A Look at the Design and Ergonomics of the New Sony A7 IV

User experience greatly affects the quality of the cameras we use. How has this changed for the new Sony a7 IV?

Sony finally revealed the new a7 IV a little over a week ago. The a7 series is very well known for being the jack-of-all-trades of the Sony system, considering that the a7R line focuses on high-resolution stills and the a7S has features dedicated to producing high-quality videos. The a7 III was released in mid-2018 and has been a favorite among photographers and videographers, professionals and hobbyists alike. 

The Sony a7 IV was revealed to be packing quite a lot of improvements coming from the three-year-old a7 III. It has a 33-megapixel 35mm full frame back-side illuminated CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100-51,200, expandable to 50-204,800, spanning a dynamic range of 15+ stops. For video recording, it is capable of shooting 4K at 60p in Super 35 crop mode or 4K 30p without the crop, over-sampled from 7K resolution. It brings S-cinetone to the a7 series with a color sampling of 10-bit 4:2:2 internally. 

On top of all of that, there are quite a number of further significant changes, such as a higher-resolution viewfinder, video eye autofocus, gyro-data stabilization, and focus breathing compensation, among many other improvements. In this article, however, let’s take a look at the physical and ergonomic changes that the a7IV has compared to its predecessor. 

As a disclaimer, I got early access to this a7 IV unit as a Sony brand ambassador in my country. However, just like all other gear-related articles, any opinion stated here is in no way dictated by the brand. 

An Almost Identical Twin

The a7 IV closely resembles the a7S III much more than the older a7 cameras. As Sony calls this camera model one that is created for hybrid shooters (meaning those who shoot both stills and video), it is not surprising that many ergonomic changes are seen for better handling for shooting videos. A lot of the changes and features that we can see on this camera are also some features we’ve seen on recent models, such as the Sony a1, a7C, and of course, the a7S III. 

Sensor Protection Feature

Closed shutter when powered off

Before any of the features related to ergonomics and user experience, it might be a delight for some photographers to see that this inherits the convenient sensor protective feature from the Sony a1 and a9 II that closes the shutter when the camera is turned off. This might be an irrelevant feature to some, but for photographers and videographers who change lenses a lot out in the field, this will significantly reduce the risk of getting annoying dust or moisture onto the bare sensor. 

Flip Screen and Tally Light

a7 IV vari-angle flip touchscreen

This new a7 camera packs a vari-angle flip-out screen that now seems to be the new norm for Sony full frame cameras. This 3.0-inch monitor has a resolution of 1,036,800 dots and is touch-sensitive for both focusing and selecting settings. This type of screen has, of course, been seen on every camera released since the a7S III, such as the a7C and even the smaller ZV-1 and ZV-E10 cameras. 

Red screen outline (recording indicator)

Another screen feature that the a7 IV inherits from the a7S III is the on-screen emphasized recording indicator. While it is technically just a simple firmware feature, many users of the camera have appreciated the availability of it because of the simple but common mistake of forgetting to start recording. This tally light function highlights the edges of the frame red so that the user will have no problem making sure that the camera is recording

Buttons

Dedicated record button behind the shutter button

Perhaps the most significant physical change to the a7 IV is the button and dial placement and layouts. The most obvious (and expected) change is the placement and size of the video record button. Another aspect similar to the a7S III and a7C wherein the video buttons are placed right next to the shutter button for easier reach. Because of that, the C1 custom button was moved to where the button used to be, while the C2 button remained right beside the record button. 

Wheels and Dials

While the front and rear wheels remain the same, the two main dials on the top panel both significantly changed. The EV dial, which has been a standard for many generations of a7, a7S, and a7R cameras, has been changed into an unmarked dial with a locking button. This dial now allows full customization of its function through the menu and can be programmed to change depending on what mode you are in. 

New custom dial with lock

The main mode dial lost the dedicated video and S&Q stops. Instead, this mode dial now has a sub-dial underneath with a release button. This sub-dial switches the camera between photo, video, and S&Q modes, while the main dial switches the program/priority settings. This switching comes in combination, of course, with how the menu system was simplified to a certain extent. 

Mode sub-dial

New Sony menu system

Another common aspect with the a7S III is the new Sony menu system. While still rather packed with so many options, the organization into folders and subfolders allows for easier navigation. With the presence of the mode sub-dial, the menu options on image quality and other mode-related settings change when switched to a different mode, significantly reducing the number of options that are irrelevant to what the user is currently doing. 

