I have always looked forward to photo session days while simultaneously dreading the thought of retouching on the back end. In today’s fast-paced world, who has time for that? It’s not too much to ask for a solid workhorse camera that does everything well and requires little to no editing. Luckily, manufacturers like Sony are heeding that request. Their newest a7r V checks a lot of boxes on my wishlist.
Editor’s Note: This review was updated in February 2023
The a7r V features a new AI unit for faster autofocus performance. Sony has added Vehicle/Train, Airplane, and Insect tracking for even better results. It does everything better and quicker. However, some of its other specs, like the sensor and ISO performance, remain unchanged. Is it worth the $3,900? Yes, absolutely! Keep reading to find out more.
The Big Picture
The a7r V takes everything we enjoy about the a7r IV and improves the user experience. Sony has added a new AI unit for faster and more accurate autofocus performance with a 10fps burst rate. It’s a night and day difference compared to the previous model. Sony has also added new AI based tracking modes to keep its status as one of the best offerings on the market. Photographers of all skill levels will enjoy these enhancements.
Creatives will also appreciate the beautiful OLED screen with a 2nd main menu. Sony improved its auto white balance and has impressive in-camera metering. It features an enhanced IBIS, making long exposures handheld much more achievable. The best part is how little editing is required.
As much of an upgrade as the a7r V is, there are a few areas for improvement. Although it’s improved, there’s still very subtle low ISO sensor noise. The High ISO performance could be improved, and Imaging Edge needs to be brought into the 21st Century.
The pros far outweigh the cons. It’s a rugged workhorse that’ll satisfy a variety of needs. The a7r V is an excellent choice for wedding, portrait, fashion, commercial, wildlife, landscape, architectural, documentary, and hybrid photographers.
We are giving the Sony a7r V five stars. Want one? You can pick it up for $3,900, or rent it from LensRentals.
- Beautiful colors and lovely contrast
- New OLED screen and 2nd main menu
- Very accurate metering
- Improved dust protection
- Autofocus is impressive
- New Vehicle/Train, Airplane, and Insect tracking
- Improved auto white balance
- Images are sharp without being too much for women’s portraits.
- Comfortable grip
- You can skip editing altogether if you want.
- Subtle low ISO sensor noise
- Camera menus would benefit from further indexing
- Imaging Edge needs to come into the 21st Century
We received an a7r V loan from Sony with the following lenses:
The Sony a7r V has overhauled the previous autofocus system and now features an AI processing unit. The 61mp sensor paired with the Bionz XR produces quicker subject recognition and better tracking. The a7r V is the first of Sony’s alpha cameras to feature focus bracketing with focus stacking. It’s a notable upgrade from the previous generation.
The Sony a7r V boasts a similar layout to the a7 IV. It also features the same comfortable vertical grip as its predecessor.
One of the most noticeable changes is the large OLED display on the back of the camera, which is more versatile than the previous version. The screen can turn to the side and also flip over for protection when not in use. The C1 button has taken the place of the record button.
The top panel layout and functionality are identical to the a7 IV. If it weren’t for the badging, I would be unable to tell them apart. The dials are customizable for your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. And, as with the a7 IV, you must push the button to change from stills to video.
Both memory card slots now support CF-Express Type A and SD cards.
You will find the ports on the other side of the camera. The HDMI Type-A and Flash sync terminals are closest to the front. Open up the top rear panel to access the microphone and headphone jack. The bottom rear panel is home to the USB-C port and Multi/Micro USB connector.
The a7r V features the exact premium grip found on its predecessor. Sony has also improved the overall dust protection on the camera. Dust wasn’t an issue when I was using it. I got caught in a few late afternoon rainstorms, and the camera handled without any hiccups. It isn’t fully weatherproof, so I wouldn’t recommend using it frequently in torrential conditions.
One of the complaints with the a7r IV was that it was slow to focus. The AI unit found on the a7r V is a welcome upgrade. Its 693-point high-density phase AF does everything better. Focusing is much swifter and more accurate in a variety of lighting conditions.
Sony has added Vehicle/Train and Airplane tracking. I wasn’t able to test the a7r V with an airplane. However, I was impressed with its vehicle tracking capabilities. It achieved focus well in AF-C and AF-A with wide tracking and spot tracking. I often opt for a single focal point in AF-S mode, and it performed as well as I expected it to.
Above is an example of utilizing continuous frames in AF-A mode with wide tracking engaged. As you can see, it didn’t miss.
I stood on a street corner in a 35mph zone, and the camera tracked oncoming vehicles repeatedly as they entered and exited the frame.
Watching the camera pick and choose between its subjects in frames like this was fun. The a7r V did a great job deciphering the best subject as cars and bikes entered the scene.
Animal, Bird, And Insect Tracking
Sony has always done an excellent job when it comes to animal tracking. I tested it on my new kitten. Pip is rambunctious, and her fast movements are unpredictable. I usually find utilizing AF-S with a single focal point to deliver the best results. However, this was the first time I found better results with wide tracking in AF-A and AF-C modes.
