Sony has been dominating the mirrorless camera market for many years now, especially when it comes to high-resolution sensors. Stepping into the lead with the 42-megapixel A7R II in 2015, and regaining that lead with the 60-megapixel A7R IV in 2019, only a few competitors have ever out-resolved the Sony R-series lineup. Today, in this Sony A7R V review, I am going to tell you why I think this camera is not just a one-trick (megapixel) pony, but a versatile, high-performance camera made for many different types of photography, videography, and content creation.
At first, the A7R series (R stands for resolution, of course!) was unfortunately not a jack-of-all-trades. ~10 years ago, it was difficult to manage such high-resolution image files, (remember, the first and second A7R only had uncompressed raw and lossy compressed raw, no lossless!) …you were much better off with one of the R’s excellent siblings: a “plain” A7 series, or the low-resolution, video-oriented A7S series. Today, however, things are completely different.
First and foremost, storage solutions are more abundant and affordable today, and the Sony A7R V has multiple raw file options to help you save space if you need it. (More on that below!) Secondly, its overall shooting speed is respectable at 10 FPS, and the autofocus processor is a first for the R-series: a dedicated AI processor, separate from the BIONZ XR processor, makes a world of difference in setting Sony’s autofocus capabilities above the competition.
So, whether you are a landscape or wildlife photographer, a portrait or wedding photographer, or simply an all-around professional photographer or serious, dedicated hobbyist, the A7R V should be near the top of your choices for “best all-around, high-resolution camera”…
Wit that said, let’s dive into this review! I will go over which types of photography I think this camera is perfect for, as well as any genres that it might not be the best choice for. We’ll dive deep into the pros & cons of the camera itself, and analyze the image quality in great detail. Lastly, of course, we’ll compare it against any competitors that you might also be considering…
Sony A7R V Specifications
- SENSOR: 61-megapixel Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
- LENS MOUNT: Sony E-mount (full-frame)
- STILL IMAGES: 9504 x 6336 px (& 26 MP + 15 MP)
- VIDEO: 8K 24p, 1.24x crop 4K 60p (1.24-APSC crop) 4K 30p (full-width) 10-bit
- ISO: 100-32,000 (Extended ISO: 50-102,400)
- AUTOFOCUS: 693-point hybrid AF, dedicated AI processor, subject detection & tracking
- SHOOTING SPEED (FPS): up to 10 FPS
- SHUTTER SPEEDS: 30 sec to 1/8000 sec, programmable Bulb timer mode
- STABILIZATION: Yes, 8 EVs
- VIEWFINDER: 9.44M dot EVF, 0.9x magnification, up to 120p refresh rate
- LCD: 3.2″, 2.1M-dot “Free-Angle” articulating touchscreen
- CONNECTIVITY: USB, (type C, power delivery) headphone, microphone, micro HDMI,
- STORAGE: Dual slot CFE Type A, SDXC (UHS-II)
- BATTERY: NP-FZ100, 2280 mAh (rated 440 shots)
- BODY CONSTRUCTION: Magnesium alloy, fully weather-sealed
- SIZE: 5.2 x 3.8 x 3.2″ (131.3 x 96.9 x 82.4 mm)
- WEIGHT: 1.6 lb / 723 g (With Battery, Recording Media)
- PRICE: $3,898 (B&H)
Sony A7R V Review | Who Should Buy It?
With one of the highest-resolution sensors of any full-frame mirrorless camera, or of any digital camera ever, for that matter, at a glance you might think that the Sony A7R V is only made for a select few high-end professional photographic genres. However, when considering the complete array of its features, this is absolutely not the case.
Indeed, the megapixel count could force you to upgrade your data storage system, and maybe your computing power as well. However, for virtually any line of photography that does not involve “blasting away” thousands of photos every day, the extra investment becomes absolutely worth it.