Side Ports and Memory Card Door

Bigger slide-and-pull memory card door

One big change in terms of memory card compatibility on the a7 IV is the added compatibility for CFexpress type A cards. The previously double SD card setup from the a7 III is now a double SD but with one slot as a hybrid one to take the new type of card. However, a less-noticed change is that the memory card door now takes more of the side panel and needs a slightly different motion to open. From the previous slide-down switch, it now requires a reverse-L movement to slide down the switch and pull out the door before it springs out to open. 

On the other side are the different mini doors to access the ports with the significant addition of a USB-C port that can be used for data transfer, charging, as well as plug-and-play USB streaming. Along with that, the a7 IV now also has a full-sized HDMI port instead of the previous standard compatibility with micro-HDMI cables. 

Side ports

Sony took their time in developing this new camera, and both the physical and functional attributes prove that. While specifications and features have been announced worldwide, there is still a lot to be seen about the actual real-world performance of the Sony a7 IV. 

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9 Comments
Jacques Cornell's picture

Hard to tell if there's substantially less pinky-dangle than on the a7III/a7RIII, or room between lens and grip. On a7RIII, my pinky dangles, and my middle-finger knuckle gets pinched between large lenses and grip. I wish Sony would put the front dial around the shutter button, as Panasonic does, to make it easier to reach and to reduce pinky dangle by making more room on the grip for the bottom three fingers. This isn't rocket science...
Are things any better on the MkIV?

Kepano 808's picture

Guess they can’t please everyone with a “the”perfect camera. Oh wait, look where Panasonic is…LOL

Jacques Cornell's picture

Is there any point to your post other than being obnoxiously snarky? Do you have ANYTHING at all to contribute to the conversation?

Doug Walkey's picture

There is a lot of space devoted to such trivialities as pink-dangle. I'm amazed. Personal I prefer dangle as it give me a vertical control and registration for holding the camera.
For the most part, the economics can be judged quickly in the hand. The finer points you adapt to after a few days of use. Menus are minimized by camera customization. And people adapt.
I for one, use 3 different brands of camera, Olympus, Sony and Pentax, interchangeably and regularly. Muscle memory is best for the one I use most frequently, but not a barrier for the other two.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"Personal I prefer dangle as it give me a vertical control and registration for holding the camera."
I don't. Sorry for amazing you by voicing this criticism. Maybe you'd be less amazed somewhere else.

Leo dj's picture

Did they make a change in de software to show the over exposure warning in the playback image IN FULL SCREEN instead of 20 % screen next to levels?? Solving that design error (that's what it is imo) would be a real upgrade in terms of usability. And no.. zebra is no solution. I'm talking about the ability to judge the flash isn't overexposing after flash or model moved and see the models expression and if yes are open at the same time in one look without having to scroll through modes all the time. Crazy design like i said..
The sensor protector is the most beautiful thing in this upgrade.
I wish they'd come with 25 and 12 ISO as well.
Also; please make a auto option to tun off the electronic shutter with high shutter speeds and ibis when used on a tripod.

Kepano 808's picture

OMG, do you really have that much of a problem with overexposure with flash? Is the “sensor” protector the “really” the most beautiful thing? I’m only shoot flash and have never had that problem. Also I clean my sensor every 2 shoots or 1 if it’s windy. I takes 2 secs.

Leo dj's picture

Why the OMG? You really mean that te right balance of flash and ambient isn't an important element in photography? Very funny.
A statement like "i use flash all the time" doesn't say much to me. Some days i shoot over 1000 fashion photo's, and many with a 2 or 3 lights setup. Off camera and manual settings of course.
Often i change aperture because there is a change form one to more models. The models move, the sets sometimes grows so lights are moving. Of course (!) i have to check flash power many times if lights aren't resulting in clipping highlights. What do you think those warnings (both in capture one as in photoshop (alt when moving highlights in levels) are for? Why do you think they exist? The only thing i wish that i had them in full screen again like with my previous camera's (the Canon 5d series).

And the second thing you already answered yourself by mentioning how many times you have to clean the sensor. The problem is that blowing the sensor doesn't solve all.

charles hoffman's picture

the design is pretty clear - a tweaking of a very successful product that most folks adapt to quite well