Body and controls

The a7R IV body has been gently updated, in many instances addressing criticisms leveled at its predecessors. This is apparent as soon as you pick the camera up: the hand-grip has been redesigned to make it more comfortable, the buttons are improved in terms of travel and feel, and the AF joystick is large and well-textured.

Key takeaways:

  • Improved ergonomics including bigger, better buttons
  • Impressive high-resolution viewfinder
  • Limited touchscreen implementation
  • Menus still awkward to navigate

In-depth

The most visible difference is a much larger 'AF-On' button, with longer travel, which will please those photographers who prefer to 'back-button focus.' The AF point joystick has also been made much more substantial: ironically, just as the AF system got so good that you rarely need to use it.

The next difference you're likely to notice is the high resolution viewfinder. The a7R IV is the fourth camera we've encountered to use the latest 5.76M dot OLED display and it looks good. There are two quality modes: standard and high. The 'Display Quality: High' setting makes full use of the viewfinder resolution but uses more battery and may be unavailable at higher temperatures. There's also a fast and standard refresh mode. Using the faster refresh mode gives a more responsive preview, again at the cost of battery drain. This over-rides the 'Display Quality' setting: you can't have a fast and detailed display.

The camera itself maintains a careful balance between feeling solid without being overly weighty. Sony says it's enhanced the environmental sealing, and there are signs of that in the port doors that now feature a lip that engages with a slot in the body to make it more difficult for liquid and dirt to work its way to the ports.

The Mark IV still has a press-to-turn button in the middle of its mode dial but now gains a toggling lock button for the exposure comp dial. This prevents accidental operation when you're not using the control but means you can use it freely when you are. All of the buttons - not only the AF-ON one - have been redesigned so that they have more 'travel,' meaning it's much more obvious when you've pressed them. That's something especially valuable if you're trying to use the camera while wearing gloves.

User Interface

The cameras menus remain essentially the same as on the previous generation of cameras, which is to say: extensive and not especially navigable. Thankfully you can set up a custom 'My Menu' tab, populated with the settings you most frequently use, meaning that you don't have to memorize where each of those options lives. The option to define separate stills and video 'Fn' menus also reduces the need to use the main menus.

Customization

11 of the camera's buttons can be customized, including three directional presses of the four-way controller/dial on the camera's rear.

Of the a7R IV's many buttons, 11 are customizable. There are up to 100 options that can be assigned to each of these control points (fewer for those buttons that can't sensibly be held-down while shooting). To make this a little more manageable, the options are split up into categories: AF, Exposure, and so on, spread over 27 pages. Different button assignments can be saved for stills shooting, video capture, and playback modes.

The same is true of the 54 options that can be assigned to the 'Fn' menus. By default you get the same Fn menu in both stills and video modes, but you can choose to let some or all of the 12 available slots diverge in video mode, if you prefer. It doesn't add any additional options, but ensures you can always access the function you want.

To keep the whole thing manageable, the a7R IV lets you save your custom settings to an SD card. Ideal if you ever find yourself using a second body, if your camera ever needs to be serviced or simply if you want to be able to revert to your own presets, having experimented with a different setup.

Battery

The a7R IV uses the same FP-Z100 battery as the Mark III. This helps the camera achieve a battery rating of 670 shots per charge using the rear screen and 530 shots using the viewfinder. As always, the precise number you'll get will depend on your usage style (we often get around double the number given by CIPA testing). In general, we've found a rating over 500 shots is enough for extended periods of shooting without ever really having to worry about running out, to the point that it's only likely to be wedding shooters who need to have a second battery on hand (for peace-of-mind, as much as anything else).

The camera will charge over both its USB 2.0 micro B connector or its USB 3.0 type C connector. The camera can be operated while being powered over USB, which is especially useful for activities such as time-lapse shooting, where you may need to maintain power for even longer than a single battery could sustain.

Auto ISO

The a7R IV's Auto ISO implementation is unchanged from other recent Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras - which is just fine, because it works extremely well. You can specify both minimum and maximum ISO values, as well as a minimum shutter speed threshold. You can also leave the minimum shutter speed threshold to 'auto,' which defaults to a shutter speed of '1/focal length,' but you can bias this faster or slower depending on your needs.

The camera is also capable of using Auto ISO in full manual mode for both stills and video. This means you may set your shutter speed and aperture to your desired values for controlling motion and setting your depth-of-field, and allow the camera to control for overall scene brightness using the ISO value.