Sony a7R IV Hands-on – Same Video Quality, Better Autofocus

July 18th, 2019

The Sony a7R IV was just announced and it might bring many enhancements for dedicated photographers, but for us filmmakers, it brings very little in comparison to previous Sony models. In fact, some of the video specifications found in this new camera – like color sampling, bit depth, resolution, frame rates, data rate and such – are exactly the same as those found in the ageing Sony a7S II, which was released almost 4 years ago!

Sony a7R IV – still from the 4K timeline

I know this is a bit of a harsh opening for an article, but I do have to express my frustration. Please don’t be mistaken, I have A LOT of respect for the people who are behind the new camera, and I can assume that many photographers will find what they were looking for in this new Sony offering – but, let me take one step forward and say that when it comes to the filmmaking crowd, Sony is risking to become less relevant, not taking action like other manufacturers do. When attending the press event in Ireland, I kept hearing that “the new a7R IV is a photo camera primarily, and that is why the video side of it is not enhanced”, but in all honesty, in my opinion this argument is not so relevant anymore. Look at what FUJIFILM and Panasonic (for example) are doing with their new cameras: By offering the best they can for photo and video performance in one shooting device, they are able to attract many. Now, I’m not saying that Sony should do the same, but at least the argument should be different or, better yet, a bit more clear about their future camera roadmap.

Sony a7R IV

Sony a7R IV – Video Highlights in a Nutshell

  • Real-time Eye AF for movie recording and advanced Real-time Tracking
  • APS-C crop mode (1.6x crop)
  • 5.76 million dot UXGA (Ultra-XGA) OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Full pixel readout with no pixel binning in Super 35mm mode
  • Multi Interface Shoe with digital audio interface for high-quality sound recording with Sony’s new ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone and XLR-K3M microphone adaptor Kit
  • HDR recording (Hybrid Log-Gamma, HLG)
  • S-Log 2 and S-Log 3
  • The 29 minutes recording limitation has been removed

Sony new ECM-B1M Microphone

Sony’s New Accessories

Actually, what keeps me optimistic are the 2 new audio accessories. If those are anything like a commitment to the filming community, then the future is bright. What really captured my attention is the new ECM-B1M Shotgun Microphone. This new device is like having 3 different microphones (pattern-wise) in a single product. I must say that the demonstration I had was very convincing (it will be interesting to see how this microphone performs in the filed). In addition, the new Sony XLR-K3M now supports an additional 3.5mm stereo mini jack for microphone and line input. Both of the new audio accessories are designed to work best with the new a7R IV, as they support digital audio interface, meaning audio is directly transferred to the camera in digital form without noise or degradation.

Sony XLR-K3M – Additional 3.5 input

 

Conclusion

I guess this is one of the shortest hands-on articles I’ve ever written, simply because there is not much to highlight about the video capabilities of the new Sony a7R IV. The video output is nice, but video specifications-wise, this camera leaves a lot to be desired. On the positive side, I managed to write a short article and not mention the much anticipated Sony a7S III. Bravo Johnnie…

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What do you think about Sony kind of neglecting us filmmakers? Are you still hoping for a better-spec mirrorless camera to arrive from Sony or have you moved on to use other manufacturers’ equipment? Please share with us your thoughts in the comment section below.  

 

Full disclosure: Johnnie and other media representatives were guests at Sony Europe’s a7R IV launch event in Dublin, Ireland. Sony paid the transport and accommodation for this two-day trip, but there was no other payment involved whatsoever. 

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 Andrew Park
Andrew Park
Member
July 29th, 2019

Johnnie, thanks for the great review. One thing I noticed that I didn’t see elsewhere was your reference to the 29 minute video limit being removed for the A7R IV. Is this in fact true?

Because if it is, then at least for me, it would be a huge improvement over my A7R III.

Could you please confirm that this is the case? Thank you.

Bruce Hyer
Guest
July 22nd, 2019

Somebody asked me if this new camera would be on my desk soon, and I said, no, I have an a7rII and I don’t need 61MP stills. I still shoot stills for a number of clients and I have a dedicated a7rII for that, and 36MP is plenty. If all I did was shoot stills, I’d probably buy it. But I have an a7sII, a7rII, a7rIII and a7III. Ironically, the least expensive of the bunch, the a7III has the best video features and quality, especially recording to our Atomos Ninja recorders.

The ONE feature this thing has that I wish my other a7’s had is the Eye AF in video mode. But Sony has been working on the a7sIII for a while and they promise a big leap in technology (increased bit depth, higher bit rate, and more/higher frame rate/resolution options). So when it comes out, if it’s not as rumored, then I’ll be pissed.

