Sony a7 IV featured image
Image courtesy: Sony

The long-awaited Sony a7 IV is finally here. The a7 IV is Sony’s follow-up to one of its most successful mirrorless cameras ever: the a7 III.

Way back in April 2018, when the Sony a7 III was released, it was arguably one of the best all-around hybrid shooting cameras of its time. It featured remarkable features, especially for its price point. Naturally, it took the market by storm.

While testing the a7 IV, we asked ourselves: Is this camera more closely related to its higher price tag peers – the Sony a7S III or even the Sony a1 – than the a7 III? Determining whether the a7 IV or another camera is best for you is enough to make your head spin.

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This review will cover what makes the a7 IV suitable for both beginners and professionals. We will determine if it’s a great option for photographers and videographers. We’ll also discuss its pros and cons and where the a7 IV fits into the marketplace.

Strengths:

  • Quality video and stills
  • 4:2:2 10-bit internal
  • Excellent AF
  • Vari-angle touchscreen

Weaknesses:

  • Super 35 crop in 4K at 60p
  • Lower quality rear screen
  • Increased price tag
  • Potential overheating

All about the specs

Being the newest model in the a7 series of Sony mirrorless cameras, the Sony a7 IV enjoys refinements across nearly every specification compared to the previous generation. Some of its specs and features are more in line with either the a7S III or a1. In fact, the a7 IV has directly inherited some of its components from these higher-end siblings. While some of the a7 IV’s features have received incremental improvements, others are more noteworthy. Standouts include a sizable bump in sensor and viewfinder resolution, improved AF system, new video recording options and improved ergonomics.

The a7 IV takes after the a7S III’s high-quality video recording capabilities. However, it comes at a cheaper price point with about 21 extra megapixels (MP) — 33 MP in total — and an improved autofocus system. This camera features an incredible 33 MP full-frame sensor capable of capturing stunning 4K video in 4:2:2 10-bit color at up to 60 frames per second (fps). Its max bit rate is 600 megabits per second (Mbps) in all-intra mode, which is why one of the dual media bays features CFexpress Type A compatibility. This camera also features a fully articulating flip-out touchscreen, the same autofocus system as the a1 and five-axis SteadyShot image stabilization.

How is the video?

The Sony Alpha 7 series of cameras have pushed the limits of what we can expect from a budget-friendly camera, albeit now slightly less budget-friendly than previous generations. The a7 IV supports 10-bit 4:2:2 internally and S-Log3, making for a powerful combo. The a7 IV produces up to 15+ stops of dynamic range when shooting in S-Log3. The camera downsamples beautiful 4K video from its 7K sensor, which gives the image a nice crisp look. One setback is that shooting in 4K 60p comes with a Super 35 crop. So keep that in mind.

The a7 IV can also capture 120 frames per second in its full-frame mode at 1080p, which is an upgrade from the a7 III. If you’re a Sony a7 III, you’ll notice there’s no longer a crop when filming in 4K 30p, so that’s an improvement.

Increasing the frame rate on the a7 IV now also increases the bitrate, providing a noticeable improvement to the video quality – especially over previous generations. For those who don’t want to color grade in post-production, there’s S-Cinetone. This is a slightly flat and less vibrant look compared to standard, yet still provides an impressive image straight out of the camera with no need for processing in post.

Autofocus

It’s impressive to consider that Sony equipped the a7 IV with the same autofocusing system as its more formidable, costly sibling, the flagship Sony a1. With 759 phase detection AF points, the camera’s AF system is excellent at grabbing focus. There are now more increments to pick and choose from when customizing the AF responsiveness and speed. This can provide really clean and smooth focus pulls – much less robotic than the a7 III.

There’s also a slew of helpful AF features such as Eye AF for humans, animals and birds. Plus, there’s real-time tracking. We love seeing that little box around the head or eye of our subject; it makes us feel a bit more confident when shooting. You can even customize right/left eye focus priority or allow the camera to choose. By default, the camera will choose whichever eye is in front. Focus Map is a new feature that acts similarly to focus peaking. When using Focus Map, your subject will remain sharp and clear, with the area behind the point of focus changing to a blue overlay and the area in front changing to red. We found it makes the display a bit busy, so it’s not our first choice of focus assist, but it really does help you visualize depth of field.

