Palms-on check for Sony A7R IV: 61 fantastic megapixels

Sony A7R IV

“Not everyone needs 61 MP, but you’ll still want the A7R IV because of its speed, auto focus, and durability.”

61MP full frame sensor

240MP pixel shift mode

Continuous shooting at 10 frames per second

Full-width 4K video in crop mode

Real time auto focus

The benefits of 61 MP can be limited

Sony menus remain problematic

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The Sony A7R IV is a mirrorless 61 megapixel full-frame camera.

This statement is pretty unbelievable when you remember that people jumped up and down over the 42MP A7R II a few years ago. But here we are in 2019 and the numbers continue to rise into the stratosphere. Not that we’re complaining, mind you – especially since we had the opportunity at the A7R IV kick-off event in New York City to see what this resolution really means to cover a variety of topics.

First, let’s set the table. The new A7R IV arrives in September for $ 3,500. The patterns we used were ready for production in terms of image quality, but the bodies and associated circuitry were a little squirrel-like and were probably updated before the cameras hit the shelves.

Not that this influenced our shooting much, but it means that this is our first practical impression and not a final review. The good news is that we can talk as much as we can about the image quality and capabilities of a 61MP sensor.

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We need a bigger printer

To be honest, not everyone needs that much determination – in fact, most people don’t. We were very happy with the 24 megapixel images of the Sony A7 III and other cameras with similar sensors. 61 MP gives 9,504 x 6,336 pixels or sufficient resolution to produce a 31 x 21 inch print at 300 pixels per inch. For another perspective, 8K TV, another emerging technology, is “only” 7,680 x 4,320 pixels or about 33 MP. If you’re planning oversized prints or large crops, the A7R IV will likely look very attractive. However, this is more than exaggerated for displaying pictures online, especially on Instagram.

With the introduction of medium format cameras such as the Fujifilm GFX 100 worth $ 10,000 with a 100 megapixel sensor, the photo world has caused a sensation. It is hard to knock on such cameras, but the rest of us don’t have that much money or just don’t want that big and bulky camera. 61MP may sound a lot less than 100, but it’s practically not. You can still shoot the same motifs, and there are very few delivery methods where the difference would be noticeable.

David Elrich / Digital Trends

In addition, according to Sony, the A7R IV has a claimed dynamic range of 15 stops for “breathtaking realism”, which makes it well in the medium format range – and possibly even higher. We usually take this kind of hype with multiple grains of salt, but the pictures we took were really okay.

And if the 61 MP resolution isn’t enough for you, the Mark IV has a 16-frame pixel shift mode that outputs a 240 MP file and the 180 MP eight-frame mode of the Panasonic Lumix S1R easily surpasses. The sensor shifts slightly between the individual exposures. The 16 resulting images are then combined into a high-resolution photo. The camera has to be on a tripod and the subject has to be perfectly still (portraits cannot be seen), but that’s an incredible amount of detail. The use of a remote lock or a shutter delay is also recommended.

Unlike the Lumix S1R, this merging can only be done in Sony’s Imaging Edge desktop software. There is no way to preview a pixel shift file in the camera. For still life and landscape photography (on a windless day), this clearly offers even more resolution for pixel peepers. We haven’t had a chance to use this feature due to the hectic schedule during the unveiling, but we’re definitely keen to try it when a production sample arrives.

The other highlights of imaging technology are rounded off by 5-axis image stabilization, a native ISO from 100-32,000 (expandable to 50 and up to 102,400), a mechanical shutter speed from 30 seconds to 1 / 8,000s with 1 / 32,000s Use electronic shutter, 26.2 MP APS-C crop mode and 4K video with full pixel display with S-Log3 and HDR support.

Design and handling

We have used virtually every Sony Alpha interchangeable lens camera that has been launched. This is due to the first introduction of A-Mount 10 years ago and to most E-Mount models. The biggest change during this period is how the E-mount (which is used in all Sony mirrorless cameras) dominates the mirrorless sector. 52 Sony lenses are available and much more from third parties.

Sony has set the bar for mirrorless full screen and continues to lead, not only in terms of resolution. Sony cameras have a good feeling, a good balance and a logical placement of the button controls. The A7R IV improves on this with a deeper grip, improved moisture and dust resistance, a lock button on the exposure compensation wheel, a textured auto focus joystick and a few other minor improvements. We have some issues, such as the movie capture button being too close to the AF on button, but the layout is mostly very simple and, as we say, DSLR-like, though certainly not as bulky as the Lumix S1R . The battery is also powerful and designed for 670 shots when using the LCD, based on CIPA tests.