The a7r V kept up with her better than I expected. It also did an excellent job switching between Bubby (my other cat) and Pip as they played.
The Sony a7r V did an excellent job tracking birds and ducks. I switched to full auto mode and watched as it tracked various fighting ducks. I could only imagine how much fun birding would be with a longer lens.
Insect tracking is new to the a7r V and a lot of fun. Capturing bumble bees was effortless. Insect mode also tracks flower buds which is very handy when the wind gusts.
Update February 2023
Something we should really discuss here is that the Sony a7r V incorporates a major change in the way that Sony cameras are used. It adds in the ability to select the new animal/bird autofocus setting. If you’re like me, then you program this to be scrollable through the bottom button on the D-pad. As you scroll through you’ll see the option to focus on animals, birds, or birds and animals. This is a major update as previously, Sony only let photographers focus on one or the other. And while Sony’s system is good, this was a major flaw that annoyed many people who used it.
With this update, Sony joins Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon in the way that photographers can go about doing wildlife photography. This makes it a whole lot easier to do.
Of course, if you’re intent on just photographing macaws or something like that, then you can use just the bird AF setting. On the other hand, if you want to capture photos of cats at the zoo, then the animal AF setting is your best approach.
Still, this is a major step forward for Sony. Combined with their incredible lens selection from both Sony and third parties, the Sony a7r V becomes an exceptional camera to do wildlife photography with. Of course, the autofocus still isn’t what the Sony a1 is. But it’s your best bet if you want to crop your photos later. Couple it with Tamron or Sony’s highest end glass and you’ll be set to do lots of wildlife photography with the Sony a7r V.
The AI unit is also very noticeably improved with its tracking capabilities with portraits. I positioned Rachel in the middle of tall grass and leaves on a windy day. She moved from shoulder to shoulder and lost contact with the camera. It did an excellent job anticipating where her eye would be and coming back into focus. There were very few misses. I actually found it challenging to get the camera to miss focus.
Ease Of Use
Whether you’re well-versed with all things Sony or new to the system, the Sony a7r V is easy to use. The OLED screen is bright and beautiful. Users will appreciate the new main menus, which allows for better navigation without having to leave the viewfinder. Although, it could still be indexed further. Sony’s EVF continues to be one of the best.
The Sony a7r V features excellent IBIS with up to 8-stops of compensation. Photographers can successfully capture longer handheld exposures with bulky lenses without needing a tripod. I have shaky hands and captured a long exposure with the 70-200mm lens.
The 61MP sensor equips photographers with added versatility in today’s moving world. Photographers can feel confident choosing various crops for clients’ editorial needs. Above is an example.
And here is the crop.
Sony has implemented more autofocus tracking with AI features for a significant boost in performance with its newest a7r iteration. The a7r V does an excellent job keeping up with portrait subjects as they move in and out of obstacles; it rarely misses a beat. Photographers can let the camera do the work, or they can switch settings and be intentional with their image-making.
Its 10fps burst rate makes capturing action images much more attainable for photographers of all skill levels. Wildlife, wedding, fashion, documentary, and street photographers will appreciate the advancements. Videographers will appreciate the improved tracking capabilities. Additionally, Sony’s focus peaking makes manual focus a breeze.
The Sony a7r V does not come with in-camera skin softening. I felt this was necessary with the a7 IV as it was too sharp for some women’s portraits. It was not the case with the a7r V. Portraits are rich in detail without being overly sharp. As you can see in the cropped image above, there is adequate sharpness without being over the top. You can always reduce the sharpness in-camera if it’s too much for you.
The auto-white balance has also been improved, creating beautiful skin tones that require minimal retouching. Its improved white balance depicts an overall scene accurately. Night scenes and tungsten lighting are more precise, making it easy to portray the mood. I was impressed with how little editing is required with the Sony a7r V. Photographers could skip editing if they really wanted to.
According to specs, Sony’s processor can capture up to 583 compressed RAW files. Compressed files are best in well-lit images that don’t depend on the tiniest details. So, I wouldn’t recommend utilizing compressed files after the sun has crossed the horizon. It also features lossless compression. Sony’s processor can detect small light changes and catch slight movement shifts. As such, the pixel shift multi-shooting mode is much more effective.
Sony aims to make the a7r V another outstanding option for hybrid content makers. Part of that functionality still depends on its raw processor. It would be great if Sony brought Imaging Edge into the 21st Century. The app feels slow and archaic compared to leading competitors. Processing high ISO images within Sony’s app produces lackluster results. The quality is worse than the files captured with a 1MP sensor found on Fujifilm’s Instax EVO. Luckily, Affinity Photo came to the rescue. I look forward to seeing my RAW files in Capture One.
The Sony a7r V performed extraordinarily well in our Sunny 16 tests. As you can see in this example, the camera did very well. It did not blow out any whites and did a fine job retaining shadow detail. Sony’s metering is accurate and trustworthy.
The Sony a7r V produces images with beautiful colors and lovely contrast. Images are sharp without being overbearing for portraits. Skin tones are accurately represented and don’t require editing. The 61 MP sensor also produces photos with considerable detail for various crops.
