Sony Alpha A7R V at a glance:
- $3,890 / £3,840 body-only
- 61MP full-frame sensor
- 693-point AF with subject recognition
- ISO 100-32,000 (standard)
- Up to 10fps shooting
- 8K 24fps video
- 9.44m-dot, 0.9x OLED viewfinder
- 3.2in, 2.1m-dot 4-way-articulated LCD
In late 2022, almost a decade after the debut of the original mirrorless Alpha 7R, the wraps came off the Sony Alpha A7R V, or just the A7R V as it’s most commonly known. As the name implies, it is the fifth in the series, and still the newest. And, just like every ‘R’ series camera, it’s a camera for those who want maximum resolution and image detail. The A7R cameras have always been about sky-high megapixel counts on their full-frame sensors. The blockbuster Sony A7R IV, released in 2019, was the highest-resolution full-frame camera ever made with a whopping 61MP, and to this day it has not yet been surpassed (though the Sigma fp L has equalled it). The A7R V arrived with the same sensor.
So if Sony didn’t update the sensor, what exactly was new about the A7R V? The answer, really, was just about everything else.
Probably the most significant update was the addition of 2022’s must-have feature for new cameras – subject-detection autofocus. Powered by a brand-new AI processing unit, this system is capable of recognising and locking onto more specific subjects than ever before, including humans, animals, vehicles and more. This makes the A7R V a much more versatile beast than any of the previous cameras in the R line-up, capable of holding its own with challenging, fast-moving subjects.
The physical interface of the camera got an overhaul too, with Sony taking plenty of cues from some of its previous success stories. A welcome addition to the A7R V was a large, highly detailed electronic viewfinder, one we had previously seen on the Alpha 7S III and Alpha 1. With 9.44m dots of resolution and 0.9x magnification, this gorgeous unit is one of the most compelling arguments ever made for electronic viewfinders.
The LCD screen wasn’t forgotten, receiving a new design with an up/down tilting mechanism and a fully articulating side hinge, making it much more versatile for shooting at different angles. The in-body image stabilisation received a bump, and is now rated for up to 8 stops of effective compensation in CIPA testing. It’s a frankly intimidating spec list, and you could forgiven for wondering exactly what the catch is.
We kid, of course. You know what the catch is. With a body-only price of $3,890 / £3840, the A7R V is significantly more expensive than its predecessor. It costs a lot more than the 45.7MP Nikon Z 7II, and £300 less than the 45MP Canon EOS R5, slotting firmly into the premium end of the camera market.
Does the Sony A7R V make sense as a camera to buy in 2023? Or has Sony created and overloaded, over-priced camera that simply tries to do too much? Find out as we dive into our full Sony A7R V review. For more options, take a look at our guide to the best Sony cameras and the best Sony E-mount lenses.
Sony A7R V: Firmware
Since the mirrorless camera’s original release, Sony has put out one major firmware update for the A7R V, which arrived at the tail end of March 2023. The most enthusiastically touted feature of the update was the addition of support for the Creators’ app, Sony’s updated version of its old Imaging Edge Mobile app, used to facilitate wireless transfer of images between the camera and a smartphone. It also enables remote settings control and shutter triggering.
Probably of more interest to most photographers though was the update to Face Detection autofocus, allowing the user to select particular faces for the camera to prioritise tracking. Of particular use to wedding photographers and photojournalists, this feature means you can input the faces of priority individuals in advance, and rely on the camera to pick them out of a crowd.
Sony A7R V: Features
On the A7R V, Sony has included one of its most sophisticated iterations of subject-detection autofocus, adding cars, trains, airplanes, and insects to the existing list of humans, animals, and birds. It also claims that the camera can understand these subjects in much more detail than before. For example, it can recognise animal heads and bodies as well as eyes, and boasts human ‘pose estimation’, which is used to help ensure the camera holds focus on the most important part of the subject. This is all backed up by an autofocus system that boasts a larger number of focus points than its predecessor, at 693 compared to 567, and which also covers more of the frame (79% vs 74%).
