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Sony A7R4 First Impressions

A few weeks ago Sony asked me if I wanted to do a quick test run with the -at that time- unannounced Sony A7R4. I was pleasantly surprised as I (and I am sure many others) expected the A7S3 to come out first. I obviously agreed and was excited to test the new camera as one of the first in the world. I was only able to test the camera for about 2.5 days so I can’t go too much in depth. This article is about my first impressions and you can expect my full review when I have the camera for a few months.

Note that at the time of writing this article, I was only able to shoot in JPG with the camera. There is currently no software to process the RAW files. So all of the images you see in this article are shot in JPG and some are slightly edited (contrast adjustment, slight color adjustments), cropped and/or straightened.

For better quality images, check the gallery at the end of this article.

First things first: this camera is from the R series. R meaning resolution, it comes without a doubt that the new R4 is the next step in resolution: it comes with a 61 megapixel sensor which is the biggest megapixel sensor for full frame on the market. It’s about 50% more megapixel than the A7RIII which is a huge increase. I’m sure all the trolls will start streaming ‘Who needs 61 megapixel anyway!?’ But in these times, a lot of people, including me, really benefit from a higher resolution. I often sell licenses of images for billboards and the bigger the megapixel count really helps with the quality here. Bigger megapixel also means you can crop an image much more and still get great quality.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

The Sony A7R4 top view with the gentle naming of the camera. On the front of the camera there is still the simple ‘A7R’ which made it easier for me to walk around with this camera in camouflage mode when testing it before it was announced.

The second big change is that Sony tweaked the body yet again. Sony listened to the ‘complaints’ online and made a body that is a bit similar to the R3, but changed some buttons, put more protection and the whole thing just feels better.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

Sony changed the grip of the round button and added a new round dial on top (removed the old one that was at a similar location)

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

Sony also changed the battery compartment door. They had probably seen the ‘water torture test' where the Sony showed weakness at the bottom of the camera, mainly at the battery compartment closure. So, this has been fixed! I didn’t torture the camera with water myself to try it out though (although I did use it for some seascapes), but it looks a lot better than the R3.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

The new battery door at the bottom of the camera

The grip has also improved. It’s just a tiny bit bigger and feels better in my hand. This was important for a lot of people and Sony really listed to ‘the internet’ and made a lot of nice changed to the body. However, the whole look of the camera is not too much different.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

The new slightly bigger grip.

Inside, the whole A7R4 is basically an upgraded A7R3 (which was already an amazing camera). It has more megapixel, better and faster autofocus and it’s about the same speed (data saving etc, but you do need a fast card) as the A7R3 which is quite incredible considering the large files. Let’s take a look at the specs:

screenshot of today's announcement

And if you didn't read it properly: Yes, the EVF also got a nice resolution increase :)

When we go into the menu we see mostly the same. Apart from some new and improved functions the menu feels like home for people who are familiar with the Sony cameras. Sony did improve the setup of the custom buttons. You now see pictures of where the buttons are located.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

When setting up custom keys, Sony implemented a new design.

An interesting function is the new Pixel Shift function which now has a 16-shot function. This can be used to create a file with a huge resolution of 240 megapixels, mainly for still objects. I didn’t get to try this function yet as I have no software to combine the 16 files it creates. I also can’t really comment that much about the dynamic range and the higher ISO performance as I can’t check my RAW files yet.

UPDATE 3 September, 2019: I published a pixel shift test in a separate article. Check it out here.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

The new pixel shift function allows to take 16 short and outputs a file (that you have to combine in post) at a massive resolution.

Regarding the autofocus: it now has 567 AF points on the sensor. What's very cool about this is that you use AFC-Crop mode, which still gives you a 26 megapixel image, you get full AF coverage over the sensor. This should be amazing for shooting things like birds.

During the short time I had the camera I took it out to shoot a number of subjects in the Netherlands. I shot some seascapes, cityscapes, nature, macro, architecture etc. I basically felt right at home as it was just like my main workhorse the A7R3, but better. I only used G-Master lenses: the 16-35GM, 24GM and 100-400GM mainly. When I look at the files they look sharp and crisp at 100% crop at 61 megapixel, just like you would expect. It’s obvious that these lenses were designed for the higher megapixel count.

Some examples:

The weekend I had the camera the weather wasn’t ‘great’. Perfect weather for the beach with some dramatic clouds.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

Panorama of IJmuiden Pier in the Netherlands. Can you spot my camera bag?

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

100% crop of the area on the right where you can see my camera bag.

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

Sony A7R4, 16-35GM, 16mm, f/7.1, 1.3s, ISO 200

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

Sony A7R4, 16-35GM, 16mm, f/7.1, 0.8s, ISO 200

Of course I couldn’t resist photographing some windmills with the new toy:

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

Sony A7R4, 16-35GM, 35mm, f/9, 20s, ISO 100 (ND filter used)

Sony A7R4 First Impressions by Albert Dros

100% crop of windmill blades detail of above image.