Whether you are a portrait photographer or a landscape photographer, the A7R V sensor will provide a huge advantage for making big prints. Put another way: Even if you are a landscape or portrait photographer, yet you don’t make enormous prints and/or ever heavily crop your images, then I honestly might recommend a different camera, simply because resolutions in the range of 24-33 megapixels are much more manageable in your workflow, and more than adequate for general web or small-print usage.
Having said that, whether you are a wildlife photographer or a wedding photographer, the incredible AI-powered autofocus, with its own dedicated AI chip, will track faces, eyes, and entire bodies of virtually any living creature imaginable! So, even if you only occasionally make a large print from your images, the A7R V becomes worth it very quickly.
Whether you are a commercial real estate photographer or an editorial fashion photographer, of course, the combination of resolution, autofocus, and flagship-grade durability will allow working pros to trust the A7R V to get any job done.
It may seem a bit “overkill” if you are looking for a purely hobbyist-oriented camera. Whether you are snapping candid portraits of your family, or documenting an epic family vacation, or documenting a solo adventure, Sony does offer some “superior” (in my opinion) alternatives. The Sony A7 IV offers the same professional ergonomics as the A7R V, and a decent viewfinder, shooting speed, and more. Alternatively, the Sony A7C R and A7C II offer a much more compact, portable option, with either the similar 60-megapixel sensor or the excellent 33-megapixel sensor, both of which offer the AI processor for industry-best autofocus.
Last but not least, (for photographers) despite its optimization for excellent image quality at ISO 100, the Sony A7R V does offer truly impressive results for those who find themselves working in low light, whether event photojournalism or astro-landscape photography.
What about videographers? Well, although this is the first R-series to offer 8K video, it does not particularly excel in terms of video performance or quality. The 8K video comes with a slight crop, is limited to 24p, and suffers from noticeable rolling shutter. The 4K video is not captured with optimal sharpness considering how high-resolution the sensor is, unless you crop all the way to APSC. Suffice it to say, this camera is a “passable” video camera, and is mainly aimed at photographers, in my opinion.
Sony A7R V Review | Pros & Cons
To summarize the advantages and disadvantages of the Sony A7R V is relatively easy: this camera is good at virtually everything, with an emphasis on anyone who requires high-resolution files, but a de-emphasis on anyone who is looking to do extremely high-volume or extended FPS stills capturing, and/or high-resolution, high-quality video capture. It’s (almost) that simple!
Let’s dive deeper and talk about why this assessment is true, and where there might be specific details that give you an advantage, or put you at a disadvantage.
In terms of image quality, the 60-megapixel BSI sensor is truly phenomenal. At ISO 100, the detail is incredible, the dynamic range is excellent, and the colors are beautiful. Even at relatively high ISOs, too, the same applies: incredible detail, relatively low noise, relatively good dynamic range, and colors that don’t fade.
In my real-world testing, the Sony A7R V passed my “maxed out sliders” dynamic range test with flying colors at ISO 100.
Higher up, at ISO 3200-6400, I found the image quality to be comparable to most other cameras. Only an under-exposed ISO 6400 image, or any ISO 12800+ images, showed “unusable” (for certain professional demands) image quality. Even then, I’d use ISO 12800 in a pinch for less demanding work.
Sony A7R V Raw Image File Options
For the first time, Sony’s highest-resolution camera comes with features that are extremely useful for managing large raw files! There are two separate options now:
- Besides the full-res 61 megapixel images, the A7R V can also output either 26-MP or 15 MP raw files
- Additionally, there are both lossless and lossy raw file compression options
This effectively allows the A7R V to become (somewhat of) a high-speed action camera, capable of, high-volume work, far less rapidly consuming your memory card storage!
Personally, I almost never use reduced raw image sizes, because I usually prefer to retain the full megapixel count of whatever sensor I am working with. However, I’ve found that 60 megapixels is definitely “overkill” for a whole lot of different applications, especially high-volume work such as action sports or wedding photography, and the 26-megapixel files are perfect for those things.
Also, as a long-time Nikon DSLR owner of 2 decades now, I’ve grown accustomed to using the raw file compression options, and I find the “lossy” compressed raw files to be another great way to save space, but again, that is ONLY if I need to do a lot of very high-volume work!)
