Sony is trying to reclaim any technological footing it lost last year to the Nikon Z9 and Canon EOS R3 cameras. While Sony was at the forefront for years with advanced features like real-time autofocus and eye tracking, its competitors have recently made huge strides to catch up. Now, Sony is announcing its new $3,899.99 A7R V camera — set to launch in mid-December — and it’s baking in an AI processing unit for the sole purpose of getting back in the lead of the autofocus rat race.
The A7R V maintains the massive 61 megapixels of the prior A7R IV, but the backside-illuminated full-frame sensor and Bionz XR processor are now paired with a dedicated AI processing unit. These new AI smarts allow the autofocus to detect and distinguish subjects like cars, trains, planes, animals, and insects. Sony isn’t the first camera brand to do subject detection, but it’s claiming the A7R V uses what it calls “human pose estimation” to see 20 different points in the body and anticipate and track where the eye of a human is supposed to be. Sony says its autofocus can do things like accurately focus on the eye of a subject that’s partially obscured or turned in profile, and it should know to keep tracking the same subject even if another person or object crosses in front of them for a moment.
The A7R V also includes an improved in-body image stabilization system with up to eight stops of compensation, 8K video recording at 24p / 25p with a 1.2x crop, and a redesigned four-axis articulating rear display that can quickly pull out for waist-level shooting and turn for front-facing recording.
While the A7R V’s massive resolution may scare away some folks who aren’t the most vociferous of pixel peepers, Sony is also incorporating a new lossless compressed RAW feature it’s recently rolled out to other models via firmware updates. You can shoot the A7R V in RAW at 61 megapixels, 26 megapixels, or 15 megapixels, and at all resolutions, it can shoot as fast as 10fps while maintaining focus tracking — with a buffer capacity up to 583 frames. And for writing all those images, the A7R V now features dual card slots that take either UHS-II SDXC cards or the faster (and pricier) CFexpress Type A.
There’s also a kitchen sink’s worth of other added features to the A7R V, including:
You get the picture — Sony threw a lot of tech into this camera, and camera features go brrr.
What the A7R V also does is most likely set the tone for the subsequent models of Alpha cameras, as Sony is often aggressive at trickling out new features across its lines. A 61-megapixel camera may not be for everyone, but the prospect of future A1 II, A9 III, or A7C II cameras potentially infused with AI might all sound pretty appealing to a wide swath of photographers and videographers — even if after a hot minute with the A7R V I can tell you the menu systems and ergonomics continue to suck.
As someone who owns and regularly shoots with a Sony A9 II and A7 IV, I can tell you the differences in handling and use are very minimal. It feels mostly the same as my A7 IV, save for the new articulating display. Though this new screen is a big asset for anyone that needs to work fast to capture challenging angles, like when I’m photographing weddings and I need to quickly switch from shooting above my head to down near the floor.
The A7R V’s electronic viewfinder seems very crisp and clear at first glance, though it’s unsurprisingly not quite as good as the A1. They may share the number of dots in their OLED viewfinders, but the A1 refreshes faster and switches the feed from the LCD so fast it almost feels like the EVF is on full-time. And sadly, Sony is continuing to not utilize the top-left shoulder of the camera for any additional dials or controls — it still reserves that luxury for the A9 and A1 lines. Though minutiae aside, I’m sure most users are willing to overlook these little handling compromises if the A7R V can really deliver on its AI-fueled promises.
Update October 26th, 11:34AM ET: This post has been updated with some photos and impressions after a very brief hands-on with the camera.