The camera’s new AI processing unit isn’t just used for autofocusing, however. Sony claims it should also help deliver more reliable autoexposure and auto white balance, for example in shaded scenes which can be prone to blue colour casts. Colour rendition is said to be improved, too, and particularly skin tones.
Another striking update lies with the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), which is now rated for up to 8 stops of shake reduction in CIPA standard tests, compared to 5.5 stops previously. As before, the A7R V can also use its IBIS mechanism to create pixel-shift multi-shot images. Two options are available: a 4-shot mode which produces 60MP files with full-colour sampling at each pixel location, or a 16-shot mode that outputs massive 240MP images. The camera has to be mounted on a tripod – there’s no hand-held mode – but in a welcome move, Sony’s Imaging Edge Desktop software can now detect and compensate for image elements which move between frames.
Elsewhere, though, it’s a broadly familiar tale. The 61MP full-frame sensor employs a backside-illuminated design to maximise light-gathering efficiency and provides a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-32,000. There are also extended low settings down to ISO 50, with an increased risk of irretrievably clipping highlight detail, and high settings up to ISO 102,400.
As before, the maximum drive speed is 10 frames per second. But the A7R V should now shoot more frames in a burst: up to 88 uncompressed raw + JPEG, or 184 compressed raw + JPEG. However, this is contingent on the storage media used, with both card slots now accepting high-speed but expensive CFexpress Type A cards, as well as UHS-II SD.
One disadvantage of the A7R IV’s 61MP resolution has always been the associated storage and processing overheads. To address this, Sony has provided a wider range of image recording options, including lossless raw compression which reduces file sizes by 20%-50% with no drop in image quality. You also get the option to record lossless-compressed raw at two lower resolutions, 26MP and 15MP, makes the A7R V much better suited to more casual photography.
Various other new features are found squirrelled away in the menus. An “Anti-flicker TV scan” function can automatically fine-tune the shutter speed to suppress colour banding effects when shooting under fluorescent or LED lighting. There’s also an option to close the shutter when the camera is switched off, to help keep dust off the sensor. Sony has included a bulb timer option in the menu for shooting long exposures with ND filters, although simply adding longer timed shutter speeds would have been a much more practical solution.
There’s also a significant boost to the A7R V’s video credentials. It’s now capable of 8K recording at 24/25fps and 4K at 50/60fps, although both come with a 1.2x crop. Using the full sensor width, it can shoot in 4K at up to 30fps. The camera outputs 10-bit 4:2:2 colour, includes Sony’s S-Cinetone profile, and boasts focus breathing compensation, which maintains a constant angle of view as focus is pulled from one subject to another (as long as you’re using a Sony lens).
Like almost all current models, built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi allow the camera to be connected to your phone via Sony’s free Imaging Edge Mobile app. This offers a pretty typical feature set, allowing you to copy images across to your phone for sharing on social media. Unfortunately, Sony has yet again stubbornly refused to include in-camera raw conversion, so you can’t tweak your shots before showing them off.
You can also operate the camera remotely over Wi-Fi, with extensive control over exposure settings and a live view display. You can tap the phone’s screen to set the focus point, too, a simple enough feature that was bizarrely missing from older Sony models. One useful option that is missing from the app, though, is a simple Bluetooth remote release mode.
Additional pro connectivity options include tethered shooting to a PC using the firm’s Imaging Edge Desktop software, either via a 5 GHz Wi-Fi or 10Gbps USB-C connection. Files can be transferred to an FTP server through Wi-Fi, USB, or a USB-tethered smartphone. You can even wire the camera to your computer and use it as a 4K webcam without installing any additional software, should you wish.
