Sony recently announced the a7 IV, their latest full-frame mirrorless camera and successor to the Sony a7 III. We recently had the opportunity to try out a pre-production model of the new camera, which we shot with alongside its predecessor. Watch the video above or read on below for the results of our Sony a7 IV vs a7 III comparison shoot.
The Sony a7 III measures approximately 5 x 3.8 x 2.9 inches, and weighs 1.4 lbs. The a7 IV is slightly larger at 5.2 x 3.8 x 3.1 inches and 1.5 lbs. However, it wasn’t noticeable at all thanks to a weight distribution adjustment Sony has implemented for the new model.
There are a few more notable changes. Firstly, the PASM dial on top of the camera features a new second level for toggling between still, movie, and S&Q recording. Additionally, the dial that was used for exposure compensation on the a7 III is now unlabeled and customizable.
The C1 button that was located on top of the a7 III is now on the back of the a7 IV, next to the AF-ON button. It’s swapped positions with the record button, which is now on top of the camera between the dials. The joystick on the back is also larger and easier to use. These are great updates to the camera’s usability; it certainly felt more intuitive to press record from the top, and the new joystick is great if you’re working with thick fingers.
On the left side of the a7 IV, the door panels have been improved and now contain a full-size HDMI port. On the other side, the SD slot positions have been reversed, with Slot 1 now on top. Another change likely driven by user feedback of the a7 III. Slot 1 can also use both SD/SDXC cards (UHS-I/II) and CFexpress Type A cards.
One of our favorite improvements implemented for the a7 IV’s build is the rear display. Unlike the a7 III monitor, the new Vari-Angle screen on the a7 IV can open out to the side and is fully rotatable. Additionally, the 3.0 type LCD has a 1.03-million-dot resolution, compared to 921,600-dot on the a7 III.
The new LCD has full touch screen capabilities, while the a7 III display only supports this for its touch feature functionality. The a7 IV also features Sony’s new menu system, which first debuted on the a7S III. The menu is generally more user-friendly, although it may take some getting used to.
Ultimately, the sum of these updates make the Sony a7 IV a more comfortable and easier to use camera. That’s no easy feat given that the a7 III is one of Sony’s most popular cameras, at least in part due to its compact design and usability.
Sensor & Image Processor
In our initial breakdown of the Sony a7 IV specs, we identified the camera’s new sensor as its most crucial update. The 33MP full-frame Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor offers a significant increase in resolution from the 24.2MP sensor in the a7 III.
The a7 IV also utilizes a new BIONZ XR image processor, the same used by the Sony a1 and a7S III. Together, the sensor and processor enable the camera to offer some truly impressive photo and video capabilities.
We put the a7 IV’s abilities to the test while shooting in Industry City, a popular community hub in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park. We paired the camera with the new second generation 70-200mm F2.8 G Master lens. Simultaneously, we shot on a Sony a7 III with the original 70-200mm F2.8 GM. To learn more about our impression of the new lens, check out our Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II review.
The first thing we compared was the still image performance of the Sony a7 IV vs a7 III. As expected, neither camera disappointed, with both models delivering sharp, clear visuals.
While shooting, the resolution of the a7 IV’s stills seemed noticeably higher in the rear display. However, given the a7 IV’s LCD has a higher resolution than the a7 III, this wasn’t exactly an accurate indicator of the true output of each camera.
Back in the studio, comparing images from both cameras on the same monitor revealed only a small difference in quality. Still, there is a difference, especially when cropping in on an image. The Sony a7 IV captures more detail and depth, as you’d hope given the nearly 40% increase in resolution.
By the way, in addition to RAW and JPEG, the a7 IV allows you to save images as HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format). An ideal option for photographers that want to capture images with more color depth than a JPEG, yet in a smaller file size.
Next, we compared the autofocus. Sony promises faster, more accurate autofocus on the a7 IV, and this was consistent with the results of our test. Using the a7 IV with Sony’s most recent G Master lens, there was a very noticeable difference in speed compared to the a7 III using one of the first G Master lenses. The new camera/lens combo was significantly faster.
Sony has also updated their AI-based tracking, allowing for improved real-time Eye AF. For both stills and video, the a7 IV can accurately track the eyes of a bird, maintaining focus even while the bird is in-flight. While we didn’t snap any birds while shooting, the Eye AF did perform excellently, albeit on both cameras.
We also liked the new Focus Map feature on the a7 IV, which helps visually highlight the area of your frame that is in focus.
One of the most exciting features we were excited to experiment with on the a7 IV is Sony’s Picture Profile 11, or S-Cinetone. The picture profile was previously only available on higher-end models such as the a1, a7S III, and Sony’s Cinema Line cameras.
S-Cinetone allows you to capture video with more cinematic coloring and tone. For this reason, footage shot in S-Cinetone is much easier to color grade, as the visuals are already richer and more appealing to the eye. The camera also offers S-Log3, HLG, and 10 other presets.
The a7 IV records up to 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 video with full pixel readout in all formats. However, when shooting in 4K/60p, the footage is cropped to APS-C, oversampled from 4.6K. When shooting in 4K/30p, the footage is oversampled from 7K.
The a7 IV also offers 5-axis in-body image stabilization and Active Mode. Active Mode is designed to detect the exact amount of compensation to apply to remove motion from your recording, adding stability to otherwise shaky footage. The feature works well, although it does apply a crop to your frame.
Speaking of compensation, the a7 IV’s new Breathing Compensation feature helps minimize the field-of-view shift that sometimes occurs during video recording when you rack focus.
Overall, the video we shot on the Sony a7 IV matched our expectations. Even after a light color grade, our S-Cinetone clips looked incredible. We also like that this profile means you could achieve consistent tone and coloring in clips shot on the a7 IV with clips from a more advanced Sony model, like the a1. That’s not quite possible with the a7 III.
The Sony a7 III is one of our favorite cameras from the last five years. The full-frame, mirrorless camera was released nearly four years ago, yet still holds up when compared to more recently released competitor models.
The Sony a7 IV offers all the advantages of the a7 III, with some additional enhancements. The new camera is more comfortable to use, captures stills and video at a higher resolution, and has a faster, more accurate autofocus. That’s in addition to multiple other improvements.
If you’re deciding between the Sony a7 IV vs a7 III, and you’re on a tight budget, you’ll save several hundred dollars by choosing the latter. You won’t be disappointed; it’s a fantastic hybrid camera. However, the a7 IV is the more powerful option, and worth every cent of its $2,498 price tag. If you’re considering an upgrade from the a7 III (or a lower model), the a7 IV is an excellent choice.