After a period of rapid development and improvement, the Mark IV's improvements over the Mark III aren't as headline-grabbing. The simpler, more powerful autofocus system and refinements of the user interface play as big a role as the move from 42 to 60 megapixels.

Key takeaways

  • 'Real-time AF Tracking' system is powerful and easy-to-use
  • Ability to shoot more aspect ratios
  • 16-shot high resolution mode gives 240MP but is limited to static subjects
  • Both card slots are now high-speed UHS-II
  • Video is solid, with slightly better detail capture than previous a7R cameras

Autofocus improvements

The biggest change with the Mark IV is one that it's difficult to appreciate without using the camera. The implementation of what Sony calls 'Real-time Tracking AF' makes a huge difference to the camera's performance and usability.

It's a system that's been 'trained' to recognize people, faces and eyes, which allows it to dependably recognize and track subjects around the frame. And, with human subjects, it will recognize that your subject hasn't disappeared, just because they turn away for a second: rapidly returning to face or eye-detection focus when they face you again.

The result is a dependable and easy-to-use system with minimal need for placing or moving your AF point and one less reason to dive into the menus to change settings.

Sony didn't skimp on the a7R IV's ports, including headphone and microphone sockets, a flash sync port, micro-hDMI, and both USB-C and Micro-B connectors. The Micro B socket doubles as the 'Multi' accessory port.

The AF tracking on the a7R III was pretty good at subject tracking but wasn't as clever at dealing with people and had a habit of adjusting to focus on the entirety of whatever you asked it to track, not the specific part of the subject that you wanted to focus on. It's surprisingly difficult to go back to shooting the Mark III once you've used the IV.

Much of this AF capability spills over into video mode, too, which is a big improvement over Sony's old 'Center Lock-On AF' system that used to conflict with the stills mode settings.

More aspect ratios

For many years Sony cameras have given you the choice of shooting 3:2 or 16:9. The a7R IV also gives you the ability to shoot 4:3 and 1:1 crops from the sensor, if you prefer. The Raw files have metadata indicating your chosen crop but contain the whole frame output, if you need it.

10 fps shooting

The a7R IV can shoot at 10 frames per second: a rate that was the preserve of specialist, low-res sports cameras until comparatively recently. This rate is only achieved if you opt for JPEG-only or Sony's damaging 'Compressed' Raw mode, and in burst mode, this also sees the camera drop to 12-bit readout mode: increasing buffer depth but reducing the degree to which the Raw files can be manipulated.

If set to 'Uncompressed Raw' mode, the camera will shoot full (huge) 14-bit Raw files but the frame rate drops to nearer 6 frames per second.

High resolution modes

The a7R III offered a four-shot mode that moved the sensor between each shot, ensuring that red, green and blue data was captured for every position in the image. This allows the creation of images with higher color resolution since there's no need for demosaicing, and the improved noise and dynamic range benefits that come from shooting the scene multiple times.

Unlike the comparable four-shot system in Ricoh's Pentax K-1/II, the shots aren't processed together in-camera, and there's no system to correct for any movement that occurs between frames. Sony users instead need to use either Sony's Image Edge software or third-party alternatives such as 'SonyPixelShift2DNG' to combine the shots.

The Mark IV gains a mode more like the one developed by Olympus: it shoots four images centered around one position then shifts the sensor half a pixel sideways and takes another four, then another half pixel... until it's taken 16 images. These 16 images can be turned into 240 megapixel images.

It's worth noting that this mode uses the electronic shutter (with its flash sync speed of 1/8th of a second) which will limit the lighting setups it can be used with. There's also no motion correction, so you risk artifacts if there's any movement at all in your image.

UHS-II card slots

Unlike the Mark III, both card slots on the Mark IV can adopt the faster UHS-II interface used by the latest SD cards. And, in a sign that Sony has listened to previous criticisms, the uppermost slot is now named Slot 1.

Video

The video specs on the a7R IV are broadly unchanged, with the camera shooting 4K video at up to 30p from the full width of the sensor. This footage is pixel-binned, meaning it isn't as high resolution as it could be. The camera produces more detailed footage from oversampled crop.

