Sony Alpha 7R V Hands-On - The best autofocus on the market?
We've waited a long time for it and now it's here! The new Sony a7R V comes with an autofocus that works in the dark and always knows where your knees are, an insane video resolution, a whole three processors and a brand new, unprecedented display technology. Find out what it's all about in this post!
Tech Talk: Sony Alpha 7R V
In addition to our review video, we sat down again to talk in depth about the new a7R V and our experiences with the new camera in a livestream. If you read the post here early, you might even be able to join us live! :)
When we held the camera in our hands for the first time, the housing looked familiar at first glance. If you've ever used an a7 IV, a7S III or maybe even an Alpha 1, you'll feel right at home here.
We have the split function and mode dial, the unlabeled dial for free assignment of, for example, exposure compensation, full-size HDMI and not just one, but two CF Express Type A hybrid card slots.
The grip has also become deeper compared to its predecessor, making it more manageable. We'll get to what the new viewfinder and the new display can do in a moment.
Sony Alpha 7R V (ILCE-7RM5) Body
- Full frame camera
- 61 MP Exmor R CMOS BSI sensor
- Autofocus with artificial intelligence
- 10 bps continuous shooting with full AF / AE tracking
- 8K 25p video recording
- 4K 60p + RAW output via HDMI
- 5-axis image stabilization (IBIS) of up to 8 stops
- Dual CFexpress type A hybrid card slot
Technical novelties of the Sony Alpha 7R V
New 61 megapixel BSI sensor
Inside the new body lies the new sensor. We have here instead of the 61MP sensor of the a7r IV a new 61 megapixel BSI sensor, which thus offers a significantly better noise performance and especially a better color reproduction.
What's missing at this point is the stacked setup we know from the Alpha 1 or Alpha 9. So if you need a high continuous shooting speed, you might want to look at the other two cameras. After all, the Alpha 7r V can only shoot up to 10 bps in continuous mode.
The new sensor has a autofocus coverage of a full 76%, with a total of 693 points in phase detection. In the 16:9 aspect ratio, it is then a coverage of 86% of the sensor area. But we'll take a closer look at what else the autofocus does in a moment.
What else is important to mention inside the camera is the new IBIS, which can now namely correct 8 stops and is thus better than anything else we have ever seen in full frame. For comparison: the Alpha 1 or even the a7 IV can only correct 5.5 f-stops here.
Dual Bionz XR processors
The data is read and processed by the two Bionz XR processors, which together ensure that the camera can deliver maximum performance. We know the processors from the Alpha 1, for example, where they ensured incredibly fast processing and saving, and here, too, with the a7r V, we have a virtually infinite buffer. Although the buffer can "only" hold 88 uncompressed and 184 compressed RAWs at 10 bps continuous shooting on paper, the CFexpress Type A cards are fast enough to free the buffer in time before it reaches its limit.
Now, however, there is another processor unit in addition to the two Bionz XR processors , but we'll get to that in a moment.
New LCD display +amp; revised electronic viewfinder
On the back of the camera lies the clear core feature of this camera. The new 3.2 inch display!
At first glance, you can already see that the new a7R V appears a little bit thicker than, for example, the Alpha 7 IV or even the a7S III. This is due to the new display flip mechanism, because we now have the option to flip the display up and down, as well as swivel it outwards and rotate it there.
But also in terms of resolution, brightness, and color reproduction, the display is definitely an upgrade, and by the way, it even got 0.2 inches bigger.
Away from one display, towards another - the new viewfinder: It too looks familiar on paper; at 9.44 million pixels, it's almost twice the resolution of the 7r IV's viewfinder, but offers the same 120fps frame rate. This makes it only the third camera from Sony to offer such a high-resolution viewfinder. However, the Alpha 1 is capable of a higher frame rate of 240fps here.
There are, of course, some other cool and important features on the new a7rV. And that leads us directly to the autofocus!
The third processing unit, which we briefly mentioned earlier, is completely responsible for the autofocus. In fact, artificial intelligence (AI) is used here to make the autofocus as accurate and especially as reliable as possible.
Brief spoiler: The camera can detect the head of a bee, the body of a butterfly or even the windshield of a car, but we'll show you that in a moment, of course.
First, we need to talk briefly about how the whole thing works: A classic AF with face recognition can recognize a face and say "those two dots in the upper third are probably the eyes", but is confused when the person turns away, the head is not recognizable, you have a mask on and so on.