61 megapixels result in 9,504 x 6,336 pixels or sufficient resolution to produce a 31 x 21 inch print at 300 pixels per inch.

The LCD looks like the Mark III with 1.44 million pixels and a size of 3 inches, but the electronic OLED viewfinder with 5.76 million points and OLED is new with selectable refresh rates of 100 or 120 fps. We have seen this viewfinder on the Lumix S1 series and it is absolutely great.

Despite the additions, the A7R IV remains a camera that you can easily carry around with you. It measures 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 inches and weighs 23 ounces with the battery and memory card. Add a lens like the G Master 85mm f / 1.4 (US $ 1,800) we tested, and the rig grows to a heavy weight but is still handy. We also got the 135mm f / 1.8 prime ($ 1,900), 24-70mm f / 2.8 zoom ($ 2,199) and the new 35mm f / 1.8 Prime number ($ 749) added.

We have complained for years about the Sony menu system and the company finally seems to be listening. With the Mark IV, you no longer have to go into the menu system to activate Eye AF as it is activated by default. There are other improvements, e.g. B. the ability to customize the feature options for still images and videos. However, you still have to dive into the menus to get the most out of this camera – but at least Sony is trying.

High resolution meets high speed

Thanks to the new Bionz X processor, the A7R IV maintains the same burst rate as the Mark III with lower resolution: 10 frames per second. The buffer contains up to 68 extra fine JPEGs. As expected, there are some delays in loading files onto the card, but it’s still fairly quick considering how much data is being processed.

To keep up with this speed, the Mark IV also features the latest generation of autofocus system with 567 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points, which cover 74% of the image area. It’s not quite as good as the A9 for $ 4,500, but it’s still very impressive. The Mark IV also has the latest real-time eye AF and real-time tracking capabilities, which use artificial intelligence to identify and track subjects. For the first time, Real-Time Eye AF is also available in film mode. All of this means more shots that are sharp but not foolproof, and you still need to use some skills to get the best results. The same goes for every camera, but the A7R IV’s AF system helps you find more goalies than you don’t.

David Elrich / Digital Trends

We’ve been raving about Eye AF since Sony launched it a few years ago, and they’re constantly refining it. If portraits of people or pets are your thing, you absolutely must try this new real-time system.

Obviously, the lens also plays a big role in autofocus performance. Many of the shooting scenarios presented were static, with the 85mm being a winner, others showing dancers whirling and jumping in the air where they couldn’t keep up with high-speed bursts. The 85mm model uses the older supersonic wave AF motor compared to the XD linear motor system of newer lenses such as the 135mm motor. If you work with 61 megapixels, even slight auto focus errors can occur.

First image quality impressions

Since the camera was so new, RAW support was not available, so we couldn’t take particularly fine JPEGs. We improved the contrast in the creative style settings to suit our preferences. However, the images shown here come directly from the camera. While most professionals will undoubtedly shoot RAW and edit it in Lightroom or another desktop application, it is worth noting that Sony has enough tweaks available so that you can probably choose the look you want for the camera.

The topics that Sony provided for the event ranged from old Miami Vice-style vignettes to modern dancers and Vogue-like fashion scenarios. Parrots and dogs were thrown in to test Animal Eye AF. We took hundreds of photos and the most difficult task was to examine them all. We were really impressed with Real-Time Eye AF and were amazed at the details when we viewed them from the OLED viewfinder. They always looked better on a 27-inch monitor. The colors were realistic and it seemed like you could enlarge certain files to fill a wall without falling apart.

Apart from the fact that perfect focusing is required, there is another “negative” with all this resolution – it can be really unforgiving. Every imperfection, from uneven makeup to blemishes, can be seen. We compare this to the early days of HDTV, when makeup artists had to learn new techniques on TV because the video resolution was so much better and every mistake was magnified. We suspect these are good problems when you know all in all that you may need to spend a lot of time retouching these files if you want to present them at their maximum size.

I am very excited about it

The Sony A7R IV should be an Avengers: Endgame blockbuster when it arrives this fall. It has the resolution, the autofocus, the speed and the form factor that should bring it to the top for the “Camera of the Year” award (of course, we only have about half a year left).

Until then, we’ll count the days until then – and hope that other manufacturers improve their game by introducing cameras that can meet or beat the A7R IV. Well then good luck.

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