Sony a7 IV back
Image courtesy: Sony

Vlogging features

Its video features also make the a7 IV a terrific vlogging camera. It’s got a flip-out screen, excellent autofocus and 5.5 stops of in-body image stabilization. The stabilization works great. It’s an upgrade over the Sony a7 III — especially when using the active stabilization mode. Some of our handheld test shots looked almost gimbal-like while walking around. Please note that there is a slight crop when enabling active stabilization, but it’s nothing deal-breaking.

Other video features

We also like the Sony a7 IV’s APS-C punch in optionality of the Sony mirrorless cameras. For those new to Sony cameras, this feature works as a sudo-zoom, allowing you to punch in closer and get a tighter shot when using full-frame lenses. Additionally, if you’re using a prime lens, you can utilize essentially two different focal lengths: the original focal length and zoomed-in focal length. We can’t emphasize how useful this is in the a7 IV and other Sony mirrorless cameras over the years. The a7 IV is also fantastic for those who already have APS-C lenses in their kits. Considering the costly price tag of a low-aperture, full-frame lens, you can easily get a comparable APS-C lens for much less. Plus, thanks to the camera’s larger sensor, you’re still effectively getting a 22 MP sensor — even when in APS-C mode

Sony has also improved the overall user experience when using the a7 IV as a webcam. The camera received a bump in maximum resolution and frame rate options and some quality of life user interface improvements. The Sony a7 IV can also record internally while simultaneously livestreaming at up to 60 fps in 1080p. There is also a 4K option for livestreaming, yet strangely it’s only at 15 fps.

Performance in low light

Superior performance in low light has long been a moniker worn by Sony mirrorless cameras, and the Sony a7 IV is no different. With its newly developed Exmor R full-frame back-illuminated sensor and the same processor found in the a7S III and a1, the a7 IV performs excellently when dealing with low light situations. We found the ISO range to be ideal at up to 3200; there’s where it seems like a dual-native ISO range kicks in. That said, the footage is usable up to 12800 ISO. After that, the quality begins to fall apart.

Hardware

The Sony a7 IV shares many things in common with its mirrorless siblings. Upfront, it seems most similar to its predecessor – the Sony a7 III. Although they share a similar look and feel and offer versatile hybrid functionality, quality image performance and wallet-friendly price tag, the a7 IV offers improved performance across all specifications.

Over the years, we have frequently used the a7 III, so we felt right at home using the a7 IV. The a7 IV shares a very similar layout to its previous generation. Practically all the buttons are in the same place, and there are just a couple of ergonomic changes to the dials. For those who currently own the Sony a7S III or Sony a1 and are looking for a B-camera, the a7 IV is a great choice based on its layout and ergonomics alone. It would take little to no time to feel comfortable with the camera’s layout.

Layout and ergonomics

Overall, the a7 IV is more similar in its layout and ergonomics to its higher-end siblings. This is mainly due to the a7 IV adopting the larger and more robust pro camera body style. For some, this is a welcomed update, and for others, this is a welcome update. For instance, those coming from a larger Canon DSLR body likely found the Sony a7 III body almost toy-like because of its compact design.

The a7 IV shares many commonalities with its siblings and offers many spec improvements to existing features. It combines all these facets in its own unique way. A big difference we noticed between the a7 IV and the a7 III is the a7 IV has a larger handgrip. For those with average-sized hands, the larger grip will be more comfortable when operating the camera handheld for longer periods of time. If your hands are smaller, it may take some time to get used to the larger grip.

LCD

Sony a7 IV screen
Image courtesy: Sony

Where prior a7 models had just a tilt screen, the a7 IV has a fully articulating, flip-out screen. The camera’s LCD offers more touchscreen functionality too. This makes menu navigation more intuitive than before. The touchscreen is also great for shooting control, such as adjusting exposure and tap to focus. We found it to be really helpful when shooting rack focusing shots.

The screen and viewfinder also received a bump in resolution when compared to other a7 models. While the screen’s resolution improvement is marginal, the viewfinder received a more substantial bump in resolution and an increased refresh rate.

Full-size HDMI port

The a7 IV now has a full-size HDMI port. Yes, you read that correctly. We no longer have to fiddle with an annoying micro HDMI cable that would frequently wiggle loose, or worse, get damaged during use and render the port unusable.

