The new A7RV for me as a Landscape Photographer
And so it’s finally here: the long awaited Sony A7RV. With the A7RIV announcement in 2019, it’s more than 3 years later. The A7RIV has been my main camera for my photos. But I have to say: With the many new Sony cameras that did came out in between (A7IV, A1, A7SIII etc), the body and functionality of the A7RIV started to feel a bit ‘old’. I was occasionally shooting with the A1 and was enjoying that more, mainly because of all the updates, the simpler menu, the speed, and simply all the extra functions. Now with the new A7RV, I feel like I am completely up to speed again and it has a lot of new great things for me as a landscape photographer. And I’m going to explain you all about it in this article.
DISCLAIMER: I am a Sony ambassador and have had this camera months before the original announcement on October 26. I was one of the first photographers in Europe using this camera and you can see me being featured in the original launch video. This article is NOT a review. It’s simply a sum up of how I use the camera as (now) my main body as a landscape photographer and all the new functions and features. Also: I do try to give you a lot of information, photos of the camera, and photos with the camera. But it’s not complete yet. I will update this article a few times with new information, mainly because I could not test everything properly yet due to the fact that there are was no RAW conversion available yet. I had to do some ‘tricks’ to be able to edit and see the RAW files, but they might have affected the files in some way. More on that later.
Look & Feel
Let’s get started with taking a look at the ‘new’ body. And by ‘new’ I mean it’s very similar to the A1 body, but with some buttons and dials shifted around. Don’t worry, it has a very similar feel to the A7RIV, but it feels slightly beefier, as it’s slightly thicker. Same as the A1. Honestly, after having used the A1 for quite a bunch of shoots recently, I started to really enjoy that body. It feels super nice in my (rather big) hands. But there was one thing that always bothered me: The top left dial that I needed to turn all the way to the other side when I wanted to switch to ‘bracketing’ mode fast. The A1 is a super fast camera, but that was the only thing that was not fast for me. With my A7RIV I switch to bracketing much faster, simply through the quick menu. Luckily, Sony probably figured out that wasn’t the best for landscape photographers (big target audience for the A7RV) and even though the body is similar to the A1, that dial is not there on the A7RV, so the switching to bracketing is still the same as on the A7RIV: perfect.
One thing that took some time getting used to after using the A7RIV for years was the new placement of the record button. This is now positioned on the C1 spot of the A7RIV (this change also happened in the A7IV). If you find this annoying, you can just customise the record button to whatever you had configured that button for on your A7RIV or similar body, that had the C1 and C2 buttons right there on top. So even though it’s different, you can set it up like the old way if you prefer. And if you’re used to the C1 and record button placement on the A1, they are switched around on the A7RV. Again, you can set those up the exact same as the A1 if you wish, via the customise button menu.
Let’s continue about the movie mode. The A7RV now has a handy new switch below the main dial on top. This switch lets you switch super quickly to movie or S&Q mode. We know this switch from the A7IV. What’s very handy about this is that you can completely customise the whole camera for video and just flip that one switch to start shooting video, with all the picture profiles and favourite settings going with it. Then when you shot a clip and want to switch back, simply switch back to photo and continue with photo shooting. And yes, the camera shoots 8k internally (25 or 30p)
Another physical change is the Exposure dial. This is the same as the A7RIV, but they removed the numbers off of it which is nog big deal. If you use Aperture mode on your camera a lot, you simply see the + or - exposure compensation on the screen and you don’t really look at the dial. That’s how I was mostly using it anyway.
Other things you’ll immediately notice is that you can now use the CFExpress cards (2 slots) and the Electronic viewfinder is much better. It looks much better if you’re used to using the A7RIV.
Comparison with the A1 and A7RIV
The Flip Screen
An entirely new physical thing on the body I want to talk a little bit more about is the new flip screen. Because this is very interestingly designed and it’s the first time I’ve seen this on a Sony body. I heard a lot of people were worried that it would be similar to the A7IV or the A7SIII as they have a fully articulating screen, but the A7RV is different. Actually, I was a bit worried myself because I like the A7RIV flip screen. But the A7RV is different, and it’s great, in my opinion. The screen flips, like the original A7RIV, but ALSO tilts! I know, that sounds weird and looks a bit weird at first, but it works absolutely great and I think it will be great for everyone. So if you had an A7RIV, you can just use it like you normally would. Or if you had an AIV, you can use it like that. But the great thing is, you can use it however you want. It flips out a bit, and then you can flip it out and rotate.
An example of how the screen flips up when I use the camera close to the ground. This is the same way I would use my A7RIV
Now when its flipped up, you can flip it out to the right, making it also perfect for vertical shooting
Now the great thing about this is you can use it with L-brackets. No issues at all with flipping the screen out with an L-bracket, simply because it pulls out a bit first, and then flips around, leaving enough space for the L-bracket to be in place. This mechanism is actually great, and works very well. I was able to flip my screen in every direction using an L-bracket. So when I use my camera horizontally, I use the flip screen similar to my A7RIV. When I get low to the ground, I simply flip it up. Then, when I use my camera vertically I flip the screen around and can also get a nice view with a low vertical angle. It’s basically the best of both worlds.
See how the screen pulls out a bit and then flips around. This makes it perfectly fine to use with an L-bracket (attached on this photo), both horizontal and vertical.
Here are some examples of mushroom shoot earlier this fall where I can’t really do without the flip screen anymore. The camera is basically on the ground (even too low for a tripod), where the flip screen is absolutely necessary:
New things inside!
You can see that Sony listened to us landscape photographers and put some great new features for us inside of the A7RV. Here’s the ones that were best for myself:
Finally! I’m sure some of us had been waiting for this for a while already but this camera now finally has it: focus stacking! Or how it’s called inside of the camera: Focus bracketing. This is a technique I often use in the field to get images 100% sharp from the very front to the very back of the photo. I often use it with wide angle lenses where I get very close to my foreground subject, and simply can’t get both the foreground and background in focus, even at f/14 or narrower. This allows you to get a 3D-effect in a photo that I love myself.
How focus bracketing works in the camera: You simply select it in the shooting menu where you would normally select normal bracketing as well. It’s directly listed under that, so very fast to access. You can then select how many photos the camera will take. You can actually just put a very high number, as the camera will simply stop taking photos when it reaches infinity focus. You can also select a number from 1 to 10 on the distance in between the shots. This is a bit cryptic and I have tested a bunch of numbers, but when using a wide focus length (around 12-18mm) you are mostly fine putting it at number 10 (widest distance), but if you are shooting with telephoto you may want to put it to 5 or lower. When you are focus stacking with a macro lens, I recommend a very low number.
This is how the focus bracketing menu looks like on the camera menu
You then select the first focus point, the closest one to the camera. The camera will then simply shoot all the focus points from the first selected focus point to infinity. This will result in a number of photos with different focus points that you can then later stack together (in Photoshop or Helicon focus for example) to get a perfect sharp image from front to back. To have the camera do the focus points for you saves you a lot of time doing it yourself manually and most importantly: will make sure you don’t forget any focus points. People that occasionally use focus stacking will know what I’m talking about. It’s very fast to set up, and you can choose if you want the focus stack in a separate folder so you can easily identify it later on your computer.
Some examples of how I use the focus bracketing in camera:
A wide angle shot of this windmill where I positioned my camera very close to the plants in the foreground and framed the windmill in between. I wanted both the foreground and background very sharp.