- Sophisticated overall design
- Superlative image quality
- Competition grade autofocus
- Efficient 5-axis stabilisation
- Ergonomics can be easily adjusted
- Quality of the viewfinder
- Tilting and rotating screen
- Very complete video mode
- Dual CF express Type
- High price
Sony has given an impressive presentation of its new full-frame camera for expert photographers. The Sony 7R V features a 61-megapixel sensor and AI-based autofocus modes; let’s see what it’s all about in this full review.
With successive offerings from its various competitors, Sony has seen its leadership in the ultra-high resolution hybrid camera range challenged. While there were wild rumours about a spectacularly high resolution (up to 100 million pixels), Sony opted for less flashy but nonetheless fundamental developments. An excellent sign of maturity on paper, but let’s see how this intention has been translated into action.
A ROBUST AND WELL-THOUGHT-OUT CAMERA
As with the other Alpha 7 cameras, the balance between size and comfort is interesting. Compared to some competitors, the 7R V is too bulky and compact. In particular, the grip is deep enough to handle it comfortably for users with various profiles. Its dimensions, slightly larger than those of the Sony A7R IV (131.3 mm x 96.9 mm x 82.4 mm, on the grip side and 72.3 mm on the flat side), are indeed rather weFll-contained while offering an excellent grip quality (users of long lenses will appreciate this). Be careful, though, because we note a successive shift in each generation: the gain compared to more compact SLR cameras still exists, but it is less and less marked.
The all-metal chassis and covers of the A7RV are made of magnesium alloy to ensure a good level of solidity for a reasonable weight. However, they, too, have been significantly increased (723g with battery and memory cards, compared to 665g for the previous model). It is also worth noting the presence of numerous protections at the level of the various hatches.
Like its predecessor, it is equipped with the NP-FZ 100 battery, ensuring a pretty correct battery life for a hybrid. If the energy constraints of the electronic viewfinder will lead experienced users to equip themselves with at least a second battery (especially videographers, naturally).
Finally, the icing on the cake is that when the camera is turned off, the mechanical focal point shutter closes to protect the sensor, a device that closely resembles the one imagined on the late Nikon F4, and that proves very useful when changing lenses in the field under challenging conditions.
A PARTICULARLY CAREFUL VIEWFINDER
The 7R V has a beautiful viewfinder from the top range (Sony A1) with a 9.4 million dot OLED panel (maximum refresh rate of 120 fps with a drop in definition). Comfortable (21mm eye relief for 0.9x magnification), it is very pleasant to use, even in low light conditions.
In the same vein, the rear touchscreen is half a centimetre wider (8 cm), and its resolution has been increased to 2.1 million dots (compared to 1.44 million on the previous model). Another positive feature is that it is mounted on a swivel head and can be tilted.
A COMPLETE CONNECTIVITY
A large variety of plugs is proposed and globally, nothing is missing:
- 2 mini-jack sockets: microphone and headphones
- a USB-C 3.2 port (more than welcome, given the weight of the files)
- an HDMI type A socket for 16-bit video output in UHD RAW format
- a flash socket that can also transmit audio if required
- a remote control socket
- a synchro-flash (for external studio flashes)
On the memory card side, the A7RV has a dual slot that can be configured via the menu (e.g. all raw on one card and jpegs on the other) and is compatible with high-speed CF express (type A) and SDXC cards up to UHS-II. Once again, given the weight of the files, this choice is more than palpable.
A VERY WIDELY CONFIGURABLE CONTROL
Like all expert cameras, the 7R V is packed with a wide range of features, and the question of how easy it is for everyone to access the functions they need is fundamental.
The camera dimensions, which, as you will have realised, are not all about compactness, allow having numerous buttons (almost all of which are configurable).
On the top of the camera, we find on the right of the viewfinder the traditional mode selection barrel (PSAM…), which overhangs a selector allowing to switch from the photo mode to those intended for the video and special shots (slow motion, timelapse, …) called “S&Q”. To its right are two adjustment wheels, a customisable button and the video recording release button.
On the back, a menu button and a customisable button have been placed to the left of the viewfinder, opposite another customisable button and those for thumb-activated AF and AE lock. Underneath are, in vertical order, a helpful joystick, the Fn button (which, among other things, gives access to the quick menu), the encoder, the image playback button and the image erase button.
The abundant menus are relatively intuitive, and their organisation by successive horizontal tabs makes it easy to find your way around. Some functions are not always ideally accessible, but you can get used to them without too much trouble. In addition, the presence of a quick menu allowing quick access to the main functions and numerous customisable keys and a user page in the menu enables everyone to create an interface that is truly adapted to their practice, provided that they take the time to set it up.
