so far, I haven't noticed any moiré artifacts in the shots I've captured -- though that's not to say it can't happen. However, if you photograph subjects with fine, repeating patterns, aliasing and moiré pattern artifacts could potentially appear.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 6400
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Autofocus & Performance: High-spee AF system from A1, 10fps Burst, Big Buffer

Autofocus

Now, despite the A7 IV's much lower price point, the camera features essentially the same impressive autofocusing system as the flagship A1 camera, putting a major focus on speed and subject-tracking capabilities. Sony does, however, state that since the sensor in the A7 IV isn't a stacked CMOS chip like in the A1, it can't read data from the sensor as fast as on the A1. SO while the overall AF system is more or less the same as in the Alpha 1, the performance is perhaps not as fast as that of the A1's.

The A7 Mark IV's AF system utilizes a whopping 759 phase-detection AF points combined with 425 contrast-detection areas. The phase-detection points cover about 94% of the total sensor area, and in fact, covers a bit more of the sensor surface than the contrast-detection area. Autofocus algorithms have also been updated across the board for improved precision and performance. In AF-S shooting, the A7 IV's AF system is said to offer low-light focusing now down to -4 EV, making AF more capable of operating in dark environments. As expected, the AF system here incorporates the same updated subject-detection and real-time tracking algorithms as in the A1. The subject-recognition algorithms combine color, pattern and subject distance information in order to quickly calculate spatial information for swift subject detection.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

The earlier A7 III did not incorporate the "Real-time Tracking AF" technology that Sony first debuted with the A6400 and A9 via a firmware update back in 2019. The A7 III still had tracking autofocusing, called Lock-on AF, but it's not as capable or as high-speed as this current implementation. With Real-time Tracking AF, the A7 IV is better equipped to detect and track a wide variety of different subjects, including people and certain animals, including birds. It's also better able to handle challenging subject-tracking situations better than Lock-on AF could, such as continually tracking a moving person's face and eyes even if the face or eyes are briefly obscured from view (i.e. the subject turns away from the camera) or the leaves the frames. The A7 IV can now maintain focus on the subject and quickly reacquire precision face/eye focus once the subject returns into the frame.

Additionally, within its Real-time Tracking AF capabilities, the A7 Mark IV features Human, Animal and Bird Eye-AF tracking. Bird Eye AF first made its debut back with the Alpha 1, and how new A7 IV can take advantage of this helpful -- and capable -- tracking feature. Further, the A7 IV is now able to focus and utilize AF tracking down to f/22, rather than f/11 as on the A7 III. For a wildlife photographer, in particular, this is especially useful. Using a slower variable aperture lens, such as the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G lens plus teleconverters, the aperture can narrow down quite a bit, but the A7 IV can continue to offer AF tracking across a wide range of apertures.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400, -2EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

In the field, I was, once again, thoroughly impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the AF system and its subject-tracking capabilities, much like I was with the Alpha 1. With single-shot AF-S mode, focusing feels nearly instantaneous and very precise, while C-AF performance is also similarly impressive. So much so that I basically kept the camera on AF-C mode the entire time, as I was going back and forth between shooting various nature scenes, wildlife and other subjects. Using C-AF with tracking focus worked surprisingly well for a vast majority of the subjects I encountered, both moving and static. I often opted to use the Tracking: Expand Spot focus area mode, and then focus-and-recompose, allowing the camera to track and maintain focus on the subject while I focused (no pun intended) on image composition and framing. Of course, if I needed to precisely focus on something very small, for instance, I'd adjust the focusing settings accordingly. But, overall, I was very impressed by the flexibility and accuracy of Continuous Focus combined with the Real-time Tracking capabilities.

As a wildlife photography fan, the inclusion of Animal Eye AF and, in particular, Bird Eye AF on the A7 IV is a huge plus. (Also, a nice note about camera customization: you can assign a custom button to toggle through the various Face/Eye detection modes. I set the C1 to toggle through, so I could quickly flick to Animal Eye AF or Bird Eye AF quickly in the field.) Overall, the A7 IV does a wonderful job at detecting and maintaining focus on a small animal or a bird's eye. Once again, I was also very impressed by how small the subject can be in the frame and the A7 IV's focusing system can still detect the eye and lock focus. That being said, I'd love to be able to compare the A1 to the A7 IV side by side, just too see how the performance and subjection detection accuracy compares. Overall, the performance from the A7 IV is very similar, but I got a sense that the A1 is a bit more accurate and a bit better at finding the animal or bird's eye if the subject is very small in the frame.

FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM: 70mm, f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 125
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

I also appreciate the overall focus tracking behavior of the camera. For example, let's say you have it set to Bird AF, but quickly find another type of subject to shoot, like an animal. The subject-detection system, fortunately, doesn't just refuse to work because it can't find a bird to detect. Oftentimes, I noticed it would still find the eye or revert back to face detection and continue tracking the subject. This helped me keep shooting and not have to fuss around changing subject detection modes.

Performance

When it comes to sheer performance specs, this is one area where the A7 IV differs quite a bit from its super-speed flagship A1 sibling. Despite using the same image processor as the flagship camera, the A7 IV maximum continuous burst shooting rate tops out at just 10 frames per second -- using either the mechanical shutter or electronic shutter -- which is the same burst shooting speeds as in the A7 III. By comparison, the A1 also shoots at just 10fps with its mechanical shutter, but it can race up to an astounding 30fps with its electronic shutter. Given the A7 IV's "slower" non-stacked image sensor, the sensor readout speed is likely not up to the task for faster burst rates.

Despite the slower burst rate, ten frames per second shooting is plenty fast for all but the most demanding sports and fast-moving subjects. Like with the A7 III, the A7 IV can shoot up to 10fps with full continuous autofocus and auto-exposure functionality. In the field, the 10fps limit was actually a nice bonus for me, in that I could leave the camera in Continuous Hi+ mode (10fps) and still fire off single frames as I needed. The camera isn't so fast that you tap the shutter button, and you accidentally capture several frames almost immediately.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 200, -0.3EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Meanwhile, thanks to the slower burst rate, the buffer depth of the camera is incredible, especially if you utilize a faster CFexpress Type A memory card. According to Sony's specs, the A7 IV is capable of approximately 828 continuous uncompressed RAW+JPEG images with the CFexpress card. In the real world, that's essentially an unlimited buffer depth.

Given the pre-production firmware running our A7 IV review unit, we haven't done definitive performance testing on the camera yet (though we aim to do so once we get production firmware). However, the buffer depth and the buffer clearing performance of the CFexpress Type A card is very impressive. I am able to shoot burst after burst of RAW+JPEG without the camera skipping a beat. Images, too, were written from the buffer to the card almost immediately, with no apparent slowdown. I could also immediately access and change menu settings or hope into playback mode to review images.

Using the SD card, on the other hand, will make things slower when it comes to burst shooting. We don't have a spec yet for the buffer depth using UHS-II SD card, but in some non-scientific testing using a fairly fast UHS-II V60-rated SD card, I managed to get about 13-14 shots in either Lossless Compressed RAW+JPEG or Uncompressed RAW+JPEG in the buffer before the burst rated start slowing down. Using a faster CFexpress card for the same scenarios, the camera would continue to shoot and shoot with no apparent slowdown. With buffer clearing, I observed the camera taking about 5-7 seconds to finish writing images from the butter to the card when using the SD card, but when using the CFexpress card, buffer clearing was essentially instantaneous, or at the most, less than a second. Very impressive.

FE 100-400mm GM: 187mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 500, -0.3EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

For the best performance experience for shooting continuous, using a CFexpress Type A card is clearly superior. It's a shame that both memory card slots aren't CFexpress-compatible, but I assume it's an area where Sony needs to cut costs or, at the very least, help differentiate this camera from the higher-end A1.

In other areas, the Sony A7 IV is a very nimble and responsive camera. Power-on time, for example, is very fast, though not instantaneous. However, gone are the days of the oddly sluggish power-on behavior of the first-generation A7-series cameras. By my estimates, powering on the camera takes less than a second. It's about what I'm used to on my Olympus E-M1 Mark II and Mark III cameras, perhaps a bit faster. Despite the excellent overall battery from the A7 IV's Z-batter, I'm still in the habit of powering off the camera while it's not in active use. The A7 IV powers on quickly enough that by the time I put the camera up to my eye, it's ready to shoot.

Video Recording & Live Streaming: 4K 60p, More Eye-AF in video, Easier Live Streaming

Video

Given its hybrid design, the Sony A7 IV is packed with a wide variety of high-end and advanced video recording features, including video resolution up 4K 60p, 10-bit and 8-bit recording, Full HD 120p slow-motion, S-Log3, 10-bit 4:2:2 color sampling, and improved video AF features.

In terms of video resolution, the A7 IV supports up to 4K recording, though how it handles 4K depends on the frame rate. 4K at 60fps is only available in Super 35 node -- in other words, it's cropped and not the full width of the 33MP full-frame sensor. To use the full width of the sensor, 4K video maxes out at 30fps. Aside from 4K 60p, other 4K frame rates are available in either full-frame 4K mode or cropped Super 35 mode.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1600
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

With full-frame mode 4K recording, the camera still uses full pixel readout with no pixel binning and uses 7K oversampling to create the 4K resolution. Meanwhile, in Super 35 mode, the camera still uses full pixel read and no binning but uses 4.6K oversampling.