However, unlike the Mark III, the new camera uses a 1.6x crop to give 24p footage and 1.8x crop for 30p. So, while the crop modes are still marked as 'Super35,' it'll actually be a little more difficult to get a wideangle field-of-view, even if you resort to dedicated Super35 or APS-C lenses.

User interface improvements

Along with the bigger, splashier changes, Sony has also made some small amendments to the interface of the Mark IV, including a couple of details that both we and Sony users have been asking for, for some time.

The biggest of these small changes is the way the autofocus points are displayed in the viewfinder. Where previously the AF point was grey (and then green when in-focus), you now have the choice of red or white points, which makes it much easier to see where the camera is going to focus.

Other tweaks include the option to define a different 'Fn' quick menu for movie shooting and stills. This, along with the existing ability to set different button customization for stills and video modes makes it easy to access key settings if you're switching back and forth between the two media, regularly. Exposure settings carry over from one mode to the other, though, so you may have to switch to and from video-friendly shutter speeds each time you hop between modes.


How it compares

The most obvious peers for the a7R IV are the Panasonic S1R, Nikon's Z7 and the existing a7R III.

Sony a7R IV Panasonic S1R Nikon Z7 Sony a7R III
MSRP $3500 $3700 $3400 $3200
Sensor type BSI CMOS FSI CMOS BSI CMOS BSI CMOS
Pixel count 61.2MP 46.7MP 45.4MP 42.4MP
Focus type On-sensor PDAF Depth from Defocus
(Contrast Detection-based)
On-sensor PDAF On-sensor PDAF
Image stabilization In-body* In-body + in-lens* In-body* In-body*
Max burst rate 10 fps (12-bit, compressed Raw)
~6 fps (14-bit uncompressed Raw)
9 fps (AF-S)
6 fps (AF-C and live view)
9 fps 10 fps (12-bit, compressed Raw)
High-res mode 4 or 16-shot** 8-shot** No 4 shot**
Viewfinder res / mag 5.76M / 0.78x 5.76M dots
/ 0.78x
3.68M dots
/ 0.8x
3.68M dots
/ 0.78x
Rear screen 1.44M-dot tilting touchscreen 2.1M-dot two-way tilting touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 1.44M-dot tilting touchscreen
Top-plate display No Yes (LCD) Yes (OLED) No
Video capabilities UHD 4K 30p
(pixel-binned full-frame or oversampled from 1.8x crop)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.09x crop pixel-binned)
UHD 4K 30p
(Full width pixel-binned or oversampled APS-C)
UHD 4K 30p
(Full width pixel-binned or oversampled APS-C)
Log video S-Log 2, S-Log 3, HLG (8-bit) No N-Log over HDMI only (10-bit) S-Log 2, S-Log 3, HLG (8-bit)
Battery life
(LCD/EVF)
670 / 530 380 / 360 400 / 330 650 / 530
Card slots 2 UHS II SD 1 XQD + 1 SD 1 XQD 1 UHS II SD +
1 UHS I SD
Size 129 x 96 x 78 mm 149 x 110 x 97 mm 134 x 101 x 68 mm 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight 1016 g 675 g 657 g

* Sony and Nikon conduct pitch and yaw correction with the lens IS when a stabilized lens is used, Panasonic combines the effect of in-body and lens IS for pitch and yaw.
** The Panasonic can merge its 8-shots in-camera, the Sonys can't. Both then require a processing step to turn these merged Raws into final images.

The Sony's high-res viewfinder and multi-shot high-res mode help it match the well-specced Panasonic, while the revised autofocus system, with its dependable tracking, helps it pull ahead. However, it's worth noting the caveats on some of the more ambitious features: the a7R IV's 10 fps only appears to produce 12-bit output, there's an unusually large crop for its oversampled 'Super35' video crop and there's no motion correction on the high-res mode (plus they need to be combined off-camera).

As soon as we start looking at 60MP full-frame cameras, it's also worth noting that 50MP cameras with medium format sensors (sensors measuring in at a larger 44mm x 33mm) are also available. In our testing, the differences in tonal performance were minimal, in part because the Fujifilm GFX 50 models and Hasselblad's X1D 50c use older sensors. However, our experience with the GFX 100 shows many of the lenses for the system are able to comfortably resolve these high resolutions, which isn't always the case with full-frame optics.