Sony Alpha A7R V: Key features
Sony has built upon the A7R V’s excellent predecessor, improving it in many significant ways
- Ports: On the side there’s now a full-size HDMI output, along with microphone, headphone, PC flash sync, USB-C and micro USB sockets. None clash with the articulating screen
- Remote: You can trigger the camera remotely using Wi-Fi, a Bluetooth remote release, or a micro USB (Multi-Terminal) cable release. But there’s no longer an infrared remote receiver.
- Accessories: The A7R IV can use all the same accessories as the previous model, including vertical grips and L-brackets. The clever screen design doesn’t clash with the latter.
- Storage: Dual media slots can accept either UHS-II SD cards or the faster CFexpress Type A cards. Cards can be used simultaneously or sequentially, or different file types recorded to each.
- Power: Sony’s familiar NP-FZ100 battery is rated for 440 shots per charge using the EVF, or 530 with the LCD. It can be topped up via either micro USB or USB-C, and an external charger comes in the box.
- E-mount: This is easily the best supported full-frame mirrorless mount, with a vast array of lenses available from Sony, Samyang, Sigma, Tamron, Voigtlander and Zeiss.
Sony A7R V: Build and handling
Unsurprisingly, the A7R V looks very much like its recent Alpha 7 siblings, with the same blocky, angular design that wastes no time on such fripperies as mere styling. Anyone who’s used a full-frame Sony since the A7R III of late 2017 onwards will already know pretty much how it works. However, compared to its predecessor, it gains an array of body design and interface updates, most of which are inherited from last year’s A7 IV. In your hand it feels solid and robust, and the extensive weather sealing means you should be able to use it with confidence on a rainy day.
You still get an SLR-shaped body that’s relatively compact compared to most of its full-frame peers, with a chunky handgrip and no fewer than four electronic control dials. But in place of the dedicated exposure compensation dial, there’s now an unmarked dial that still does the same job, but whose function can be re-assigned by the user.
A switch beneath the exposure mode dial selects between photo, movie, and slow/quick motion shooting, while the video record button moves to the top plate, making it easier to reach. I preferred to re-assign it back to focus magnification for stills shooting, mind you, like on the A7R IV.
Given how the Alpha 7 design has been continually refined, it should come as no surprise to hear that the A7R V generally handles very well. The various controls are all well-placed for use with the camera up to your eye, and I found them to be sufficiently large and positive in action to be perfectly usable while wearing winter gloves. Every single control can be customised to suit the user, but I found that there’s not that much need to change things, as the most important settings are already easy to access. About my only criticism is that the two top-plate thumb dials are now quite easily confused with the camera up to your eye, as they have a very similar feel. In contrast, the exposure compensation dial on the A7R IV has firmer, more defined clicks.
While other cameras have more sculpted and comfortable handgrips, the A7R V’s still gives a very secure hold, and works well with heavier lenses. However, the narrow body does mean that it’s quite tightly cramped to the lens, which some users find uncomfortable. Whether this will affect you depends both on the size of your hands, and the size of the lenses you use, so if in doubt it’s worth checking before you buy.
On the A7R V, you also get Sony’s latest menu system and comprehensive touch interface. The latter is a very welcome addition, as it allows you to navigate the onscreen Fn menu and change settings much more quickly. As for the menus, they’re both prettier and more logical than before, but they’re still overwhelmingly vast, with no fewer than 55 tabs. Sony also has a bad habit of abbreviating words by missing out the vowels, leaving you guessing what some settings are supposed to mean. You certainly don’t want to be searching for functions while you’re shooting, so it makes a lot of sense to configure your most-used items into the My Menu tab.
Sony A7R V: Viewfinder and screen
One significant practical update comes with respect to composing and viewing your images. You now get the same 9.44m-dot electronic viewfinder that first appeared on the A7S III, with a huge 0.9x magnification. The A7R IV’s 5.76m-dot, 0.8x EVF was excellent, but the A7R V’s is sensational.
