In-Depth Review Of The Sony A7RV
The Sony a7R V is the company’s high-resolution full-frame mirrorless series’ fifth generation, and it offers a number of upgrades and enhancements over its forerunner.
- a 60MP BSI CMOS camera
- enhanced AF with subject identification
- Up to 8.0EV in-body stabilization rating
- Up to 10 frames per second of continuous flash photography (JPEG or Lossy compressed Raw)
- video in 8K/24p or 4K/60p (both with 1.24x crop)
- up to 30p in full-width 4K
- 10-bit 4:2:
- two video options, including HLG, S-Log3, and S-Cinetone
- Rear screen with full articulation on a tilt-out cradle
- Raw files that are smaller (26MP/15MP)
- mode for focus bracketing (with stacking via computer)
- Motion-compensated multi-shot pixel shift high-res mode (via computer)
- Sensor-shift dust removal, close the shutter, and offer power-off
- 2×2 MIMO USB-standard video for use as a webcam with Wi-Fi UVC/UAC
The suggested retail price for the Sony a7R V is $3899 for the body only. Although supply chain constraints and inflation will contribute to some of the price increase, it is still $400 more expensive than the Mark IV was when it was first released (which was also a more expensive camera than its predecessor).
What is novel?
The Sony a7R V uses the same 60MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor as the Mark IV, but according to Sony, the new processor enables it to utilize the sensor’s capabilities to the fullest extent, which the previous generation camera was unable to do. It is challenging to evaluate because the company won’t be any more specific in its assertion.
The a7R V is able to offer a wider range of capabilities than the current camera, whatever is being done.
XR Bionz processors
The improved processors in the new camera are largely responsible for the advantages the a7R V has over its forerunner. They bring a number of features and an enhanced menu system. Additionally, Sony mentions a processor specifically designed for processing the sophisticated AI-trained algorithms used for focus, exposure, and white balance.
The new processor’s strength significantly improves the camera’s ability to identify subjects. The a7R IV could identify and prioritize people by looking at their faces and eyes, but the V goes much further. It gains a system that was developed to recognize a variety of non-human subject types while also being trained to do so.
The camera’s AF system can now distinguish between Humans, Animals, Birds, Insects, Cars & Trains, and Aircraft in addition to Humans. It’s interesting that both separate Animal and Bird modes and a combined Animal/Bird option are available. You can choose your subject type using the main menu, the Fn menu, or a custom button. You can limit the list of subjects accessed by a custom button to only the modes you use.
With control over how far from your chosen AF point the camera will search for a subject, how willing it is to refocus to other subjects, and how sensitive or tolerant the actual recognition will be, each individual recognition mode has a set of parameters that can be adjusted. Additionally, you can select whether the camera focuses on the eyes, heads, or only the eyes for humans, animals, or birds.
Although there are many options, most photographers probably only use one or two of the recognition modes, so they won’t need to spend as much time fine-tuning how the camera responds to their chosen subject (s). Both stills and video modes are available for all detection targets.
The camera’s in-body stabilization system receives a significant boost from more processing power and more advanced algorithms, resulting in a rating of 8.0EV in tests conducted in accordance with industry standards. This was accomplished without combining in-body and in-lens stabilization, as many other brands do (Sony’s system only ever uses one of these two methods for each axis of correction). This should imply that non-IS lenses maintain the higher performance.
However, such a high rating is only likely to be attained in a system that works well in practice, even if you don’t necessarily experience a full eight stops of benefit. IS tests carried out using the CIPA methodology are somewhat simplistic and can significantly overstate the real-world effect.
When a large number of 60MP full-detail Raw files would be overwhelming, the a7R V offers a wider range of Raw file sizes. The camera can also capture Large, Medium, or Small Lossless Compressed files in addition to the full, Uncompressed option. Additionally, there is Sony’s (slightly) destructively lossy “Compressed” Raw option.
The Medium and Small Raw files are 26MP and 15MP downsampled versions of the full image (so are presumably tonally lossless, but not completely spatially lossless), and have more detail than photos taken with 26MP or 15MP cameras (see the Image Quality section below). Additionally, there is the option to take 26MP APS-C cropped photos (or downsampled 15MP versions of this crop).
High-resolution multiple-shot mode
The ‘R’ offers a tripod-based multi-shot pixel-shift high-resolution mode because it is the company’s high-resolution model. It actually provides two choices. There is a four-shot mode that records red, green, and blue data for each output pixel location, improving chroma resolution and preventing the effects of demosaicing Bayer images from softening the images. There is also a 16-shot mode that increases the overall capture resolution to 240MP by taking four Bayer-cancelling quartets of images at slight offsets from one another.
Both of these modes call for the images to be combined in Sony’s Imaging Edge Desktop software, the most recent version of which detects and corrects for subject motion between images. With the less-than-perfectly steady examples we tested it with, it performed admirably.
Bracketing the focus
The a7R V is the first Sony camera with an integrated focus bracketing feature. You can choose the “step-width” between the various focus distances and the quantity of shots it takes when the Drive mode is selected (up to 299). You can choose in the menus whether the camera keeps focusing farther away from the current point or if it focuses both closer and farther away. There are also options for exposure smoothing, exposure delaying to allow flash recycling, and saving bracketed images to a different folder.
Similar to the pixel-shift mode, Imaging Edge Desktop or another off-camera program must be used to stack and combine a collection of focus bracketed images.
The Wi-Fi on the a7R V now supports 2 x 2 MIMO (multiple in, multiple out). This implies that it should be able to communicate with other MIMO devices using parallel channels. In spite of its large file sizes, this enables the camera to deliver wireless tethering. When we used the most recent version of the Imaging Edge Android app, the Wi-Fi still worked well for sending and receiving files to smartphones.
Continuous flash photography
In JPEG or lossy Compressed Raw modes, the a7R V can shoot at up to 10 frames per second, with the rate dropping to about 7 frames per second in higher quality Raw modes. There is space for up to 583 compressed raw files in the buffer. It can use its P-TTL flash metering at this highest burst rate with compatible flashes. It is convenient to switch between shooting in natural light and flash thanks to the camera’s ability to record separate ISO and shutter speed settings when a strobe is in use.
Despite having a 500,000 actuation lifespan, the shutter’s maximum sync speed of 1/250 sec indicates that it is not the same mechanism as the one found in the a1.
There are also anti-flicker modes that synchronize the shutter to the brightest point in conventional lighting, as well as a mode that enables minute factional shutter speed adjustments for use with high-frequency flicker that you might encounter with LED lighting.
The a7R V is a camera that inspires confidence to use. It gives off the same vibe that Nikon’s D850 used to: anything that goes wrong is your fault, not the camera’s, and it will do everything in its power to ensure nothing goes wrong. Mount a good lens on it.
It builds on a camera that was already good, like the D850, and still enhances nearly every aspect (stills/video switch, menus, video capabilities, screen, faster card slots), resulting in a camera that is significantly more comprehensive. In that sense, it appears to be a turning point in Sony’s camera history; very few “if only …’s” come to mind.