When I first entered into the Sony ecosystem, I was excited to pair my a7 III with a successor, whenever it was announced. That took a lot longer than most people thought, but I finally received my very own a7 IV in late December 2021. And while it’s not a perfect camera, it’s a great upgrade to Sony’s entry-level full-frame.
I’ve seen the comments out there from a lot of people who expected more. They wanted a stacked sensor, better performance in certain lighting conditions, better banding control while indoors. And yeah, those are valid points. But for me, there was still plenty enough to get excited for as a photographer — way better weather sealing alone — to justify the upgrade from the a7 III.
- Weather sealing has been improved 10-fold!
- Good image stabilization
- Autofocus is fast
- Dual UHS-II card slots
- Fully articulating screen
- Competitively priced
- High ISO presents more noise than expected
- Some users are reporting issues with Eye AF being inconsistent
- Battery life is a bit short
- Burst modes are a bit slow
Sony a7 IV — Technical specifications
All specifications for the Sony a7 IV are directly from the B&H website:
- 33-megapixel Full-Frame Exmor R CMOS sensor
- BIONZ XR processor
- 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 video recording; 7K oversampling for 4K 30p
- 5-axis image stabilization
- Up to 10fps shooting (mech/electronic) in Continuous Hi+ mode; 8fps in Continuous Hi mode.
- 759 phase-detect autofocus points
- 0.5″ electronic viewfinder (Quad-VGA OLED); 3.68m dots
- 3.0″ fully articulating touchscreen
- Dual SDXC UHS-II memory card slots
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 5.2 x 3.8 x 3.1″ / 131.3 x 96.4 x 79.8 mm
- Weight: 1.4 lb / 658 g (Body with Battery and Memory)
Sony a7 IV — Ergonomics and build quality
When I purchased the Sony a1 in the fall of last year, I quickly found myself longing for a more budget-friendly body that would match the button layout and ergonomics. That finally came with the a7 IV. The button layout here is very similar. While it’s missing the top left dial to control shooting speeds and bracketing, it’s a remarkable improvement over the a7 III’s button placement. It’s easy for me to go back and forth between the a1 and a7 IV. Having a secondary dial where you can choose between photo, video and S&Q modes is great, too, as I can have different buttons on the camera do different things depending on what mode I’m in.
In addition to the dials up top, the exposure compensation wheel has been swapped out for a generic wheel, which you can customize to your liking. I was pretty happy to see this — I rarely use exposure compensation. There’s also a C2 button, a record button, the shutter and on/off switch, along with the two standard dials you’d typically use for shutter speed and aperture.
On the back, the joystick has been improved and is easier to use, and the AF-ON button is no longer jammed up next to the viewfinder. It’s large, and is at the perfect placement for back-button focusing. The rest of the back remains similar to the a7 III, with a C1 and C3 buttons, a Menu button and AEL button up top. Next to the LCD screen you’ll find a navigational wheel (which I have set to adjust ISO), Fn button, the joystick, playback button and delete button. While this isn’t a vast difference over the a7 III, the placement makes way more sense, and the buttons have a nicer feel to them.
Speaking of the LCD, Sony has finally given photographers a fully articulating screen! In terms of ports, the a7 IV features a full-size HDMI Type-A terminal and a USB Type-C port for transfer up to 10Gbps. There is no ethernet port included.
Ergonomically, the grip also sees quite a big improvement, and matches what you’d find with the a1 and a7S III. It’s deeper and way more comfortable. I can finally say that Sony has figured out how to make a great camera that also feels good. All in all, the camera feels like a professional body, while really being a much more affordable hybrid.
Build quality and weather sealing
The Sony a7 IV has a magnesium alloy body and feels very solid. The buttons are soft to the press but I can tell they’re stronger than the a7 III. And they feel much better.
But beyond that, weather sealing is finally something that Sony has gotten right! Having used an a7 III for almost two years, I can say that the weather sealing on that camera left a lot to be desired. I would regularly have to clean the sensor — usually more than once per week.
That problem is gone with the a7 IV. I’ve had it for a month, and have only had to clean it once! I find this to be on-par with the a1, as both have withstood snow and rain during my tests, without any problems at all. And beyond that — it didn’t blink in sub-zero, negative wind chill temperatures, either.
Sony a7 IV — In the field
The Sony a7 IV is compact and lightweight, making it perfect to carry around. It’s a pretty easy camera to use once you get to know the menu system. The button layout makes sense and is a good upgrade over the a7 III., given the upgraded menu system and button layout. Sony also allows for a lot of customization, including custom button functions that change between stills, video and S&Q modes.
