Sony A7R IV Thoughts – What is Sony Doing and Why? Where is the A7S III??

I have been digesting the new Sony A7r IV over the past few days and watching all the first look reviews from the folks that actually got their hands on the camera so far, and I have a few thoughts on the matter that I think some of you might be interested in.

New Sony A7R IV Summary:

The new Sony A7r IV is the latest evolution of the full frame mirrorless e-mount cameras and I wrote a detailed article on that here >> Basically in a nutshell, Sony refined the camera body design some and improved a number of things such as a new 61mp resolution sensor which also has better dynamic range, dual UHS-II memory card slots, better weather sealing, better ergonomics, better autofocus abilities for both photos and video, and more. All this while still maintaining the very compact and lightweight form factor camera body.

However, what Sony did not address was the semi articulating LCD touchscreen that we have all been asking for since the original A7 was announced. We want a fully articulating LCD screen for both armored mode when not in use, and for selfie mode in particular. To me this is very frustrating, especially since it’s the 4th generation. Sony refuses to address this and maintains the strict ultra compact form factor montra while also saying that they are listening to their customers. Which is true, because several of the issues they did address were legit complaints, like the overall ergonomics, autofocus tracking in video, and weather sealing in particular. I did not hear much complaint about the 42mp sensor found in the A7r II and A7r III not having enough resolution though.

Why did Sony announce the Sony A7R IV now?

It really does come across rushed considering how good the Sony A7R III is relative to the current competition and just in general. I think Sony decided to re-lease it now for a few reasons.

Sony Loves To Be #1

Sony loves to be #1 at everything. If you have noticed over the years they love to say “worlds fastest AF”, “World’s most compact full frame camera”, and things like that. Well, now they have the world’s highest resolution full frame camera on the market by far. Sony was not on the top of the podium, because the Canon 5DS R offers a 50MP Sensor. This probably drove a few people crazy at Sony, knowing how they love being in the #1 position when it comes to stuff like this. Especially when they make the best sensors! You know the management at Sony is crazy proud of this and they are clinking glasses together at all the hype and praise Sony is getting across the web for this incredible feet. Lets face it, the new Sony A7R IV is an incredible camera all around.

Medium Format Killer?

 Hasselblad X1D II 50C Medium Format Mirrorless Camera
Hasselblad X1D II 50C Medium Format Mirrorless Camera

As far as resolution is concerned specifically, I really believe Sony is trying to squash the new medium format camera craze that is happening from a few manufactures like Hasselblad, Pentax, and Fuji for example. Those fairly affordable medium format cameras are offering ~50mp sensors.

So, if resolution is what you are after, then why go medium format when you can get the more affordable Sony A7R IV which now offers even more resolution? The Sony GM lenses are more than good enough to cover that resolution, and you are saving crazy cash plus getting awesome autofocus abilities to boot.

FUJIFILM GFX 50R Medium Format Mirrorless Camera
FUJIFILM GFX 50R Medium Format Mirrorless Camera

To be clear the larger medium format sensor offers other huge advantages than just resolution, but for many the resolution was high up on the list I believe. So as far as resolution is concerned, Sony is now #1 for the money and must be considered by those looking at the medium format cameras. It has to at least register in there mind that they can just go for the A7R IV instead.

Camera Evolution

Sony in most respects appears to be evolving their mirrorless cameras, but what is the end game for Sony when it comes to this evolution? What always comes to mind for me is the Sony A99 II DSLR, which I reviewed here >> The mirrorless camera bodies are slowly working their way towards that model each generation in some respects, but very slowly. In addition, Sony has chopped up the mirrorless camera line into 4 models now. The Sony A9 which I reviewed Here >>, has the most advanced full frame Exmor RS Sensor and is optimized for sports. The Sony A7 III is the best do everything camera and noted for bing the most affordable full frame mirrorless option. The best bang for the buck option in other words. The Sony A7S II is the best full frame mirrorless camera for video, and then we have the new Sony A7R IV which is the resolution king.

Sony A99 II

Therefore I think Sony wants us to upgrade our camera every other generation or so. Or atleast make the allure to upgrade every other generation. For example, Sony A7R II users won’t necessarily upgrade to the A7R III, but the A7r IV is enough of an advancement to bit the bullet and upgrade to it. Or they might consider getting the A9 if sports is their thing, or the A7S II if video has become something of interest, and so forth.

This is a fascinating strategy on Sony’s part because if you are a wedding shooter that also offers video for example, you can have the A7R IV for the high resolution large print oriented photos, the more affordable A7 III for a second camera/ backup unit, and theoretically the A7S II for video purposes. Although you could just use the A7 III or A7R IV for video as well of course.

Sony A7 III

It’s understandable why Sony would do this from a marketing and profit perspective, but it’s also frustrating knowing what Sony is capable of as well.

