Sony A7R V: Packs a punch for the price

Sony A7R V: Packs a punch for the price

I have been a Sony gal for quite a few years now and have been happily using my old Sony A7R III for years. But after such a long happy life, I was looking around for some new updated gear. My thoughts again turned to Sony. After a LOT of research and actually borrowing one to try for both landscapes and portraits. I decided to go with the Sony A7R V.

When the Sony A7R V was first released, I had no intention of buying one. Sure there were some impressive new features. But did I really need them? But lately, a few glitches on my old camera had me rethinking this. The high shutter count on my current camera is 200,000 so I figured maybe it was time for a change. I borrowed and tried out a few A7R V cameras with my own lenses and borrowed ones to get a feel for it. The more I played, the more my mind was being changed.

Sony A7RV and Sony 50mm GM F/1.2 lens

Note: While I purchased this product myself, I am happy to give a completely independent review of my first few weeks with my new camera.

Initial thoughts

My main concern about this camera was the size. I was worried it might be bigger and heavier than my A7R III. But it’s not! I was worried about the file size but the new lossless compressed RAW shooting options make slightly smaller files. So far my old PC isn’t having a problem (although storage may become an issue in the future). I was impressed with the new auto focus speed and accuracy. The brand new Focus Stacking feature was a real bonus for me. The new 4-way tilting touchscreen, is also larger (3.2 inches v.s. 3.0 inches) and has a higher resolution (2,095K dots versus 1,440K dots). It’s great. And the benefits don’t end there.

Sony A7RV and Sony 50mm GM F/1.2 lens
Sony A7RV and Sony 50mm GM F/1.2 lens

Pros

  • Superb autofocus and tracking
  • Brilliant photo quality
  • Powerful in-body stabilization
  • Much improved video up to 8K
  • Clever rear display and improved EVF
  • Focus Stacking

Cons

  • Menus – I am so used to the old menu structure I am finding it a little confusing
  • Price? – again I’m pushing here, as so far I haven’t found anything particularly annoying
  • I find some of the Custom buttons in slightly different locations and not as many as my A7RIII, meaning I can’t set the new camera up exactly the same. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, just different.

Sony A7R V – Technical specifications

All technical specifications have been taken from Sony’s website; check the website for full specifications.

  • Lens: E Mount
  • Image Sensor: 61.0Megapixels, 35mm full frame (35.7 x 23.8 mm), Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • Recording Formats: JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.32, MPF Baseline compliant), HEIF (MPEG-A MIAF compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 4.0 format compliant)
  • Image Quality modes: RAW (Compressed / Lossless Compressed (L / M / S) / Uncompressed), JPEG (Extra fine / Fine / Standard / Light), HEIF (4:2:0 / 4:2:2) (Extra fine / Fine / Standard / Light), RAW & JPEG, RAW & HEIF
  • 14Bit RAW: Yes
  • Movie Recording Format: XAVC S, XAVC HS, (XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264,XAVC HS: MPEG-H HEVC/H.265)
  • Media: SLOT1: Multi slot for SD (UHS-I/II compliant) memory card / CFexpress Type A card, SLOT2: Multi slot for SD (UHS-I/II compliant) memory card / CFexpress Type A card
  • Noise Reduction, White Balance Modes
  • ISO Sensitivity: Still images – ISO 100-32000 (ISO numbers up from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 can be set as expanded ISO range.), AUTO (ISO 100-12800, selectable lower limit and upper limit), Movies – ISO 100-32000 equivalent, AUTO (ISO 100-12800, selectable lower limit and upper limit)
  • Exposure bracketing: Bracket – Cont., Bracket – Single, 2/3/5/7/9 frames selectable.
  • Viewfinder: 1.6 cm (0.64 type) electronic viewfinder (Quad-XGA OLED)
  • LCD Screen:8cm TFT, Touchscreen, Opening Angles (approx.): Up 98°, down 40°, side 180°, rotation 270°
  • Image stabilization: Image Sensor-Shift mechanism with 5-axis compensation
  • Bluetooth, Wireless LAN: Yes
  • Size: Approx. 131.3 x 96.9 x 82.4 mm, Approx. 131.3 x 96.9 x 72.3 mm (FROM GRIP TO MONITOR)
  • Weight: Approx. 723 g  (with battery and SD Card)