Alex Pasquini
Alex Pasquini
Member
July 20th, 2019

I wonder if it can maintain FACE/EYE AF whilst outputting 4k through HDMI though? The A7iii has excellent face detect AF when shooting 4k with internal recording. But the moment you plug in a monitor and output a signal, you lose that. There is a ‘work around’ where you disable the internal recording (SD card) and leave the recording to an external device, such an Atomos. You can then keep Face AF. The processor can’t do both. Interesting to see if they’re solved that.

 Craig Marshall
Craig Marshall
Member
July 19th, 2019

It’s a ‘stills’ camera and ‘stills’ people don’t shoot video.

James Berry
James Berry
Guest
December 18th, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

I totally agree. These days many photo assignment clients are asking for short video soundbites for social media – so this is an important aspect to retain and attract new clients, and the quality from the a7R IV is more than sufficient. I also carry the XLR-K3M along with a shotgun mic and a couple of wireless lavalier microphones.

Chris Giles
Chris Giles
Guest
July 19th, 2019

I’m not really buying Sony’s idea that this camera is mainly meant for stills, why did they bother coming out with all the fancy audio accessories?

 Andreas Paleologos
Andreas Paleologos
Member
July 19th, 2019
Reply to  Chris Giles

Yeah, It’s weird timing to announce a stills camera and audio accessories at the same event. But that might possibly mean the video centric camera is getting closer to release, one would hope..

 Tom Ryan
Tom Ryan
Member
July 19th, 2019
Reply to  Chris Giles

Because it works on all their cameras!

NILTON SANT ANA SPAGNUOLO
NILTON SANT ANA SPAGNUOLO
Guest
July 19th, 2019

Congratulations on the honest way you put your opinion, Johnnie. Sony’s autofocus really is video reference, but the same can not be said of Panasonic that stubbornly maintains the focus deficiency in its latest release Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R. Greetings from your reader from Brazil.

Mitchell Sayers
Guest
July 19th, 2019

Johnnie, I hear what you are saying, but this is a dedicated stills camera and the 61mp sensor is the big attraction. Many of your concerns are not relevant when we think about the excellent Photo/Video camera they released in the A7iii. “What do you think about Sony kind of neglecting us filmmakers? Are you still hoping for a better-spec mirrorless camera to arrive from Sony or have you moved on to use other manufacturers’ equipment?”

How have they neglected us with the excellent A7iii they released just last year? As far as i’m concerned this is still the #1 mirrorless Video camera on the market.

 Andreas Paleologos
Andreas Paleologos
Member
July 19th, 2019

I bet a new video centric model will come at some point though. It’s easy for us to jump to conclusions, and to assume they’re protecting their bigger pro video cameras etc. But in reality, I think that rarely is the case. I believe they’ve hit many obstacles along the way, and constantly keep raising the bar. It’s like the total opposite of the a6x00 series, where they released too many models, to fix shortcomings etc. instead of taking the time doing it right. A new S model will probably be something that you stick with for a long time, so I’m sure they’re feeling the pressure for real to make it perfect.

Hey Now
Hey Now
Guest
July 19th, 2019

Wow, Sony has blown it. 8-bit video was shoddy when the A7s II came out; now it’s profoundly embarrassing and not even worth considering for a video-camera purchase. And look at this sham: “HDR recording (Hybrid Log-Gamma, HLG)” IN 8 BITS? BWAHAHA, that is straight-up ignorant.

Nikon will now overstep Sony, outputting raw to ProRes Raw on Atomos; and others will do the same. Especially others with no “cine” line to protect.

Bummer for those who bought into the Sony ecosystem, only to have it stuck in the past.

Member
July 19th, 2019
Reply to  Hey Now

I wait for the A7s III before I judge. This is a photo camera.

 Tom Ryan
Tom Ryan
Member
July 19th, 2019
Reply to  Hey Now

Six months after announcing prores raw out of Nikon, where is it? Nowhere…

 Calvin Engel
Calvin Engel
Member
July 18th, 2019

I don’t shoot a lot of Sony A7 series, but my understanding had always been that the R was more photo focussed while the S was more video focussed. Couldn’t this just mean that there’s a new A7s IV coming soon with better video features?

Leon Kolenda
Guest
July 18th, 2019

This is simple to understand, Sony is protecting there cinema line of cameras, Period!

sam broggs
sam broggs
Member
July 18th, 2019
Reply to  Leon Kolenda

So why doesn’t Sony give us any new cinema camera? Maybe a full frame fs7?

Hey Now
Hey Now
Guest
July 19th, 2019
Reply to  Leon Kolenda

Other manufacturers have managed to move into this decade while still selling cinema cameras.

The sad part is that Sony doesn’t even have to do much; they have good sensors, but record their images to junk color depth.

 Tom Ryan
Tom Ryan
Member
July 18th, 2019

Whattaya think about that! Meh, not much.

Javier Liberman
Guest
July 18th, 2019

For a second I completely misunderstood that final “AF”.

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