I tested the a7 IV in a variety of conditions and at several different photoshoots, and it performed admirably. It was a joy to use, and has become my daily driver.
The a7 IV borrows the new menu system from the a1 and a7S III, and it’s a significant improvement over Sony’s menus of old. It’s still a bit cumbersome to use at times, but it’s easier than ever to find menu items, and the custom menu function remains a great feature of the system.
With the a7 III, I could rarely go under 1/60s when handheld shooting, if I wanted a focused, sharp image. Now I find myself going down to half a second if I need to. While the IBIS in the a7 IV won’t win any awards, it matches other cameras out there. It’s certainly a good and welcome improvement.
Buffer performance and battery life
This is an area that I wish Sony would’ve spent more resources at. The a7 IV takes the same battery as the a7 III (and a1, for what it’s worth). The problem with that is due to its new processor, battery life and buffer performance isn’t as strong as you might expect.
I had a couple occurrences when photographing action where the buffer filled up and slowed me down, even with a pretty fast SD card. Still, I think it’d be rare where I’d be in an instance where the buffer would regularly get full on me.
Battery life does see a bit of a downgrade, going from 610 photos to 520. I was able to get more out of it, but I did find myself having to switch batteries sooner than I was used to.
Sony a7 IV — Autofocus performance
Autofocus has been really fast and accurate, and the upgrades to Eye AF has been delightful to use. I find myself comparing it to the Sony a1, and it’s very similar in terms of results and speed. When photographing an outdoors silent disco event — with some tricky lighting — the a7 IV gave me amazing results. I was able to keep up to the beat of everyone dancing, and my client was thrilled!
In addition to standard human and animal Eye AF, the a7 IV also introduces Eye AF for birds. Those wildlife shooters will immediately be happy to see this, as bird Eye AF is becoming more and more popular, thanks in part due to Olympus’ AI-based focusing that was introduced with the E-M1X.
One thing to note here. I’ve seen a ton of reports in regard to Eye AF misbehaving for some Sony a7 IV users. In this case, the camera seems to lock on to the person’s eyebrow or facial air, instead of their eyes. It’s something to keep in mind, especially if you’re using the a7 IV for a lot of people shots. For me, I haven’t noticed this, but based on what I’m hearing Sony is aware of it and hopefully it’s something that can be addressed with a firmware update.
Sony a7 IV — Image quality
Going up to a 33-megapixel sensor can really help in certain situations. I’m thrilled to say that the Sony a7 IV has very good image quality. Sure, it’s not a Sony a1, but it’s also more than half the cost!
Users of the a7 III will see improvements with dynamic range, which is certainly welcome. High ISO performance is slightly worse, but the noise that does show is very fine.
Colors seem to be a bit more natural as compared to older Sony cameras. There’s certainly less green in my experience.
Dynamic range has seen an improvement, allowing me to reduce highlights and recover shadows as needed with ease. While dynamic range was great with the a7 III, it’s improved enough to make a mention here.
The RAW files from the Sony a7 IV are very easy to adjust and play with. I photograph in some pretty tricky lighting situations for clients, and I didn’t find myself once wishing for more details in the highlights or shadows.
High ISO performance
If there’s one area I’m a little disappointed with, it’s the camera’s performance in low light. Specifically with ISO speeds above 6400. The noise is pretty prevalent. And while you can get rid of it, should you really have to?
That said, if shooting in a well-lit environment, high ISO should be anything but a concern. Noise is rare below ISO 6400, and for 90 percent of situations, you probably won’t have to worry about it. For me … shooting outdoors in the dark meant having to use DxO PureRAW (with a little hackery) to adjust my images that were above ISO 6400. While this is anything but a deal-breaker, it’s something to keep in mind if you need the a7 IV for a fast delivery of photos.
The Sony a7 IV has almost everything a photographer needs
The Sony a7 IV is one of the best hybrid photo/video cameras out there, and it’s easy to see why. With an improved build and ergonomics, accurate and fast autofocus and great image quality, this checks all of the boxes. While it’s not perfect — I’d like to see better high ISO performance — it’s a great everyday camera no matter what you’re shooting.
Sony a7 IV Mirrorless Camera
A great all-rounder, the Sony a7 IV features upgraded ergonomics, better weather sealing, and fast and accurate autofocus. The 33-megapixel sensor is perfect for a variety of conditions, providing good detail and strong dynamic range. It’s a perfect entry-level full-frame camera, but features professional-grade features that should please pros.