A7RV: impressions after 10 months of outdoor photography

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Perturabo Regular Member • Posts: 171
A7RV: impressions after 10 months of outdoor photography
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Towards the end of January 2023, I purchased my A7RV. It replaced my A7RIII – a camera I adored for its beautiful images but that did annoy me from time to time with its quirks. My main use case is outdoor photography, often on multi-day trips into the backcountry with a tent. Now, 10 months into using the A7RV for a variety of trips, I feel confident enough to summarize my experience with it.

In short: It’s excellent.

I’ll start with an aspect that is very important to me, and where the A7RIII was okay-ish, but I never trusted it completely. Weather sealing. The camera is usually carried by Peak Design Capture Clip on one of the backpack’s shoulderstraps, i.e., it is exposed to the elements continuously. I will stow it away if the weather is really, really bad and you’re suffering through the day in a way that eliminates each and every thought about photography, but otherwise it will live on that Capture Clip.

The A7RV excels here. It is built like a tank, and in combination with well-sealed lenses it took everything the world could throw at it in stride. Exposure to temperatures between -10°C to -27°C for a week with nothing but a tent for shelter in the Scandinavian winter, permanent exposure to strong winds and rain, again with nothing but a cold tent to “dry”. Unclip it with cold fingers, dripping wet as it is, switch it on, take a shot, clip it back in. It just keeps doing what it is supposed to do. The only minor issue is the flash shoe: If things are really seriously wet, an error message keeps popping up every time you switch on the camera, stating that “… this accessory is not supported.” You can just ok it away, though, and the camera will work perfectly fine afterwards. Not even condensation in the viewfinder.

Talking about the viewfinder: Crystal clear, large, beautiful colors – it simply is a joy to use. I just wish there was some more customization to the information that is being displayed. Like combining “level” and “RAW histogram” would be excellent.

I’ll skip holding eulogies about its dynamic range, detail and so on and so forth – that’s pretty well known. But yes, I love the images it can produce.

The same goes for its AF performance, which is also well known. It was the main reason I switched, though. Not for the AI features – the A7RIII did hold its own pretty good in most cases – but for better focus in difficult conditions. Where the -3EV AF working range of the a7RIII often was limiting in bad light, the increase of low-light focus ability down to -4EV is not much on paper but makes for a whole lot of convenience out in the field. Same goes for darkish, low contrast surfaces in dim light or for small, low-contrast objects – animal fur or small animals, for example. The A7RIII would misjudge the focus frequently, the A7RV just nails it. Sure, it’s still far from what other brands can do (Nikon and OM System, both focusing down to -8EV), but I have yet to encounter a situation where I was unpleasantly surprised by a uncompliant AF because of bad light.

An area that has seen a tremendous increase in performance over the RIII is image stabilization. I shoot almost exclusively handheld, falling back to tripod-based shooting only for long exposure shots. Shooting long zooms with low shutter speeds still requires a very conscious approach, but it keeps amazing me what can be done despite high resolution and long focal lengths.

Noise performance, the one thing I was most worried about when I exchanged my A7RIII for the A7RV, turned out to be a non-issue. Downsampling the images to 42mp basically results in the same noise performance the RIII had, and I stopped caring. Noise performance surely isn’t setting new records, but for a 60mp sensor it’s quite acceptable. More importantly, unless ultra-pixelpeeping is your thing, it will rarely get in the way of your images.

As for continuous shooting: While I do enjoy the occasional “birding session”, I’m perfectly fine with the continuous shooting capabilities of the camera. I neither need nor want to sort through a bazillion 120MB RAW files of the same bird. The camera can do continuous shooting, but the speed (or the lack thereof) surely isn’t a birder’s dream. It’s fine for me, though.

Finally, the two drawbacks:

First, the weight. Looking at the body in isolation, it is a pretty heavy camera compared to other Sony offerings. I wouldn’t mind it being lighter for sure. But apart from the excellent viewfinder and comfort functions like focus stacking, there is this one thing that makes 723g still a perfectly acceptable weight: weather sealing. If I want something similarly resistant and FF, the competitors require me to carry even more weight than the A7RV. So yes, it is kind of heavy, but it’s a minor complaint really.

Second, and this is more annoying, is the lack of meaningful firmware updates. Like more customization options for the viewfinder, for example.

Last but not least, I can’t comment on things like video performance, ergonomics, or menu structure. Video I don’t do, and ergonomics are different for each person. Menu structure, I don't really care. It's the menu of a camera.

To sum it up:

For me and my use case, the A7RV is close to perfect. It might be slightly heavier than other offerings of Sony, but the combination of image quality, image stabilization, reliability, and resilience make for a pretty attractive package. A package that I’d buy again without remorse. I’m super happy with my A7RV.

Now, after a lot of text, I’ll close with some images.

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