Sunday, May 17, 2020

REVIEW: Sony a7R IV with with 24-105mm Lens

Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera at B&H
Sony Alpha a7R IV Mirrorless Digital Camera at B&H

shown with Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens
also sold in kit form

When I reviewed the Sony a7R III in 2017 I declared it my camera of the year. I was literally blown away with it, so I was a bit shocked when the IV came out and I started hearing rumblings of it being inferior to its predecessor. After all it had gained almost 19 more megapixels and had performance improvements that were sure to make it better, right?

Read on to see if more is better or if Sony ruined a good thing.

Camera Body Thoughts

You can read about all of the big features on Sony’s website, but my real world observations were that the viewfinder is definitely very good and the joystick feel is now excellent. My favorite feature – eye AF – now works without requiring special setup or holding a button and even features support for specifying which eye it should focus on or you can still have it decide using the auto feature. Lastly the lock button on the exposure compensation is a welcome addition to avoid accidental changes.

Other than that, really this feels like mostly the same camera now with loads more megapixels.

I did not try the Pixel Shift Multi Shooting feature on this camera or the III, even though it sounds interesting. If any readers have had great results with this feature, then I’d love for you to post links to your favorite shots on my Facebook page alongside the post for this review.

Imaging Edge Desktop

Imaging Edge Desktop Editor

I don’t keep up on every detail around Sony, but I noticed that Sony offers an option besides my recommendation of CaptureOne for Sony (or CaptureOne Pro). Their raw editing software is called Imaging Edge Desktop that is super crude, but gets the job done if you don’t have anything else. I do think its better at raw processing Sony files than Adobe Lightroom / Camera Raw, but my favorite is still Capture One to bring back the most details from Sony ARW files.


For my long-time fans of the blog, I thought I’d throw in a bookshelf shot here (more available in the gallery) to show the razor sharp detail in the Lord of the Rings book, great color and excellent detail in the shadows.

f/8 @ 105mm for 15 sec at ISO 100

With 61 megapixels you get super shallow depth of field, so you’ll notice even at f/11 that the books on the edges are out of focus, so its a good thing this camera and lens perform well at f/16 & f/22 as you are definitely going to need those apertures!

Real World Shots

With the death of my father just days before my review unit arrived and lockdown for COVID-19, it was very tough getting decent shots for the review. As a result, my apologies for the larger number of kids shots vs more interesting landscape shots. I literally had to visit a closed park and hike straight up hill for 800 feet to get any landscape shots at all!

All of the photos are 100% unedited in-camera JPEG originals. Generally speaking I tried to shoot with camera default settings, but I did adjust the white balance to daylight or shade for landscape shots. I also enabled eye AF auto as well as face priority which I’ll discuss in sample photos below.

You may download and view the photos associated in this article while your browser is open to this article, but you permission to have the images locally ends when you navigate away from this article. All images are copyright Ron Martinsen – all rights reserved – so you may not edit, print, alter, republish or link to any of the photos in this article without my ink on paper notarized signature.

For the full gallery of photos, visit

f/4 @ 105mm for 1/320 sec at ISO 100

My 4 year old daughters first shot with this camera was spot on thanks to great eye AF

f/4 @ 105mm for 1/400 sec at ISO 100

Even rush attacks from my daughter with hair and hand distractions had a good keeper rate,
but if you pixel peep these images aren’t as tack sharp as those from the a9 or a7R III

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 100

The advantage of more megapixels is better bokeh, but the challenge becomes less depth of field

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 100

Perhaps I’ve grown to used to my iPhone XS Pro, but I often forgot to do some exposure compensation to adjust for the meter really sticking faithfully to a 18% gray exposure in its default multi metering mode

