Sony a7 IV: Advancing the All-Around Full-Frame Camera10/21/2021
Sony’s latest full-frame mirrorless camera, the Alpha a7 IV, seeks to redefine what it means to be an all-around full-frame mirrorless camera. Inheriting a BIONZ XR image processor and AI-based AF from Sony’s Alpha 1 flagship camera while unveiling an all-new 33MP Exmor R image sensor, the a7 IV promises to be an attractive mid-tier entry into Sony’s full-frame mirrorless system. With special attention paid to advancing photo and video functionality, the a7 should appeal to hybrid creators looking for a camera capable of bridging the still-video divide with ease. Alongside the new camera, Sony has announced two new flashes: the HVL-F46RM and HVL-F60RM II wireless radio flashes.
The a7 IV is built around a 33MP Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor, which provides an instant boost in resolution over Sony’s existing entry-level full-frame cameras. Pushing the a7 IV further into new territory for what Sony describes as a “basic” camera is the inclusion of a BIONZ XR image processing engine, Sony’s most advanced to date and the same used by the Alpha 1 and a7S III cameras. Together, they provide 15 stops of dynamic range for accurate color rendering for still and video capture. Ready for nearly any lighting environment, the a7 IV has a native ISO range of 100-51200 which can be expanded to 50-204800 when shooting stills or 100-102400 when shooting video.
The benefits of the a7 IV’s top-tier processor become especially impressive when considering the AF capabilities of this camera. Real-time Tracking locks on and keeps pace with fast-moving subjects, thanks to Sony’s latest subject recognition algorithm, which uses color, pattern, and subject distance to process spatial information at lightning-fast speeds. Sticking true to the all-around appeal of this camera, Real-time Eye-AF for humans, animals, and birds are all included to help lock focus across subject types. The a7 IV even quickly re-detects a subject’s eye after it has left and returned to the camera’s frame. Matching the Alpha 1’s 759 phase-detection AF points, the a7 IV boasts 94% image-area coverage to keep subjects in focus regardless of where they are in the scene.
In low-light environments, autofocusing remains reliable down to EV-4 when using AF-S mode. Equally helpful when working in low light or shooting handheld is its 5-axis in-body image stabilization, which provides 5.5 steps of correction to keep image capture sharp. For scenarios that require absolute precision, AF Assist allows autofocusing to get you in range before letting you tweak focus manually to nail the exact plane of focus your image requires.
Complementing the a7 IV’s advanced autofocusing is the Focus Map function, which allows you to pre-visualize depth of field and select the correct aperture to keep subjects in the focal plane of your lens. In-focus areas are displayed normally, while objects behind the plane of focus are displayed with a blue tint and objects in front of the plane of focus are displayed with a red tint. Another unique focusing function is Focus Breathing Compensation, which smoothes focus transitions to maintain a consistent field of view and composition when racking focus during recording.
The a7 IV is capable of shooting bursts of images at up to 10 fps while using AF/AE tracking in either manual or electronic shutter modes. Two memory card slots provide expanded capture and backup options. Both slots accept UHS-II SDXC/SDHC cards; one slot also accepts CFexpress Type A cards. When paired with a CFexpress Type A card, the a7 IV’s buffer sits at a near-unbelievable 828 uncompressed raw files or the entire memory card capacity for all other file formats. Keeping with the theme of elevated performance, the a7 IV features a 3.68m-dot QVGA OLED viewfinder (1.6x the resolution of the a7 III’s EVF) for crisp and clear pre-imaging. Its refresh rate can be boosted from 60 fps to 120 fps when recording fast-moving subjects. Also, its 3.0" 1.03m-dot touchscreen LCD features a side-opening vari-angle design that’s great when working from high, low, or front-facing angles.
In terms of video, internal 4K 60p recording is possible at 10-bit 4:2:2. To combat overheating, a graphite material has been incorporated into the image-stabilization unit, allowing continuous recording for more than an hour. S-Cinetone, adopted from Sony’s professional cine cameras allows you to achieve colors akin to the Sony FX9 or FX6 cameras quickly. Creative Looks are also available for quick application, cutting down on time in post. Embracing its identity as a hybrid photo-video camera, the a7 has incorporated a Still/Movie/S&Q dial to change quickly between shooting modes, and a total of 169 functions are assignable over 18 custom keys to further streamline use.
Accompanying Sony’s latest mirrorless camera are two new wireless radio flashes: the HVL-F60RM II and the HVL-F46RM. The output of each flash can be linked to the face detection and WB settings of compatible cameras to simplify operation and speed up workflow. Full on-camera control is also possible when using select cameras so you can set up your light wherever you need it and control it from your camera. For capturing motion, the HVL-F46RM can produce up to 60 consecutive flashes at 10 fps or 320 flashes with a 2 second recycle time while the HVL-F60RM II can produce up to 200 consecutive flashes at 10 fps or 240 flashes with a 1.7-second recycle time.
What do you make of Sony’s latest mirrorless camera and flashes? Do you plan to add any or all of them to your collection? Share your thoughts in the Comments section, below!