Sony previews colour, white balance, exposure, and depth-of-field, which means you get a very accurate idea of how your shots are going to turn out. What you can’t do, though, is turn off all the processing to get more a neutral view resembling a DSLR’s optical viewfinder, unlike most other brands. And you still can’t display both an electronic level and live histogram at the same time, but instead have to cycle through multiple screens to see them, which is annoying.
One totally new feature, for Sony at least, is the design of the rear screen. This takes the up/down tilting design used on the A7R IV and adds a side-hinged fully articulating mechanism, much like Panasonic’s design on the Lumix GH6 and Lumix S1H. As a result, it combines the discreet shooting offered by a tilting screen with the increased compositional flexibility of the articulated type, including the ability to shoot at high or low angles in portrait format. The screen itself is also larger and more detailed than before, at 3.2in and 2.1m-dot.
Together, this makes for a dramatic improvement in the usability of the LCD for composing your photos, and as a result, I used it rather more than I tend to with the A7R IV. Unlike conventional vari-angle screens, this design also works perfectly well when you have an L-bracket attached to the camera, which means it’s great for landscape photography. It doesn’t add much extra bulk to the body, either.
Sony Alpha A7R V: Autofocus
One of the A7R V’s headline updates is its new subject-recognition autofocus system, which covers cars, trains, airplanes, humans, animals, insects, and birds. When enabled, in principle it will focus only on the specified type of subject, outlining it in the viewfinder and ignoring anything else. As the subject gets closer and larger in the frame, it’s also smart enough to home in and focus on the most important part. It’s all very clever, and it works ridiculously well.
Click on any of the sample images below to see the full-size file.
Indeed, if you’re prepared to put a little effort into mastering how the settings work – and this being Sony, they’re not necessarily very clear – this might be the most capable autofocus system around. It doesn’t matter whether your subject is static or moving erratically around the frame, the camera simply nails focus almost all the time. Whether it be shooting informal portraits at the pub, or birds in flight at the local park, I found the subject recognition worked consistently well with minimal effort on my part. This might sound lazy, but the reality is that it allows you to concentrate your efforts on composition, rather than setting up your AF system.
Sony is always keen to point out that you’ll get the best C-AF performance with the firm’s own GM lenses, so naturally, I was keen to try it out with some less expensive optics. I tested it using the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS, which at $900 / £900, is less than half the price of its Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS counterpart. Even with small, fast-moving subjects such as gulls, the autofocus still gave me plenty of tack-sharp shots, if perhaps not same percentage of keepers as you’d get with the Sony GM optic.
The main irritations come with configuring the AF system to do what you want. In a long-running Sony quirk, you can’t just turn AF tracking on and off with a simple button press – instead it’s inexplicably grouped with the AF area mode settings. However, you can set the AF-ON button to also activate tracking, which makes a lot of sense. If you’re prepared to delve deeper into the camera’s workings, you can go further and register a ‘Custom Shoot Set’ in the Shooting menu to combine tracking with AF-C and continuous shooting, and then assign this setup to AF-ON in the Setup Menu, which is my preferred solution.
You also have to select in advance what kind of subject you’re intending to shoot, using either the Fn menu or by assigning selection to a custom button. While most cameras work like this, it’s disappointing on a brand-new £4000 body, given that Canon and Nikon’s recent high-end models can now auto select between subject types. Wildlife photographers do, at least, get an option to photograph animals and birds at the same time, although not insects. But you’re not allowed to shoot humans and animals together – maybe Sony engineers don’t have pets? Thankfully, if the camera can’t find a subject of the correct type, it’ll revert to its conventional tracking instead, which is still very reliable.
Sony has also included an extraordinary Subject Recognition sub-menu, in which you can fine-tune many aspects of how the system works. But not only is it massively over-complicated, the menu settings are all obtusely named. You can press the Delete key for an onscreen help page that attempts to explain each setting, but this will probably just leave you even more confused. Personally, I decided to leave it all well alone.