Sony’s JPEG quality is fantastic. The colors are vibrant with sufficient contrast. Images are sharp without being over the top. I would feel comfortable sharing JPEG images with my clients.
High ISO Output
The Phoblographer’s high ISO tests involve printing high ISO images. For the Sony a7r V, we took an ISO 6400 RAW file, imported it into Capture One, and printed it straight from there. We’re using a Canon Prograf 1000 and Canson Infinity paper. The results? Well, you can surely tell that this is an unedited ISO 6400 file. By conventional viewing standards, it’s alright to the normal person. But a photographer wouldn’t be happy with this print and might even demand either a refund or a reprint. While the image is grainy, you can only see color noise start to come through when you look very closely and if you have a trained eye.
Comparing this print to the results we got from the Leica M11, which we’re pretty positive is using the same sensor, gave us tighter grain and far less color noise. It’s pretty much night and day! For more on this, check out the High ISO Output section of our Leica M11 review.
The ISO performance of the a7r V is decent, digitally speaking, but I wouldn’t say it’s exemplary. Color noise is noticeable at ISO 3200 and becomes more pronounced at ISO 6400. It isn’t as clean as I recently experienced with the Hasselblad X2D 100c and some other cameras we tested. It’s usable, but I wouldn’t get into the habit of relying on High ISO for digital images that will be viewed on a large scale.
Raw File Versatility
The Sony a7r V boasts an impressive 15 stops of dynamic range. It never ceases to amaze me what is possible with the latest technology. I used settings to create a nearly black image. Look at how much detail was recovered without too much noise.
Here is another example where I crushed the blacks to see what could be salvaged.
Here is an example of what is possible with the Sony a7r V. As you can see, details that are entirely white will not be retrieved. However, this is usable. It doesn’t offer as much latitude with highlight recovery as it does with shadows. I only had access to Sony Imaging Edge and Affinity, which means the highlight recovery could be better with Capture One or Adobe.
We’re going to update this review when Capture One supports the RAW files.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the product can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy The Sony a7r V?
I’m usually not one to buy a new piece of equipment with each upgrade. However, if I were invested in the system, I would definitely upgrade from the a7r IV to the a7r V. As someone shopping for a new camera, I am quite tempted to buy it. The new AI unit has improved autofocus and new tracking capabilities. It’s a much more capable camera that is enjoyable to work with.
I appreciate that Sony aims to cut down precious editing time and get creatives back behind the camera. It’s particularly great to see the company creating another camera that will satisfy hybrid content creators. I would rather spend money on lenses than an extra camera body.
As great as the a7r V is, there is room for improvement. I appreciate the option for a second main menu. However, Sony could still index the menu systems further for added simplicity. There is still a little bit of low ISO noise, although it’s much improved. As competitors continue to advance their autofocus capabilities, I look forward to watching Sony fine-tune its Bird and Insect subject recognition. It will be fun to see what else the company has in store.
If you’re ready for Sony to take your money, you can buy the new a7r V for $3,900. You can also rent it from LensRentals and take it for a spin.
Tech specs are from Sony’s press materials.
- 61MP Full-Frame Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor
- BIONZ XR Image Processing engine providing 8X more processing power than A7RIV
- Designated AI processing unit (details below)
- Completely updated 5-Axis in-body Image Stabilization with up to 8-stops of compensation
- 15-stops dynamic range
- Extremely accurate exposure and color
- Visible Light + IR sensor
- Standard ISO up to 32,000 for movies, expandable to ISO 102,400 for stills
- Precise, versatile external flash control with P-TTL adjusting output, color, exposure for each frame.
- Pixel Shift Multi Shooting – 16-image, 240.8MP composites now adjusting for fine scene movement
- Selectable S,M,L RAW options including lossless RAW for efficient workflow
- 70 Next-Gen E-Mount lenses including 47 Full-frame lenses
- Highest Image Quality in Alpha History
- Advanced Real-time tracking with 693-point high density phase detection AF
- Advanced subject recognition with Human Pose Estimation
- Reliable recognition of a wider range of subjects – Human, Animal, Bird, Insect, Plane, Car, Train
- Accurate AF down to -4.0EV
- Focus Bracketing up to 299 images
- Next Generation AI-Based Autofocus
- New 4-axis multi-angle LCD monitor offers unprecedented monitoring flexibility
- Up to 10 fps with AF/AE tracking, up to 583 compressed RAWs
- Class leading EVF – 9.44 million dot QXGA @120fps
- Dual CFexpress Type A/SD Card Slots
- Dust & Moisture resistant
- Rugged Magnesium Alloy Chassis
- New anti-dust system
- Mechanical Shutter rated for 500,000 actuations
- USB PD support for fast charging
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, SuperSpeed USB 10-Gbps
- Versatile Tethered Shooting
- FTP via Wireless LAN, Wired LAN, and USB Tethered 5G Smartphone
- UVC / UAC for streaming without additional apps, software, hardware
- HDMI Type-A, Flash Sync terminal, USB-C, USB Micro, Mic, Headphone
- Connectivity for Professional Workflows
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