On that note, I should mention that this is one of the first Sony cameras to offer these features, and in comparison, Nikon’s high-megapixel cameras have done it a little better. I like how the Nikon Z7 II offers not just excellent raw compression, but also the separate ability to choose either 12-bit or 14-bit NEF files. Again, as a full-time wedding photographer and an occasional action sports & wildlife photographer, I find both options to be much better choices than actually reducing the megapixel count of a raw image.
Video quality is where the Sony A7R V is a very mixed bag of results. It offers 8K 24p video, but there is a crop of 1.24 X, caused the addition of those extra ~20 megapixels from the (perfect for 8K) ~42-megapixel sensor. Also, the 4K video does offer a setting that uses the full width of the sensor, however it does so at a resolution disadvantage, thanks to sub-sampled video.
There is an over-sampled 4K mode with decent detail, (for 4K) however it is captured at the APSC “Super-35” crop mode.
Lastly, all of the video modes exhibit a rolling shutter effect, caused by the relatively slow sensor readout.
On the plus side, the video autofocus is completely identical to the photo autofocus; a first for the R-series if I am not mistaken, and it is simply the best, as I have already stated. It locks onto virtually any subject, with both precision and consistency, and then it sticks to them (tracks them) like glue. It is truly ain impressive sight to behold, to watch Sony’s next-generation AI processor do its thing.
All in all, the A7R V is a great choice for photographers, but a substantial compromise for videographers. It might be a good choice if you do a lot of static, relatively slow-paced nature scenes, such as vlogging your landscape or wildlife photography adventures for your Youtube channel that focuses on photographing those subjects. However, a movie-making camera, it is not. (That is what the amazing Sony FX-series and ZV-series cameras are for!)
Build Quality / Durability
Flagship build quality was not always a claim to fame for any of the Sony 7-series cameras, in their earliest generations. Serious professional landscape photographers who might have been lured to the original A7R or A7R II for their excellent sensors were likely to encounter serious issues with physical durability, compared to the champion DSLRs of that era such as the Nikon D800, D810, and D850.
Today, however, the Sony A7R series offers full flagship durability, with a strong, sturdy metal body frame, a complete set of weather seals, and robust IBIS mechanics.
Just about the only thing that I miss on the A7R V are the physical dials on the top-left of the camera, where the likes of the Sony A9-series and Sony A1 offer physical controls for drive mode and AF mode. This has never been a deal-breaker for me with the R-series, however, considering that Sony has bumped up the price so much since its 1st-gen product, I really do feel short-changed by the lack of that one flagship functionality. (I’ll cover this more in the “Value” section below)
Here is where the Sony A7R V absolutely “destroys” both its predecessors and most competitors. Sony has put their flagship-grade autofocus system in the A7R5, and that includes a dedicated AI processor just for AF subject detection/tracking. I’ve tested this AF system on virtually every imaginable type of animal, from cats and dogs to birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects…
Simply put, it works like magic, and does an absolutely amazing job of quickly locking onto, and then tracking, almost any subject. As I mentioned; whether your subject is human, animal, or machine, the A7R5 just sticks to it like glue.
The only caveat to this is the fact that, of course, this 61-MP sensor does not offer the same blazing speed that is found in, say, the Sony A1 or Sony A9 III. Unfortunately, this affects not only the FPS, (and the rolling shutter effect of video) …but also the ability of the sensor to read out data to the AI-based autofocus. In other words, this is the absolute best AF system in the industry, however, keep in mind that the A1 and A9 III are still decidedly better in terms of sheer speed.
While many high-resolution cameras turn out to feel “sluggish” in most high-speed conditions, the A7R 5 is actually quite a high-performance camera. This was one of the biggest complaints that I had with the Sony A7R IV; the image quality was stunning, but the speed and overall performance left me feeling like I absolutely could not do what, say, the Sony A9 II could do.
