If you’re a landscape, portrait or product photographer, you’ll probably be familiar with Sony’s A7R series – and the Sony A7R V is the latest model in that high-end ‘Resolution’ range.
Its predecessor, the Sony A7R IV, was something of a revelation when launched back in 2019. It was the world’s first 61MP full-frame camera and backed that up with some impressive Real-time Tracking autofocus.
That camera wasn’t without its niggles though, so the Sony A7R V has arrived to fix those and deliver some landmark tech of its own, including some new ‘AI’ autofocus skills that promise to give it class-leading ‘subject recognition’ powers.
Sensor: 61MP BSI full-frame CMOS
Processor: Bionz XR (with AI processing unit)
Autofocus: 693-point phase-detection
AF subject recognition: human, animal, bird, insects, car, train, automobile
EVF: 9.44-million dot Quad XGA
In-body stabilization: up to eight stops
Continuous shooting: 10fps
Continuous shooting buffer: 184 raw (compressed)
Video: 8K/24p, 4K/60p, 10-bit 4:2:2
The A7R V also promises in-body image stabilization that gives you up to eight stops of compensation (with compatible lenses) and 8K/24p video recording, making it a hybrid camera with few peers – on the specs front, at least.
But do all of these new treats add up to an enjoyable camera that’s fixed its predecessor’s usability issues? Or has this fifth installment strayed too far from its R-series roots to be a compelling upgrade for fans of its predecessors?
We spent a few hours in its company to find out…
Sony A7R V release date and price
The Sony A7R V is available to pre-order from tomorrow, with shipping expected to start in mid-November.
The A7R V will have a body-only cost of $3,899 / £3,999 (around AU$7,155). That’s a little more than the Sony A7R IV’s launch price in 2019, which was $3,500 / £3,500 / AU$5,699. But that’s to be expected given the inflation we’ve seen since then.
It also sits well below the flagship Sony A1, which arrived for $6,500 / £6,500 / AU$10,499 last year, and also costs less than the speedy Sony A9 II, which costs $4,500 / £4,800 / AU$7,299 and offers continuous shooting speeds of up to 20fps.
At that price, the Sony A7R V’s main full-frame rival is the Canon EOS R5, which will set you back $3,899 / £4,199 / AU$6,899. While Sony’s new contender trumps the EOS R5 for resolution and autofocus skills, its Canon rival edges it for continuous shooting speed thanks to its 12fps powers (in mechanical shutter) or 20fps with the electronic shutter.
Sony A7R V: design
Most of the Sony A7R V’s biggest innovations are under the hood, but there are also five design tweaks that should collectively make it both more reliable and enjoyable to use than its slightly flawed predecessor.
Firstly, on the back you’ll find a new 4-axis, articulating LCD screen. The benefit of this design is that you get the benefits of both a tilting screen for photography, and a flip-out display for video. While this means that the 3.2in screen itself is a little bulkier than before, the versatility is ideal for a hybrid camera – and it now supports Sony’s latest touch-sensitive menus.
Above that screen you get the same excellent viewfinder as the one we’ve seen previously on the Sony A7S III. This has an incredible 9.44-million dot resolution with 0.9x magnification, which gives you a crisp, clear view of your subject for both stills and video. It makes a huge difference to the shooting experience and remains the best EVF we’ve seen on any camera.
Sony has also fixed a couple of the most common criticisms of the Sony A7R IV. Many users reported that the camera was susceptible to getting dust on its sensor, so Sony now gives you the welcome option of having the shutter close automatically whenever the power is turned off. Along with the sensor’s anti-dust system, this should go a long way towards fixing that issue, but we’ll find out for sure when we do some more in-depth testing.
Another welcome new feature is the inclusion of two CFexpress Type A slots. This is an upgrade on the Sony A7R IV, which only has dual UHS II card slots due to its age. Those slots on the Sony A7R V also support UHS-1 and UHS-II SD cards, so you get the full choice of which cards to use.
But CFexpress Type A cards are also pricier, harder to find, and have lower capacities than the Type B ones supported by recent cameras from Canon and Nikon. With the performance ceiling of Type B cards also higher than their Type A rivals, some photographers may find this decision slightly annoying on the A7R V, even if it is certainly an improvement on its predecessor.
Like before, the Sony A7R V has a magnesium alloy chassis and a comfortable, deep grip to help balance out longer lenses. Sony says that this body has improved heat dissipation compared to the A7R IV, allowing it to record 8K/24p video with 10-bit 4:2:2 color depth for up to 30 minutes at a time. But this is something we’ll need to do some more in-depth testing on.
Sony A7R V: features and performance
With the Sony A7R V’s resolution staying the same as before at 61MP (albeit with an upgraded sensor and processor), the biggest claimed improvements are around its new autofocus system.
The key to this is a new ‘AI processing unit’ in the A7R V’s Bionz XR processor, which Sony claims will drastically improve the camera’s subject-recognition powers and marks a “turning point” for autofocus. We haven’t done enough real-world testing with the A7R V yet to see if that stands up, but it certainly performed impressively in our early demo.
While the A7R V doesn’t have a stacked sensor like the Sony A1, which means slower read-out speeds, it does (currently) offer a much more granular autofocus system. Whereas current autofocus systems offer Face or Eye tracking, the A7R V’s new processing unit can distinguish between the various parts of someone’s body (for example, their nose, eyes, ears, shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles).
What’s the practical benefit? Firstly, it means the A7R V can quickly detect a small face in a scene, even if the face and eyes aren’t visible – instead, the AF system does this by “human pose estimation”. In other words, rather than hunting for eyes in a scene, it analyzes the whole scene to work out where a person’s eyes are.