Sony a7 IV side
Image courtesy: Sony

Sturdy, robust build

The I/O port doors are more sturdy, and all the buttons have a more robust feel when pressing them. One of the only differences between the a7 IV body and the a7S III is that the EV compensation dial is now a locking and programmable dial. You can still use it as an EV compensation dial, but you can program it to adjust a plethora of other exposure controls to suit your needs and workflow.

Additional changes

Some other notable changes to the camera body include the new photo/video/S&Q dial, making it much easier to switch between the modes. Before the a7 III, these features were all located on the same dial as your aperture, shutter priority and preset modes. There were simply too many modes situated on a single dial. It made switching between modes an annoying process. Like many of the other updated dials, the photo/video/S&Q mode selector locks, so you are less likely to accidentally switch modes.

We’re happy to see Sony included the highly requested option to have the shutter close over the sensor when powering off the camera. This helps block dust from getting onto the sensor. This feature is especially nice for those who swap out their lenses often during a shoot. There’s nothing worse than getting dust on your sensor, so this is a very welcome improvement.

We also expect many to take advantage of the camera’s new Breathing Compensation feature. Though it’s only compatible with a select amount of Sony lenses, it helps reduce the amount of focus breathing you often run into when using photo-centric lenses. Those who typically use cinema lenses shouldn’t experience this issue in the first place. For the rest of us, this nifty new feature does crop in a tiny bit to minimize the otherwise shifting view experienced from focus breathing.

Battery

The Sony a7 IV uses the same FZ100 battery as the prior camera model. In our experience, these batteries have performed rather well. However, the a7 IV does have more processing power and, therefore, will not have quite as good of battery life as the Sony a7 III. This is possibly the only area where the a7 IV seems to come up short when compared to the a7 III. You can still expect to get over two hours of recording time when filming in regular frame rates and just under two hours filming in 4K 60p. Alternatively, the a7 IV features USB-C power delivery. This can be used to charge the camera’s battery or can be used to power the camera directly during recording, extending its runtime.

Photo features

Sony a7 IV top
Image courtesy: Sony

With its new larger 33 MP sensor, the Sony a7 IV is an even more formidable hybrid camera than its previous generation. The bump up in megapixels from 24 MP on the Sony a7 III to 33 MP on the a7 IV gives you plenty of room for cropping in post-production. We also like the smaller file sizes when compared to a Sony a1 or a Sony a7R IV. The a7 IV has some upscale features found on higher-end cameras, such as improved buffer speeds, a faster, more accurate AF system, CF express type A card slot and overall improved color science.

Great tracking performance

Considering the a7 IV shares practically the same processor as the a7S III and a1 and the same AF system as the a1, you can expect superior AF tracking performance and fast continuous shooting. It shoots at a maximum rate of 10 fps. Sony also claims the camera can continuously shoot up to 828 images when shooting uncompressed raw and JPEGs before hitting its buffer; that’s if you’re using a high-end CFexpress card.

When using wide-area continuous AF, we found the performance of the eye AF and animal eye AF to be excellent. There was an occasional shot that missed focus when there was a busy background or multiple subjects, but the large majority of our shots were spot on. The improved handgrip also makes a difference when switching between portrait and landscape modes.

Cons

Cropping in 40 60p

Most people won’t like the fact that the camera crops its image when filming in 4K 60p. This is a bit annoying, but we can accept not getting everything on our wish list for the price tag.

Headphone jack placement

The flip-out articulating screen is a welcome update for most; however, the screen’s resolution is not that great for a $2,500 camera. We also ran across an issue when monitoring audio. The 3.5 mm headphone jack placement makes it impossible to tilt the flip-out screen when you have headphones plugged in. The cord prevents the screen from rotating. A similar issue also arises when using the HDMI port, so keep this in mind. However, this is more of an annoyance than a deal-breaker, though.

Rolling shutter performance

Downsampling from 7K to 4K creates a stunningly sharp image, but since the processor is working overtime to do this, there is some undesirable rolling shutter performance. If you don’t have an issue with the rolling shutter on the a7 III, then you’ll be okay with the a7 IV’s rolling shutter as it’s more or less equivalent.

