The A7R IV comes with an array of ports for connecting devices and accessories, including both Micro USB and USB-C ports for connecting to computers and for charging the battery in camera, a mini-HDMI output, 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks and a PC Sync port for off-camera flashes. While the ports are the same as those found on the A7R III, Sony has rearranged things a little, moving all ports except the sync port to the two flaps towards the rear of the camera and leaving the sync port to itself behind a door at the front of the camera. This way, all the video related ports are behind one door, with computer connection/charging behind another and flash behind the third, creating better organization. I’ve enjoyed having a sync port on the camera already, as during a shoot about a month ago, my 5-year-old radio triggers decided to die on me, leaving me to grab my sync cord to continue shooting. (I’ve since transitioned to Godox flashes and triggers, which I will likely cover in an upcoming article).
Like all recent Sony camera bodies, the A7R IV comes fully equipped with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on board. This allows one to remotely connect to a smartphone or tablet for transferring images or for remote capture. When the WiFi connections work, they work well, and the 5GHz WiFi option is dramatically faster than the 2.4 GHz connections that were present on earlier cameras. However, the current state of Sony’s Imaging Edge mobile application is a disaster. Frequently, I would connect only to have the camera disconnect mid-transfer, or take an exceptionally long time to recognize the camera and connect. The most recent updates even have the infuriating step of requiring the user to select which camera to connect to….halfway through connecting to the camera you just told it to connect to. That sentence is confusing because the steps required to connect are equally confusing.
Sony has introduced one new wireless feature that has the potential to be outstanding once the bugs are ironed out: you can now connect to the camera wirelessly when the camera is off, transfer images and turn the camera back off. I love being able to simply pick up my phone, whether my camera bag is across the room or in the trunk of my car (while I’m parked), and snag a selection of photos from the day’s shooting. I had serious issues when utilizing this feature on the 2.4GHz wireless, and contacted Sony about it who confirmed my findings and informed me it would be fixed in a future firmware update. We’ll see about that, as this occurred about two months ago and I am still waiting. However, switching to 5GHz wireless has allowed me to connect to the camera and transfer up to around 10-12 images without issue. Selecting a large group of images still has the potential to have the camera shut itself back down halfway through the transfer. When this gets fully ironed out, it will be amazing.
One other item that bears mentioning: like previous Sony cameras, the camera can utilize remote shooting via a smartphone or tablet, but the app still lacks some basic functionality like the ability to select or move the focus point. How is this still missing, Sony?
If the 60 megapixel resolution of the A7R IV is simply too low for your needs, then you’re probably shooting with 100 megapixel or higher medium format cameras. However, if you’re not, and you have a scene that is perfectly still, the A7R IV has the capability to create up to 240 megapixel images with full RGB color information at each pixel by stitching 16 separate images that are shifted slightly via the in-body IS system. The A7R III featured a version of this ability, which would stitch four images together shifted by single pixels to create native resolution true RGB files, but the A7R IV expands on that ability with the 16 image stitch at ultra-high resolution. If you desire, the four image shift is also still available.
The process is performed by turning on the Pixel Shift mode in the camera menu, focusing and then shooting. The camera will then take 16 consecutive images. Unfortunately, unlike the more recent Olympus camera bodies that feature a very similar system, the A7R IV can’t stitch the images in-camera. Instead, the images must be opened in Sony’s Imaging Edge program on the desktop. Here, the images can be selected and then merged into a single 240 megapixel RAW file.
In practice, the pixel shift feature is limited to scenes that have absolutely zero motion. Moving water or foliage moving in the wind will cause artifacts, as will any motion of the camera. Also, due to the absolutely insane resolution, nothing but the absolute sharpest lenses will show any significant improvement. As a result, the 240 megapixel mode is something that most photographers will try once or twice and then forget forever. The 4 image shift mode is a bit more practical, and provides a little extra sharpness and elimination of essentially all moire, which can be quite nice in the right circumstances. See below for what is likely a best case scenario for increased resolution, with the exceptionally sharp Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro. The full image is shown first to get an idea of the overall frame.