What this AI-controlled autofocus does now: It creates a "skeleton" of the entire body, so to speak (as you know it from animation, for example). So the camera recognizes not only the head, but the eyes, the ears, the nose, the shoulder, the hip, the knees and the legs. I hope we haven't left out any point here now. So if there is no eye to be seen, the autofocus still knows that there is a person standing there and can track them specifically in the image and bring them into focus.
So! That's all well and good, but what else can this AI do? You can already guess where the whole thing is headed: The AI can also recognize this skeleton in insects, i.e. in the case of a bee the camera knows what the head is, in the case of a butterfly it recognizes the body and so onâ€¦
We couldn't try out the AF on every insect now, of course, but what we were able to test really impressed us.
But then it goes even further, because even vehicles are no problem for the camera. Cars are recognized as such and if you see them from the front at an angle, the headlights are used as a focal point. If you stand completely frontal to the car, the focus then shifts to the windshield. Of course, motorcycles and theoretically bicycles also belong to vehicles. At this point, however, the autofocus works best when the bike is completely visible in profile.
For all plane- and trainspotters, there is of course also the detection of planes and trains (again with the detection of windshields).
Unfortunately, the camera is not yet ready to automatically recognize the subject and adjust the subject detection accordingly. You still have to adjust the scene detection in the camera's menu as usual. However, we recommend placing this on a shortcut button, such as on the lenses. Here you can also choose between which modes you want to switch at the push of a button, e.g. between vehicle and human.
On the other hand, the recognition in dark light situations has also been improved. Even at -4 f-stops (the value refers to the tests and the settings used there by Sony - other manufacturers test with other settings, so you have to be careful with the comparison of the EV values), the camera can bring the full autofocus performance here.
However, we don't want to throw around the term "artificial intelligence" too much now, since the recognition usually works flawlessly, but other cameras also already switch to the body when the face is no longer recognizable.
A very important side note here, however, is that there are no limitations - that is, the autofocus works with everything it can, in all modes and resolutions. We have to clearly take Sony's side here, because this is not a matter of course and Sony has always placed a lot of value on this in other cameras as well.
All in all, we think it is a good step in the right direction and we are looking forward to what will be possible in the future with updates or new generations.
8K video +amp; 4K 60p ProRes RAW output
The camera also leaves only a few wishes unfulfilled in the video area. However, it has to be said quite clearly beforehand that video is of course not the main target group here.
Thanks to the high-resolution sensor and the two fast processors, video recordings in up to 8K with 24 or 25 fps are possible. 8K 30 fps is missing at this point - according to Sony, this was not possible because the sensor readout is too slow. For that, you would need an Alpha 1 with the stacked sensor, which can simply be read out faster.
In 4K, up to 60 fps are possible here at 4:2:2 10 bit, which can also be output via HDMI in ProRes Raw.
But slow-motion recordings are also easily feasible here, but only at up to 120fps in FullHD. If you need more at this point, you should rather take a look at the a7S III, as 4K 120p and Full HD with 240p are possible there.
Of course, we also have popular features here like Breathing Compensation, Active+ Image Stabilization, and recording in S-LOG3 and S-Cinetone.
By the way, all recording modes are recorded here with the full sensor readout, and those filming in Super35 mode can benefit from 6.2k downsampling at up to 30 fps in 4k.
There's not much more to say about video at this point, though, so let's see what other features are on board here.
5 GhZ Wifi +amp; 10 Gbps LAN
Sony's Alpha 7R series is all about resolution, after all, which is why we have the popular Pixelshift feature here as well, allowing us to create up to 240 megapixel shots. This creates 16 images, with the sensor shifting slightly between each image using IBIS. Incidentally, an update for the Imaging Edge Desktop software is coming here as well, so that miscalculations can be intelligently avoided.
When it comes to connectivity, we have a few updates here as well. A whole two 5GhZ Wifi modules have been installed for faster wireless tethering. On the other hand, you can also tether here with 10 Gbps wired via a USB-C to LAN adapter.
But let's come to a conclusion: even though the resolution has remained the same from generation four to five, unlike expected, Sony has packed the camera with some very important and future-oriented features.
With the 7rV, the manufacturer lays a cornerstone for the future of autofocus technology. Precisely because the resolution is so high, the focus has to sit here, after all. 8K video has also been added, as well as small important updates, such as to the display, the housing also with the new white balance sensor or also connectivity.