Great camera, with some wrongs.

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Erwann Loison Contributing Member • Posts: 511
Great camera, with some wrongs.
2

After about a year using the a7RIV, I have (I think) definitive thoughts about it.

TL/DR: Very good camera that could (should) have been better in many areas.

Pros:

- well, resolution! The full-frame images are gorgeous, full of details, crisp and clear. Amazing. The APS-C crops are also excellent, although once you tasted the full frame resolution...
I now prefer attaching a TC since high ISO is good than using APS-C crop mode when possible. Note that combining a TC and APS-C mode still produces exellent images.
- high ISO performance is quite good, especially when you can fill the frame and details frequency becomes larger than noise frequency. Lot
of denoising potential and very good images in the end. The extra resolution makes up for some more noise in many cases. When filling the frame, I comfortably shoot at ISO 6400, and will occasionally
push to 8000 with good results. Depends on the lighting conditions and how much you can fill the frame, naturally.
- To me 10 FPS is enough, most of the time. I guess I missed some "ideal posture" shots of birds as the wings were not looking as nice as they could,
and since I'm doing this as a hobby, I just trashed the images. Doesn't matter, I'm not making money out of this and there will be plenty of
other occasions to do better.
- The OVF is very good. Not great, but very good. I cannot clearly see a difference between high and standard quality though, so I use standard which hopefully saves some battery.
- The buttons are well placed and the customization level is awesome.
- Very well constructed body. Size aside, everything feels very good about it and its sturdiness.
- The menu system feels quite ok to me... Even coming from another brand, past the "getting used to" period it's perfectly fine. Menus are plenty with lot of options and customization but you don't buy
a $4000 full-frame camera with 60mpx to use as a point & shoot, do you?
- I love having a dedicated exposure compensation dial, a lot.
- I like that it's not a fully articulated screen, and the mechanism inspires confidence.
- For those shooting JPEG alone or along with the raw files, the built-in denoising and sharpening is very good.
- For those concerned about keeping 10fps shooting raw, I don't think compression has any effect on the image quality except maybe a very specific situations where you probably wouldn't need 10fps anyway.
- Weather sealing seem to work, I've been into a couple of massive rainfalls with no water into any visible part of the camera or behind any trap/door.
- AF initial acquisition is very fast, precision (when it nails it) is incredible producing stunningly sharp images.
- AF is very good in genral, much better than what I was used to... but there are some buts.

Cons:

- The smallest AF spot is too large or misses a version of it which favors a center dot. The problem is that the camera will focus on anything that touches or slightly surrounds the AF point,
which not only makes it more difficult/random to pinpoint focus on a small part of something, but also makes it really hard to focus through branches for example. I rely on manual pre-focus in such
situation a lot more than I used to on my previous DSLR.
- The camera struggles a lot more than my previous DSLR to focus on a foreground object that is defocused enough so you can see through.
- It annoys me a lot that when animal AF is enabled tracking will popup a message saying it cannot be used with tracking. Simply silently not enabling animal AF when tracking doesn't sound too
much to ask for a camera of that price.
- AF have a strong tendency to focus on whatever's easier, instead of whatever's closer. Even if initial focus was acquired onto a particular subject, the camera will often
decide that this background looks a lot easier to keep in focus. Basically, not speaking of RT tracking but regular AF, it's not very sticky outside of human and pet eyes which are remarkably well
tracked and kept in focus.
- Compactness is one thing, having your pinky dangling is another. It's not a deal breaker but certainly not great. I get that with the grip this makes the whole package still more compact than most,
but maybe half a centimeter taller and the problem would be gone or much less. I'll get the grip anyway but probably for the a1 when I can afford it.
- The rear screen resolution is too low. Fortunately I ended up preferring image review inside the viewfinder, but there are times using the screen is better and being unable to judge
the sharpness at first sight because the resolution is too low is quite the bummer for the highest resolution full frame camera, or any other camera of that price for that matter. Apprently this is
unfortunately a trend on Sony cameras.
- Battery life is less than I anticipated based on reviews, at least when you use it for wildlife in a hide where you spend quite some time eye on the finder waiting for something to happen or a critter
to finally get out of that bush/green patch/branch/you name it. It's honorable though, but for some hours outside one battery is insufficient for me, and 2 can be too short too if you're out all day.
- Having to hold a lock down to be able to use the mode selection dial feels useless (it's not like it's easy to knock that wheel out of your mode by mistake) and makes me lose time.
- The compactness of the camera implies that the memory cards compartment is tight and cards are harder than necessary to take out.
- AWB has a tendency toward too green or too magenta but rarely just right. I manually set my white balance for that reaons, which for my use is either daylight or cloudy. I don't shoot inside with artificial
light so I cannot say much about that, although the few times I did shoot inside it looked much better in AWB than it does in natural light.

General remarks:
- I miss a full time manual that lets me change focus manually without enabling it by keeping a button pressed before.
- This is not specific to that camera but to me the manual focus ring direction feels reversed and against logic.
- Given the price I expected more firmware updates and refinments from Sony, like they did for the a9.

Conclusion:

I like the camera a lot, I knew many of the tradeoffs I was making by choosing it over the a9 and I don't regret anything. But now that there's the a1 that's basically an a9II and a7RIV on steroids, I'll soon have to let this little one go.

 Erwann Loison's gear list:Erwann Loison's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Sony a7R IV Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Canon Extender EF 1.4x II +4 more
Sony a7R IV
61 megapixels • 3 screen • Full frame sensor
Announced: Jul 16, 2019
Erwann Loison's score
3.5
Average community score
4.5
bad for good for
Kids / pets
great
Action / sports
good
Landscapes / scenery
excellent
Portraits
excellent
Low light (without flash)
good
Flash photography (social)
unrated
Studio / still life
excellent
= community average
Sony a1 Sony a7R IV Sony a9
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