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/400 sec at ISO 100

Switching to center metering mode vs spot worked better for scenes like this

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 640

Even seemingly static shots like this with virtually no wind required a handful of shots to get a fairly sharp image without boosting the shutter speeds – which I tried to avoid given the mediocre ISO high performance (as shown in the next shot)

f/4 @ 24mm for 1/400 sec at ISO 10000

The overall dynamic range seemed less than the a7R III or the D850.
Compare to a similar shot taken with a Nikon D850 under similar conditions.
Notice how the D850 did a much better job with the details outside the window.
Also observe at 100% how bad the image quality and noise is on the face.

f/5.6 @ 78mm for 1/80 sec at ISO 2500

As good as eye AF is, the foreground bunny and eyes closed seemed to trip it up

f/5.6 @ 78mm for 1/80 sec at ISO 2500

When I shot a similar shot without the bunny in the foreground it did much better

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 400

Lots of gallery shots including this one and the one below prove that hair distractions often aren’t an problem for the excellent eye autofocus

f/4 @ 80mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 100

In super harsh direct sunlight I got mixed results with multi metering, but overall it was good enough especially since the raw images support a whopping 15 stops of dynamic range which means almost any sharp shot can be saved

f/4 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 400

In harsh midday sun I once again felt like this camera was underperforming compared to what I’m used to enjoying from my iPhone XS Pro but its still about the same as what I saw with the a7R III.  Once again, its pretty easy to correct if you shoot RAW.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/320 sec at ISO 5000

The advantage of so many megapixels is that you can preserve a lot of detail even after aggressive noise reduction which is a good thing as ISO 5000 shots are definitely going to need Noiseware if you are doing anything with the shots besides posting them small like this online

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/320 sec at ISO 6400

In my opinion, ISO 6400 is my usable limit for this camera – in ideal lighting conditions

f/5.6 @ 75mm for 1/30 sec at ISO 2500

There’s great flexibility in the auto white balance setup, but even the default is reasonable for everyday snapshots like this taken under tungsten lights.
The extra megapixels definitely help bring out the texture of the red maguro

f/8 @ 24mm for 1 sec at ISO 100

Daylight white balance is pretty warm even with standard creative style so I never even tried landscape or shade white balance during this review period

f/5 @ 83mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 5000

Gorgeous bokeh that is buttery smooth is definitely a benefit  you get with 61 megapixels
as shown here on a shot from my Peak Design Travel Tripod review

f/5 @ 43mm for 1/50 sec at ISO 1600

This is a tough scene due to the dark blacks and bright iPhone XS Pro LCD, but multi metering actually did an admirable job. I could easily make this shot perfect with some raw editing and layer masks.

f/16 @ 30mm for 4 sec at ISO 100

Without the tilting LCD this shot wouldn’t have been possible.
See a behind the scenes of this shot in my Peak Design Travel Tripod review.

f/16 @ 24mm for 2.5 sec at ISO 100

Another down low shot made possible thanks to the tilting LCD.
See a behind the scenes of this shot in my Peak Design Travel Tripod review.

f/8 @ 36mm for 1.3 sec at ISO 100

Generally cameras start to lose sharpness after f/8 due to diffraction, but not here.
Compare this f/8 shot to the f/16 shot below
See a behind the scenes of this shot in my Peak Design Travel Tripod review

f/16 @ 36mm for 6 sec at ISO 100

I was pleased to see that f/16 kept the sharpness of the in-focus f/8 subjects while offering sharpness to the f/8 out of focus subjects thanks to minimal detail loss.
Simply put, f/16 (and even f/22) can be used without concern – if you can keep the ISO low.
See a behind the scenes of this shot in my Peak Design Travel Tripod review

f/9 @ 46mm for 2 sec at ISO 100

I was playing around using the Peak Design Travel Tripod as a tabletop tripod for this shot and got an impressive result. Given the importance of keeping the ISO low on this camera, I’d strongly urge you to bring a tripod everywhere you take this camera to avoid going beyond ISO 6400.

f/9 @ 49mm for 4 sec at ISO 100

I moved the flowers in to better light with less distractions and got great detail on the center of the flower with highlights that are easily recovered with the raw file.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 400