Although the sheer speed of the Sony A9-series is superior to the A7R-series, of course, I can say that the overall performance of the R5 is indeed responsive, fast, and it can sustain a decent pace as well thanks to the previously mentioned raw file options.
This is not exactly the best sensor for those photographers who really prioritize FPS and buffer depth, however, when capturing lossy ARW and/or 26-MP images, the 10 FPS is sustained quite impressively, and the buffer depth gives you a fair amount of “cushion room”.
Features & Customizations
Aside from the class-leading sensor and industry-leading AF system, the A7R V has even more new features up its sleeves, compared to both its predecessors and competitors.
One of my favorite things is what I can only describe as the “WILDLY ARTICULATING” LCD display, that has somehow managed to include both a side-flip (vlogging/selfie) articulation as well as the other style of basic up/down articulation that more traditional photographers appreciate. Sony was brave for attempting such a wild articulating design, since high-end professionals have often given a lot of push-back against any sort of articulating LCD display, but I’m very glad they did. The mechanics of it feel very robust and sturdy, and the utility is truly unparalleled among all digital cameras today.
There are a handful of other additions to the overall features & customizability of the A7R 5. Beneath the main mode dial (the PSAM exposure modes) there is a new dedicated switch for photo, stills, and “S&Q” (slow-motion) modes. Additionally, I should mention that when switching between photo and video modes, Sony cameras in general now offer some of the best customization for keeping various settings separate between those modes. In other words, if you switch from photo to video mode, the camera can either remember separate settings for almost any setting, or ir can keep the same settings. (OR, virtually any combination of those two options!)
Although I am not highly recommending the A7R 5 for serious filmmaking, this overall feature set does make the camera one of the easiest to use for those who do both photo and video a lot.
With a staggering 9.44 million-dot viewfinder, the Sony A7R V is indeed a beautiful experience that sets the A7R V apart from predecessors and competitors alike. Simply put, it’s almost as if you are looking through an optical prism to see the real world, and at a glance it is hard to tell that you’re looking at a digital display.
This is a huge factor for me, personally, and it makes the hit to battery life totally worth it. Besides my own nostalgia for optical viewfinders, I think that an excellent (electronic) viewfinder is a crucial aspect of what makes any camera pleasant to use.
Having said that, here are the caveats: To gain access to the 9.44M-dot viewfinder mode, you have to enable it in a menu. Also, when using this high-quality EVF mode, you might notice it dropping back down to the “regular quality” (resolution) every time you perform autofocus (by half-pressing the shutter, for example.) Still, it’s one of the most beautiful viewfinders we’ve ever seen, caveats aside.
Ergonomics & Comfort
Ergonomically, the camera handles very similarly to most if its same-generation siblings; The A7R IV, A7 IV, and A7S III all have relatively similar ergonomics, and this is a good thing as Sony has put a lot of effort into the design. (Finally!) The camera is comfortable to hold, and buttons are laid out ergonomically.
The REC (video) button has been swapped with the C1 button, which doesn’t really affect how photographers customize the camera but it does allow videographers to feel like the camera is a bit more uniform in behavor compared to most other cameras.
In terms of actual hand comfort, I think the Sony A7R V is one of the best cameras Sony has ever made. I do miss the ergonomic layout of the A1 and A9-series, with its top-left dial for focus mode and drive mode, but I also get totally accustomed to adjusting those settings with C buttons, too.
However, I’ve already had a chance to hold the Sony A9 III, by the way, and I must say that it is indeed another huge step forward in terms of ergonomics.
With the price of this newest A7R-series camera being bumped up yet again, we absolutely must question its value as thoroughly as possible. Is this camera worth a staggering $3.8K? For the same money, you could purchase a Sony A7 IV instead, and have over $1,000 left over for a G-Master lens. Alternatively, the Sony A7C R offers 61 megapixels as well as the AI processor dedicated to autofocus, for under $3K.
So, where could the A7R V derive its value?
