The Sony a7 IV has finally been released, and it is setting the bar for what we can expect from a mirrorless camera. The question is whether it is so much better than what else is out there that it’s worth getting.
In late December 2021, B&H started shipping Sony a7 IV preorders. I was able to get my hands on an early copy of the camera at the same time that I was able to test drive a copy of the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens. It is difficult if not impossible for me to overstate just how quickly I grew to love the new a7 IV and the new 70-200mm f/2.8 II. The electronic viewfinder had phenomenal sharpness (more than 1.5 times the resolution of the Sony a7 III), and the focusing speed was just unreal when paired with the fast-focusing lens. To say that I loved using the camera would be an understatement. That said, I love my Sony a7R II as well, and the a7 IV has a not-so-cheap price tag, so I had to think about whether it was worth spending the money on.
I’ve used my Sony 35mm /f1.4 GM on my Sony a7R II (this camera is no longer made new but can be purchased used for typically less than $1,000 and its younger sibling, the Sony a7R IIIA, can still be bought new) all the time, and at this point, I have a good sense of what to expect from that combination, but pairing the 35mm f/1.4 GM on the new a7 IV elevated the autofocus experience for me when it came to shooting portraits and photographs of my dog. Even the manual focusing experience was better given the better resolution in the viewfinder. Using the new Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II lens was where the difference was apparent. With such a shallow depth of field, eye autofocus is crucial, and I was never really able to find a good groove with the a7R II; however, using the a7 IV was seamless and did not miss focus once when it came to portraits and would only occasionally miss the focus of my dog when he was running full speed. I was very impressed.
With all of this said, at the end of the day, the majority of my photography is landscape photography using manual focus lenses (or manually focusing autofocus capable lenses), and having the 42 megapixels has been quite nice and a big, welcome improvement over the 24 MP alternative presented by the Sony a7, II, and III options. That said, it’s not uncommon at all for me to make photographs around my home, and for that purpose, 42 MP is entirely too much. Luckily, the Sony a7 IV hits a sweet spot, coming in at 33 MP.
It is not just the sensor’s 33 MP rating that hits the sweet spot — the Sony a7 IV is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to the cost of Sony mirrorless cameras. Ranging from $6,500 for the Sony a1 to $1,400 for the Sony a7 II, the new a7 IV is the sixth most expensive option (or fourth least expensive if you prefer to think of it that way), so for the group of nine cameras that can still be bought new from B&H at the time of writing, the a7 IV sits comfortably in the middle. When it comes to size and weight, the a7 IV is similar to all other options with the exception of the compact and lightweight a7C.
Build Quality and Handling
The build quality of the Sony a7 IV is top notch. In addition, the handling of the camera is, in my opinion, much improved given the larger handle and completely redesigning the dials and buttons. My first digital camera was the original Sony a7, and I was quite happy with that camera’s build quality. Eventually, I moved on to the a7R II and was even more impressed. The a7 IV feels and handles so much better than both of those cameras that there isn’t any competition. Further, the a7 III also felt like a pretty sizable improvement over my two cameras but never so much that it enticed me into purchasing one of my own. Lastly, in addition to the improved ergonomics, the monitor articulates beyond anything we could do before. It’s amazing.
The ISO performance of the Sony a7 IV is very impressive. I would even go so far as saying that I found myself not trusting the camera enough and, upon review, think my photos would have been better off by pushing the ISO to 1,600 or even 3,200. In the case that sticks out in my mind the most, I was photographing my dog at ISO 800 for the shutter speed, but I think the photographs would have greatly benefited from an even faster shutter speed. After performing the ISO test and seeing that I can’t tell much of any difference between ISO 800 and ISO 3,200, I wished I had pushed it further when I could have. Either way, now I know.
What I Like
- The larger grip makes handling completely different from its older siblings.
- The ability to customize the buttons and dials is next level.
- The increased resolution of the viewfinder makes photography more engaging.
- Fast-focusing ability is amazing.
- The ability to turn the monitor around is something I love more than I thought I would.
- The LCD monitor is a touchscreen, allowing you to identify what you want to focus on, and the camera will track that point as the subject or camera moves.
- Shutter curtain closing when changing lenses comes in handy and should seriously cut down on getting dust on the sensor.
What I Don’t Like
- Price? I haven’t decided if I’m disappointed with the price. I seem to remember rumors that it would be priced at $2,000, so $2,500 was enough to stop me from preordering the camera before I could get my hands on it to try it first.
Sony a7 III (cost: $1,998): The most natural comparison to the Sony a7 IV is with its predecessor, the Sony a7 III. It is $500 cheaper and roughly the same size and weight; however, it has more in common with the a7 II than it has with the a7 IV. As such, I personally never found the Sony a7 III to be a big enough improvement to purchase and replace my a7R II. The a7 IV, on the other hand, is a huge improvement in every way that matters to me and my workflow. I would never buy an a7 III unless the difference in cost increased from its current $500 to $1,000 or more. Otherwise, it is just not a competitive option anymore at its current price point.
Sony a7R IVA (cost: $2,998 at the time of writing, $3,498 when not on sale): Clocking in at 61 MP, the Sony a7R IVA is still a beast of a camera. It has a more approachable, larger grip, making handling better, but otherwise, it has more in common with the a7 III than the a7 IV design-wise. Unless an a7R V comes out and knocks the price of the a7R IVA down a bit closer to the a7 IV, I don’t see myself purchasing or recommending the a7R IVA since 61 MP is overkill 99% of the time.
If you couldn’t already tell from my excitement about the Sony a7 IV, I submitted a preorder with B&H and was ecstatic when it arrived. I spent a good deal of time customizing it to just my liking and have thoroughly enjoyed having it. It was well worth skipping the a7 III. I highly recommend it.