It surprises me how weak the in-camera JPEG’s are, but I guess Sony gave up making improvements there knowing that the 15 stops of exposure adjustments possible with the RAW file make it ridiculous to not shoot raw with this camera.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 1600

Ask a 10 year old to find a prop that we can use to test eye AF, and this is what you get.
You get the point though – even with a clear distraction, eye AF does a stellar job for about 80% of the complex scenarios like this that I threw at it. It might miss a frame or two, but more times than not it nailed it like this.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 3200

I was super pleased that photo bombing big brothers didn’t confuse the auto focus either.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 3200

Once again, while my daughter waved a stick in front of her face the eye AF never faltered…

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 3200

This one frame was the only one that focused on the stick, but that’s what I’d expect with AF sensitivity set to 5 (most responsive) as it was in this case. The default or slower most likely would have kept the eye in focus.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 800

I’m used to Canon’s default Evaluate metering on my 1DX II prioritizing the focus point, but the default multi metering here and another similar shot always did a scene average which still results in hot spots and the subject being too dark. Again this is all savable with the RAW, but its a theme that demonstrates that Sony expects you to shoot raw and spend a lot of time fixing these in-camera issues unless you are very diligent in your manual adjustments on a per shot basis.
Sadly enabling Face Priority in Multi Metering mode did not solve the problem in cases like these.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 1250

Yeah, another eye AF test – I just couldn’t help but try to trip it up but it almost always nailed it.
Thankfully the IV does it automatically with an option to prioritize which eye like Fujifilm offers, without having to hold a special button as was required with the III.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 1250

I registered both kids faces with my daughter as the #1 priority. However, my son was in the #2 spot so the camera alternated between the two subjects as shown in this series of shots.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 1250

Since my son was in the #2 spot for registered faces, the camera sometimes would choose him over my daughter who was registered in the #1 slot.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 1250

When I unregistered my son’s face, I had a 100% success rate with the camera prioritizing her face over his. This feature is available on many Sony models and as a parent I can’t emphasize enough how much I love this feature – especially with photo bombing big brothers!

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 800

I know I keep going on about the metering, but in this shot the meter just blows the exposure on the dress and cheek highlights

f/4 @ 105mm for 1/320 sec at ISO 100

When I switched from multi-metering to spot metering with focus point link enabled it did a better job but at the expense of the entire background. Canon shooters who appreciate partial metering or how Canon does spot metering are going to struggle like I did with getting perfect metering in-camera. That said, I was happy with how this one came out even if it wasn’t my intent to completely lose the background.

f/4 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 500

My daughter was dancing around behind the tree while winking and once again the eye AF feature did a great job.

f/4 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 500

Auto white balance on overcast days had mixed color results with this shot being taken a few minutes apart from the shot below.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 1000

Here the auto white balance color was outstanding whereas above it was fairly blue so I wondered if face priority in multi being enabled not only helped the exposure but the skin tone colors for this more close up shot than the one above.

f/5.6 @ 105mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 2500

Take moments apart from the two previous shots, the average result in real world shooting was that auto white balance does a pretty good job.

f/11 @ 77mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 100

This studio shot gave the IV and this lens the opportunity to show their strengths – and it did in the detail in the eyes and the hair. However the extra megapixels showed how unforgiving the depth of field is at f/11 as the bunny belly is completely out of focus. This is to be expected, but its something to consider when shooting in the studio as you are going to want lenses that are razor sharp from f/11 to f/16 – at least.

f/9 @ 52mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 100

I cranked up the lights to try to freeze the action on some hair spin shots but my decision to open up to f/9 cost me too much depth of field so my previous point applies. If you are going to have a dynamic studio shoot with this lens, I’d recommend staying closer to f/16 than f/8.