The same goes for the heads and bodies of animals, which could be a real boon for wildlife photographers. And the 693 phase-detection autofocus points are spread across the frame, covering 86% of the frame in full-frame and 90% if you switch to APS-C mode. In theory, this should all make it tricky to miss focus on most subjects in decent light – but we’ll need more testing to see if it lives up to that promise.
What else is new aside from next-gen autofocus? the in-body image stabilization now offers up to eight stops of compensation, depending on which lens you’re using. This means the A7R V offers a more powerful ‘Active mode’ for stabilization, which should negate vibrations better when shooting with telephoto lenses or during video (although this isn’t available when shooting 8K or any of the 120fps modes).
There’s also a deeper buffer than the A7R IV during continuous shooting, which makes the A7R V slightly better for action (even though it still tops out at 10fps bursts with AF/AE tracking). Whereas its predecessor could only shoot compressed raw files for about six seconds at 10fps, the A7R V apparently manages to go eight times longer for up to 583 images.
If you prefer to shoot a mix of uncompressed raw and JPEG files, the buffer only goes for 88 images before needing to clear it. For compressed raw in this scenario with JPEGs, you’ll get 184 images, while the JPEG-only buffer is naturally limitless. We’re looking forward to putting all of these claims to the test, though.
Other quality-of-life upgrades include the breathing compensation mode we saw on the Sony A7 IV – which compensates for the tendency of some lenses to ‘zoom’ in a little when you change focus – and that camera’s handy ‘focus map’, which is a useful way to visualize your scene’s depth-of-field and what’s in focus.
Elsewhere, there’s a new 4K/15p web cam function for remote streaming (as seen on the Sony A7 IV), or you can get Full HD/60p. Pros will be pleased to see the addition of some new wireless functionality, including the option on transferring files to remote FTP servers and remote tethered shooting on a laptop running Sony’s Imaging Edge Desktop software.
But otherwise, the final remaining improvements are around image and video quality…
Sony A7R V: image and video quality
Given earlier wild rumors that the Sony A7R V might have a 102MP sensor, the camera’s inclusion of a similar 61MP sensor to its predecessor might come as a slight disappoint to some. But we were certainly fans of the color and detail produced by the A7R IV, and there are some processing upgrades here for both stills and movies.
Sony claims there is improved low-light performance in the camera’s native ISO range, which goes from ISO 100 to ISO 32000. We found that the A7R IV had some auto white balance inaccuracies between images, particularly when the main subject of a photo moved to a different part of the frame. But Sony claims it’s improved to this white balance with AI processing on the A7R V, along with its auto-exposure and color reproduction.
If you need more than its native 61MP resolution, there’s also an improved Pixel Shift Multi mode, which we found to be one of its predecessor’s highlights. Like before, this mode captures several frames and pieces them together into a huge 240.8MP photo using Sony’s Imaging Edge software.
The difference now is that this PC app can automatically detect and correct small pixel movements like people and leaves, which should (in theory) make it much more usable. Bear in mind, though, that the files will be huge – one 16-shot image will produce a TIFF file that’s almost 700MB in size.
If you regularly shoot photos or video under artificial lighting, you’ll be please to see that the A7R V has a handy ‘anti-flicker’ mode that recognizes the flicker produced by fluorescent and other lights. It then adjusts the mechanical shutter speed to reduce the impact, and you can fine-tune the shutter speed with the control wheel.
Sony has also made it easier to switch to the A7R V’s APS-C mode when shooting, for example, wildlife. You can map this onto a button like the ‘AEL’ button, letting you quickly snag a 60MP full-frame and cropped 26MP APS-C shot of the same scene.
What about video? The A7R V take a step up from the A7R IV, but falls short of the flagship Sony A1 in some areas like slow-mo recording.
You can shoot 8K/24p video, but the more practical mode for most situations and workflows will be the 4K/60p, which can be shot in 10-bit 4:2:2 color depth (a big upgrade from the 8-bit 4:2:0 ceiling of its predecessor).
Sadly, there’s no 4K/120p mode here, which has been reserved for the A1. But filmmakers do get the same S-Log 3 and S-Cinetone profiles as that flagship, which are handy starting points for color graders.
It’s too early for us to give any final verdict on image and video quality, but we’ll do that soon in our full Sony A7R V review.
Sony A7R V early verdict
If you shoot wildlife, landscapes, weddings, events and portraits, the Sony A7R V is shaping up to be one of the best mirrorless cameras that (lots of) money can buy.
As impressive as its new AI autofocus powers are, the more useful upgrades are arguably all of the fixes to its predecessor’s usability niggles, which collectively meant the A7R IV remained more of a technological marvel than a much-loved classic.
There’s a new dedicated mode dial for switching between stills and movies, a versatile 4-axis touchscreen that works with its menus, the option of keeping the shutter closed to prevent sensor dust issues, plus the addition of CFexpress card slots (even if they are for the pricier Type A variety).
In short, Sony’s responded to most of the A7R IV’s criticisms, and decorated the cake with a few cherries in the form of a glorious viewfinder, next-gen autofocus powers, improved in-body image stabilization and 8K video.
Is that all enough to make it a better camera than its main rival, the Canon EOS R5? That depends a bit on whether you price resolution or outright shooting speed, and your preferred lenses. Sony stills holds a considerable edge on Canon’s RF-mount with the sheer number of lenses its system offers, and professional DSLR owners may now be thinking it’s a good time to go mirrorless.
We’ll give our final verdict on where the Sony A7R V should sit on those camera shopping lists very soon.