The Sony camera ecosystem in my perspective has always been about breaking and setting performance boundaries, leading the pack tech-wise, whereas I am primarily a Leica and Fujifilm user who is hardly used to groundbreaking updates. My previous experience with Sony was the A7 IV in 2022, and thus I consider myself still relatively new to the Sony camera system.
Recently Sony Singapore kindly loaned me the just launched Sony Alpha 7R V (α7R V for short here), together with the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM and FE24-70 ƒ2.8 GM II for a good two weeks period, and here is sharing how my experience went with the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM for the week.
What this review will focus on
While the α7R V is the main focus, I will split the review into two parts, with the second focusing on the FE24-70 ƒ2.8 GM II samples while this review will focus mainly on the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM.
A real-life, hands-on experience from a non-Sony user’s perspective photography, not a laundry list of the specifications you can find on many other sites. I will not touch on video; if not, this review will hit 10,000 words, which will be over-providing value to Sony Singapore for the loan lol.
Fact is, it is clear Sony does listen and act on feedback on their previous α7R IV release, which was a incremental update from version III
The predecessor α7R IV was more of an incremental upgrade from version III and at one point was the most aged in the Alpha series, and had only ‘decent’ autofocus capabilities in the Sony Alpha family. With the end 2022 release of the Sony α7R V and the huge list of improvements, I felt this version would be worth looking at.
Real-time AI autofocus system
Key to any system camera will be the autofocus reliability and performance. I never really trusted advertisements that shout “world’s fastest AF or AF at 0.001s with lines of super small font disclaimers at the bottom” and it is simply better to just test the system.
The α7R V, with a new artificial intelligence-driven (AI) autofocus system controlled by a new dedicated AI processor in short, is phenomenal. Using AI in cameras for subject recognition is not new, but not all brands have done well in this area, while Sony has gone ahead of the pack.
It is worth mentioning the α1 still leads the pack with its stacked CMOS sensor, allowing it to check the focus and metering 120 times a second, while the α7R V comes in strongly with its new AI-based subject recognition system. Differences also include burst modes performance, where the α1 can hit 30 FPS with its electronic shutter while the α7R V maxes out at 10 FPS.
An excellent point to make is this level of auto-focus performance is simply ahead of some competitor brands and likely will satisfy a good majority of users. Still, if the α7R V is already this good, I am curious to think how good the α1 or α9 II will be.
My hit rate with AF-C engaged and ‘Human’ selected under Subject recognition easily cleared 90%, and I am new to managing the system. This was at the point where I did not even dig into the deeper level of auto-focus parameters Sony allows users to customize.
*Disclaimer: the samples above were photographed during a school-wide sports event in the School of Science and Technology, Singapore. SST is one of Singapore’s 4 specialized independent schools and one at the forefront of educational technologies.
You probably also be wondering why I shot a sports event with a 35mm focal length, especially when the FE24-70 ƒ2.8 GM II is a much better choice. I packed the wrong lens, but this mistake showed how versatile the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM lens was and how valuable the α7R V’s 61MP was for cropping.
The Sony menu system
While some may find dizzling, the α7R V system menu provides some of the largest level of customisation I have seen.And in the right hands and with sufficient patience, the potential is phenonmenol.
I am simplifying the possibilities. Still, even for AI Subject recognition only, the α7R V comes with multiple options (Human/Animal/Bird/Insect/Car/Train/Airplane) and this is just scratching the surface.
And the next layer for each individual recognition mode has a series of parameters that can be modified, with control over how far from your chosen AF point the camera will search for a subject and how willing it is to refocus on other subjects, down to how sensitive or tolerant the actual recognition will be. Above all these, one even gets to choose whether the camera focuses on Eye/Head/Body, just Eye/Head, or just Eyes, for humans, animals, or birds.
In a way, some will complain unfairly that the menu system can be daunting; my take is, given the capabilities of the camera, I am sure professional users will be glad to make good use of customization options at the level the α7R V provides.
Not just the menu either, the α7R V’s hardware is excellent port-wise, including a full-sized HDMI port. Say goodbye to flimsy port doors, as Sony’s are firm and click into place soundly.
Instead of complaining about a complex menu, I see Sony’s menu as one that allows an immense level of user customisation that some camera makers do not provide.
Extraordinarily detailed renditions and unrelenting sharpness would be a fair start to describe the output of the α7R V, the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM, and the FE24-70mm ƒ2.8 GM II. In fact, the output is so sharp at times I felt the need to ‘de-sharpen’ the output for portraits.
The 61MP sensor and the GM lenses are built for extreme amounts of cropping if needed by the photographer. Note again that quite a few sports shots shared above were shot with a 35mm equivalent lens (I Packed the Wrong Lens!), but then, the latitude of cropping allowed me to showcase the moments.
Not only so, in low light/high ISO cases, the α7R V’s sensor also performs admirably, and this is even more admirable considering this is one of the highest megapixel cameras in the market. While I cut myself off at ISO3200 for other cameras, I do not have this restriction with the α7R V in low-light situations.
And also, not forgetting the convenient option to save RAW files in reduced size on the α7R V. Instead of the full 61MP size, one can choose to keep the RAW files in 26MP or 15MP instead. On the R IV, the only option to obtain a smaller RAW file was to shoot in APSC mode, but one needs to work with the 1.5x crop.
Technical Specifications (in case you just want to read them)
You should know by now I am not keen to copy and paste technical specifications. One can easily google so you can find the complete list here at Sony’s site.
Also, DPreview’s writeup is pretty well done this round, and I have used their list below.