A COMPETITIVE AUTOFOCUS
A camera dedicated to high resolution, the 7R V could not do without high-level performance, given the competition. Equipped with a mechanical shutter and an electronic shutter capable of triggering up to 1/8000 s at a maximum rate of 10 fps (i.e. sufficient performance for 99% of situations), Sony announces that it has doubled the size of the buffer memory (designed to store files temporarily until they are saved on the card). In practice, even with a slow SDXC card, we were never hampered by a full buffer (on the other hand, with a “slow” card, the viewing of images can be somewhat delayed, given the weight of the files, which is logical).
Moreover, the manufacturer has improved the hybrid phase/contrast autofocus camera. The latter now has 693 phase correlation collimators spread over 79% of the frame, and the contrast detection is ensured by the Bionz XR processor from the very professional A1. That’s it for the numbers. In practice, the focus is outstanding in both photo and video. As you can see in the images below, the AF tracking is very good at detecting the subject, and the tracking is very efficient.
Note that it is possible to indicate to the camera a certain number of types of subjects (e.g. cars, humans, animals, birds, planes, …) to prioritise them when we can anticipate it (e.g. coverage of a car race, walk-in a bird sanctuary, …). In the field, this works effectively.
It should also be noted that the accuracy and tracking of moving subjects remain very good, even when the light falls. The very high resolution of the camera, by nature very demanding with the focusing, is thus really exploitable because the inaccuracies and the blur they can cause are relatively minimal in practice.
AN EASY-TO-USE STABILIZER
To eliminate parasitic vibrations and thus avoid undesirable blurring effects, a susceptible subject with such a high level of resolution, Sony announces that it has further improved the 5-axis stabilisation. In practice, the results are outstanding (a gain of 2+2/3 stops with the 24-70 2.8 G lens), even if we remain far from the positive communication of the manufacturer, which indicates gains of 8 stops (on certain types of movements only). With the 24-70 mm at 70 mm, we obtained a majority of perfectly sharp or acceptable images up to 1/15th of a second, i.e. outstanding results with such a defined sensor (100% observation on screen, thus much more demanding than for a print, for example).
Overall, the Sony 7R V offers excellent results in terms of responsiveness and precision. Let’s note that other cameras offer higher burst speeds; only specialists in action photography (sports, wildlife photography, …) will notice the difference.
OUTSTANDING IMAGE QUALITY
The 7R V offers a camera based on the Exmor R full-frame CMOS sensor (backlit) of 61 Mpix and the Bionz XR processor. Unsurprisingly, this pairing can deliver very well-made images. Indeed, the sensor’s thinness, especially associated with beautiful photo lenses (50mm f1.2 GM at full aperture below), makes it possible to envisage generous-sized prints without the slightest difficulty: its native definition allows it to generate images of 53.64 x 80.47 cm at 300 dpi!
One regret is that RAW files are sampled on a maximum of 14 bits instead of 16. Unfortunately, this is the case for almost all full-format cameras today, so competitors are not doing any better.
Sensitivity increase is also very well assured. The camera can capture images up to ISO 102,400 by default. The images below are 100% crops of RAW images developed in 16-bit tiff with the manufacturer’s software default settings.
A VERY COMPREHENSIVE VIDEO MODE
Theoretically oriented more towards high-resolution photography, the 7R V offers a complete video mode. It is indeed equipped with everything necessary from an ergonomic and connectivity point of view: a touch screen that can be tilted and rotated, microphone and headphone inputs/outputs, and a video output that can be used to retrieve a 16-bit RAW stream – necessarily with an external recorder.
It also offers a very long list of video formats in different codecs:
- UHD II (improperly called 8K) at 24 or 25 fps in progressive mode (“p”)
- UHD (incorrectly called 4K) at up to 60 fps without cropping
- Full HD up to 120 fps (for slow motion if required)
- H.265, 4:2:2, 10-bit, UHD or 60p: understanding video formats and compression
By the way, the possibility of making slow-motion movies without going through post-production (S & Q mode) is a plus.
Finally, the ultimate refinement is the ability to record internally in up to 4:2:2 10-bit UHD (4:2:0 10-bit UHD II) in Log, or even, for the greedy, to have a 16-bit RAW output for an external recorder. To use the most demanding internal compression modes (600 MB/s), you must invest in type A CF cards (very fast but expensive).
The 7RV is undoubtedly a technical success. Robust and well thought out, it is a camera that can operate in a wide range of registers and conditions, with a very high level of quality. With excellent image quality, it is fast, accurate and surprisingly versatile. Its autofocus is perfect, its camera stabilisation is reliable, and the video mode is complete.
However, it’s no exception to the general trend towards being overweight in the expert hybrid range. Moreover, its high price puts it in direct competition with an entry-level medium-format camera that is undoubtedly less versatile but more specialised for specific uses.
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