The R series bodies in the Sony lineup have always been about pushing the envelope of resolution. The A7R III used largely the same sensor as the A7R II, but the A7R IV gains the first 60 megapixel sensor in a full-frame digital camera. The new sensor brings unprecedented resolution, but also smaller pixels, which offer a bit of a tradeoff with regards to noise, which I’ll discuss in detail, but overall, the image quality from the A7R IV is spectacular.
Dynamic Range and Color
The A7R IV’s new CMOS sensor produces images with spectacular dynamic range. While the A7R III already set an extremely high bar, the A7R IV manages to match or slightly exceed it. Looking at DxO’s measurements shows the A7R IV to barely eclipse the R III in dynamic range, pulling 14.8 stops of usable range out of a single image at base ISO.
I’m not a numbers guy when it comes to cameras (despite my engineering background). For me it’s how the images work in field and on my computer when processing the RAWs, and the A7R IV shines here. I occasionally will bracket shots for HDR use, but more often than not, I end up using the middle or darker exposure by itself, and pulling all the detail I need from that single exposure. The shot below is an example. The early morning sun was blazing through the trees, lighting up these moss-covered boulders with sunshine while casting long shadows from the trees and rocks. I bracketed a bit, fully expecting to have to merge exposures to show the scene in its full glory, but to my surprise the camera easily handled this scene without complaint. I probably could have pulled another stop or two from the shadows if I had needed it, but I wanted to maintain the contrast. This kind of flexibility is freeing, and makes for great images.
I’ve been seeing wonderful color from the A7R IV as well, with beautiful tonality, rich tones and lovely subtlety in tonal transition. I have found that while I can get great color from the A7R IV files out of both Lightroom and Capture One, I have been using Capture One more often for the last few months because I’ve found that it’s easier to get the colors I want out of Capture One than Lightroom, though the Lightroom profiles are quite good nowadays.
Detail and Noise
With 60 megapixels, you’d expect a ton of detail with the A7R IV, and a ton of detail is exactly what you get. When shooting with a good lens, the level of detail is astounding, and I still get somewhat shocked when zooming in to 100% to see just how much detail there is in the files. The A7R IV definitely requires different sharpening settings from the A7 III, but after I found the best settings for the look I wanted, I was able to wring simply tremendous levels of detail with minimal noise out of the sensor.
Below is a 100% crop of the center of the image, showing the detail shown when zooming in – Click to view full size:
Speaking of noise, this was probably the largest change to my post processing scheme with regards to RAW processing. With the smaller pixels, when viewing images at 100% the A7R IV will show more noise than lower resolution sensors when zoomed in all the way. It’s just the nature of the beast. This is even true when shooting at low ISOs and pushing shadows a bit.
However, when normalizing for print or display resolution, the actual noise in the final image is largely indistinguishable from cameras like the A7 III or A7R III. The best thing is that when shooting at higher ISOs, the A7R IV still captures so much detail that after applying noise reduction using a program like Topaz DeNoise and then sizing for output, the end result is usually an image with lower noise and still more detail than a camera with ‘better’ noise control like the A7 III.
Due to these factors, I found that ISO 12,800 was more than usable for most shooting, with 25,600 usable for smaller prints. At ISO 51,200 and above, the R IV does slip a bit compared to the lower resolution sensors, due to some artifacting and color shifts, but up to that point, they are essentially comparable. Considering the detail tradeoff and excellence in all the other areas, it’s a tradeoff that is perfectly reasonable.
JPEG Image Quality
More than any other camera in the Sony lineup, for critical work, JPEGs are not what you should be using. If you’re shelling out $3,500 for a 60 megapixel ultra-high quality camera, you shouldn’t be crippling it by shooting with JPEGs. With that said, JPEG output is still nice for quick image sharing and preliminary culling. I tend to shoot RAW+JPEG with the JPEGs written to one card and the RAWs to the other, giving me an emergency backup of JPEGs if the RAW card were to fail, but also allowing for quick full resolution transfer to my phone or tablet. And on the whole, Sony continues to make their JPEG images better and better, with nice color, a good balance of detail to smoothness and good noise control at higher ISOs.
This is usually where I casually remark that I’m not a videographer and quickly cover the video specs, but I’m not going to bother this time around. I’ll be honest, I haven’t shot a single clip of video from the A7R IV in the three months I’ve been shooting with it. Take a look at one of the myriad A7R IV reviews with a video focus if you desire that knowledge.
13 thoughts on “Review: Sony A7R IV”
Thank you for your work and this excellent review. Your findings echo mine. I very much enjoy reading your articles and love your carefully composed and edited photos.