f/9 @ 105mm for 1/100 sec at ISO 100

Ok, I admit this shot is mostly here because its cute but I was happy that eye AF saved me from having eyes that were out of focus. Her eye lashes are razor sharp which is exactly what you want in a shot like this, so I was happy the camera did the right thing without me having to put any thought into it.
For the record, she was sad because the studio chair was scary high. She took the next shot shortly thereafter, so she recovered quickly.

f/11 @ 105mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 100

A 61 megapixels camera is always going to find its happy place in the studio under ideal lights so the strength of this camera and lens camera combo shined for this shot. Even a thin stray hair over the camera right eye is tack sharp at 100% Here the softness on the neck and body work brilliantly to direct the viewers eye to the face exactly like you’d want it.
Yes, if you are a studio photographer you are going to enjoy this camera – especially if you pair it with amazing glass like the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens or SIGMA 85mm f/1.4 Art Series .

f/14 @ 32mm for 3.2 sec at ISO 100

For fun, the gallery has several series of shots where only the aperture differ.
Enjoy comparing this f/14 version to the f/16 version and the f/22 version.

f/22 @ 31mm for 6 sec at ISO 100

I have no reservations shooting this camera at f/22 but I sure wish this camera had the built-in focus stacking that I enjoyed in the Fujifilm GFX 50s.

f/5.6 @ 71mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 12800

Buttery smooth bokeh is an advantage of 61 megapixels no matter how bad the high ISO noise is – especially when showing small version of the the massive files.

f/22 @ 32mm for 13 sec at ISO 100

This shot, taken with a circular polarizer, had loads of detail and deep greens – especially when viewed at 100%.

f/22 @ 27mm for 15 sec at ISO 100

Same scene photographed with the camera nearly touching the water using the Peak Design Travel Tripod. It obviously needs a perspective adjustment because I had issues with the viewfinder sensor making the LCD screen go black because the viewfinder was too close to the legs. I’m sure there’s a way to disable it, but I wasn’t able to figure it out deep in the backwoods while standing in the water for this shoot. If you buy one of these cameras, don’t be like me – learn how to disable this feature if you plan to shoot shots like these!


Well we’ve been down this road before where more megapixels doesn’t always mean a better camera. Yes, I loved the extra megapixels in the wonderfully fun to use Fujifilm GFX 50s but more often than not the extra megapixels end up being a disappointment as a primary everyday camera as I observed  with the Nikon D800 and the Canon 5DsR.  It seems Sony wasn’t concerned about that and decided to leapfrog all of these cameras by offering a whopping 61 megapixels (9504 x 6336 pixels), but would this result in mediocre autofocus performance and poor high ISO performance as I’ve historically observed?

The short answer is sadly, yes.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a great camera but you do make tradeoffs that I wouldn’t make – especially for this price point.

I’d gladly still take a Sony a7R III over a IV any day of the week. The extra megapixels have only made the ISO performance above 800 below average by todays standards and increased the number of out of focus shots I got even in bright lights both outdoors and in the studio.

This camera simply isn’t for me. If was going to go with more megapixels I’d still opt for the Fujifilm GFX 50s, but if I wanted the best camera I’ve ever used then I’d have no reservations “stepping down” to the much more affordable Sony  a7R III or the sports machine gun that is the a9 II (see my Sony a9 review).

I will say that I did enjoy the range of the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens , but I’d need to test it with a different camera to really render a final verdict. I was terribly disappointed with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens when I reviewed it with the a6500 and a9, but I also loved the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens that some Sony fans hate. I will say the 24-105 covers a focal range that I most enjoy when carrying only one lens, but given the constraints of a 61 megapixel sensor I’d love to retest it to get a better feel for its true performance.

I also wish that I had a Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens or SIGMA 85mm f/1.4 Art Series to use for this review as that would have given me the most accurate picture as to just how good this sensor is in terms of resolving detail, but I still don’t recommend the a7R IV based purely on its autofocus and ISO performance despite what other fanboy and paid advertising sites say about it.

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