Sony Alpha A7R V: Performance
We’ve become used to Sony cameras being incredibly slick performers, and the A7R V follows suit. It’s extremely quick and responsive, and unlike previous generations, this extends just as much to the touchscreen interface as the physical controls. The result is a reliable tool that gets out of your way and does its job with the minimum of fuss.
It’s pretty discreet too, with the shutter operating with a relatively quiet, unobtrusive snick. You can engage the silent electronic shutter in especially sensitive situations, but be aware that it’s rather prone to rolling shutter effects with moving subjects, along with banding under artificial light. This is one of the camera’s few real weaknesses, and I’d only use it as a last resort.
While the headline burst rate is 10fps, this doesn’t quite tell the whole story. You’ll only get this speed when shooting JPEGs or compressed raw files; switch to uncompressed raw, or lossless compression, and the speed immediately drops below 7fps. At 10fps you don’t get live view between frames, either, but playback of a previous image instead, which makes tracking a moving subject almost impossible. Usually, you’re better off selecting the Hi mode, which tops out at 8fps. If shooting sports and action is your thing, you’ll still be better served by the Alpha 1.
You also need to use CFexpress Type A cards to achieve Sony’s specified buffer depths. When using UHS-II SD cards instead, I found you can expect to be able to shoot about half as many frames before the camera stutters or slows down. But this still equates to about 90 compressed raw, or 50 uncompressed raw files in a burst, which is still very impressive given the resolution.
Sony’s metering is generally biased towards preserving highlight detail, which is a good strategy for users who are predominantly using raw. Indeed it’s fair to say that the A7R V really is a raw shooter’s camera. Sony’s JPEG colour processing is decidedly neutral in its intent, and while you can pep things up by switching to the Vivid (VV1) colour mode, this goes a little over the top for my tastes.
The firm claims to improve its auto white balance with every release, but I found it was still overly prone to giving odd colour casts, or over-neutralising strongly-coloured scenes. Sony isn’t unique in giving the occasional AWB fail, but the difference is that you can’t fix this by re-processing the raw file in-camera. Overall, the A7R V doesn’t come close to troubling the likes of Fujifilm or Olympus/OM System cameras in terms of consistently attractive JPEG output.
However, once you pull the raw files into your preferred editor, you’ll find they are superb. While the image quality is pretty much unchanged from the A7R IV, the 61MP sensor is class-leading, being capable of delivering ridiculous levels of detail at low ISOs. To get the very best results you’ll need to use high-end lenses, with Sony’s excellent FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II being a natural companion to the camera. Likewise, I was blown away by the detail recorded in files shot using the FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS. But there’s no law against trading off a bit of sharpness for convenience, and I was also very happy with images taken with my Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS, even if they weren’t as bitingly sharp.
You also get massive dynamic range at low ISO settings, with the ability to push shadows up by at least four stops before noise becomes problematic. Meanwhile in the highlights, you can often pull back another stop very convincingly, if not perfectly accurately. This extraordinary malleability allows you capture extreme brightness ranges in one raw file and then render it during raw processing, for example during sunrise or sunset.
Sony’s updated image stabilisation is a clear improvement over previous models, too. I was able to shoot consistently sharp images hand-held towards the wide and of the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II zoom at shutter speeds as slow as one second, and even longer if I could find somewhere to rest my elbows. This allows you to use low ISOs in low light, and/or exploit motion blur for creative effect, without having to set up a tripod. Personally, I find it invaluable.
When it comes to video, the A7R V is something of a mixed bag. One the plus side, you get that ridiculously effective autofocus system that’s capable of keeping subjects in focus as they move relative to the camera, and the option of 8K recording if you need it. However, one disadvantage of the 61MP sensor is that the 4K quality isn’t quite as detailed as cameras with resolutions around the 24MP mark, that downsample their footage from a full-sensor readout. I also found the IBIS less effective at smoothing hand-held video, and especially panning motion, compared to the best on the market. It’s by no means bad, but if you’re after a hybrid camera for both stills and video, it might not be the ideal choice.