First, its versatility for photographers is its greatest strength. The high-resolution sensor offers incredible image quality, yet also offers multiple raw file options for substantial savings on storage space. The sensor also offers a well-rounded value to everyone who works in both low-ISO and high-ISO conditions, whereas many other cameras excel in one area yet fall short in the other.
Secondly, the fact that it includes the latest-generation technology for autofocus is a huge value, because the AI processor os one of the biggest leaps forward in autofocus technology to date. This ensures that if you buy an A7R V now, it will not be “obsoleted” any time soon, despite recently turning 1 year old.
Thirdly, physically speaking, the camera is very well-made, which is another key requirement for the longevity of any professional tool, of course.
Personally, those three factors are how I measure value: How versatile is the camera, how physically robust is it, and how cutting-edge are its technology and features? When I put all three of these aspects together, I think the A7R V offers exceptional value.
However, the competition is strong, especially when considering price, and we’ll get to that next. Also, compared to many older professional Sony cameras, I would still call the A7R V “expensive”. To demonstrate this, let’s consider the prices of some previous high-end Sony cameras:
- The A7R “classic” was a mere $2.3K in 2013
- The A7R II MSRP’d at $3.2K in 201
- The original Sony A9 and A9 II both MSRP’d for $4.5K
The takeaway is: at $3.8K, the A7R V is much closer in price to the (older) A9-series cameras than the average price of all the older A7R cameras. The A7R-series is decisively a flagship pro camera, at a professional “workhorse” camera price tag.
As I mentioned earlier, this price comparison frustrates me for at least one small reason: I wish the R-series had added the two physical dials on the top-left of the body, starting with the $3.5K A7R IV.
Any working professional who pairs this camera with an A9 II will absolutely notice this, because switching AF modes and drive modes effortlessly and often is very common for wildlife photographers, event photojournalism, and other things.
Aside from that, the other major issue regarding the price and value of the A7R V is, of course, its video capabilities. Simply put, if you’re looking for an all-around “hybrid” camera that offers great value for both photo and video, then you are indeed better off with either the more affordable Sony A7 IV, or the more expensive Sony A1. The A7IV offers sharp, detailed 4K 30p video, as well as sharp, detailed, (cropped) 4K 60p, but still has some rolling shutter. The Sony A1, of course, offers impressive 8K and 4K video, with minimal rolling shutter and impressive framerates, including 4K 120p.
That’s about it. If you’re mainly a photographer, and are either a very serious hobbyist or a working professional, the a7R V offers a great value, albeit at the higher end of the range versus its closest competitors.
Sony A7R V Review | Compared To The Competition
To compare the Sony A7R V against any of its competitors is relatively easy: If you want the best all-around camera for high-resolution photography, this is it, period. Other cameras definitely struggle to offer all of the same performance specs, image quality, and value.
The closest and best competitor, in my opinion, is the Nikon Z8. Priced at $3,996, or $3,696 at its holiday (and likely other “instant” savings) price tag, the Z8 brings the heat: 45 megapixels from an impressively fast sensor boasting 20 FPS for raw stills, 30-120 FPS for JPG stills, and 8K 60p or 4K 120p video. This means that the Nikon Z8 has more high-performance specs in common with Nikon’s highest-end flagship Z9 $5.5K), than the A7R V has in common with the Sony A1. ($6.5K) Furthermore, the Sony A1
If you’re looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera that is excellent all-around for not just photo but also video work, then quite honestly, the Nikon Z8 wins.
In virtually every other respect, however, the Sony A7R V is a champion. If it were just about the resolution, then you could save a few hundred dollars and get the Sony A7R IVa instead, at $2,998 when the $200 savings is available. However, the A7R V’s autofocus upgrade is substantial enough that it’s absolutely the better choice for virtually everyone except maybe the traditional landscape photographer who uses manual focus 100% of the time.
Alternatively, if resolution is one of your key necessities, but you also require advanced autofocus capabilities, then the Sony A7C R is a great alternative, however, the C-series use a “beginner-oriented” body, and this is decidedly as step down from the main A7-series unless you value portability very highly.