Focus

  • Focus Type: Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF / contrast-detection AF)
  • Focus Sensor: Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • Focus Point: 35mm full frame: 693 points (phase-detection AF), APS-C mode with FF lens: 693 points (phase-detection AF), with APS-C lens: 567 points (phase-detection AF) / 25 points (contrast-detection AF)
  • Focus Sensitivity Range: EV-4 to EV20 (ISO100 equivalent with F2.0 lens attached)
  • Focus Mode: AF-A (Automatic AF), AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), Manual Focus
  • Focus Area: Wide / Zone / Center Fix / Spot / Expand Spot / Tracking
  • Eye AF / Subject Recognition AF: Human (Right/Left Eye Select) / Animal (Right/Left Eye Select) / Bird / Insect / Car・Train / Airplane
  • Other Features: Predictive control, Focus lock, AF Track Sens. (Still), AF Subj. Shift Sensitivity (Movie), AF Transition Speed (Movie), Switch V/H AF Area, AF Area Regist., Circ. of Focus Point, Focus Map (Movie), AF Assist (Movie)
  • AF Illuminator: Yes (with Built-in LED type)
  • AF Illuminator Range: Approx. 0.3 m – approx. 3.0 m (with FE 28-70 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens attached)
  • Face Detection Modes: Face/Eye Priority in AF, Face Priority in Multi Metering, Regist. Faces Priority

Sony A7R V – Ergonomics and build quality

I like how the camera feels in my hand. If you have been using mirrorless or even DSLR cameras for a while, you’ll know what I mean. The actual camera isn’t really all that different from the A7R III or even the A7R IV. But it’s inside that counts. The 4-way tilt screen is also an awesome new feature. Add in the 5-axis image stabilization and faster AF system, and you have a great camera. Thanks, Sony.

Sony A7R V – In the field

My first use of this model was while travelling around Lake Tyrrell, so I was predominantly using it for landscapes. It wasn’t until I borrowed one a few weeks back for portraits, that I was really impressed. As portraits are mostly what I photograph, this was important for me to really try out, before I purchased. When I finally did put my hands on my own camera I tried portraits, macro and focus stacking, florals and my dogs. Yep, pretty much anything I could put in front of my lens.

Battery life

It uses the same batteries as my A7R III, so that is super handy. I felt it used more power than my old camera, especially when focus stacking, but I guess that is to be expected. A full studio session plus a few hours in the backyard used about 40% of the battery. I am yet to take a whole day shooting into account. Apparently, about 440 – 530 still images can be expected.

Buffer performance

This was a big win. It’s possible the buffering on my old camera was lagging badly, but the new camera is super quick. I did use new memory cards as well, 128 GB, 200 MB Extreme Pro SD/XC Sandisk SD Card. My previous cards were 64 GB, 120 MB Ultra.

Sony A7R V – Autofocus performance

With 693 phase detect focus points (up from 567 on the A7R IV), the regular (non-subject tracking) AF is incredibly accurate in all area modes, delivering a large majority of sharp frames even with fast-moving subjects. I am yet to try this camera on fast-moving targets such as birds in flight. In the studio, the autofocus was quick and accurate. With my cat, the focus with animal tracking, even at f/1.4 the focus remained on his eyes.

In the garden with my pup, it was also great. Occasionally, it missed focus on the eye, but I didn’t have it set to Animal Detection for the ones below.

Sony A7RV – Image quality

The 61 MP image sensor is Sony’s highest resolution sensor and has maintained that position since the A7R IV launched. There’s no other full-frame camera that delivers more megapixels. The sensor also offers “15 stops of dynamic range,” which is right at the top of the stack.

While I haven’t used it in JPEG or video shooting as yet, the RAW images are sublime (if I may say so). I haven’t shot at high ISO, but happily shot at ISO640 (above) and it was simply beautiful. For still images, the camera does ISO 100-32000 (does anyone use that high an ISO?). I noticed the noise on ISO640 was so minimal. I also haven’t fully tested the HDR capabilities, but have played in some dark and moodier situations. But then, I am more of a portrait photographer than landscapes. I would love to play and experiment more.