The A7 IV offers several movie recording modes, including XAVC S (H.264, Long GOP), XAVC HS (H.265, Long GOP) and XAVC S-I (H.264, ALL-Intra). XAVC S and XAVC HS are available in both 4:2:2 10bit and 4:2:0 8bit record settings, while the highest-quality XAVC S-I setting is only available in 4:2:2 10bit, and record in bit rates up to 600Mbps.

In addition to 4K recording, the camera also offers an array of HD video resolutions, including FHD video with frame rates up to 120p. The camera also has a dedicated Slow&Quick movie mode, allowing for easy in-camera timelapse-style or slow-motion footage without any post-processing. Slow & Quick recording options include many of the same video resolutions and frame rates as the standard Movie Mode, including 4K 60p and Full HD 120p.

Also, it's worth pointing out that despite several high data-rate video modes, all video recording options are usable with SD cards (though some might require V60 or V90-rated cards). There are no movie options that require the faster CFexpress Type A cards.

Much like on the A1 and A7S III, the A7 IV is built with a "heat-dissipating structure" constructed from a graphite material with excellent thermal conductivity. This internal structure is built into the image stabilization unit and helps move heat away from the image sensor. As such, the camera does not have the often-frustrating 29:59 video recording limit issue, and Sony states that the A7 IV can continuously record 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 video for over an hour. That said, if the camera becomes too hot, there is a chance video recording will stop automatically as a precaution. However, you can adjust the threshold for what temperature level will cause the camera to automatically power off. (In the Setup menu, go to Power Setting Option and select the "Auto Power OFF Temp. option. Choose "High" to allow for increased recording time and internal temperature threshold.)

Additional video recording options include the S-Cinetone profile from the A7S III and A1, as well as S-Log3 that offers 15+ stops of dynamic range for post-processing work.

FE 100-400mm GM: 100mm, f/4.5, 1/100s, ISO 400, +0.3EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Video autofocusing also gains several pleasant upgrades, including support for Real-time Eye-AF for humans, as well as Animals and Bird Eye AF -- something the A1/A7S III does not yet support! There is also Real-time Tracking with Touch tracking now on the A7 IV, as well as adjustable autofocusing transition speed and adjustable subject tracking sensitivity.

Further, the camera includes a variety of all-new focusing-related features including new Focus Map overlay that helps the operator visualize the depth of field; it shows a red coloration for objects in front of the depth of field and blue for behind the depth of field. The area in sharp focus is then shown without the colorful overlay. The A7 IV also supports AF Assist mode, brought over from the FX6 video camera, allowing for the use of the lens's focusing ring while keeping AF enabled.

Finally, there's a nifty and all-new Breathing Compensation setting. This new focusing breathing mode is only compatible on a select list of Sony-brand E-mount lenses, and it helps compensate for the distracting focus breathing issues are often commonplace on still-centric lenses. Cinema lenses are designed specifically not to have much, if any, focus breathing, whereas this angle of view shifting is not an issue for still photography. However, many of Sony's lenses are designed for stills first and foremost and thus exhibit focus breathing when used for video purposes. This new Breathing Compensation setting uses Sony's Clear Image Zoom technology and does crop into the frame ever so slightly to help mask or minimize the effects of focus breathing for a given lens. The amount of frame crop will vary from lens to lens.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 10000
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Live Streaming

With the rising popularity of live-streaming video, the process for streaming video direct from the camera has been streamlined in the A7 IV. When you connect the camera to a computer through USB, a menu pops up asking what you'd like to do: transfer images, tethered control/remote shooting or Live Streaming via USB.

The A7 IV supports UVC/UAC video and audio streaming, allowing the A7 IV to function as a high-performance web camera when connected to a computer or smartphone via USB. Streaming video is supported up to 4K at 15fps, Full HD at 60p and 30p, and 720p at 30p. You can also stream video out and record higher-quality footage internally at the same time. The resolution and frame rates available for simultaneous recording vary. For example, if you stream at 4K 15p, you can record internally at up to 4K 30p, but if you stream out at Full HD 60p, you can internally record at 4K 60p. You can also internally record 4K 30p while streaming 1080p30 and 720p30 video.

