Sony Alpha 7R V review: Is this the king of full-frame still cameras?
Features and Design
Note: This review was first published on 18 April 2023.
The Sony Alpha 7R V (A7R V) is the fifth and latest high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera from Sony. How can the newcomer surpass its predecessor, the A7R IV, which is still really superb despite being launched back in 2019?
The TLDR version:
Despite a hefty price tag and mediocre battery life, the Sony Alpha 7R V is probably the best full-frame still camera in the market right now.
Yes, the A7R V features the same 61-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS full-frame sensor as its predecessor as well as the 10 frames per second (fps) maximum shooting speed. Apart from these, Sony has improved pretty much everything else.
The A7R V now comes with a new and more powerful Bionz XR processor, which is said to extract finer details and more accurate colours from the image sensor.
In addition, the camera is equipped with an AI processing unit that enhances the A7R V's autofocusing (AF) system. This AI unit is able to process huge amounts of data, thus enabling it to recognise a wider range of subjects.
Not only will it recognise human forms and poses, it can more accurately recognise non-human subjects such as animals like birds, insects, squirrels as well as cars, trains, and aeroplanes. Plus, this AI unit is said to deliver more accurate automatic exposure, white balance and skin tones.
Furthermore, the A7R V's AF system features 693 AF points (up from 567 of A7R IV), which covers 93% of the vertical image area and 86% of the horizontal image area.
To ensure less camera shake, the A7R V now comes with an updated 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) system that offers up to 8 steps of stabilisation. This is an improvement from the 5.5 stops of its predecessor.
Surprisingly, the A7R V's rear touchscreen display suffers a slight dip in resolution of 2.1 million dots - down from its predecessor's 2.36 million dots. On the other hand, the A7R V features a whopping 9.44-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) - a big improvement from the 5.74-million-dot EVF found in A7R IV.
While A7R V's dual card slots accept UHS-II format like its predecessor, it now also supports the faster but more expensive CFexpress Type A cards.
Finally, the A7R V is able to capture 8K footage at up to 25fps or 4K at up to 40fps in 10-bit 4:2:2 colour, compared to the 4K at up to 30fps of its predecessor.
Design and Handling
Compared to its predecessor, the A7R V does not differ much in terms of design. But it seems to have received the same small quality-of-life changes of its recent A7 cousins such as the A7 IV.
The exposure compensation dial at the right shoulder of the A7R IV has been replaced by an unmarked lockable dial at the same location on the A7R V. By default, it is still the exposure compensation dial, which I prefer. But it can also be set to shutter speed, ISO, aperture, or focus mode, depending on your preference.
There is also a new Photo/Video/S&Q collar switch sitting underneath the shooting mode dial. This allows for quick toggling through the photo and video modes using your right index finger.
Plus, the dedicated video recording button is now sited behind the shutter release button. Previously, it was sited at the current C1 button, which is at the right of the EVF. This new placement minimises the movement for your thumb, which can be better used to adjust the rear mini-joystick for AF point control. As such, your right index finger becomes the only finger to use both still and moving images recording.
Overall, all the dials and buttons are strategically placed to be within reach of your right index finger and thumb for minimised search for buttons.
The high-resolution EVF looks as good as an optical viewfinder. Not to mention, the A7R V's tiltable and fully-articulating rear touchscreen display is a major improvement over its predecessor. It allows you to take more creative shots such as low-angle or high-angle shots without shooting blind.
The menu interface has undergone an overhaul. While it might take some time to acclimatise, the new interface actually allows you to find the options you want faster. You will be wondering why Sony had not overhauled the menu earlier.