For example, the Sony A99 II has everything the mirrorless cameras should already have. A killer grip, a fully articulating screen, manual buttons everywhere, etc… The only problem with the A99 II is, it’s a A-Mount camera and Sony clearly does not seem to be supporting that system anymore. Therefore you must upgrade to a mirrorless E-Mount camera in the future at some point if you are an a-mount camera user looking for a better Sony camera.

Sony claims they want to maintain the compact lightweight form factor and this is the reason they are not making a DSLR style mirrorless camera. Well, if that is the case then ok, I can except that. But, then where is fully articulating lcd screen I say? It just doesn’t make sense and leads me to believe they really want us to upgrade our camera every other year for the latest and greatest while at the same time hope for a new model to have that better feature we might want in the future. It’s like a treat just waiting in the distance. Us humans can’t get enough of that, and we all suffer from this as it pertains to cars, computers, etc.. We are always curious what the next model will offer. The fully articulating lcd screen, particularly not having selfie mode, is probably the #1 deciding feature when picking a up a new camera system for the first time.

Seriously, if you are currently a DSLR shooter and you are finally going to commit to switchover to mirrorless and plan on doing video recording of yourself at some point, or just plan on taking selfies with the family even for example, then that screen is a huge deciding factor. I’m guess Sony just doesn’t think it matters that much to their overall camera base of users. This might very well be true, but I’m looking at it from the perspective of somebody that absolutely 100% wants this feature, because I need it for what I do. Clearly I’m a bit biased in that regard… In fact I’m thinking about upgrading my Sony Nex-6 to the newer A6400 as you see below for that very reason!

If Sony did decide to come out with a Sony A99 II DSLR style mirrorless camera it would probably be another version. LIke an A8 or something. If it had everything like the A99 II has it could potentially last a decade and nobody would need or want to upgrade. Therefore unfortunately I think this is certainly part of Sony’s cameras evolution strategy.

Interestly, Canon and Nikon both camera out with DSLR like full frame mirrorless cameras and did not follow Sony’s ultra compact methodology. It seams like the masses loved those camera bodies for the ergonomics in particular, but most of the other features fell significantly short of what Sony is currently offering.

Just a few of my thoughts…

Sony A7S II

So Where is the Sony A7S III?

Well, I have a few thoughts on this. I really believe Sony does not want to squash the market on the pro grade cinema cameras that they currently offer, because they are crazy expensive compared to the way more affordable mirrorless Sony A7S II.

For example look at this $28,990 US Sony PMW-F55 CineAlta 4K Digital Cinema Camera

I really don’t think this is that much of a factor though, because their are a ton of manufactures making compact cinema grade cameras nowadays, and these super high end type of video cameras will always have their place in the market for high budget film makers.

I also think Sony is trying to come out with a camera that is #1 in the market, just like the new A7R IV. Therefore the Sony A7S III is going to need to beat every other camera in the market as far as key feature specs are concerned. We are talking about a compact lightweight body with 4k/60p, 10-bit 4:2:2 compression, and no overheating issues. I really think this is extremely hard to do with a full frame sensor format in such a compact mirrorless camera body like the Sony A7S II.

Therefore Sony is probably testing prototypes and running into problems left and right. They can’t just release a camera premature and risk a failure which could severely damage their reputation as being #1, so they must iron out all the wrinkles well in advance and release a fully vetted camera that people will drool all over in my opinion.

Trust me when I say, Sony will come out with the #1 option in the market as it pertains to full frame mirrorless video camera. They want a compact lightweight camera that can do the job. It will be the preferred option for hand holding users like photojournalists and so fourth when compared to the competition.

My Speculation on the Sony A7S III Feature Set

I think Sony is going to have to modify the camera body to incorporate a larger heat sink so the full frame sensor can do 4k @ 60p. I also think the camera will offer 6k and possible have the QXD memory card option. Although, it’s hard to say because Sony wants the smallest lightweight option available. With the use of huge buffers and amazing fast right speeds these days, is it really necessary to have a QXD card slot? I say yes!

So at the end of the day I think the Sony A7s III is going to have a new camera body that is larger and ultimately thicker to help dissipate the heat better. If this is the case Sony might just commit to a more DSLR like body with a fully articulating screen, considering the camera is optimized for video. I really hope so anyway.

I also think the new sensor will incorporate phase detection AF technology so the camera can track moving subjects which will just blow away the competition on every level. This makes sense to me and would explain why it’s taking so long for the Sony A7S III to come to market.

Closing Remarks

That is about it for this article and obviously my thoughts could be totally be wrong. But, based on all the years reviewing Sony cameras and watching the evolution of market trends with new cameras coming out all the time offering amazing features and technology, these thoughts make sense to me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter though, so please let me know what you think in the comments area below!! Jay

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