For both normal video recording purposes and live streaming, the A7 IV supports Sony's new Digital Audio interface in the hotshoe for a completely cable-free, digital audio signal. The camera also supports the Creative Look presets for live streaming as well as a new Soft Skin Effect.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Ports, Battery & Connectivity: 5GHz Wi-Fi, CFexpress Type A, Faster USB-C

The new Sony A7 IV includes a healthy complement of modern ports and connectivity, both wired and wireless. In terms of wired connections and ports, the A7 IV now features a sturdier, full-size HDMI Type-A port like we see on the A1 and A7S III, which is a pleasant upgrade over the small, micro-HDMI port on the predecessor. Once again, the camera also includes 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. The A7 IV also feature two types of USB connectors, a micro-USB connector and a USB Type-C port. The Mark III had a similar pairing, but the USB-C port on the Mark IV has been upgraded to a faster USB 3.2 Gen2 port, offering up to a 10Gbps data rate -- as well as Power Delivery. Additionally, the USB-C port also supports 1000BAST-T Ethernet connection for fast FTP data transfers, and to support the A7 IV's upgraded live streaming functionality (more on that later).

On the other side of the camera, we have the aforementioned dual memory card setup, supporting two UHS-II SD cards. The top slot, however, now also support the much-faster CFexpress Type A memory cards. The A1 and A7S III support CFexpress Type A in both memory card slots, however, the A7 IV supports only one in the top slot.

In terms of wireless connectivity, the A7 IV features several upgrade and improvements for wireless connectivity and image sharing features. The camera includes updated Wi-Fi, with both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz connectivity for faster transfer speeds. There is also Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity, which now allows for an always-on and sustained connection to a paired smartphone via the Sony Imaging Edge Mobile app. The process is much more streamlined and simplified with the A7 IV, requiring just an initial pairing to a smartphone. The BLE will then maintain a connection allowing you to shoot and then quickly transfer images to your smartphone (when actively sharing media, the connection will initiate a Wi-Fi-based connection with the smartphone for fast data transfers. The 5Ghz Wi-Fi connection also allows for wireless remote FTP transfers. The camera also supports FTP transfer via wired LAN (using a USB-C-to-Ethernet adapter) or with a USB-tethered smartphone.

The A7 IV is also compatible with Sony's "Visual Story" cloud service (currently available in USA and Japan only), which can store and backup still images and movies using a connected smartphone and the Visual Story app.

Lastly, the A7 IV uses the same high-capacity Z-series battery as the A7 III and several other recent Alpha cameras.

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 3200
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Hands-on Review Part I Summary: An Alpha 1 for the rest of us?

Overall, the Sony A7 IV is an impressively versatile camera. The world's had to wait a while for a follow-up to the popular A7 III, but Mark IV appears to be worth the wait. The A7 IV features an improved design and ergonomics, as well as an all-new imaging pipeline and autofocus system. The new 33MP sensor offers excellent image quality with fantastic fine detail performance, great higher ISO quality, and the autofocusing system is fast, accurate and responsive.

It's difficult to think of another adjective to describe this camera other than "versatile." It fits well with so many different types of creators, for both stills and videos. If you're a landscape or portrait photographer, you'll appreciate the high-resolution sensor as well as the Eye AF tracking. And if you shoot wildlife and nature, the Animal and Bird Eye AF is amazingly helpful, as is the wide AF area coverage and completely silent shooting mode. Video creators, of course, will appreciate the improved video specs, higher quality video, more frame rates, vari-angle screen and improved sustained recording time -- as well as the easier live streaming functionality. The only real negative I can think of for this camera so far is the 10fps burst speed for the electronic shutter. Something a little faster would perhaps have been nice, but I think this for most users 10fps is plenty fast for most action, sports and wildlife subjects. At least for me it is.

FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM: 24mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 100, -0.7EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

All in all, from my time with the camera so far, I think A7 IV might take the crown from A7R IV as Sony's most versatile camera ever. The sheer amount of features this "new basic" model inherits from the flagship A1 and A7S III is quite impressive while still coming in at a much more wallet-friendly price point. Resolution, performance, and price. I don't know about you, but to me, the Sony A7 Mark IV feels like the Alpha 1 for the rest of us.

More to come: There's a lot more to explore and test with the A7 Mark IV. We're hoping we can get final production firmware soon. Plus, we also want to take a closer look at performance, raw image quality as well as video. Stay tuned!

FE 100-400mm GM: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 1000, -0.3EV
(Note: Camera is using pre-production firmware.)

Pricing & Availability

The Sony A7 Mark IV is scheduled to go on sale towards the end of December of this year, with a retail price ranging from $2500 for a body-only configuration. At this price, the A7 IV starts with an MSRP of about $500 more expensive than the A7 III did at launch. Additionally, the A7 IV will also be sold in a kit configuration with an FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens, which will retail for about $2700.

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