This next shot shows a 100% crop from a single 60 megapixel frame on top with a 100% crop from the 240 megapixel pixel shift image below. The 240 megapixel image clearly has more detail, and it becomes even more apparent when upsizing the 60MP single image. However, even with an exceptionally sharp lens, you can see we aren’t fully resolving all 240 megapixels here, despite there still being a tangible difference.
Upsizing the 60MP image truly shows the increased detail, but I’m unsure of how much practical use this is, given the technical limitations on capturing the pixel shift image, as well as the needs for such extreme resolution, given that the 60 megapixel native files already provide tremendous detail and ability to make large prints.
Sony’s intervalometer is effectively unchanged from the one introduced in the Mark III series of bodies with a firmware update late in the cycle. The Intervalometer is quite easy to set up. You choose a start time delay, which can be as short as one second and as long as 99 minutes. This is the delay after you press the shutter button that the camera will begin the sequence.
You can then set the interval between photos (between 1 second and 60 seconds), and finally the number of shots to capture (up to 9,999). Taking those 10,000 shots with a 60 second interval will take 166 hours to complete, but you can do it if you have some sort of external power source attached. The camera also does the math for you, telling you the total time to capture the sequence at the current settings. You can set the camera to autofocus between frames if you like, with a sensitivity for AF changes. It’s quite simple, and works the way you’d expect it to work.
In-Body Image Stabilization
The in-body IS system in the A7R IV has been upgraded from previous models, and Sony claims 5.5 stops of image stabilization. I have never found Sony’s claims particularly accurate, and I found the mark II and III versions of the A7 series to yield sharp shots around two stops slower than what would otherwise be usable handheld. With the A7R IV, I do notice an improvement, and it’s in-line with their claims of an extra half stop over its predecessor. However, in this case, for me, I get about 2.5 stops of extra handholdability with the A7R IV stabilizer.
Of course, the A7R IV’s extra dense sensor shows any shake more apparently than lower resolution bodies when viewing images at 100%. One of the other great benefits of stabilization is a stable viewfinder, and here, Sony’s stabilization does great, keeping the view nice and steady while shooting. Overall, it’s not game-changing stabilization like that of Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies, but it is certainly better than an unstabilized body.
Other Items of Note
- Like all other recent Sony bodies, the A7R IV has a fully electronic shutter that allows you to shoot completely silently. Also, like all Sony bodies save for the A9, the A7R IV’s sensor readout is fairly slow, so while it’s perfectly usable for silent shooting of relatively static scenes, it isn’t useful for sports or action shooting of any type, due to the presence of rolling shutter artifacts.
- The A7R IV keeps the excellent Auto ISO feature from earlier bodies, which allows the user to set how fast the shutter speed will be at a minimum. When set to Auto ISO (standard), the camera will shoot at a minimum shutter speed of (1 / focal length) down to 1/30s, which it keeps as a minimum, even if using ultra-wide angle lenses. This is the standard hand holding rule for sharp shots that has been a rule of thumb for decades. However, if you want to modify that, either because you are more or less steady than ‘average’, your lens has optical stabilization, or you need to stop motion, you can change the minimum shutter speed algorithm to be faster or slower, in one stop increments, over the standard rule. If this isn’t enough flexibility, you can also manually set a minimum shutter speed between 30 seconds and 1/8000s.
- The A7R IV uses the same NP-FZ100 battery used in the Mark III series bodies, which offers long battery life compared to the rest of the mirrorless industry. The A7R IV is rated for between 530 and 670 shots, and you should get at least that. It’s enough to get through a full day’s shooting for all but the most demanding photographers.
- The shutter sound on the A7R IV is wonderful. A quick, short, and relatively quiet snick makes this the best sounding Sony full frame body I’ve used. A minor thing, but nice nonetheless.
- Unlike the A7 III, the A7R IV includes an actual battery charger, rather than just a USB adapter and cable. This should be standard for ALL Sony cameras, but at least they do see fit to include it for the higher end bodies. Note that USB charging is still available through both the Micro USB and USB-C ports on the camera as well.