Sony Alpha A7R V: variable resolution raw and pixel-shift multi-shot
As an A7R IV owner, one feature I definitely appreciated was the variable resolution raw, which allows you to record 15MP or 26MP compressed raw files when you don’t need the sensor’s full resolution. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this feature, with the Leica M11 providing something similar. On the A7R V it works seamlessly, and I couldn’t see any disadvantage to using it – you still get all the usual benefits of shooting raw, but with considerably smaller file sizes. You just need to remember to switch back to full resolution when needed.
Here’s a set of comparison shots of an image shot in raw at the various available resolutions, then processed with extensive tonal adjustments (probably more than I’d normally use). These are presented as 100% crops from each resolution – click on each to open the full-size image.
Pixel shift multi-shot mode works very well in its 4-shot, 60MP incarnation, giving a visible improvement in fine detail over regular single-shot files. Sony’s new motion suppression algorithm avoids ugly ghosting effects due to subject movement by painting-in affected areas with single-shot data, which is an effective approach.
The main drawback lies, as usual, with practicality, as the camera always has to be mounted on a tripod. You then have to copy your raw files to your computer, identify each sequence manually in Sony’s Imaging Edge Viewer software, and combine the files to produce an ARQ composite raw file for further processing. It’s not clear why the camera can’t just produce composite raw files in-camera.
I wasn’t as convinced by the 240MP mode, though, which simply doesn’t deliver as much extra detail as you might hope. It also chews up storage space alarmingly, with the 16 raw files together taking up 2GB per scene, and the final composite raw file being almost as large again. Given that 60MP should already be more than enough for almost any purpose, I’m not sure there’s much practical point to this, but it’s there if you need it.
Sony A7R V: ISO and Noise
The A7R V may not have a new sensor, but no other full-frame camera can surpass it in terms of image quality. When used with a high-quality lens, the level of detail it can capture is remarkable. Image files are extremely clean at ISO 100, and there’s barely any penalty in pushing up to ISO 1600 either, with just a little luminance noise creeping in.
Beyond this noise has an increasing impact, swamping the finest low-contrast detail and causing colours to desaturate. Even so, I’d be entirely happy shooting up to ISO 25,600 if necessary. But as tends to be the case, I’d avoid the extended high settings unless there really was no other alternative.
Below are 100% crops from our standard studio test scene – click on any to see the full-size image.
Sony Alpha A7R V: Our Verdict
We’ve become used to Sony raising the bar significantly with almost every new camera it releases, and the Alpha A7R V is no exception. In short, it’s ridiculously impressive in almost every imaginable way. The sensor may still be the same as its predecessor’s, but that means you get class-leading image quality that can only be surpassed by stepping up to a medium format camera such as the 100MP Fujifilm GFX100S, which means compromising in terms of speed and autofocus. Elsewhere it’s a significant upgrade over the A7R IV, thanks to its sensational viewfinder, superb screen design, and multitude of interface improvements.
That’s before we even consider Sony’s latest subject recognition AF system, which adds a whole new string to the camera’s bow. It just works so well, which makes shooting those specific subject types so much easier, particularly when they’re moving rapidly or erratically. Of course, if you’re currently using the A7R IV for landscape, portrait, or studio work in mostly static scenarios, then the new AF system probably won’t bring much advantage. On the other hand, it’ll be exciting to see what it delivers on the action-specialist Alpha 1’s eventual successor.
Overall, if your needs are tilted more towards image quality than outright speed, it’s difficult to argue against the Sony Alpha 7R V being the best full-frame stills camera available. However, it’s undeniably very expensive, commanding a serious premium over the likes of the Sony A7R IV and Nikon Z 7II. Likewise, if you’re not ideologically wedded to full-frame, you can get a significant fraction of the capability at a much lower price from the Fujifilm X-H2 or X-T5. But if you can justify the A7R V’s price, you’ll be blown away by just how good it is.