The Sony Alpha 7 IV impresses in the Thissideoftypical test lab with outstanding image quality and rich features that set new standards in the segment of photo enthusiasts and semi-professionals. Sony Alpha A7 even surpasses high-end professional mirrorless cameras.
Compared to the predecessor, the 33-megapixel sensor offers significantly more resolution in the test, higher frame rates are possible in the video range, and the user menu has also been completely redesigned. Sony pays for all this at a significantly higher price. Those who can live with a bit less resolution will find a very good alternative in the predecessor of the Sony Alpha 7 IV.
- Great image quality
- Excellent autofocus
- Fast memory
- Continuous shooting speed only average
- Slightly weaker battery
What makes the Sony Alpha 7 so special
No other camera has shaped the prestigious full-frame as much as the Sony Alpha 7 III; according to the manufacturer, there are around 200,000 people worldwide who take pictures with exactly this camera. After more than three years, the manufacturer has launched its longed-for successor, the Sony Alpha 7 IV.
We were able to sneak a testable product sample through our standardized camera test even before the official sales launch. We reveal why the full-frame DSLM costs just under 2,800 Euros, what it does better than the predecessor camera and why the Sony Alpha 7 III is still an alternative worth considering for price-conscious photographers.
Sony Alpha 7 IV in test: 33 megapixels in finest quality
The inner workings of the Sony Alpha 7 IV are bursting with new developments and technical highlights; first and foremost the powerful combination of the new BIONZ-XR processor and the improved image processor: the full-frame image chip now has a resolution of 33 megapixels – more precisely 7,008 x 4,672 pixels – an increase of 37 percent compared to the predecessor Sony Alpha 7 III with 24 megapixels. Of course, the sensor is image stabilized over five axes and has built-in BSI architecture (“Backside illuminated”).
The backside-illuminated sensors are known for a higher light yield and thus for potentially better image quality. Our test lab was able to prove the latter: The images of the Sony Alpha 7 IV are pleasingly sharp and rich in detail. Even at ISO 6,400, annoying noise only appears subtly in the print of the Sony Alpha 7 IV. Even ISO 3,200 achieves very clean and homogeneous results when viewed enlarged on the monitor. It is surprising that the noise behavior is even better than that of the Sony Alpha 7 III, which was also equipped with a BSI sensor, despite the high resolution and thus higher pixel density.
The DSLM falls a bit short of expectations in the resolution measurement; and yet: With 2,200 line pairs per image height at ISO 100, the plus in sharpness compared to the predecessor is quite noticeable. Only at ISO 3,200 does the camera break the mark of 2,000 line pairs. The details look even better: Here, we see values around 2,000 line pairs up to ISO 1,600, a level that is comparable with the Sony Alpha 7R II.
Excellent autofocus, disappointing continuous shooting
The autofocus hybrid system from the Alpha 1 covers around 94 percent of the image field and always ensures the right sharpness with its 759 measuring points. Speed and accuracy have remained virtually unchanged compared to the Sony Alpha 7 III, which is also excellent in this area; the range of functions, however, has grown considerably: AI-supported tracking recognizes a wide variety of subjects and reliably tracks the focus; the familiar real-time eye autofocus now recognizes even more different types of animals. In video mode, the focus mapping function complements the already familiar peaking and provides better visualization of depth of field.
On the other hand, the continuous shooting speed is at a standstill: Like its predecessor, the Alpha 7 IV shoots at up to 10 frames per second including focus tracking and RAW support. It is pleasing that the endurance in continuous shooting is now almost inexhaustible. This is ensured by the fast hybrid memory slot, which now also supports a CFexpress card of the still young type A in addition to UHS-II cards. The result: The buffer memory only comes to a standstill – if at all – after more than 1,000 pictures in series.
Speaking of endurance: The already known NP-FZ100 battery with a generous capacity of 2,280 mAh provides enough energy. According to our lab measurements, this is enough for about 790 pictures in Live View without flash in the test. In comparison: The predecessor Sony Alpha 7 III lasts much longer, a whole 1,080 shots are possible in the same mode. This is probably due to the lower resolution and thus the lower data volume.