- 61MP BSI CMOS sensor
- Improved AF with subject recognition
- In-body stabilization rated at up to 8.0EV
- Continuous shooting at up to 10fps with flash (JPEG or Lossy compressed Raw)
- 8K/24p or 4K/60p video (both with 1.24x crop)
- Full-width 4K up to 30p
- 10-bit 4:2:2 video options, including S-Log3, S-Cinetone and HLG
- Fully-articulated rear screen on tilt-out cradle
- Reduced-size Raw files (26MP/15MP)
- Focus bracketing mode (with stacking via computer)
- Multi-shot pixel shift high-res mode with motion compensation (via computer)
- Sensor-shift dust removal and close shutter with power off option
- 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi
- UVC/UAC USB-standard video for use as a webcam
The A7R V‘s many functional improvements make a difference in real-life usage. They are not just listed in specification sheets to fill up space, for example, allowing Medium and Small Raw files (26MP and 15MP).
To touch on just a few, even the fully articulating tilt LCD design of the A7R V impresses. It was a mind-clearing moment to the question: “Why argue for either a tilt or flip-out when one can have both?”
The A7R V settles the arguement for a tilt or flip-out screen by simply providing all the options.
The multi-shot high-resolution and focus bracketing modes are helpful, with now an 8-stop IBIS and improved hardware. The 9.44 million pixels, 0.9x EVF alone is a big jump from A7R V’s 5.76 million dots 0.78x EVF and squashes the competition too.
Small details unlike some brands that force one to adopt certain memory cards, Sony has given a choice with both card slots taking either CF-Express A cards or your everyday SD cards.
The Sony A7RV’s power and potential actually made me feel inadequate.weird, but true.
G-master (GM) lenses, do they make a difference?
My previous experience with Sony was the α7 IV, the entry-level FE 50mm ƒ2.5 G, and Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm ƒ1.4 ZA. Obviously, the user experience was still good, but one thing I noticed this round with the GM lenses, especially on the α7RV’s 61MP sensor, the jump in image quality and responsiveness of the setup is significant.
Other than a robust build, Sony has exceeded expectations with the inclusion of these manual switches/functions on the lenses. From ‘declick’ to allowing one to choose a ‘tighter’ or ‘looser’ zoom ring, the user is spoilt for choice.
If you expect the best from your setup as a professional or hobbyist, my point is simply to go for the GM lens where possible. Of course, the entry-level options are great size-wise, too, if that is a consideration.
If fact, some of the samples you see here are extremely cropped in (I mean, who shoots a sports event with a 35mm?!), but the image quality is still way sufficient for sharing on social media and, I dare say appropriately sized prints.
Even though I had only two GM lenses to handle for the review period, these two lenses impressed me with their optical performance and build. If I ever take up the system, I would undoubtedly be glad to own the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM and FE50mm ƒ1.2 GM.
The capability of the α7RV is a scarily long list, especially for someone who uses Leica and Fujifilm most of the time. One might balk at the price of USD3898 (SGD5749), but the α7RV is a highly competent and complete camera for its price, and in this sense, I see it as a justifiable price.
More so, I realize the argument that smaller sensor systems are lighter than full-frame systems no longer holds much water. The FE24-70 ƒ2.8 GM II is around the same weight as Fujifilm’s XF16-55 ƒ2.8, while the α7R V comes in at 723 grams versus the 660 grams of the X-H2S.
In the category of usage auto-focus reliability and performance wise, the real-time A.I driven autofocus system was the most impressive. It is so reliable that in the sports events above and in the times where I was shooting in low light, I still had hit rates that I knew I would not achieve with some other brands.
A bit random, but I was impressed at how Sony provides these excellent lens bags with straps for these two lenses. Practical and, to be honest, a lovely touch. These are details that users appreciate, and will go a long way versus a manufacturer who tried to scrimp on these to maximize profits.
The α7R V comes with many functional improvements that make a difference in real-life usage, as shared above, with my two top favorites being the Medium and Small Raw files (26MP and 15MP) and the 9.44 million pixels, 0.9x EVF.
If there is anything I really want to pick on, it is probably that I still find batch-editing Sony RAW files tough as the same scene can come out slightly different even in consecutive shots, and for portraits, the output can be in need of de-sharpening at times.
Close to being a perfect camera, but if I really wish to be picky, just only two areas of growth.
Technically wise, the α7R V camera is close to being perfect and leaves very little for one to pick about. I am sure that for the Sony ecosystem user or someone prioritizing peak autofocus and tech performance, the α7R V and its fellow GM lenses are worth considering.
Thank you for reading.
- All product photos and samples here were photographed by me. I believe any reviewer with pride should produce their own product photos.
2. All images were shot with the Sony α7R V and the FE35mm ƒ1.4 GM, FE24-70 ƒ2.8 GM II, and the raw files were edited in LR CC Classic to my preferences.
3. This review is not sponsored; the kit was a kind loan from Sony Singapore and will be returned.
4. I do not do affiliate purchase links to keep myself neutral. I write as a passion and a hobby, and I appreciate that photography brands are kind enough to respect and work with me.
5. The best way to support me is to share the review, or you can always help support me by contributing to my fees to WordPress for the domain using the Paypal button at the bottom of the page.
5 Replies to “Sony Alpha 7R V (α7RV) review – Power and Performance, but is it Perfect?”
Hi Jen, thank you for the kind words!
Very powerful sharing Keith. Always a joy to read your reviews.
Hi Keith, well written review. versus Nikon which you have reviewed before, which would you pick?
Hi Nicklonson, thank you. Both system have their merits and shortcomings though. Nikon for example has really lagged behind in its mid-high tier camera offerings while Sony has a much larger variety. Rendering wise I find Nikon’s more neutral which some users like while if it’s autofocus and video as a priority , Sony does have the advantage.