Chance of overheating

Also, with all the processing going on inside the camera, there is the chance of overheating. While the a7 IV doesn’t have severe overheating issues, some circumstances may make your a7 IV more prone to overheating, such as dual recording. Sony users can record to both cards at the same time — creating an instantaneous backup file. Therefore, this requires lots of processing power and can lead to your camera heating up quicker.

Additionally, if you’re working in excessive heat, this can also exacerbate the issue — we’re thinking of the hot summers in Northern California, where it can easily reach over 100 degrees for a good part of the day. If you’re running into overheating issues, you can back down to a lower-quality video setting. Instead of shooting 4K 60p in 10-bit, try going down to 4K 24p at 8-bit, which should help. We know this isn’t ideal, but if you’re constantly working in these scenarios, maybe the a7 IV isn’t the best choice for you.

Summary

All of the Sony a7 IV’s improvements and new technology leads to overall better performance over the Sony a7 III. Some would argue it even bests the Sony a7S III in some regards. While not perfect in any specific area, the Sony a7 IV is more of a jack of all trades. It offers excellent performance with both strong stills and video capabilities. We were more than satisfied with its image quality and impressed with its ease of use. The a7 IV is a great camera for photographers and videographers, but those who shoot both video and stills will truly be able to take full advantage of what the a7 IV has to offer. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Sony a7 IV to someone looking for a professional hybrid camera that shoots high-quality video and stills.

Sony

$2,500

Recommended uses:

  • Narrative Filmmaking
  • Documentary Filmmaking and Journalism
  • Corporate and Event Videography
  • Marketing Video Production
  • Online Video Production
  • Casual Video Production

Specs

Camera typeFull-frame mirrorless
Sensor33 MP full-frame (35.9 x 24.0mm) BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor
Lens mount
Sensitivity rangeStills: ISO 100-51,200 (expandable to ISO 50 to ISO 204,800)
Video: ISO ISO 100-51,200 (expandable to ISO 100-102,400)
Still image formatJPEG, HEIF, RAW (Sony ARW 4.0)
Video format and compressionXAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
XAVC HS: MPEG-H HEVC/H.265
4K video (XAVC HS)3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10-bit, NTSC): 60p (150 Mbps / 75 Mbps / 45 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps / 50 Mbps / 30 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 10-bit, PAL): 50p (150 Mbps / 75 Mbps / 45 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit, NTSC): 60p (200 Mbps / 100 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps / 50 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit, PAL): 50p (200 Mbps / 100 Mbps)
4K video (XAVC S)3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8-bit, NTSC): 60p (150 Mbps), 30p (100 Mbps / 60 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps / 60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8-bit, PAL): 50p (150 Mbps)5, 25p (100 Mbps / 60 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit, NTSC): 60p (200 Mbps)56, 30p (140 Mbps), 24p (100 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit, PAL): 50p (200 Mbps) 5, 25p (140 Mbps)
4K video (XAVC S-I)3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit, NTSC): 60p (600 Mbps)56, 30p (300 Mbps)6, 24p (240 Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:2, 10-bit, PAL): 50p (500 Mbps)5, 25p (250 Mbps)
Movie functionsAudio Level Display, Audio Rec Level, PAL/NTSC Selector, Proxy Recording (1280 x 720 (Approx. 6 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (Approx. 9 Mbps), 1920 x 1080 (Approx. 16 Mbps)), TC/UB, Auto Slow Shutter, Gamma Disp. Assist
Autofocus systemHybrid AF with 759 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points, Still images: Human (Right/Left Eye Select) / Animal (Right/Left Eye Select) / Bird, Movie: Human (Right/Left Eye Select), sensitive down to -4EV
Maximum continuous shooting rate10 fps
Viewfinder0.5-inch 3,686,400-dot EVF with 100 percent coverage and up to 0.78x magnification
Screen3-inch, 1,036,800-dot vari-angle touchscreen
StorageDual: 1: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II) and CFexpress Type A slot, 2: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II)
BatteryNP-FZ100 rechargeable Li-ion battery giving 610 images with the screen
Dimensions (WxHxD)131.3 x 96.4 x 79.8mm / 5 1/4 x 3 7/8 x 3 1/4 inches
Weight (including battery & memory card)658 g / 1 lb 7.3 oz

A self-employed video producer, Devin has created content viewed across the country and internationally.