The Sony Alpha 7 IV raises the level for cineastes.
We see similar progress in the moving image: UHD videos with up to 60 fps are now on board; even if these are only possible in the so-called Super 35mm mode – similar to an APS crop in terms of cropping. Without cropping, we film in UHD with up to 30 fps as well as in FullHD with 60 fps; but then with 7K oversampling, 4:2:2 color subsampling and 10 bit color depth. The maximum frame rate is 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at a smooth 120 fps; ideal for buttery-smooth slow motion, which the camera already slows down internally in S&Q mode if needed.
We did notice rolling shutter effects when shooting with the electronic shutter in the test, but the annoying distortions were kept within limits. Features like the aforementioned focus mapping, the digital accessory connection in the hot shoe, and the flat image profiles from the manufacturer’s cine cameras further increase the performance of the Alpha 7 IV in the video sector. However, the Sony Alpha 7 III now also supports streaming via USB thanks to a firmware update.
Sony Alpha 7 IV offers the proven ergonomics of the premium Alphas
When it comes to the body, Sony apparently only dares to experiment a little. At first, superficial glance, Sony has oriented itself on the premium full-frame DSLRs Sony Alpha 7S III and Sony Alpha 9 II: Dimensions and weight are largely identical except for a few millimeters and grams, respectively.
The same applies to the arrangement of the controls on the top and back. The subtle evolution compared to the predecessor generation is particularly noticeable in the slightly more pronounced grip bead. Another small, but extremely practical innovation: The wheel on the right shoulder of the housing – formerly exclusively for exposure compensation – can now be freely assigned with functions. In short: The handling and operation of the camera are convincing all along the line.
Full control even for selfies
Compared to the predecessor Alpha 7 III, the 3-inch display with 1.04 million pixels has a slightly higher resolution. Selfie filmmakers and photographers who like to shoot from unusual perspectives will certainly be pleased with the side-mounted, rotating mount, which allows the easy-to-read display to be turned in any direction.
Additional praise is also due to the fact that the Sony Alpha 7 IV is equipped with the newly designed menus of the considerably more expensive Sony Alpha 7S III, including full touch support. Those who have laboriously acquired the old structure will immediately appreciate the differences; newcomers, however, will now find their way around the extensive menus much faster thanks to the more logical arrangement.
Finally, the electronic viewfinder has undergone a further upgrade: around 50 percent more resolution – now around 3.7 million pixels – is reflected in a more detailed preview image; the unsightly color fringes on high-contrast edges from the predecessor have all but disappeared. The field of view coverage of 100 percent and the magnification factor of 0.78 has remained the same. If required, the viewfinder displays 120 frames per second; a slightly increased power consumption is offset by an absolutely smooth display even with very fast subject movements in this case.
Alpha alternatives with the excellent price-performance ratio
The Sony Alpha 7 IV is a very good camera, no question. However, so is its direct predecessor with version number 3! The Sony Alpha 7 III is now available for less than 2,000 Euros. And even its predecessor, the Sony Alpha 7 II, still cuts a fine figure today; at the latest when the price is the main criterion in the purchase decision.
So let’s summarize: If you want to get into full-frame now, the Sony Alpha 7 IV is currently the strongest overall package for photos and videos at a moderate price. And the inclined early adopter will also grab one from Sony without thinking twice. On the other hand, those who attach more importance to a good price-performance ratio and would like to buy one or two additional lenses for the same price should rather take a look at the predecessor generations.
Always up to date: Best DSLRs and DSLRs with full-frame sensors
Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? In our buyers’ guide for full-frame cameras under 2,200 euros, you will find alternatives from Sony, Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic with an excellent price-performance ratio. Our Best DSLRs and DSLMs with a full-frame sensor list contain more than 40 additional models that have been thoroughly tested by our test center.