Just what you said 🙂
Wow. Some folks at the big box sites should take a lesson on what artwork should look like in a review article. Amazing images. I know it is too much camera and lens to haul around for me all the time, but it certainly can perform.
Regarding sample images made with the Sony A7R-IV, I notice you have several sample shots made with the Sigma 14-24 but not yet a review. You also have sample shots using the Tamron 17-28 but your review only included using the A7 III. Of these two lenses, which did you generally find exploited the Sony’s 60MP the best?
My review of the Sigma should be posted sometime in the next day or two. I have it 99% written…just cleaning things up. My Tamron review was written before I got the A7R IV. As a bit of a preview…let’s just say the review of the Sigma is, well, glowing.
Hi Jordan, are you going to or have already switched to the A7r4 away from the A7 III? If so what were your key motives for doing so?
Thanks for your review work, it is always a refreshing read!
I did. I switched back in December and sold my A7 III. Main motive was that I got a great deal on a new A7R IV and couldn’t pass it up, and the big motivation was the real-time Eye AF and tracking. After using it on my a6400, not having it on my A7 III felt like a huge step down in AF functionality. It’s not that the A7 III is bad at focusing…far from it, but the compositional freedom that the upgraded tracking system offers is just so nice to have.
After using it for a while, the 60MP files are a bit intoxicating too. 🙂
Thanks Jordan for your feedback. I thought Sony had updated the Eye-AF of the A73 to A6400 level?
I am still debating whether to upgrade from my ailing single camera setup A6000 with A6400/6600 and the Sigma primes or go for the A7-III and the Tamron zooms. Price is not that different as weight is. However, I am not on your Pro level :-).
Do you have any recommendations regarding that choice?
The AF updated on the A7 III brought improvements to EyeAF, including animal Eye AF, which is part of the a6400/a9 style focusing, but it did not bring the real-time Tracking AF, which makes all the difference. The A7 III still required you to have the focus point generally in the vicinity (though with Eye AF, you could use zone focusing and have it pick eyes out in general.) The tracking AF, combined with Eye AF is what is really revolutionary….it will follow your subject around the frame, and not lose them if they hide their face, but switch to tracking them as a whole, then re-acquire the eye once it reappears. It’s also super useful for other types of shooting that don’t require Eye AF.
As to choosing between the crop bodies and the A7 III, it’s really a personal choice. The A7 III image quality is going to be better, with more dynamic range and better noise control, though only you can know if that really makes a tangible difference for your shooting. If you don’t shoot a lot of low light, or you don’t print very large, it’s unlikely you’ll see any real difference in output in day to day usage. The A7 III will show improvement when the sensor is stressed, such as wide dynamic range applications and the such, and has a bit smoother tonal rolloff. However, the overall improvement isn’t something that will likely jump out at you. The a6400/6600 are definitely much smaller, and consequently are lighter to carry around, especially as a kit with smaller lenses, though they also aren’t as comfortable to shoot with. Personally, I preferred my A7 III to to the a6400, but it really is a personal choice.
The Full frame system certainly has a better overall lens selection, and while you can buy FE lenses for use on the a6400, they generally aren’t not well suited ergonomically, and sometimes may not be quite sharp enough for you, though that is dependent on each lens…the best lenses will be just fine on the denser a6400/6600 sensor. I will say I wouldn’t go for the Tamron zooms on the crop bodies. First of all, they make for very awkward focal lengths (26-42mm and 42-112mm), but they also aren’t going to be quite as good image quality wise as something like the new Sony 16-55mm f/2.8, which is what I’d get if I were investing in an APS-C only system as a standard zoom. That will cover most of the range of the two Tamron zooms and do so with a lens that is geared towards the smaller sensor.
The Sigma f/1.4 primes are outstanding, though. I own the 30/1.4 and 56/1.4, and they’re great. The 56/1.4 is astonishingly good.
Excellent review and astounding images Jordan….. I’ve really enjoyed your site and the real world reviews you have done…. Straight with no chaser…… I’m not quite there yet, just having finally upgrading from my A99 to A7Rii, I along with both Tamron’s 17-28 / 28-70, and the Batis 25. I’ve been chopping at the bit to get out and shoot once the NP’s open up again and after looking at your images just intensified those feelings.
Thank you for review Jordan. How would you rate AF accuracy difference in lower light (indoor lights) with f/1.4 or f/1.8 primes between A7iii and A7Riv? For cases where placing AF point over subject is not a problem (so real time tracking advantage of A7Riv does not matter). Is it about same or is there a difference?
I don’t notice much of a difference, if there is any at all. Both focus very well.