That’s about it! Most of the A7R V’s competitors are other Sony cameras. If you’ve already bought into the Sony system, then it might be too much trouble to “jump ship” to the Nikon Z8, and I would honestly only recommend considering it if you are primarily an adventurous outdoor photographer who does an equal amount of all types of work, from low ISO DR-pushing, to high ISO & low-light work, both photo AND video.
What about Canon, or any other brands? Canon’s EOS R5 is the only camera in their full-frame mirrorless lineup that comes close to matching the A7R V’s resolution, and, quite honestly, the R5 is getting a bit old. It’s previous generation autofocus simply cannot keep up with the performance of the new Sony AI autofocus, by a noticeable margin. The R5 sensor itself is only a leap forward in image quality when compared to previous Canons; compared to Sony, Nikon, and other high-megapixel options, the R5 is merely adequate or on-par. All in all, considering that Canon’s next-generation high-megapixel camera is likely just around the corner, I can’t currently recommend anything from Canon to those who mainly focus on stills. For hybrid and video shooters, of course, the Canon EOS R5 does hold its own, and the Canon R5C is a powerhouse video camera for any who focus primarily on video, not stills.
Last but not least, we must compare the Sony A7R V against the only higher-resolution digital cameras on the market: the Fuji GFX 100-series cameras, as well as the 50-megapixel Fuji GFX 50-series. They’re all rather expensive cameras, with the most affordable one being the $3,999 GFXS II, then the GFX 100s at $5,999, and the GFX 100 II at $7,499.
Obviously, $6-7.5K is a whole lot more expensive, compared to the $3.9K A7R V, though ~$4K is impressively close for gaining access to a medium-format sensor. However, is medium format even worth it, compared to this latest 60-megapixel full-frame sensor? Honestly, it depends on your style, both technically and creatively. The advantages of the Sony A7R V have a lot to do with the E-mount’s versatility in general; the more exotic or specialized you get with your lens selection/needs, the more the A7R 5 makes much more sense. Oppositely, if you are a very traditional” landscape photographer, and you’re happy with the (very decent) GFX lens selection, then you might really appreciate the 100-megapixel sensor.
NOTE: if all you care about is resolution, there are a few other details to keep in mind: Although the difference between 50/61 megapixels and 102 megapixels is quite significant, also note that the Sony offers a 240-megapixel Pixel-Shift Multi-Shot mode, and the Fuji GFX 100S offers a 400-megapixel Pixel Shift Multi-Shot mode. Also, keep in mind that pixel density plays a serious role in which apertures you can use without experiencing diffraction, but at the same time, sensor size plays a role in which aperture you need to achieve certain DOF.
All in all, the long-story-short of it is that I absolutely recommend the Sony A7R 5 to most photographers, compared to any competitors. The only exception is the Nikon Z8, for those who want a photo+video powerhouse with as much speed+resolution as its price range can allow. Alternatively, for those who do not need as much speed or autofocus performance, both the older Sony A7R IV and the Nikon Z7 II are excellent options that are a bit more affordable.
Sony A7R V Review | Conclusion
All in all, the Sony A7R V is an impressive camera, and well worth the investment. Its resolution and price tag do set it just out of reach for some, or make it slightly sub-optimal for others. However, if you’re looking for a high-resolution camera, and you have the budget, then the R5 is my top recommendation.
The Sony R-series has a legacy for amazing image quality, but until now, there were just so many excellent alternatives on the E-mount that resolution alone was the *only* reason I used to recommend an R-series. Today, that is not entirely the case, and I am much more comfortable encouraging almost any type of photographer, whether hobbyist or working professional, to consider it.
Check Pricing & Availability
The Sony A7R V is available for $3898 as a body only, or as part of a kit with a 128GB memory card, camera bag, and an external battery charger. There is also the kit with a Godox V1 flash for the same price! Alternatively, you can get $100, $200, or more off the price of the body with a lens such as the Sony 20-70mm f/4 G.